series created by Thomas Murray
28 editions ran CONSECUTIVELY from 2011-2017

Anyone who has spent time riding Chicago's trains and buses has collected stories from their travels. The EL, after all, is a public square - a place where Chicagoans from all backgrounds come together. Using the words of actual Chicagoans' transit adventures over the course of a dramatized train ride from Jackson to Howard, this hourlong docu-comedy reflects how we move as a community through this dynamic city.

I found that the company’s Christmas-themed show a couple of months back captured a texture so true and universal about our city — in true documentary theater fashion, the ensemble re-creates the accents and speech patterns of those they portray — I’m surprised someone hadn’t come up with the idea sooner. As late-night offerings go, few are this well-conceived.
— Nina Metz, Chicago Tribune

presented at the nyu forum on ethnodrama 2017

Directed by series creator Thomas Murray, this "best stops" edition featured both Chicago and New York-based actors in a thirty minute version of the play, including a playback theatre scene contributed by the conference audience and led by the ensemble. Hosted by Educational Theatre at NYU Steinhardt.

featuring Michael Leon, Matthew Lunt, Nina O'Keefe, Bob Pantalone, Maggie Scrantom, Tiffany Small, and Hope Ward

produced by waltzing mechanics from 2011-2016

The original script featured twenty-three individual stories derived from hours of interviews with diverse Chicagoans representing neighborhoods from Hegewisch to Rogers Park. Each shared a unique encounter riding the CTA. Care was taken in adaptation to preserve the verbatim speech patterns of the source contributors in the script itself, and the ten actor ensemble prepared for performance using both interview transcripts and the source recordings as research guides.

Each performance also utilized playback theatre in one scene before the dramatized Red Line train arrives at Howard. A volunteer from the audience was invited to share an EL story of his or her own, was guided to select actors from the ensemble to fulfill that story, and watched as the story just shared was “played back” in scene. Other audience members who wished to share their own EL stories were encouraged to remain after the performance, when their tales were recorded.  Collected stories were used for further productions between 2011-2016 as EL STORIES documented the living history of Chicagoans’ intracity transit through performance.

Best of Chicago’s Fringe Theatre in 2011
— Chicago Tribune

Photos by Carinne Uslar