In less than an hour at the Greenhouse Theater Center, the Waltzing Mechanics will culminate another critically-acclaimed edition of EL Stories. But for the first time since we launched the show in February 2011, there won’t be a single “dark” weekend following this closing. The Mechanics’ commitment to run our flagship production openly means another ensemble cast has already been waiting in the wings — rehearsing an exciting new script of commuter stories under the direction of Mechanics co-founder Keely Leonard. And next week at this time, instead of wistfully celebrating a closing performance, we will be rallying that cast’s public opening.
When I conceived the show three years ago in a collaboration with Strangeloop Theatre’s “Loopshop”, I had always hoped that it could fit into the fabric of Chicago’s late night theatre community without a foreseeable expiration date. It is gratifying to report that EL Stories has entertained over 1,800 ticket buyers in the course of 44 performances since Waltzing Mechanics’ inception, and I am exhilarated to see where the show is headed under Keely’s direction this summer and fellow Mechanic Eric Loughlin’s direction this fall.
The edition we close tonight took EL Stories in exciting new directions. Director and Mechanics co-founder Zack Florent introduced a non-linear structure to the train’s movement, began the show with an audio collage of actual CTA commuters recorded by the Mechanics, improved the format of our “playback theatre” scene, and liberally featured the cast without pants (as Improv Everywhere‘s annual “No Pants Ride” thematically tied the various scenes together). Documented storytellers originated from communities as centrally located as Lincoln Park and Englewood to as exotic and far-flung as Schaumburg! It garnered recommended reviews by the Chicago Tribune and the Chicago Reader. To the many Chicagoans who joined us on this journey and shared their own tales with our ensemble, we are grateful for your generosity of time and spirit.
Most especially, to the departing cast, the show’s continuing legacy owes you a debt of gratitude. Your talents are manifold and appreciated. It has been the Mechanics’ pleasure to have you aboard our train. Keep in mind we’re never far away. Every Saturday night at 11 p.m., EL Stories will continue rolling. And as we go, just like commuters, we’ll remember the vibrant characters we’ve encountered.
— Thomas Murray