Tom Arvetis, director of Adventure Stage Chicago,
noticed something odd a few years ago. Although the theater company
was located in the Northwestern University Settlement House in the
West Town area, most of the audience at their shows came from
outside the area.
"Northwestern Settlement House is a social service agency that
services the West Town neighborhood. The folks who come here to
receive services are our neighbors, and our neighbors were not
coming to see our shows," Arvetis says. "We had to question
why that's been true, whether it's a cultural barrier or a language
What came next was a series of discussions with other
staff members at the Settlement House, and eventually more
discussions and activity days with the families who use the
Settlement's social services. Arvetis also reached out to Carlos
Murillo, an internationally produced Latino playwright and director
who also is head of playwriting at DePaul University.
"I was open about our desire to reach out to our Latino
neighbors, and bringing someone into the room who speaks Spanish
certainly opens up the possibilities," Arvetis
The result of these efforts is "Augusta and Noble,"
an original story about a girl named Gabi who has lived her
whole life in the vibrant Latino community in the West Town
neighborhood. When Gabi starts high school across the city at
Northside College Prep, she is exposed to new people and
possibilities and begins asking questions about her heritage, her
parents' journey to America, and exactly where in this world she
"The character in the play is the daughter of immigrants
and is working very hard to make the best of her situation, but
they're certainly an under-resourced family. They don't have a lot
of things," Arvetis says. "This has nothing to do with
lack of effort or desire, it really has more to do with the
challenges we all face to make our lives work, when parents are
working two jobs and kids are expected to take care of
The play deals with complicated issues, Arvetis
acknowledges, but at its heart it is "very much the story of a girl
who is trying to understand what the future holds for her and she
can only begin to understand that by understanding where she comes
The play is primarily in English, with some Spanish used
as well. It is recommended for families with kids 9 and
Liz DeCarlo is the former senior editor at Chicago Parent.
See more of Liz's stories here.
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