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Skinner West Kids Play Starring Role In Chicago Children's Theatre Debut

By Stephanie Lulay | December 13, 2016 9:25am | Updated on December 15, 2016 8:39am
 Skinner West fifth grader London Freeman and third grader Sadie Wood are featured in Chicago Children's Theatre's Photos of the Future series.
Skinner West fifth grader London Freeman and third grader Sadie Wood are featured in Chicago Children's Theatre's Photos of the Future series.
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Chicago Children's Theatre

WEST LOOP — Featured in a new photo series, Skinner West students will play a starring role when the Chicago Children's Theatre opens its new home in the West Loop next month. 

As part of a community engagement project with schools and non-profits on the Near West Side, students at Skinner West have been exploring their artistic side as part of the Messages of Hope project led by Chicago Children's Theatre staff. 

The finished Photos of the Future series will debut in January as part of the grand opening festivities at the Chicago Children’s Theatre's new home in the old 12th District Police Station at Racine and Monroe. The photo series will rotate on a 50-inch LCD screen in the theater's lobby for all guests to see. 

With help from video projection designer Liviu Pasare, the images — which imagine what the world could look like in the future — will also be projected at random onto a bank of windows on the northeast exterior of the theater's new building at 100 S. Racine. The six windows will most often be inhabited by environmental illustrations by Michael Coon in collaboration with Pasare. 

The Chicago Children's Theatre plans to project colorful images in a bank of windows at The Station, the theater's new home. [Michael Coon]

More than 1,000 Skinner West students participated in the school-wide partnership project. 

The portraits, shot by professional photographer Evan Barr in front of a green screen, had each student wearing a simple costume and wielding whimsical props created by Chicago theater artist Kass Copeland. In post-production, the green screen was digitally replaced with colorful environmental backgrounds by Coon. 

Frank Maugeri, community programs artistic director at the Chicago Children's Theatre, directs Skinner West student Kyle Liang during a photo shoot at the school in November. [DNAinfo/Stephanie Lulay]

The Skinner West project is just part of the Children's Theatre's plan to engage neighborhood schools, said Frank Maugeri, community programs artistic director at Chicago Children's Theatre. Students at Dett Elementary, Brown Elementary, Suder Montessori and Mercy Home on the Near West Side are also participating in partner Messages of Hope projects. 

"The Messages of Hope project with our new neighbors at Skinner West showcases our dedication to neighborhood engagement and collaboration," Maugeri said. 

The Photos of the Future series will appear in the windows during evenings after Jan. 1. The photo series will continue to run on the building's exterior through grand opening events in January, February and into the spring. 

A rendering shows what the Chicago Children's Theatre will look like when it opens in January. [Chicago Children's Theatre]

The Station

Housed in the shuttered 12th District Police Station at 100 S. Racine Ave., the Chicago Children's Theatre's first permanent home will be called "The Station." 

This first phase encompasses five classrooms, a dedicated, year round space for Red Kite interactive theater for students with autism, a lobby with box office and concessions, the flexible, 149-seat Pritzker Family Studio Theatre and support space. 

The Chicago Children's Theatre will launch classes and camps for kids up to 14 in February. 

A second phase of construction will see a state-of-the-art, 299-seat mainstage theater developed on site. The second phase is expected to be completed in 2020.

In the interim, the children's theater will continue to present its productions at the Ruth Page Center for the Arts at 1016 N. Dearborn St. in the Gold Coast. 

Maugeri said the former police station will now be a place that amplifies hope. 

"Our intention for this space is that its educational programming be as diverse as our city and as unique as its children," Maugeri said. "I believe that The Station will be a place of wonder, innovation, and empowerment — a home for all young people, through theater and the arts, to become authors of the future. 

Jacqueline Russell, theater co-founder and artistic director, said the new West Loop headquarters would give the children's theater a real home for the first time. The theater works with more than 100 Chicago schools, and has a special commitment to serving children on the autism spectrum, she said.

"The Station gives us new freedom to work with exciting, internationally recognized companies like Manual Cinema, who are producing inventive, intimate new works like Magic City which will resonate with audiences of any age," she said. 

The redevelopment project was designed by Wheeler Kearns Architects and Working Group One Architects with heater planning is by Schuler Shook. Pepper Construction is the general contractor.

The Chicago Children's Theatre first announced plans to move into the former Near West District police station in August 2014.

Magic City will open Jan. 27 at The Station. [Chicago Children's Theatre]

Opening production 

Chicago Children's Theatre's first production in its new home The Station will debut Jan. 27. 

Magic City, created by Chicago's internationally acclaimed shadow puppet theater Manual Cinema, will open The Station's new 149-seat Pritzker Family Studio Theatre. 

The all-ages, family-friendly show, loosely adapted from Edith Nesbit's 1910 novel The Magic City, uses overhead projectors, paper shadow puppets, live actors in silhouette, miniature toy theater and live musical accompaniment to bring Nesbit's novel to life.

Performances are Jan. 27-Feb. 19 and tickets, priced at $25, can be purchased online or by calling 872-222-9555. 

Previews begin in conjunction with closing weekend of the 2017 Chicago International Puppet Theatre Festival Jan. 27, Jan. 28 and Jan. 29.  

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