Next week, Chicago will open an immersive theater production unlike anything it's ever seen, and I'm over the moon to have helped the creators make it possible.
Port of Entry is the big, bold, audacious idea actualized by the brilliant minds and hearts of Albany Park teens, Albany Park Theater Project (APTP) leadership, and Third Rail Projects of Brooklyn.
Their mission: Invite thousands of people to step inside the real-life stories of immigrants and refugees from all over the world -- replicated in a 1929 warehouse made to look and feel exactly like a real Albany Park apartment building. And then run the show for at least a year (!).
As if that isn't big enough, APTP teens are the heroes of the story writ large. It's their first-hand immigration stories that drive the play, they are the actual actors, and the entire experience from early development to closing week will help launch them into college. APTP has been doing this kind of deep youth development with exceptional care for decades -- with stunning success.
Introduced through a mutual friend, APTP's co-Executive Director David Feiner reached out in 2019. "We need to raise possibly as much as $3 million. We have $700,000 in grants so far... Is that good?" I assured him that raising $700,000 is indeed almost always very good. What they didn't have was a building site or any track record of real major gift campaign work. We spent the next three years working together on the feasibility study, securing the donation of the warehouse, honing the remaining $2.5 million funding plan, and tackling it month by month. In spite of the pandemic, everything rolled on thanks to Zoom, extraordinary donors who were willing to listen, and a truckload of trademark Chicago hustle and grit.
Port of Entry is a turning point for APTP -- they intend to work big from now on. So far it's working, as the summer block of performances is already sold out.
I can't wait to make a trip back to see it this fall. There is nothing in this world like the feeling of big, beautiful vision realized.
Emilie, Principal and Owner