Laboratory for the Development of Substitute Materials

The Laboratory for the Development of Substitute Materials (LDSM) is a collective of artists with backgrounds in performance, literary, and visual arts, as well as in arts education and performance scholarship, who together have worked with dozens of Chicago theatre companies, arts institutions and organizations. LDSM makes collectively devised, research-based work that explores issues arising from topics in science and the built environment using the tools and techniques of theatre. The members of the LDSM first worked together on the 2007 show Impossible Cities: A Utopian Experiment, curated a by Seth Bockley and presented by Walkabaout Theatre at the Peter Jones Gallery. Out of this experience a new ensemble was formed and, with the support of a Summer Inc. Residency at University of Chicago, a Community Arts Assistance Program Grant from the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs, and a grant from Northwestern University’s Center for Interdisciplinary Research in the Arts awarded to Chloe Johnston to fund the project, we developed Theoretical Isolation: A Post-Atomic Experiment in 2008-09. Theoretical Isolation explored the figures at the center of the development of the Atomic bomb, Shakespeare’s The Tempest, and Arcosanti, an urban design laboratory in the Arizona desert. Theoretical Isolation premiered at Arcosanti, and was presented in Chicago at The Neo-Futurists, and in a reader's theatre version at The Cliff Dwellers and The Green Lantern. Mirror City: A Phantom Experiment, developed 2010-2011, explored the phenomenon of phantom limb syndrome and new research into mirror neurons that might help to explain, and cure, the phenomenon, alongside memories, drawn from our own first person interviews, of places with personal significance to our interviewees in Chicago that are no longer there. Mirror City premiered at the 2011 Rhinoceros Theatre Festival at the Prop Thtr and was presented in an abbreviated version as part of the Mystery. Science. Theatre. evening during the 2014 Pivot Arts Festival.

The LDSM has also always made teaching an extension of its performance process, leading workshops in developing performance from non-traditional source material at Arizona State University, the University of Chicago, Northwestern University, Lake Forest College, and at Arcosanti in Arizona. The LDSM's most recent research, developed under the title Structural Remains: A Memory Experiment, began by exploring structures -- both physical sites and human memories -- that remain even after they no longer serve their original purpose, but it has since expanded to include emergency preparedness procedures and synesthesia. Developed and first presented as part of the Pivot Arts Incubator at Loyola University, this work was also included in the Chicago Home Theater Fetival and has been the basis of a number of performnce workshops. Pushing at the edges of theatre, as always, this latest work takes the form of immersive engagement through performance instructions and informal artist-audience interactions. Though the career and life trajectories of it's members mean that the LDSM presents work infrequently, the members of the group remain in conversation and in search of appropriate opportunitties to return to our work.

The researchers of the LDSM have incuded, in various configurations, Seth Bockley, Rachel Claff, Jessica Hudson, Chloe Johnston, Ira S. Murfin, Kerensa Peterson, Angela Tillges, and Seth Zurer.