Chicago is rightly known as a home for new plays, but this week a pair of short-work festivals take that reputation to a nearly absurd extreme. Between Collaboraction's final Sketchbook and the side project's new fest Tail Eats Snake, it's possible to see 32 new (albeit bite-sized) plays by nationally acclaimed playwrights and rising local scribes alike, all in the course of four sittings this weekend.
Collaboraction's performance-cum-party has often had the feel of a theatrical rave, with fancy, whiz-bang production design and often live musical accompaniment threading together short pieces over the course of usually two (and some years bloated to as many as five) alternating programs. But it's also served as an entry point where countless theater artists new to the city's scene made their first relationships, and we can't help but feel a little wistful to see the 15th iteration (with programs dubbed "Life" and "Death") announce itself as the last.
Sketchbook's final pages include pieces from the likes of Pulitzer Prize winner Beth Henley, Mr. Burns writer Anne Washburn, Shakespeare ad-rap-tors the Q Brothers, Manual Cinema's Drew Dir, playwrights Laura Jacqmin, Emily Schwartz, Joe Zarrow and more. It runs January 14–26 at the Chopin Theatre.
Similarly structured but more modestly scaled in the side project's bare-bones black box in Rogers Park, Tail Eats Snake nonetheless features an impressive roster of talent. Each of the 16 pieces is set in a distinct year from 2001 to now; they're presented chronologically, across two programs. The writers include Scott Barsotti, Dan Caffrey, Philip Dawkins, Michael Fife, Sean Graney, Laura Jacqmin, Jacob Juntunen, Lynne McMahon, Brett Neveu, Sherod Santos, Crystal Skillman, Steve Spencer, Daniel Talbott, Robert Tenges, Jesse Weaver and Mark Young.
Both fests have varied schedules, but this weekend it's possible to see both programs of both shows—32 new plays—in under 24 hours: Sketchbook on Saturday, January 16, at 7 and 9pm, and Tail Eats Snake on Sunday, January 17 at 3 and 5:30pm. Talk about an artsy accomplishment for the still-new year.