My First Time, an off-Broadway hit written by New York producer Ken Davenport, receives its Chicago Premiere under the direction of founding artistic director Benjamin Brownson. Featuring actor Leslie Ruettiger, it runs every weekend in June and July at the Greenhouse Theatre Center to commercial success. It is remounted in September and October, with Ruettiger rejoined by three new castmates, including Spenser Davis.
Spenser Davis and Leslie Ruettiger join the company as Literary Manager and Casting Director, respectively.
Benjamin Brownson’s play Beautiful Broken receives workshops at Chicago’s Greenhouse Theatre Center and the Park Theatre in Holland, Michigan.
In March, the company produces the World Premiere of Beautiful Broken by artistic director Benjamin Brownson, directed by guest artist Thomas Murray. It features company members Spenser Davis and Leslie Ruettiger. In July, Brownson directed the Chicago Premiere of ROOMS: a rock romance, with musical direction by Austin Cook. The musical is called “the Surprise Hit of the Summer” by Chicago Sun-Times.
The company establishes the annual Bechdel Fest, a festival of short plays predominantly written and directed by female-identifying artists. All stories pass the Bechdel-Wallace Test and feature an ensemble consisting entirely of women.
David Weiss joins BNT as Company Dramaturg.
Ivy Reid and Elise Spoerlein join the company.
The Midwest Premiere of Michael Perlman’s From White Plains, directed by company member Spenser Davis, opens in February at the Greenhouse Theatre Center. It features company member David Weiss.
AWARD: The company is one of the recipients of the Legacy Gift from Theatre Seven, an friend-arts organization that closed its doors after nearly a decade of producing storefront theater.
My First Time receives a commercial remount, co-produced by BNT and the Greenhouse Theatre Center. It features company members Spenser Davis and Elise Spoerlein, alongside artistic associate Teresa Kuruvilla. It opens in July and closes in November after two extensions. In the meantime, the second iteration of Bechdel Fest is produced in October.
After three consecutive years of producing theatre non-stop, the company agrees to slow down for the sake of infrastructure building.
Elise Spoerlein is named Associate Artistic Director and Spenser Davis becomes Director of Programming. Caitlin Boylan, Samuel Brownson, Teresa Kuruvilla and Aria Szalai-Raymond are the company’s first round of Artistic Associates.
In February, the company hosts a workshop of Stilwater by Benjamin Brownson. In August, they produce their first fundraising event, a lip-sync-competition between theatre companies called Lip Sync or Swim.
In a move that’s been vital to the growth and strength of our company, BNT becomes one of the city’s first entirely Pay-What-You-Can theatre companies, promoting economic accessibility by allowing patrons to set their own ticket prices for all Mainstage productions going forward.
In September, Bechdel Fest 3: Find Your Voice runs at The Den Theatre in Wicker Park. Its the company’s first foray into Pay-What-You-Can programming.
AWARD: Bechdel Fest 3 wins the BroadwayWorld Chicago Award for Best Special Theatrical Event.
In November, the company introduces their new play development program The Paper Trail. Michael Allen Harris’s Kingdom is the first play born out of the new initiative.
That Spring, the company produces the World Premiere of A Phase, written and directed by company members Elise Spoerlein and Spenser Davis, respectively. It features company member David Weiss. In the Summer, Benjamin Brownson directs the Chicago Premiere of Human Terrain by Jennifer Blackmer. Lip Sync or Swim 2 and Bechdel Fest 4 are also staged.
AWARD: BNT receives the 50/50 Applause Award, celebrating theatres across the country who produce work with an eye towards gender parity in the arts.
Jen Poulin joins the company. Michael Allen Harris becomes BNT’s first Resident Playwright.
Michele Stine’s Options is the next play developed through The Paper Trail.
PerformInk includes Human Terrain on their Best Ten Plays end-of-year list.
At The Table, directed by company member Spenser Davis and featuring ensemble members Benjamin Brownson, Elise Spoerlein and David Weiss, opens in the 40-seat Berger Park Coach House in February. It is met with critical acclaim and sells out its run. That Summer it is remounted in Wicker Park, at The Den Theatre’s 99-seat Mainstage, where it continues selling out and twice-extends before bowing at the end of August.
AWARDS: At The Table garners 4 Joseph Jefferson Awards for Best Production/Play, Best Director/Play (Spenser Davis), Best Ensemble, and Best Supporting Actress/Play (Echaka Agba). Time Out Chicago also awards the show with Best Ensemble of the Year, and both Best Featured Performance and Best Breakout Performance, both for Agba. Kim Boler receives a Best Actress/Play nomination for her performance in Human Terrain.
The fifth iteration of Bechdel Fest, subtitled “Identity Crisis,” is staged at The Den Theatre less than a month later.
Echaka Agba, Rose Hamill, Martin Hanna and Johnard Washington join the company. Kim Boler, JD Caudill, Devon Green, Ada Grey, Rob Koon, RjW Mays, Adam Soule, Watson Swift are made artistic associates. Jennifer Blackmer becomes BNT’s second Resident Playwright.
At The Table is included on the Best-of-Year lists for Chicago Tribune, Time Out Chicago, Newcity Stage, and Ada Grey.
BNT becomes a Resident Company at The Den Theatre, 1331 N. Milwaukee, its first residency since the company’s start.
Cynthia Hines’s Exposure and Liam Fitzgerald’s Peg are both developed through The Paper Trail.