West Town Show

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The Truck Show took over a humble parking lot (@ 1837 W. Hubbard St.) in West Town on the evening of Saturday, Oct. 20, 2012.  In addition to many variety acts joining us for this late night show, scripted acts played homage to the changing streetscape of the West Town area since the fire, through the life story and time-wandering of the main character Denim Dennis.

Details:

– Inspiration for the character:
The name of a real-life neighborhood thief inspired the character of Denim Dennis. A neighbor distributed paper warnings about Dennis with an image and description, asking neighbors to watch out. We liked the idea of flushing out his back story (what brought him to pilfering) and tying his fictionalized history to the history of the neighborhood.

– The backstory of Dennis:
Looking to the histories of the neighborhoods post-fire, we invented a story for Dennis that would place him respectively. The script introduction (set to music) was this:  Dennis, the son of Ukrainian immigrants Pietro and Annetta Zelinski , grew up in a small apartment on the corner of Noble and Superior. He learned his father’s craft, and became a successful stonemason, one of the many recruited to help build the new Victorians in Wicker Park. Pietro, a dedicated Union-man, went to hear the speakers on May 4th at Haymarket Square. In the chaotic events of that day, Dennis lost his father.  1902-SpeedSkateRace-frozenHumboldtLagoon

– Dennis’s fall and freeze in the Humboldt Pond:
In our search for historical news on West Town, we found several headlines about people falling in the freezing waters of Humboldt Pond, or bodies discovered frozen in the pond.  We wanted a way to connect Dennis to our other vignetted stories. The freezing turned into a time travel device. After his initial falling, spurred by deep depression from the loss of his father, he emerged from the pond every 30 years to wander Chicago, interacting with other characters from other times.  Although true to his real-world counterpart, he pilfers all sorts of stuff (from denim patches to fire extinguishers).

*Remember, Jefferson Ice Company [a Logan Square reference] used to harvest ice from the Humboldt Pond and other local sources. So…Rustman and Schwinn, while enjoying an afternoon cocktail, discover something in their drinking glass (from the “fresh harvest”).

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 – West Town represented in walking scenes:

As Dennis walks the streets of Chicago, we see the changing landscape of the West Town neighborhood through backdrop images (actual photos of the neighborhood), time appropriate soundtrack music, and his interaction with street vendors (which becomes progressively confusing for him).  The street salesmen sell products representing popular demographics over the years: pierogi’s, elotes, mix-tapes and socks, and micro-biotic gluten free organic locally made one-for-one cupcakes.dennis

– the Denim costume:
Denim was a significant material choice, a staple of the “working man,” a symbol of class, a versatile and sturdy fabric. The patchwork design of the costume by Ryan Richey, relates to Dennis’s past, as well as his pilfering narrative (he collected stuff from all wandering adventures using his denim pockets).  Also, as the show progressed, and Dennis spent more and more time in the Humboldt Pond, he began to visually morph into a sort of swamp-thing with moss and algae and other plant-like materials growing off of his body.

Other inspiration + street-scenes:

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Photos of the show:
(All photos taken by Brooke Herbert Hayes)

The West Town program, designed by Lindsay Chenault Bolton:

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