The Nerdery - Overnight Website Challenge

Chicago 2012, November 17-18

Mortar Theatre Company

Mortar Theatre Company is a non-profit arts organization in the storefront theatre movement in Chicago. Unlike a lot of small theatres, we're more than just actors. We're made up of playwrights, artists, actors, and directors. With our unique mix of talents, we bring a holistic approach to theatre. We care about the words, the aesthetics, the impact, the importance. We call this an exercise in fearless storytelling. Since forming in 2009, we've produced 5 world premiere plays, 1 midwest premiere, and started a tradition of developing new work through reading events.

Our next big thing is Chicago Madness. Let me explain. Chicago is an incredible artistic community and the influx of talent every year is amazing. Artists from across the country will tell you that Chicago is collaborative. Chicago is supportive. The theatre scene is supportive and rewarding. But breaking in can be daunting. Even for established artists, finding the time to experiment and meet new theatre artists can be hard to do. In the spirit of the collaboration we hope to foster, Mortar has joined forces with another theatre company, the Pegasus Players, a company with a 30-year history and over 75 Jeff Awards. Together with the help of playwright curator Dana Lynn Formby we are producing Chicago Madness, a monthly event designed to become a community for playwrights, actors and directors to meet on level playing ground, create work together and socialize/network.

Popular in New York and Minneapolis, MADNESS is an idea-generating process where playwrights, directors and actors create theatre pieces in an exciting time-restricted setting. Each MADNESS event is kicked off with the selection of a theme, style or concept. From this inspiration, playwrights create five- to ten-minute plays before kicking it to their directors who rehearse and develop the new scripts with actors. The process culminates in a performance of all the pieces at the end of the one-week deadline.

We've done Madness twice in Chicago so far to great success. Over 70 artists and theatre appreciators were in attendance at the first event! We see a lot of potential in Chicago for Madness and can't wait to expand it.

What new functionality we are looking for

Currently is the online home for news and information about our productions, workshops and staged readings (it definitely needs a re-boot itself). We've created a page for Chicago Madness on our website; however, we believe that Madness requires functionality beyond the capabilities of our own site. We have purchased but have been unable to create the full experience that would be optimal for this idea to flourish.

Each Chicago Madness event is organized purely online in the frantic 7 days of prep we have for each event. Currently this is all happening at Playwrights post on the Chicago Madness facebook page as roles are being written and cast directly from the comments on the posts to find actors and directors. It's kind of a mess. Facebook Timeline makes finding posts impossible. Too many playwrights as admins makes notifications go missed. We've had hundreds of actors reach out, but housing all the disparate information they throw at us then disseminating it to the playwrights has become impossible, especially considering that we only have 7 days to make each event happen! We have to match the actor who is the right age, race, gender to the playwright with the right rehearsal schedule (they often only have an hour or two to rehearse sometime the week before the performance). The fast paced excitement will always be there, but we can do a better job making all these connections happen. should:

Have the ability for actors and directors to register as Madness members so they can upload resumes and headshots for us to keep in a database

Have a blog for posting news

Have a forum to foster community discussion

Have an admin/moderator system for playwrights to be able to access actor info and email them could:

Potentially connect to a ticketing system

Be a group where theatre artists come outside of Madness events to find fellow collaborators for projects

It can be part of a re-design of or exist entirely on its own.

How the new functionality will help

We don't want to simply make plays, little nuggets of content that we blast out. Theatre as an art is about collaboration and community building. So, as theatre citizens, we want to foster the collaboration inherent to our art form, despite the challenges of modern living. We think theatre should take advantage of new technologies as a means of bringing people together. With Chicago Madness, we can give new stories, new voices, new talents opportunities to flourish.

Strangely enough what you're doing in the Chicago tech/programmers/digital community is what akin to what we're doing with theatre. Bring the talent together and give them an opportunity to create.

Madness could and should become something bigger than a once a month event. If we can enable and sustain the collaborative atmosphere of this experiment past the night of the event, we will have succeeded in making an important contribution to the Chicago arts community.

How our organization will use the technology

Who will use the technology

22 Messages from Supporters

2012-10-19 21:29:21 UTC

Mortar and Chicago Madness are great! YAY!

2012-10-19 21:40:57 UTC

These humans are, in fact, awesome. I SAID IT

2012-10-19 21:45:40 UTC

Chicago Madness is such an awesome opportunity for Chicago theatre artists. Mortar has put together a nifty connecting point for local artists to practice their art! It would be so fantastic for them to build a better interface so that we artists can connect faster/easier, and have a place to share our ideas. I have been involved with Chicago Madness and have gotten to know several artists that I had never connected with before! I would love Mortar to receive this opportunity as it will broaden the connection even further!

2012-10-19 21:50:27 UTC

it's the best thing happening in Chicago theatre, for audiences, and the artists.

2012-10-19 21:57:17 UTC

Some of the best new work I've seen in years, a public profile bump would do wonders.

2012-10-19 22:07:08 UTC

Chicago is an awesome theatre town, but it is really hard for newbies to break into the biz. Madness is amazing because it builds bridges between artists--new actors, directors, and playwrights get to work together every week with two awesome theatre companies! It is theatre community building at its best, and a unique way for folks to get their feet wet in the Chicago theatre scene. This website would help Mortar and Pegasus get the word out to more people, helping to further this mission even more!!!!

