image001American Theater Company proudly announces the final production of its 30th Anniversary seasonthe world premiere of The Project(s)a documentary play on Chicago’s public housing, conceived, co-written, and directed by ATC Artistic Director PJ Paparelli and co-written by Joshua Jaeger.  

From 2010 until 2014, Paparelli conducted over 60 interviews with scholars, historians, and former and current residents of Chicago’s public housing. Interweaving verbatim material with a cappella music, stepping, and body percussion, The Project(s) tells the stories of four generations of public housing families while examining the key planning decisions that took Chicago’s public housing from paradise to purgatory.

The Project(s) is the story of Chicago” said Paparelli.  “My hope is to shatter the misconceptions about public housing by taking a hard look at what happened from both the planning side and from the residents’ point of view.  I have met the most extraordinary people on this journey and am honored to be able to share their story.”

The production will be choreographed by Jakari Sherman, Artistic Director of Step Afrika!, the nation’s only professional dance company devoted to stepping.

“Just as the places it describes, The Project(s) has a unmistakable pulse.” said Sherman.  “The power and emotion of percussive dance and stepping, in particular, make it an apt medium for this piece. The striking nature of these forms have the ability to affect us in a visceral way, and I am profoundly excited to see these stories burst open in an atmosphere of rhythmic texture.

Paparelli conceived, co-wrote, and directed the critically-acclaimed documentary play, columbinus. that premiered its third act at ATC and toured to ArtsEmerson in Boston in 2013. The Project(s) received two development opportunities at the Orchard Project, a national new play development retreat in New York, and was funded through a grant from theChicago Community Trust.


Let Me Down Easy & Mercy Strain in repertory

September 12 – October 18, 2014 

Chicago Premiere

Let Me Down Easy

Written by Anna Deavere Smith

Directed by Bonnie Metzgar


Featuring ATC Ensemble Member Usman Ally


America. Today.  Actress and documentarian Anna Deavere-Smith (The West Wing, Nurse Jackie) interviewed over 300 subjects, crafting a ninety-minute, humorous and heart-wrenching mosaic of illness and loss. From cyclist Lance Armstrong to former Texas Governor Ann Richards, ATC Ensemble member Usman Ally portrays nineteen diverse Americans on the road toward the end.

Chicago Premiere

Mercy Strain

Written and Performed by Michael Milligan

Directed by Tom Oppenheimer

America. Today. Meet Joe.  He owns a body shop, loves his wife, and listens to Rush Limbaugh in his newly-purchased home.  When his insurance cannot cover his wife’s cancer treatments, he rapidly descends into bankruptcy and divorce to qualify for Medicare.  After an international tour, actor and writer Michael Milligan returns to ATC to present this unforgettable yet too common tale of an American without insurance.

World Premiere

The Humans

Written by Stephen Karam

Directed by PJ Paparelli 

November 14 -December 21, 2014

Featuring Lance Baker, Hanna Dworkin, Keith Kupferer, Jean Moran and Ensemble members Kelly O’Sullivan and Sadieh Rifai.

New York City. Today.  After a sleepless night, Mr. Blake brings his family from Pennsylvania to celebrate Thanksgiving at his youngest daughter’s run-down apartment.  As dinner begins, unexplainable and family tensions reach a boiling point.  Stephen Karam (Sons of the Prophet, Speech & Debate) takes a fresh look at the hilarity, heart and horrors of the modern American family.  This production is produced under special arrangement with New York’s Roundabout Theatre Company where it was commissioned and will receive its NY premiere.

Chicago Premiere

The Royale

Written by Marco Ramirez

Directed by ATC Ensemble member Jaime Castañeda

February 2  – March 8, 2015

America. 1905.  Jay is a legend.  He has everything he needs to be the heavyweight champion of the world…except he cannot box a white fighter.  From the writer of Orange is the New Black comes this explosive play that combines rapid-fire dialogue and rhythmic percussion to punctuate the epic journey of one’s man’s quest for fame– no matter the consequence.

World Premiere

The Project (s)

Written by PJ Paparelli and Joshua Jaeger

Directed by ATC Artistic Director PJ Paparelli

Choreographed by Jakari Sherman 

April 24 – May 24, 2015

Featuring Ensemble member Tyler Ravelson.

Chicago. Today.  For over 50 years, Chicago led the nation in urban renewal by transforming slum neighborhoods into modern towers in the sky.  Today, only a handful remain.  Combining documentary theatre, a cappella music, and stepping, Artistic Director PJ Paparelli celebrates the communities deep inside the concrete walls of public housing and asks what is America’s responsibility to the poor.


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About American Theater Company

American Theater Company is an ensemble of artists committed to producing new and classic American stories that ask the question, “What does it mean to be an American?” ATC’s Ensemble includes Usman Ally, Patrick Andrews, Kareem Bandealy, Jaime Castañeda, Kelly O’Sullivan, Tyler Ravelson, and Sadieh Rifai.

American Theater Company is partially supported by a grant from the Illinois Arts Council, a state agency, and CityArts grant from the City of Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events, the Lloyd A. Fry Foundation, Polk Bros. Foundation, the MacArthur Fund at Prince Charitable Trust, and the Shubert Foundation.