Stage 773’s Artist’s Lab Offers Emerging Artists More than Just a Credit


Now in its third year (and shedding its previously cumbersome, albeit whimsical title, “Scribble Bibble”), Stage 773’s Artist’s Lab offers emerging artists the opportunity to grow, connect, and collaborate in a creative ecosystem designed with the ensemble in mind.

Stage 773 Creative Director Brian Posen first launched The Artist’s Lab three years ago, after seeing how many opportunities there were for students graduating from comedy programs throughout the city. During their training at such institutions, many students are able to find like-minded artists and continue to work with them as an ensemble even after graduating. The Artist’s Lab seeks to facilitate a next level platform for emerging artists to become a part of an ensemble and navigate the process of creation.

Amanda Long, Director of Programs and Marketing, explains that the program’s structure is built to address the fact that the actors, writers and directors joining the program are “in training or recently graduated” and “looking for more experience to flex their muscles.” Over the course of a Spring Session or Fall Session, Stage 773 provides a stage for a total of 65 artists to do just that. Participants are separated into five pods, each led by one director and featuring six writers and six actors. By the end of the process, each pod will have had three original productions premiere in Stage 773’s Box Theatre, and a fourth production will be featured in one of the venue’s world-class sketch comedy festivals.

“We had 70 writers and 130 actors submit,” Long explained. “And we said, ‘You want to be a part of the program; you deserve an audition.’” Directors read the writers’ submissions and then selected a team of six to form a sort of “writer’s room.” From there, writers were invited to join directors in attending auditions. “We encourage the directors to come in with a prompt, and go in this direction or that direction,” she said. Once the actors are cast, each pod gets to work creating the first of four brand new shows.

Jonald Reyes, who serves as the Program Manager for The Artist’s Lab, will attend some meetings to get a feel for each pod and the direction they are heading. Reyes, along with Posen and Long, encourages each director to facilitate an open room between actors and writers. Long hopes that The Artist’s Lab allows each participant to “build respect for each other’s work and simultaneous collaboration.” To that end, each month Stage 773 hosts a creative development workshop for all 65 artists. Workshops have ranged from Creative Collaboration with Brian Posen to a discussion with Marisa Paonessa, of Paonessa Talent.

When it comes to the format and genre of each show, it’s all up to the pod to decide, and it’s clear that this is just one aspect that excites the program’s facilitators. “We’ve got different groups doing different things right now,” Long says, grinning. This approach is also sure to excite pods, as they are given the freedom to explore and create whatever is most inspiring to them.

Whether you’re an artist looking to meet new collaborators, or are passionate about exploring a theme or issue you haven’t found an outlet for, the openness of The Artist’s Lab makes for an electrifying mixture of new work, collaboration, and exciting risks. Long, who is always surprised by what she thinks will work on stage and what each ambitious pod creates, gleefully describes pods’ work creating three-part musicals and pushing the boundaries of what can be done in such a short amount of time. Each piece is, in its own way, “fabulous…there’s just like all kinds of crazy, cool art happening.”

Performances run Thursdays through May 26. For tickets and performance information, visit Stage 773’s website. For more information about participating in The Artist’s Lab, click here.

Brent Eickhoff
Brent Eickhoff

Brent Eickhoff is a Chicago-based director, writer, and educator. Brent has worked with A Red Orchid Theatre, Mary-Arrchie Theatre Co., The Arc Theatre, The Public House Theatre, Something Marvelous, Whiskey Radio Hour, and The Burrowers. He is the Educational Coordinator for Silk Road Rising, and is a founder and co-artistic director of Blue Goose Theatre Ensemble. While Brent has worked with a variety of Chicago theatre artists, he doesn't let that get in the way of writing unbiased reviews of any production he covers.