en route takes the Audience on an Urban Adventure of Chicago Like No Other.

en route takes the Audience on an Urban Adventure of Chicago Like No Other.
en route takes its' audience on a one of a kind journey. Photo credit: Show Me Chicago.

Chicago, Monday, August 1, 2011.  en route, the centerpiece of Chicago's summer tourism initiative Urban Excursions in partnership with Chicago's Shakespeare Theater, is a unique form of theater devised specifically for the City of Chicago by Australian company one step at a time like this.

en route, which originated in the streets of Melbourne, Austrailia and has been performed at Fringe festivals in Adelaide, Brisbane, Darwin and Edinburgh, offers each audience member a personalized experience with an emphasis on the relationships between people, and qualities of space and time.

Instead of sitting in a seat among other audiences members watching actors perform on a stage, the stage becomes an extraordinary journey through downtown Chicago guided by audio tracks, mobile phone communication and written clues with a solo audience interpreting the sites, sounds and faces of the city. According to Julian Rickert, one of the founding members of one step at a time like this, "The audience becomes central to the work offering a different experience for each person".

The theatrical event begins with a text message 24 hours before your adventure. It says, "Welcome, you are now en route.  With this text your journey begins and will continue at your confirmed date and time under the clock at 400 N. Michigan Avenue between the river and the front of the Wrigley building. Look for me-I will be clearly marked."

When I arrived at my confirmed location, I looked around waiting to see someone clearly marked. I saw people, looked at them for some indication that they were the one I was to meet but no one returned my glances.  I re-checked my text message to make sure I was in the correct spot until it became clear.

My journey continued from there through private and public spaces, upstairs, downstairs, through alleys, and inside buildings.  My mp3 player (provided) set the sound track for my adventure with music from local Chicago musicians and spoken text pieces. As I waited for my instructions after each track, I had time to look around and observe.   I begin to notice things that I had never paid attention to before. I saw faces, individuals, not masses. I felt suspended in time.  I, for one, felt myself becoming kinder, more connected, empowered.

Each person will have a different experience, which is what makes this theatrical experience so unique.  Some have said that it set their "senses on fire". Others have admitted to being unnerved or anxious.  One thing, I expect, as I still find myself thinking about my en route adventure, is that, if you go, you will see Chicago and maybe even the world in a different way after this one of a kind experience.

If you have concerns about the technical aspect of en route or fear getting lost or mugged.  Fear not: You are given a contact phone number, and members of one step at a time next time are discreetly placed around the area ready to rescue you if you take a wrong turn. You are also given simple instructions on how to operate the mp3 player, plus a contact number to call if you have technical difficulties.  Although you will receive text messages, your own texting will be minimal.  Be prepared to walk, at your own pace, about a mile and a half and to climb some stairs.  en route should take approximately 100 minutes but feel free to take longer or shorter.

Times and Tickets:

Performances:  Just announced performance extended through September 17, 2011: After commissioning Australian company one step at a time like this to create en route, Chicago Shakespeare Theater (CST) has engaged Chicago artists to collaborate with the company to produce additional performances of the pedestrian-based live art event, specifically devised for the City of Chicago. Chicago Shakespeare Theater acknowledges its Chicago partners Chicago Office of Tourism and Culture, Kimpton Hotels and Restaurants and Motorola Mobility Foundation in announcing added, limited capacity performances for a four week period, August 19 through September 17, 2011.

Times are staggered: 
11:00–11:20 a.m.  |  2:00–2:20 p.m.  |  5:00–5:20 p.m.

Tickets: For more information or to purchase tickets, $35, call the Chicago Shakespeare Theater box office at 312 595 5600.

SMC Rating Scale: On a scale of a to d, en route gets an A for Awesome.

A. Awesome.
B. Better than most.
C. Could do worse.
D. Don't waste your time/money.

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    Carole Kuhrt Brewer

    Arts and Entertainment Reporter for media since 1997.

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