23 Feb An INTERVIEW with JERI FREDERICKSON, Associate Artistic Director, Irish Theatre of Chicago
Jeri Frederickson calls Chicago home as a theatre director and curator of new work. She is Associate Artistic Director at Irish Theatre of Chicago. Recent directing has been seen at Stone Soup Shakespeare Whiskey Rebellion, Artemisia, ITC, Trellis, and 10-4 Truck Stop. As a writer and freelance editor, her recent poems have been published in print Thought Collection and Vine Leaves. She edited Frederic Leon by Antony Pebbles, and continues to support emerging and on the fringe writers. She received the Brad Williams Memorial Award 2010 just before graduating Hope College with a B.A. in Theatre and Creative Writing.
You will be directing the play “In a Little World of Our Own,” which premieres at The Den Theatre March 2nd. Can you tell me something about the play?
“Little World” combines the whodunit thriller with the family drama, set against Northern Ireland’s “post-Troubles” landscape. It’s fast, it’s complicated, and the stakes are high for everyone involved. The truth is an ever-changing key to how the story will end for each character and their loved ones. Life “After-The-Troubles” meant each person grew up with segregation and terrorism as a means to protect his community. How do you trust your own community and how do you escape the cycle of violence when tensions rise again? The continued fallout from living so long with violence and gang mentality strikes right at the core of this family’s home.
Why did you choose this particular play?
ITC was founded as Seanachaí, the Gaelic word for storyteller, and that very much still rings true for us. We want to tell stories – the stories that move or excite us. Ensemble members brought Mitchell’s script to our season selection, and I loved his writing style, the story, and that each of his characters are fully developed.
I didn’t grow up as a theater kid. I was into swimming, my family, and whatever was going on outside. I think that actually helped me figure out that theater was “the thing” for me. It allows me to explore new ideas and technology with each production; it constantly changes; you meet new people. I love the feeling in rehearsal rooms and in performance with audiences where you as a group share an experience that is emotionally transforming or exciting.
In college you majored in both Theater and Creative Writing. Have you ever thought about combining your two talents to write a play?
Ah, well. I’ve tried once or twice, and it was pretty terrible. Maybe sometime in the future, but for now they are best separate.
Your bio says you support “on-the-fringe writers.” Tell me a little more about that.
Many of the writers I read or edit for are people who are very much rising stars. They’re on the edge of breaking into the bigger leagues with publishing houses and their writing gives voice to experience which traditionally have been passed over because of their gender identification, race, or sexuality.
At the age of 28 you have already achieved so much. What interest haven’t you pursued, but have always wanted to? What draws you to it?
I still have a long list of productions I already know I want to tackle. But, I’m an animal person so I’ve always wanted to run an animal rescue where part of their training involves going into nursing homes, schools, prisons, and substance support groups. The rescue would include dolphins, tigers, and otters so there’s a reason it’s on the backburner for now.
Irish Theatre of Chicago (ITC) is a small, ensemble-driven theater company with a stellar reputation in the Chicago theater scene. Entering their 20th season, ITC has earned 16 coveted Jeff Awards, among others, and a long list of nominations. According to their website, ITC’s mission is “to return theatre to its storytelling origin, and to embrace the rich cultural traditions of oral history – by creating compelling productions and programs that focus the energy of artists towards the common goal of exceptional storytelling.”
Last season, Irish Theatre of Chicago changed its name. Their website explains: “At the start of our 2014-2015 season, as part of the celebration surrounding our 20th season as part of the Chicago theatre landscape, Seanachaí Theatre Company officially changed its name to Irish Theatre of Chicago. While we still feel that Seanachaí (gaelic for ‘storyteller’) reflects the heart of what we do, we feel our new name supports our future plans and will make it easier for our current and future patrons to find and follow us in an increasingly diverse and complex digital age.”
—Interview conducted by Molly Jones, Theatre Liaison, Northwest Arts Connection, February 2016.
Learn more about ITC’s production of “In a Little World of Our Own” on Northwest Arts Connection’s Facebook page as well as online: http://www.northwestartsconnection.com/all-events/
If you would like, you may make a donation to ITC online: https://web.ovationtix.com/trs/store/28605/donate/3265