For Youth Inquiry’s World Premiere at Former Quarry Explores Reproductive Freedom

For Youth Inquiry (FYI), the participatory theater company of the Illinois Caucus for Adolescent Health (ICAH), proudly presents the World Premiere of “This Boat Called My Body”, May 31 – June 17. This multidisciplinary performance explores reproductive freedom for youth in the natural amphitheater at Palmisano Park, 2700 S. Halsted. “This Boat Called My Body” was written by Quenna Lené Barrett, Christabel Donkor, Danielle Littman, Jessamyn Fitzpatrick, Clair Fuller and Nik Zaleski. It is directed by Barrett and Zaleski and is produced by Catherine Miller.
Performances are Thursday through Saturday at 5:30 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. In the event of rain, performances will be rescheduled for Sundays at 5:30 p.m. The play is being performed in partnership with the Chicago Park District and is appropriate for ages 14-years-old and up. Tickets are $15 for artists, seniors and students, $25 for general admission and $50 for general admission plus donation. Youth under 22 years-old are free. Tickets are available at www.icah.org/boat

“Now more than ever, ICAH knows that cultural problems demand cultural solutions, said ICAH Executive Director Tiffany Pryor. “‘This Boat Called My Body’ is a direct response to the need for stories to be told and heard. It’s a way of removing stigma and opening up a dialogue that is crucial in this current political climate.”

The World Premiere of “This Boat Called My Body” opens May 31. Quenna Lene Barrett is pictured. Photo by Nik Zaleski.

 

