a group of people cross the street in a single-file line while holding big, yellow umbrellas.
Credit: Courtesy of Theater Y

In 2017, the members of Theatre Y completed the Camino de Santiago in northern Spain—a 500-mile route followed by pilgrims for centuries. That sparked the company’s annual ambulatory “Camino” productions, which invite audiences to walk through different Chicago neighborhoods while experiencing a series of environmental performances. In 2019, the Camino Project focused on neighborhoods surrounding the 606. COVID-19 kept the group from producing in 2020, but in 2021, they returned with an exploration of the city’s west and south side boulevards in You Are Here.

Now based in North Lawndale, where they’re turning a former storage facility into a community arts center, Theatre Y’s third Camino Project was last year’s Laughing Song: A Walking Dream. The production centered on their new neighborhood, as seen through the eyes of artistic associate and North Lawndale native Marvin Tate, and through the biography of singer George W. Johnson, who became the first Black American artist to record commercially in 1890. The four-hour journey made for an exhilarating, immersive afternoon—culminating, as all the Camino shows do, with the artists and audience sitting down together for a free shared meal. (All Theatre Y programming is free of charge.)

In 2021, founding artistic director Melissa Lorraine told the Reader’s Josh Flanders that the company’s focus for the Camino shows had shifted since their first year: “The bulk of your experience is a conversation with a stranger that we are curating and guiding you through . . . You bring your own theater.” For summer 2023, they’re shifting once again: The team has turned the creative reins over to Theatre Y’s youth ensemble, who will share what they think we ought to see and understand about North Lawndale. I can’t wait to stretch my legs and my mind once again and to see my fellow “pilgrims” take it all in beside me.

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