The latest buzz in Chicago’s theatre community might be Buzz22, a group of Northwestern School of Communication alumni who took their collaborative on-campus community off-campus in 2010—and this month celebrates a milestone: the group’s production of She Kills Monsters by Qui Nguyen is featured as part of the 2013 Steppenwolf Garage Rep.
Buzz22 (a name pulled from instructions given to participants at their early meetings in someone’s home, apartment number 22) is comprised of seven friends who wanted to keep working together after graduation. The founding members are Philip de Guzman (C10), Fred Geyer (C10), Amanda Kahn (C10), Rebecca Loeser (C10), Ellie Reed (C10), and co-artistic directors Sara Sawicki (C10) and Scott Weinstein (C10).
Selection into Steppenwolf’s Garage Rep represents how far Buzz22 has come. Garage Rep, says Steppenwolf’s web site, presents “the work of three of Chicago’s most innovative storefront theatre companies.” Buzz22’s show will be in rotation with shows from Bailiwick Chicago (directed by another School of Communication alumna, Lili-Anne Brown (C95)) and Theatre Seven of Chicago from Feb. 15-April 21. Tickets are available at www.steppenwolf.org .
Here, co-artistic director and She Kills Monsters director Scott Weinstein answers some questions about Buzz22’s origins and big dreams for the future:
SoC: What niche does Buzz22 fill in the Chicago theatre scene?
Weinstein: Buzz22 Chicago uses theatre to explore what we call “the constant coming of age,” the idea that were constantly growing, changing, adapting and exploring at all stages of life. We produce bold presentations of new work as well as innovative takes on existing plays that deal with this concept in ways that are unique and theatrical. We are also very committed to creating and exploring work that is approachable for both traditional and nontraditional theatre-going audiences
SoC: What kind of work does the group hope to do?
Weinstein: All kinds! I think our mission lends itself to a diverse array of projects and we decided early on that we wanted every piece to feel different from those that came before it. We don’t have a set aesthetic, for us the aesthetic matches the demands of the play and the director’s vision. The result of this is that our projects can all look and feel like a lot of different things while still being united by our mission. Already we have done a site-specific reinterpretation of a classic text, a new devised piece, and a rotating rep that included both a hyper-realistic apartment dramedy as well as a whimsical world created mostly out of fabric.
SoC: Your company is made up of alumni from the same Northwestern class—how did on-campus experiences and relationships feed the desire to keep working together?
All seven founding members are NU graduates (class of 2010), go ’Cats! Additionally with this upcoming production of She Kills Monsters we have a large handful of other Northwestern grads working on the show (alongside many talented artists from other Chicago schools as well). I think the theatre program and student theatre community at Northwestern fosters an intelligent, collaborative and hard-working attitude and creates people who are not only capable of creating great art but can also have a great time doing it. That ethos has been a part of Buzz22’s values since we began.
SoC: Is the group inspired by any other theatre group started at the School of Communication, say, Lookingglass? (Lookingglass was founded by School of Communication students during the late 1980s.)
Weinstein: Of course! We were certainly inspired and encouraged by the success of Northwestern-formed companies like Lookingglass, although our aesthetics and missions are very different. I’m definitely inspired by the now defunct Roadworks Productions, a company formed by Northwestern grads in the early ’90s that was responsible for bringing a lot of great playwrights to Chicago for the first time. More than that though it was the theatrical community on campus during our time there that has really inspired us. All of us came up in some way through the incredibly robust and diverse student theatre community and I would say those experiences have shaped us the most. We’ve also enjoyed a real outpouring of support from the Northwestern faculty, from professors like Dawn Mora, Michael Rohd, Rives Collins, and Dan Cantor, whose daughter, Olive, actually acted in our production of A Doll’s House.
SoC: What advice do you have for Northwestern students getting ready to graduate who want to be artists right out of the gate?
Weinstein: Start producing and creating work! Don’t wait for someone to hand you a production or an idea. Just get out there and start creating and find the people who you not only enjoy creating with but who challenge you to be a better artist.