If you take public transit in Chicago, you hear Lee Crooks' voice every day. Crooks, a voiceover actor from Milwaukee, is the person who announces your next stop, and lets you know when the doors are closing. Susan Bennett responds when you ask Siri to tell you today's weather, or, for fun, ask her how much wood a woodchuck can chuck. There's a real person behind these seemingly automated experiences, just as there are real actors voicing animated figures in cartoons and video games. Johnston's personal experience portraying a popular video game character was the impetus for her multidisciplinary performance piece called "Grace."
Johnston, a theater professor at Lake Forest College and member of The Neo-Futurists, has been teasing audiences with portions of "Grace" throughout the winter; a residency sponsored by Pivot Arts preceded her current post as a Co-Missions fellow at Links Hall. Audiences can see the latest iteration of "Grace" March 4 at the Lakeview venue, part of its gaggle of built in opportunites for selected artists to gain feedback throughout a six-month process. As a culmination to her fellowship, Johnston will be presented on a split bill with her co-Co-Misions fellow, Darling Shear, this summer. Shear's work examines the Beat Generation, a 1950s American literary movement that pre-dated the hippies, marked by fascination with non-Western cultures and rejection of conventional views on sex, drugs and material possessions.
"We need you to be here!" Johnston told SCD staff writer Jordan Kunkel in an interview. "We can't make this work without audience members."
And for us, it's a chance to witness the research and development process of live performance in real time, and perhaps contribute to the results.
The Co-Missions Works-in-Progress Series featuring Chloe Johnston and Darling Shear takes place March 4 at Links Hall, 3111 N. Western Ave. Tickets are $8, available by clicking the event page below.