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‘Six Stories’ a tall order for Adventure Stage Chicago

Lance Newt(top bottom) AlyssVerRamos Alexandar Knapp Mark Anthony Gonzalez Sarah Rose Graber KevBrown Danielle Davis star Adventure Stage Chicago’s “Six

Lance Newton (top to bottom), Alyssa Vera Ramos, Alexandar Knapp, Mark Anthony Gonzalez, Sarah Rose Graber, Kevin Brown and Danielle Davis star in Adventure Stage Chicago’s “Six Stories Tall: a play about mermaids, monsters and spray paint!” at the Vittum Theater. | Photo by Johnny Knight

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‘Six Stories Tall: a play about
monsters and spray paint!’

♦ Nov. 10-Dec. 13

♦ Adventure Stage Chicago, Vittum Theater, 1012 N. Noble

♦ Tickets, $15-$25

♦ (773) 342-4141;

Six separate fantasies based on Hispanic folklore, each with a distinctive voice, come to life under the direction of Tom Arvetis when Adventure Stage Chicago presents Marco Ramirez’ “Six Stories Tall: a play about mermaids, monsters and spray paint!”Running Nov. 10 through Dec. 13 at the Vittum Theater, 1012 N. Noble, this Midwest premiere examines the superhero quality young people possess.

“It will be a very different experience for audiences who are familiar with our work, and I’m excited to know what they think, how they respond,” said Arvetis, who also is the ASC artistic director.

“Honestly, ‘Six Stories Tall,’ it’s unlike anything we’ve ever done. It’s six short plays as opposed to one extended narrative,” he said. “The voice of the playwright … feels very fresh and contemporary and will speak to our young audience in a really honest way.”

Audiences will see a boy save a mermaid, a girl defeat the devil in a spoken word battle, another boy become Batman, another girl use video game skills to defeat a monster, a boy and girl invent a percussive language and a boy show his love for his grandfather by changing the world.

The challenge, Arvetis said, was figuring out how to present the six stories together in a way that made sense.

“One of the things that the playwright really doesn’t dictate is that — is why these six plays are gathered together the way they are. Thematically, there’s definitely resonances between them, but they’re all so very different in style, in tone,” he said.

What they have in common, Arvetis said, is a young person coming to the aid of an adult.

“Very clearly we see adults who have lost the power to imagine, who have lost — through a variety of circumstances — lost their childlike sense of wonder,” he said. “And it’s the young people who come to the aid of those adults.”

Early on, Arvetis and crew decided to use the play to celebrate and encourage imagination. Elaborate sets and costumes have been a hallmark of past ASC productions. Not so with “Six Stories Tall.”

“This particular piece will actually invite the audience to do a lot of that creating in their imaginations,” he said. “So it’s a much [more raw] piece; it relies much more heavily on the ensemble itself and their physicality — the way they move, the way they create their character, the way they pop in and out of moments and stories.”

Music and sound effects play a big role in “Six Stories,” helping connect the stories and move them along. Arvetis described composer/sound designer Mikhail Fiksel — a real-life DJ who plays the DJ in “Six Stories” — as an “electric foley artist. … He’s providing sound effects and the like during storytelling but he’s also creating musical moments.”

Fiksel agreed, adding that “There was a desire to have music be part of that sort of improvisation [that actors do]. … So instead of music just playing somewhere abstractly from above, there was a desire to have it be on stage like the way a live band would do. But the DJ vocabulary felt very strong in this particular play, so it was decided to make it a DJ but treat it more like a live musician rather than just somebody playing tracks.”

The music, Fiksel said, will be an eclectic blend of dance music, hip-hop, jazz, funk, classical music, and traditional and contemporary Central and South American music.

“I am trying to be fairly eclectic as I myself am,” he said. “There’s a certain vibe, I think, that is definitely present in the stories; they feel contemporary; they feel sort of inner-city.”

And Arvetis is hoping that vibe will transport audiences to a world of their own creation.

“What we’re doing on stage is really simply manipulating some basic objects and our bodies to create really elaborate stories. It’s something that everyone is capable of doing,” he said. “I guess the thing that I would want the audience to take away is that embracing play is a great way for us to share the stories we care about.”


♦ The Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center holds its International Holiday Bazaar from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Nov. 10-11 at 9603 Woods Drive in Skokie. Entry to the world market of unique gifts is free and includes free entry to “Spies, Traitors and Saboteurs: Fear and Freedom in America” and the Miller Family Youth Exhibition. Call (847) 967-4800 or visit

♦ Find out what it’s like to use your senses like a predator during When Darkness Falls from 5 to 7 p.m. Nov. 10 at Waterfall Glen, Northgate Road and Cass Avenue, Darien. The ranger-led night hike is recommended for ages 6 and older; children younger than 16 must be accompanied by an adult. Free. Call (630) 933-7248 or visit

Jennifer Burklow is a local free-lance writer.

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