Chicago has a great history of drama bookstores that were not only a resource for reading material, but they were also a place for small readings, meetings, picking up sides, and more. The influx of big box bookstores and of course, amazon.com over the last 15 years shuttered a lot of small bookshops. I’ve long wished this great resource to the theater community could return in some way, so last June I floated the idea on Facebook. The feedback from most sounded a little like “That’s a great idea. I would love to help in whatever way I can. But it probably won’t do well because we have the internet now.” So keeping those things in mind, I decided to approach the Greenhouse with a pitch to open a drama bookstore, the first one in Chicago in a decade, and Jason Epperson, our fearless executive director, said “sure, let’s do it”, and Trellis was born. I knew our biggest challenge would be overcoming the “convenience” of the internet and use it to our advantage. The whole idea for this bookstore started on Facebook, after all! And I love a challenge.
BOOKS! In August held a book drive with an overwhelming response and huge number of donations of plays and books on theater. In September we held our first fundraiser/kick-off party, which afforded us the opportunity to purchase bookshelves, furniture, and paint for the 2nd floor. This space will eventually serve as a study and work space for artists in the community to come write, read, run lines, meet, and do all the other things that we usually do at Starbucks.
SUPPORT! All of us involved in this project are freelance writers, directors and designers. We made lists of the things we really needed:
- A place to buy plays,
- A place to work
- An environment where we could take risks
- and to connect with people in a way that was real
October kicked off our Trellis reading series, a weekly free staged reading of a new play. The hope is that this series serves as a stepping stone towards getting new plays produced and helping new directors get a foot in the door. With a casual “drink back” we invite audiences to hang out after the reading (drinks are half-price) and talk about what they thought. Our first staged reading of 2014 is Tuesday, January 28, with a sneak peak of the solo show Hunger Pains by Christopher L. Moore.
INTERNET! Now that we have the idea and the support, the next step is finding a way to make the internet our friend. On the most basic level we’re on Facebook and Twitter, so you can follow us! We post updates on upcoming readings and new book shipments. You can also email us at firstname.lastname@example.org with any inquiries or ideas! And now, our most exciting venture yet: Josh Sobel is working to develop an online database where anyone can search new, unpublished plays by genre, length, casting, gender, etc. This database will create a bridge so that people can get in touch with the playwright directly and we can start to form relationships beyond the staged reading experience. If you’re a freelance artist looking for a project, an actor looking for a monologue, or a playwright trying to get seen, we literally just made your dreams come true. Boom.
AND MORE! Later in 2014 the Greenhouse/Trellis will start hosting weekly late-night shows, monthly live lit events, and classes! We are continuing the renovations on the building to make our space the most frequented theater in Chicago, the one-stop-shop that we’ve needed for so long. I’m so excited to be coming on board as a staff member THIS WEEK to continue this exciting and inspiring process. It has been a life-long dream of mine to work for an organization like the Greenhouse. Every day I see the leaps and bounds we have come in the past year and I get so excited at the idea of how much further we could grow. I look forward to continuing this journey with the Greenhouse and with you!
-Mary Rose O’Connor
Director of Education & Special Events