WEST RIDGE — A Loop-based theater company is teaming with West Ridge organizations to put on the West Ridge Story Festival, which will highlight stories of living in one of Chicago’s most diverse communities.
West Ridge Story Festival will run Saturday through Monday at various locations in the neighborhood, where plays written by local aspiring playwrights are produced and performed by professional actors and directors, said Jamil Khoury, artistic director and co-founder of Silk Road Rising, the group that is putting on the fest.
Telling the story of West Ridge through residents’ personal tales aligns with the art-and-theater company’s mission, which aims to diversify the stories being told on stage and through other art forms, Khoury said.
“We want to create space for representation that was absent from Chicago and the U.S.,” he said. “It’s about helping people find their voices and tell their stories.”
The festival will feature performances of 11 short plays (about 10 minutes each) written by West Ridge residents, many of whom are new to the art form.
Silk Road Rising runs a play-writing program that works with Chicago Public Schools students, but recently the group expanded its courses to include other community members. After being approached by local organizations, Silk Road Rising held storytelling workshops in West Ridge. It then held a play writing course, where the ideas for the festival’s performances originated.
The stories chosen for the festival highlight West Ridge’s diversity, with the story tellers coming from a wide range of backgrounds, ethnicities and age groups, Khoury said. The plays seek to highlight the neighborhood’s diversity while also building community among its residents, he said.
“West Ridge is a really fascinating neighborhood,” Khoury said. “It gives you a lot of insight into the immigrant experience. To me, it’s a new way of looking at the American Dream.”
The West Ridge Story Festival is the first time Silk Road Rising is producing such a neighborhood-specific performance program. Founded in 2002 by Khoury and his husband, Malik Gillani, Silk Road seeks to highlight the works of Middle Eastern and Muslim artists in an effort to diversify the local arts scene and build empathy across cultures. The group operates out of a theater space in the Chicago Temple building, 77 W. Washington St.
For the story festival, the plays will be performed at West Ridge venues like Northtown Library, Indian Boundary Park Cultural Center and Music House School of Performing Arts.
The idea is to expand the artistic offerings in West Ridge while highlighting the stories of its diverse population, Khoury said.
“We believe we can use art to build relationships and connect people,” he said.
The West Ridge Story Festival will include performances at:
- 3 p.m. Saturday at Northtown Library, 6800 N. Western Ave. (free preview performance)
- 3 p.m. Sunday at Indian Boundary Park Cultural Center, 2500 W. Lunt Ave.
- 7:30 p.m. Monday at Indian Boundary Park Cultural Center, 2500 W. Lunt Ave.
- 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at Music House School of Performing Arts, 2925 W. Devon Ave.
Tickets to the shows on Sunday-Tuesday cost $10. To learn more about the fest, and to buy tickets, click here.