Work Incubated in InterArts MA Program Finds Audiences in Chicago’s Thriving Alternative Theater Scene

The 2013 Chicago Rhinoceros Theater Festival recently closed its twenty-fourth anniversary year, after presenting over 30 theatrical and performance works during its six-week run. This year’s annual festival featured work by two artists from the InterArts MA program, Karen Yates (with Sky Area Ten) and Monica J. Browne.

Monica Browne’s Branch & Bough is a generational story exploring ideas of progeny and legacy. Browne performs in this one-woman show as an inquiry into discovering what is gained and/or lost through generations of women, and how connections and shared history are passed down from mother to daughter through genetic memory, bloodlines, and dreamscapes. “Through this project, I have the opportunity to heed the words of my grandmothers, to show my appreciation for their sacrifices, to honor and respect those who came before, and helped to pave the way for those who follow,” says Browne.


“For many years, my creativity was focused on visual art (painting, drawing and printmaking) and writing (which I rarely shared with others),” continues the artist and author. “By developing my writing through the Interdisciplinary Arts MA Program at Columbia, and finding my performative voice through drama, I’ve been able to paint a picture of the grandmothers who I knew for only the briefest of time before they left this earth. Through collecting stories about these women, and filling in the ellipsis to imagine the radius/diameter/circumference of their experiences, I’ve been able to illustrate their lives, and gotten to know them. It is with the greatest respect that I endeavor to bring their stories to the stage, and present them to a wider audience.” Branch & Bough was presented twice during the month-long RhinoFest rotation.

Karen Yates came to the InterArts MA program already an accomplished actor and director as part of the work of others, but with a desire to push her writing, and focus on developing her own voice and ideas. “I had made it as far as a second draft with American Bacchae, but had shelved it. While in the MA program I began working more with sound and video as art material. I applied for a Wiesman Award to create a five-minute dialogue-inspired sound piece. From that point, with the help of many workshop sessions with Jenny Magnus and Sherry Antonini, and Directed Graduate Project time with Mat Rappaport, my MA cohorts watched me grapple with, and complete, American Bacchae.” Yate’s piece features fifteen performers known as Sky Area Ten, and was presented as a workshop performance at Rhinofest. The story is based on a Greek tragedy, and touches on many topics, including America, pornography, spiritual disenfranchisement… and golf.


Yates has recently completed a five-part audio installation based on the stage play of American Bacchae. The audio installation work runs 25 minutes and is entitled American Bacchae Infrasonic. For more information on this new work, click here.