2012-10-19 22:17:23 UTC
Richard Huttel

Dear Nerdery,

MORTAR and CHICAGO MADNESS are emblematic of the best dynamic organizations that make Our Town a world class theatre community, "America's Hottest Theatre City", and a magnet for stage-minded creative folk from all over.

MORTAR has already established itself as a brave, staunch, and recommended storefront company. CHICAGO MADNESS promises to galvanize a creative community already acclaimed for great writing, generous ensemble acting, and improvisation to new legendary heights of incendiary and inspiring performance. Before it is over MORTAR and CHICAGO MADNESS will attract new audiences to theatre and provide a rich, challenging, and inclusive context for generative artistic collaboration.

Your generous technical contributions will help enable life-changing events that couldn't happen any other way!

2012-10-19 22:46:42 UTC

Mortar and Chicago madness have created an amazing opportunity for people to network WITH their craft. Artists meeting other artists and having fun! It's great for artists who are new to the city's those looking to expand outside their own circle it people who just want a project that is less a time commitment and more about being fun and crazy.

2012-10-20 01:10:16 UTC

As part of the MADNESS collaborative team, myself and Pegasus is fully in support!!!!

2012-10-20 02:34:47 UTC

This is art. And madness. Art madness! Awesome in a word.

2012-10-20 04:43:19 UTC

Mortar is without a doubt the best! They deserve a website reboot to take them to the next level of awesomeness! Awesome Madness!

2012-10-20 08:24:11 UTC

Mortar Theatre rocks! luck to all.

2012-10-20 16:01:55 UTC

Mortar Theatre is an amazing company constantly looking for new proyects to give actors opportunities to do what they love! Chicago Madness is going to be BIG in this city! I know it! Go Mortar!

2012-10-22 01:41:19 UTC

Madness is an amazing incubator, and an amazing way to connect with other artists and entertain audiences by taking risks one might not in a strictly production setting. The first two Madnesses have been great fun, full of great scripts and performances, and above all, have been amazing educational experiences.

2012-10-22 01:46:02 UTC
Steve J. Spencer

Mortar Theater and Pegasus Players are creating theater for the hell of it. Actors, writers and directors working together with no red tape, no money and no career moves. In a town filled with theater, it's about time somebody stopped talking and actually just made something. It's a blast.

2012-10-22 05:09:55 UTC
Ryan Cz

Madness has been an amazing experience for me. When I was a student at Ohio University, Madness in it's original incarnation was a wonderful way for me to become comfortable with really being vulnerable on stage, both in terms of working with a newly written, minimally rehearsed/staged script, and with new artistic collaborators, like other actors and writers. This is even more so the case in Chicago. I moved here six weeks ago, and Chicago Madness has been a wonderful way to connect with new artists. I think upcoming actors getting together with upcoming writers is one of the most important aspects of birthing new work in the landscape of American Theatre, and Chicago in particular. After my first Madness, I was asked by someone who had seen my performance to be in a reading at American Theater Company, enabling me to meet and work with a whole new group of people. Madness really is a vital and thrilling showcase of talent and artistic stimulation.

2012-10-22 11:19:01 UTC

Madness is unlike anything else I know of in Chicago. It brings together actors, writers and directors from all over Chicago to actively incubate new work in front of an audience in a limited rehearsal setting. The quickness of the process gives the work a fresh, unfettered immediacy. The writers embrace Madness with ideas and writing styles that you won't find on many local stages. Having performed in Madness in other locales, I can honestly that some of my favorite theatre I have seen (and participated in) are Madnesses.

2012-10-23 04:26:56 UTC
Lisa Scott

Terrific opportunity to work with different talents and experiment on stage in a rapid-fire manner.

2012-10-26 15:44:11 UTC
Reginald Edmund

Madness is one of the most exciting, challenging, and innovative theatrical events in the city of Chicago. This event stands out because it brings artists and audiences together in ways that normally wouldn't occur and empowers the voices of emerging playwrights, and that in itself is something that causes me to say that Madness makes the world of theatre a better place.

2012-10-24 01:34:52 UTC
Sarah Mostad

This is such a great idea I can't believe Chicago hasn't done it before! Yes there have been 24-hour-play festivals, but on a regular basis is an awesome way to build community, make connections, practice your craft without a huge time commitment, experiment, play, watch friends perform. What can I say? Go Mortar!!! Keep doing awesome work ... oh! And Mortars full-lengths are fantastic - everyone should check those out too - SO GOOD. Signed, Superfan

2012-10-26 00:08:24 UTC
Isabel Dieppa

This is such a Brilliant Idea!!!! I would love to get involved!! I've always said Chicago is the best city for theatre because it has such a strong theatre community, and this just allows the community to be stronger, and give artists the opportunity to collaborate even more! yay!

2012-10-27 15:50:44 UTC

Chicago Madness is an amazing opportunity for theatre artists of all type, and one of a kind in the city. Mortar Theatre rocks!

Our Mission

Mortar Theatre is an experiment in rethinking the system. A space for innovative visuals and staging. A connection point where audience and artist dare to be collaborative rebels. An exercise in fearless storytelling.