By Daniel Mendoza

Although Arroyo Grande is over 2000 miles away, it’s never felt closer.

As part of Collaboraction’s second annual Encounter series, audiences got to visit California without buying a plane ticket. Told in the style of verbatim theatre, popularized by shows such as The Laramie Project and The Way She Spoke: A Docu-mythologia, Nice Town, Normal People tells the story of the past present and future of the small town Arroyo Grande (referenced in the show mostly as AG).

The show is performed by the creators, Ashlin Hatch and Kyle Berlin, along with music by Makulumy Alexander-Hills. It tells the story of Arroyo Grande, how it has changed, and how the people have changed. Hatch and Berlin play multiple roles from high school students to elderly residents. The show also contains actual recording from residents as they talk about their lives in AG. The show is broken up into three different sections – past, present, and future – and is followed by a guest artist and a time to discuss with others.

Now, some people might be thinking, “how does a city thousands of miles away from me connect to Chicago?” The show had three guest artists who represented the three sections of the show and were there to explain this exact question.

For ‘Present Day Chicago’ we listened to Izzy Bravo who talked about how everyone talks about Chicago being diverse but ultimately we are “strategically compartmentalized” and how we are an imperfect city but that doesn’t mean she doesn’t love this city, it just means our journey of growth isn’t over.

For ‘Past Chicago’ we listened to Dr. Michael Flynn’s stories of his youth, how he is 6th generation Chicagoan and the challenges he faces that are still faced by many people today.

For the ‘Future of Chicago’ we heard Antonio “Toni’Mono” Monix talk about what Chicago has to do to get to the future we all strive for, with the stand out line “Start treating immigrants like humans instead of mutants.”

Nice Town, Normal People is a powerful show about reflection and how no matter how perfect you think your city is, always strive to make it better.

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