Centering stories of young people in Illinois who have terminated pregnancies, “This Boat Called My Body” seats audiences in a metaphor of islands that youth must navigate to access abortion. Through spectacle, dance, opera, and interaction with water, “This Boat Called My Body” asks us to better understand what reproductive access looks like for all. The cast list includes Chinyere Achebe, Graham Carlson, Elena Victoria Feliz, Gregory Taylor Hill, Vic Wynter, and Maggie Mascal with original music by Mascal.
“This Boat Called My Body” is co-written and co-directed by Zaleski and Barrett. Zaleski was the founding artistic director of FYI and was the Education and Arts Justice Director for ICAH. Barrett is a current FYI company member where she directed “First”, about societal taboos surrounding the subject of “virginity” and “Start The Convo”, which tours to schools as part of ICAH’s sex ed programming.
FYI designs creative experiences to support wellbeing of youth. Educational programming, which includes participatory plays, residencies and peer education offerings, reaches thousands of young people each year. FYI current artistic director is Alyssa Vera Ramos who creates artist- and youth-led experiences for the reproductive justice movement. She directed FYI’s 2017 immersive play “Expectation”.
The World Premiere of “This Boat Called My Body” runs May 31 – June 17 in the natural amphitheater at Palmisano Park, 2700 S. Halsted. Performances are Thursday through Saturday at 5:30 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. In the event of rain, performances will be rescheduled for Sundays at 5:30 p.m. The play is being performed in partnership with the Chicago Park District and is appropriate for ages 14-years-old and up. Tickets are $15 for artists, seniors and students, $25 for general admission and $50 for general admission plus donation. Youth under 22 years-old are free. Tickets are available at www.icah.org/boat
BIOS
Chinyere Achebe (Esther/Wise Jane/Wisdom Keeper) is a freestyle MC, singer, spoken word and healing artist. This Chicago native has been performing for audiences in and around the Chicagoland area for decades. Credits include House of Blues Chicago, The Promontory, The Shrine, Bodhi Spiritual Center, Art Devour Gallery and many other venues in and around Chicago.
Quenna Lené Barrett (co-writer and co-director) serves as Education Programs Manager for the University of Chicago’s Arts + Public Life, where she founded two participatory theater-based programs, and manages and supports other arts programs for teens in underserved communities on Chicago’s South Side. As an FYI Company member, previous work includes directing “First”, about societal taboos surrounding the subject of “virginity” and “Start The Convo”, which tours to schools as part of ICAH’s sex ed programming. She is a working actress, teaching artist, cultural fieldworker, organizer with the Black Youth Project 100 and the #LetUsBreathe Collective, and Theatre of the Oppressed (TO) practitioner blending TO techniques with acting skills to amplify teens’ voice. Barrett has recently performed in such shows as: Theatre Unspeakable’s “Moon Shot”, Cor Theatre’s “Late Company”, The Runaways Theatre Lab’s “Dead Youth, or The Leaks”, Pegasus Theatre’s Young Playwrights Festival 30, and a starring role as Dr. Beverly Long in Nikkole Salter’s “Lines in the Dust” at eta Creative Arts Foundation.  Barrett received her BFA from NYU Tisch School of the Arts in Drama and her MA in Applied Theatre from the University of Southern California.
Graham Carlson (Rex, White Male Chorus Leader) is a graduate of the The Academy and The Studio at Black Box Acting, where he is currently an instructor. Recent favorite credits include Miles in “She Kills Monsters” (The Cuckoo’s Theatre Project), Karl-Steve in “Clybourn Park” (Open Door Theatre), and Polixenes in “The Winter’s Tale” (Fury Theatre).
Elena Victoria Feliz (Jane) is an actress and singer whos Chicago credits include “Our Town” at Redtwist Theatre (Emily), “That Perilous Stuff” at Mozawa (Juliet), “Gender Breakdown” at Collaboraction Theatre (Understudy), and “Cosmic Events Are Upon Us” with Waltzing Mechanics (Maria Romanov). Buffalo NY credits include “In The Heights” at MusicalFare Theatre (Nina) and “Plato’s Cave” at Against The Grain Theatre (Glaucon).
Gregory Taylor Hill (Malcolm) is a Chicago actor who is apart of ICAH’s touring company (FYI). He is also apart of Imagination Theatres touring company. He has a duo improv troupe (Misfit Mangoes) that focuses on the journey of queer relationships through improv. He has performed at The Playground Theatre and Second City. He just received the DiOversity scholarship at IO where he will be studying improv for the next year.
Maggie Mascal (Lead Wisdom Keeper, Musician) has toured the United States and Europe as a soloist since 2000 and has performed at venues including the Kennedy Center, the Chicago Lyric Opera, Ravinia, The Harris Theater for Music and Dance, and the Museum of Contemporary Art. Mascal is an organizer of SWARM Artist Residency, and has devised original theater and music in collaboration with Opera Cabal, High Concept Labs, Links Hall, The Music Room Collective, Chautauqua Opera, The Institute for European Studies (Vienna, Austria), Rady&Bloom Collective Playmaking, Mess Hall, Broken Planetarium, Salonathon, FYI Performance Company, and the Chicago Cultural Center. Mascal holds a Masters of Music from Northwestern University, and is winner of the Margaret Morris Henderson Endowed Scholarship in Music, the Neale-Silva Young Voice Competition, the Bel-Canto Foundation Bella Voce Award, the Jean Meyer Aloe Poetry Award, and the Judith Dawn Memorial Grant.
Alyssa Vera Ramos (FYI Artistic Director) is a theatre artist, cultural organizer, and facilitator. As Arts Justice Organizer at the Illinois Caucus for Adolescent Health (ICAH), she creates artist- and youth-led experiences for the reproductive justice movement, serving as the Artistic Director of For Youth Inquiry (FYI) Performance Company and co-facilitator of the intergenerational Change, Heal, Act Together Network. Ramos is a Founding Member of FEMelanin, whose play for young audiences, “Epic Tales From The Land Of Melanin”, will be presented at Free Street Theater in May 2018. Ramos was a Directors Inclusion Initiative Fellow at Victory Gardens Theater during the 2016-17 season, where she assistant directed “Native Gardens”. Her most recent work as director and lead developer is immersive play “Expectation”, devised for FYI’s 2017 public season. Ramos is a member of the Alliance of Latinx Theatre Artists (ALTA), an alum of DirectorsLab Chicago, and an organizer of Swarm Artist Residency. Currently in development is “You Can’t Cover The Sky With Your Hands”, co-created with her mother, writer Marisel Vera, which was a semi-finalist of The O’Neill National Playwrights Conference.
Vic Wynter (Wisdom Keeper, Daniella, and Daya) is a director and actor who has worked with NeoFuturist in both roles in the storytelling series “The Arrow”. They have also appeared in “The Kissing Project” (ATC; American Theater Company) and “Remember the Ladies” at RhinoFest(Prop Thtr). They have also worked with YEPP(Youth Empowerment Performance Project); who counsel homeless LGBT Youth and use theater as a tool to help heal young folks from the traumas they may have experienced.
Nik Zaleski (co-writer and co-director) is a theater artist, facilitator and cultural activist rooted in the reproductive justice movement. She has worked as the Education and Arts Justice Director for the Illinois Caucus for Adolescent Health (ICAH) and was the Founding Artistic Director of For Youth Inquiry. She is the founder of Swarm Artist Residency, as well as a founding member of Ag47, an artist mentorship collective that serves girls in the Logan Square neighborhood. She is an Artistic Associate of Sojourn Theatre, and a company member of Erasing the Distance. She has directed and conceived performance for Redmoon Theater, Northwestern University, Arizona State University, Erasing the Distance and Sojourn Theatre. Zaleski holds a Bachelor of Science in Gender Studies and Performance Studies from Northwestern University and Master of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies from DePaul University, where she combined Public Health and Theater Directing coursework in the MFA directing program.