APTP: From Story to Stage

APTP: From Story to Stage

Posted by: David Feiner at 03/28/2014 03:24 PM

Albany Park Theater Project’s (APTP) acclaimed youth ensemble returns to Goodman Theatre this April with their exhilarating drama God’s Work. As the talented teenagers ready for the upcoming production, we’re going behind-the-scenes with the cast and crew to learn about the group’s inventive rehearsal process. Below APTP artistic director David Feiner recounts how the group's special knack for collaboration led to the creation of the show.

The Unique Devising Process Behind God's Work

Since its founding in 1997, Albany Park Theater Project (APTP) has earned a reputation for creating beautiful and hopeful art out of sometimes ugly realities, and for taking audiences on journeys inside of worlds to which they might otherwise not have access.

Like all of APTP’s original plays, God’s Work was inspired by a true story. APTP has a remarkable ability to establish a safe environment in which people—adults as often as youth—feel comfortable sharing precious parts of their lives and trust us to bring those experiences to the stage.

Our journey toward God’s Work started when a 14-year-old ensemble member named Rachel shared this striking fragment: “I learned to love when I was ten years old. I learned to see, to hear, to touch…I learned to love.” As poetic as this sounded, all of us present heard in Rachel’s voice that she meant it literally. We were intrigued and wanted to learn more. That led to a series of interviews, conducted by a mix of youth ensemble members and adult APTP artists.

Inspired by those interviews, APTP’s youth ensemble and professional artistic team devised God’s Work together. Our plays have no single author. Indeed, an APTP project often has no script for many months, as the company collectively generates volumes of possible text, movement, and music.

APTP ensemble members in rehearsal for God's Work

During the devising process, we explored how Rachel's story might work as theater. At each workshop, directors gave ensemble members creative assignments that asked them to envision different parts of the story on stage. Typically, multiple groups worked simultaneously on the same assignment. At the end of the day – after seeing several possible approaches to a scene, theme or challenge – directors and actors talked together: about what elements of each group's work best told Rachel's story, about what elements were most exciting theatrically and about where to go next. Eventually I assembled a script based on the material generated in workshops – but the text of God’s Work truly represents the ensemble work of a good 30 artists.

The play we created from Rachel’s story is an exploration of resilience. The real-life Rachel today is one of the most poised, self-aware, accomplished and generously loving people I’ve ever encountered. We wanted to make a play that celebrates her triumph and illuminates the question of how a person – especially a child – summons the capacity not only to survive the most dehumanizing trauma, but to become so exquisitely human.

APTP ensemble members in rehearsal for God's Work

APTP originally premiered a version of God’s Work at our home theater in 2006. It ushered in a new era for us aesthetically, characterized by the seamless integration of high stakes storytelling, gorgeous movement, original music and stunning visuals. Eight years later, APTP’s partnership with Goodman Theatre gives us the opportunity and resources to re-imagine this beloved work for a larger canvas – and to share it with a citywide audience. In preparation, we took God’s Work back into our theater laboratory. Our team had a grand time conceiving, designing and staging God’s Work for the larger scale of the Owen Theatre. The multiethnic cast ranges in age from 14 to 19 and will surely be one of the most diverse ensembles on any Chicago stage this spring.

The profound emotion inherent in Rachel’s story has inspired us to craft some of our most visceral theatricality ever. Audiences will be astonished by the startling sensitivity, indomitable spirit and extraordinary imagination with which our youth ensemble brings to the stage the extremes of both brutality and tenderness.



God's Work starts April 4 and runs through April 19. Get tickets now.

From Chicago Tribune: "APTP's God's Work reinvented through eyes of a new Albany Park cast"


  • Posted by: Betty at 04/07/2014 07:48 AM
    This is a really interesting article to read. I love going to the theatre and seeing what happens behind the scenes is really interesting. I live near London so I am always going to the West end to see shows. I last say Mamma Mia London last and I loved it - I thought it was fantastic. I would recommend it to anyone.
  • Posted by: Delores W. Porter at 04/08/2014 06:51 PM
    I would like more information on the play God's Work. What time does the play start on April 19, 2014?
  • Posted by: Goodman Theatre at 04/09/2014 10:58 AM
    Delores, God's Work will be performed on April 19 at 2pm and 8pm. You can find out more ticket information here: http://www.goodmantheatre.org/godswork

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