Tanya Saracho, Justin D.M. Palmer, Aaron Carter, and Sarah Gubbins

Fifteen years before he won a Pulitzer Prize for August: Osage County, Tracy Letts tried out his first script, Killer Joe, at Evanston’s Next Theatre, under the auspices of a now-defunct program for audacious new work called At the Next Lab. Now Next is launching a series inspired by that program. What’s Next Lab assigns a director and designer to provocative plays by upstart Chicago playwrights, gives them fully staged productions, and supplies opportunities for audience feedback. This year’s slate: Justin D.M. Palmer’s As Fat as You Can, in which unemployment causes a man’s weight to skyrocket (Thu 3/10, 7:30 PM, Fri 3/18, 8 PM, and Sat 3/19, 4 PM); Sarah Gubbins’s In Loco Parentis, about a group of college buddies contending with the aftermath of a friend’s overdose (Tue 3/15, 7:30 PM, Sat 3/19, 8 PM, and Sun 3/20, 2 PM); Tanya Saracho’s Quita Mitos, a portrait of three Mexican women (Fri 3/11, 8 PM, Sat 3/12, 4 PM, and Wed 3/16, 7:30 PM); and Start Fair in the Common Race, Aaron Carter’s play about two former slaves learning what freedom feels like after the Civil War (Sat 3/12, 8 PM, Sun 3/13, 2 PM, and Thu 3/17, 7:30 PM).  3/10-3/20: Tue-Thu 7:30 PM, Fri 8 PM, Sat 4 and 8 PM, Sun 2 PM, Next Theatre Company, Noyes Cultural Arts Center, 927 Noyes, Evanston, 847-475-1875, nexttheatre.org, $20 per show, $65 for a series pass. —Sam Worley