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Spring Play Combines Student Writing With Storefront Production

Legitimate Geniuses

CHICAGO (March 18, 2010) – North Park student Stephanie Weber may not be widely considered a legitimate genius yet, but her work as a comedienne and writer is catching people’s attention.

“She’s on the cusp of going national,” says professor of communication arts Chad Eric Bergman, who calls Weber “a wonderfully talented improvisation performer and writer.”

Her play “Legitimate Geniuses” is this year’s spring performance for North Park’s theatre program, which will be performed at the Neo-Futurarium April 9, 10, 15, 16, and 17 at 7:30 pm, and April 11 at 2:00 pm. The local storefront venue is home to the Neo-Futurists, a well-known Chicago troupe.

Weber, who is 21 years old, has supplemented her experience at North Park by taking classes through the nationally known Second City Conservatory and Annoyance Theatre. Second City has trained numerous performers including Steve Carrell, Amy Poehler, Mike Myers, Tina Fey, and Stephen Colbert. In only her second year with Second City, the troupe invited Weber to perform with one of their teams. She has also performed at numerous other theatres in Chicago.

“Legitimate Geniuses” tells the Millennial Generation’s story of transition, relationship, transportation—and burritos. The unpredictable, quirky romantic comedy follows the relationship of three Chicago couples that are at different “stops” on the relationship “route.” Using the CTA as a central image of storytelling, the additional characters the audience meets on the bus underscore the idea that it is not the destination that matters, but the verve we share on life’s journey.

Naturally, some of the lines for “Legitimate Geniuses” came from hours spent riding the bus. Weber always carries a notebook so that she can capture ideas as well as conversations she hears. If the notes she takes don’t make it into her plays, they are still frequently fodder for other performances. “I use them in improv as opening lines all the time,” she says.

Weber began writing “Legitimate Geniuses” after her freshman year, but she didn’t realize it then. She was working at Trader Joe’s and would spend her breaks writing random scenes, again rooted in conversations she heard. In November 2008, she began to realize the stories could be strung together.

She was hesitant to share the play because it also was heavily influenced by a relationship that had ended. She had completed the rough draft months before handing it to Bergman, and says, “I didn’t know if anyone else would be interested.”

Bergman quickly assembled a group of Chicago actors for a read-through. “Everyone at the reading was really excited about this play. And they were pretty much bowled over that she was a junior in college.”

Chicago professionals are also becoming excited about the North Park program, which focuses on training students for storefront theatre. With more than 200 producing theatre companies, Chicago is world renowned for its contribution to the storefront movement. “We are at the center of the storefront theater capital of the world,” Bergman says.

Weber especially appreciates the instruction she’s receiving. “It’s so do-it-yourself,” she says. “You’re in a small space. You have to problem-solve. You do your own lights. Do your own sets. I’m glad that we’re all prepared for that.”

As for her future, Weber says she eventually would like to write comedy for television but also perform. “I see myself as both a writer and a performer. Tina Fey, who started as a writer for Saturday Night Live, says if you don’t write, you won’t get very far in this business.”

Bergman has no idea what lies ahead for Weber, but says, “I feel really privileged to be part of her journey.”