By Brian Fruits

I started this process back in September of 2014. At the time, I moved back to Chicago with sole hope to produce my own work with other artists both new and old. I was determined to make this theatre company my main artistic focus.

In the past, I toyed with the idea of heading to New York or overseas in order to professionally work and direct. To live pay check to pay check! To see more of the world! To hustle and bustle! To rub shoulders with theatre companies and producers hoping that they would hire me! I even had a few of my friends and professors say, "Well, why the hell don't you want to do it, Brian? What is stopping you? It just seems like the next logical step for you is to just do it!"

I guess it never felt right. Chicago, for me, is my home. It is a great city with so many artistic possibilities. I know that this city is very saturated with theatre troupes already, but my heart is here. My heart is filled with love for my two beautiful godchildren, a bunch of friends who unconditionally love me, and stepfamily I care deeply about. These are my roots.

A long-time Chicago jazz musician by the name of Von Freeman passed away in 2012. He always stayed in Chicago. He never left to record or work with other musicians cause he loved it so much. His goal was "to bring the world to him" and he did.

I am not saying I am Von Freeman, but his life and death inspired me to try this out. I mean how cool is it to produce your own work? My hope is to open our doors up to all comers from all parts of the country and world. Why not me? Why not us? I knew that if I tried this out and it failed then I would be successful cause I tried. Those who don't try...well...they usually end up with regret.

I digress.

I have gone into these past months (almost a year now) with no aspirations of directing or taking on a paid gig somewhere. I laid low and focused on the creation of this collective and all the paperwork and stress that comes along with it. I never went into graduate school saying, "You know, I cannot wait to file out a 501(c)(3) packet!! Whoo!!"

No.

Not fun...but necessary. Definitely necessary.

How did I start? My first week back here, I assembled a "think tank" consisting of trusted friends and fellow theatre practitioners to bounce ideas off of. To be honest, I went into the meeting with no expectations, an open-mind, and no pre-conceived mission statements or shows to suggest. Needless-to-say, I was scared. I realize that fear tends to stimulate the creative juices for I am not one who likes to fail.

Looking back at the "think tank" meeting, I remember telling everyone that I wanted them to help me form the theatre company. It was as if I would feel better if they approved of me and my desire to start the company up. That is really all it was: It was a way for me to make sure that I was not crazy, really. It was a way to see if I still had people/family here, in Chicago, who believed in me...who would support me. I guess I needed that more than a mission statement.

From there, I sought out people who could help me: friends of mine in law, people good with numbers, film and graphic artists, teachers, fellow theatre people, etc. I wanted to learn and create this company the right way.

What I am saying is that I do not know all the answers, but I do know that I want to be better and I want to learn. The amount of support and help has been overwhelming. I am so grateful and happy where Saltbox Theatre Collective stands, currently. Even our mission statement is about "realizing the human experience." The word "realize" meaning "to clearly understand or grasp" used as a verb. I still feel that theatre brings people of all types and backgrounds together. Our doors are open to not just artists but professors, teachers, painters, dancers, designers, doctors, missions workers...the list goes on and on.

The mission statement will always change and evolve, but I will always see theatre as a service profession. It is about others and a selfless craft. This is just a way to say thank you to so many who have volunteered their times and talents already. It means more than you.

I hope others out there know that we are on to something special here. Feel free to be reach out and be apart of it.