Tonika Todorova is an adventure architect and a passionate lover of the shared human experience.
Photo: Christian Libonati
By Tonkia Todorova
Filament Theatre fulfills its promise of being the place where families come and play yet again in their returning installment of FORTS: BUILD YOUR OWN ADVENTURE. Perfectly nestled within the coldest winter days in Chicago, the cabin fevers within you and your child find a common cure. The concept is so simple, it’s brilliant: recycle some old boxes and bed sheets, toss in some crayons and flashlights and gradually crossfade lights and sound to create the background of any landscape of your imagination. The experience is zen-like.
Artistic Director and creator Julie Ritchey is either totally in tune with her inner child or has children whose faces she’s seen light up when opening gifts and holding the empty boxes with joy at the prospect of what they can do. Filament feels like the only child-oriented theatre in Chicago that—instead of pouring out ungodly amounts of energy to entertain young audiences to try and keep their attention—has a calm, meditative and wonder-like approach that brings the child’s spirit into the heart of their productions. There are two play ambassadors introducing new elements to the room periodically, but other than that there are no actors, there are no smoke and mirrors and much ado, no expensive costumes and make-up—just the potential of unlimited worlds created by you and your children. You get swept away in it even if your reluctance has you observing from one of the numerous couches. How can you not if one of the little ones gives you some clothespins and asks you to pin up her roof? Or gives you a flashlight and has you shadow puppet your fingers into some barking dogs?
And if you thought all of that wasn’t enough, the most magical moments happen towards the end, when different forts around the room start to connect each other. They make tunnels and explore what others have built to quite literally bridge the gaps of the unknown and make new friends and talk to strangers who have been building alongside. And when it’s time to destroy it all so the room can be reset, a dozen tidal waves crash into square castles, giggles fill the air and joy echoes and bounces in this magical place. Everyone helps put away the accouterments that aided their imaginations—happily so—and it’s how you know children and adults alike, as one kid put it: “had huge fun.”
FORTS plays Saturdays and Sundays at 1 & 3 PM through March 10th. More info at filamenttheatre.org.