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Logan Square, Humboldt Park, Avondale

New Play Tackles Humboldt Park Gentrification With True Stories — And Humor

"We're going to talk about the elephant in the room and its going to feel uncomfortable for both parties, but we've got to address it," the artistic director said.

A still from UrbanTheater Company's play, "Not For Sale," which starts previews Tuesday evening.
Courtesy of Anthony Aicardi
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HUMBOLDT PARK — A few years ago, Humboldt Park’s UrbanTheater Company was clashing with its next door neighbor.

The neighbor, who owned a business new to the gentrifying neighborhood, argued that the Latino theater company’s rehearsals were too loud, according to artistic director Miranda Gonzalez.

“We were getting yelled at for making too much noise,” said Gonzalez, a Humboldt Park native.

Founded by a Latino ensemble in 2005, UrbanTheater Company operates out of a storefront at 2620 W. Division St. 

“I was like, ‘That’s interesting.’ It’s a busy street. We’re within the the city’s noise ordinance,” Gonzalez said.

The 38-year-old held onto what happened. To her, it felt like a microcosm of Humboldt Park’s gentrification struggle, and she knew she wanted to fictionalize the story — and others like it — for the stage.

That’s exactly what Gonzales ended up doing with “Not For Sale,” UrbanTheater Company’s new play, which previews Tuesday evening. Gonzalez teamed up with director Sara Carranza and playwright Guadalís Del Carmen to bring the play to life.

The play tells the story of two neighbors — one that has called Humboldt Park home for 40 years and another who only recently arrived.

Credit: Courtesy of Anthony Aicardi
The play tells the story of neighbors learning how to coexist in gentrifying Humboldt Park.

It follows the neighbors as they learn how to coexist in the gentrifying neighborhood, according to Gonzalez.

“I really want to create a discourse around that. What are we going to do to coexist and understand there are cultural differences?” she said.

The artistic director said it was also important her team tell a uniquely Chicago story that will hopefully gain traction in other cities.

“A lot of the time the people who are given a platform to speak in the Latinx community are folks from other areas, other states and other cities,” she said. “So I thought UrbanTheater Company would be a good place to begin fostering those stories and create a pipeline that bleeds into the national conversation about what is going on in Chicago.”

Gonzalez acknowledged gentrification — even the word itself — can be extremely divisive. Born and raised in Humboldt Park and Logan Square, Gonzalez finds herself routinely talking about the changing demographics in casual conversation.

“That particular conversation comes up often when you grow up in an area where you’re used to certain things and a summer passes and all of a sudden I stop seeing people who look like me,” said Gonzalez, who is black and Mexican.

In the play, “we’re going to talk about the elephant in the room and its going to feel uncomfortable for both parties, but we’ve got to address it. We have to address it,” Gonzalez said. 

But she said the play is not as serious as folks might expect.

“It’s actually very funny,” Gonzalez said. “I like to tackle stories through a sugar pill. We’re going to put this little pill in sugar and it’ll be a lot easier to swallow.”

The play is part of “Destinos,” the second annual Chicago International Latino Festival, which will feature more than 14 plays at venues across Chicago.

The cast currently includes Frankie Dávila (Reynaldo Rodríguez), Daniela Thome (Alderman Nancy Torres), Seamus McMahon (Mark), Rebekah Roberts (Susan), Andrew Pérez (Ricky González), Isaias Pérez (Jules) and Omar Vega (understudy).

The play begins previews Tuesday and the show’s official run begins Friday. The show runs through Oct. 20.

Tickets — $5 for preview shows, and $20-25 for regular shows — can be bought on the theater company’s website.

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