Something that’s fantastic about being a Northwestern student is the access to Chicago. We have a free shuttle that takes us to our downtown Chicago campus, the L (elevated train system) has several stops off of campus, and the Metra has a stop just south of campus. Despite all of the transportation options, I still didn’t find myself venturing into the city much my first two years at school. Junior year, however, I felt like I had a handle on all of the events happening on campus and I dedicated more of my free time to exploring communities outside of Evanston.  Chicago is divided into 77 communities areas and within each community area are multiple neighborhoods. The Chicago Home Theater Festival has not only provided me with an excellent excuse to explore new neighborhoods, but also attracts artists and performers who question the social justice issues present in Chicago.

Recently, I attended one of these home theater productions in Humboldt Park, a northwest-side neighborhood. A friend and I made the hour (with traffic) drive down to arrive at 6:45pm to an address that was sent to us just twelve hours beforehand. We stepped into the crowded apartment to see empanadas and cactus and beet salad waiting for us on the kitchen counter. The evening began with a few words from the festival’s three organizers regarding the initiative’s purpose and goals. They shared opinions on the social justice issues facing Chicago and how they are addressing these issues by providing artists with unconventional performance spaces and inviting residents of Chicago to leave their neighborhood and explore others. We heard from a young poet expressing her challenges and journey following the death of her parents and immigration to the United States. There was also an interactive monologue from a man describing his experiences with law enforcement, his sexuality, and travels across the United States.  The night ended with a short reflection from the homeowners and a collective cheer for Humboldt Park culture and community. Exploring this space and discovering a new community was unbelievable. It was even better to be able to come back to campus and know that my friends would be excited to learn about the event and join me for other performances in new neighborhoods throughout the rest of the festival.

–Taylor Billings

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