Citywide Home Theater festival comes to Chicago


Courtesy of Chicago Home Theater Festival

The Chicago Home Theater Festival will host a variety of entertainment from more than 300 local Chicago artists.

By Katlyn Tolly

Homes across Chicago will become part of a citywide entertainment festival as they play host to film screenings and theater, dance and alternative performances.

Part of the annual Chicago Home Theater Festival, an event that runs through May 24, includes performances from more than 300 local artists that are expected to take place in 35 homes across Chicago. The kickoff event was held May 5 at the Museum of Contemporary Art, 220 E. Chicago Ave., and artists aim to address issues of cultural segregation and social isolation, according to the CHTF website. 

CHTF is organized, curated and produced by its founding member, performer Blake Russell, cultural organizer Irina Zadov and director Laley Lippard. The team collaborates with Meida McNeal, a performance artist and artistic director, and Aymar Jean Christian, a media producer and scholar.

The festival was founded in 2010 by artist Philip Huang at the International Home Theater Festival in Berkeley, California, Lippard said. It has expanded to 10 countries with similar festivals welcoming others into private homes, offering a home-cooked meal and viewing performances that encourage opening a dialogue of communal-based issues, Zadov said.

“The core of the festival has been developing conversations and relationships from people who would normally never be in a room together,” Lippard said.

CHTF came to Chicago in 2012 with a mission to reclaim private spaces as a public forum and break the barriers of hyper-segregation within the community, Lippard said. 

“[The producers] took a large festival’s model and made it specific to Chicago and the issues that Chicagoans are facing,” Russell said. 

Russell said organizing CHTF has been hectic but worth the effort because of the message it brings to the community. He said his work with the CHTF is a group collaboration and as a result, he has grown a special bond with a team of producers he refers to as his “extended family.” 

“I feel like [we are] building a skyscraper,” Russell said. “You have to start with the groundwork as producers, and then it continues as we add more people.” 

Russell said 10-minute plays are staggered throughout the Home Theater Festival, emphasizing stories of those who are often marginalized in neighborhoods, communities and homes. He said there will be a total of 14 playwrights present at the festival in response to the home performances. 

Lippard said the goal of the festival is to highlight underrepresented artists who are working in nontraditional media and partner them with dynamic leaders who are passionate about activism and art. She said each performance at the festival has separate experiences bringing awareness of the community’s issues through art specific to its location.  

“Each neighborhood is completely different,” Lippard said. “Each night can touch on some wound or heartache within a community that we didn’t even know was there.” 

Zadov said she believes the city is set up in a way that isolates people and prevents them from engaging with each other, which she said continues to divide the community and enforce segregation. She said it is important for Chicagoans to come together and share a bond.

“I think what’s different about doing a performance in a domestic space, as opposed to a public space, is that it creates a sense of intimacy,” Zadov said. “I would love to have folks walk away with questions about what it means to be a neighbor and community member.”

Zadov said she has been involved with the festival since it was founded in 2010 and has participated on all levels: as an audience member, host and now as a producer. She said the festival has affected her on a personal level by gaining the experience of engaging in important dialogue influenced by art. 

“Personally, this festival has been life-changing for me,” Zadov said.

Visit for more information. Tickets are available for $10–60.