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Flat Iron's Decades Project Honors Iconic Wicker Park Building's Centennial

By Alisa Hauser | June 21, 2013 8:52am
 The Decades Project features 11 original short plays, each based on a specific decade of the existence of the iconic Flat Iron Arts Building at 1579 N. Milwaukee Ave. in Wicker Park. The festival takes place June 21-22 in Collaboraction’s Room 300 Theater on the 3rd floor of the Flat Iron. 
The Decades Project'
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WICKER PARK — The Flat Iron, a historic landmark building that's been at the fulcrum of Wicker Park's busiest intersection for nearly a century, is getting some attention this weekend, and it all started with a Facebook update.

In March, Anthony Moseley, artistic and executive director of Collaboraction, a theater company that rents a studio inside the building at the southeast corner of the Milwaukee, Damen and North avenues, posted a photo of the intersection from 1905 to his Facebook page.

"Collaboraction's home 108 years ago," Moseley wrote. "The Flat Iron was built shortly after in 1913 and turns 100 this year. How shall we celebrate it at SKETCHBOOK in June?"

More than 80 comments included a suggestion by playwright Tanya Saracho to have different playwrights conceive an original sketch play for each decade that the Flat Iron has been in existence. 

Saracho's idea prompted Moseley to form The Decades Project: Celebrating 100 Years of the Flat Iron Arts Building.

The historic building is home to more than 30 artist studios, a Bank of America branch and six small businesses, including a comic book shop and a pizzeria.

A series of 11 performances highlighting decades from 1910 to 2010 will serve as "a surprise addition" to the group's annual monthlong Sketchbook Festival featuring short performances, Moseley said.

Though the Flat Iron began as a manufacturing building, "in the 1980s it became the epicenter for art which it is today ... it has a unique charm and is a special place that holds creativity and energy and history," Moseley said.

According to Moseley, about half of the sketches are set in the building or in the nearby Milwaukee, Damen and North avenue intersection.

Paul Stoval's play takes place in the 1970s and is about "ethnic migration in and out of the neighborhood" while Saracho's play takes place in the 1920s and is about "the Nelson Algren era of publishing in Wicker Park."

Taking the theme of the building literally, Stephen Ptacek's play is set in the 1960s and is "a satire of experimental theater in the Flat Iron building," Moseley said.

To end the show, Moseley stepped into the fray and penned a sketch for the 2010s decade, which he said "will be a re-enactment of the Facebook post" that served as the project's inspiration.

The Decades Project debuts (and ends) in a two-night-only performance starting at 10 p.m. Friday and 8 p.m. Saturday. The evenings will feature 11 original seven-minute short plays presented in Collaboraction’s Room 300 Theater on the third floor of the Flat Iron Building, 1579 N. Milwaukee Ave.

Tickets are $25, or $15 for students with ID. Buyers of Collaboraction’s SKETCHBOOK Festival pass will gain free entry to The Decades Project. For tickets and additional information, visit www.collaboraction.org