The Playground’s New Program MOSAIC Refuses to Blend In

Saturday, January 9, 2016




The Playground Theater is excited to announce the launch of a new program for writers, directors and performers called MOSAIC, which will focus on artists exploring individual identity and celebrating uniqueness. MOSAIC will acknowledge the diverse cultures that can be found within Chicago, while accentuating the common bond we all share as human beings. This program will represent the complex new American point of view that encompasses all voices, not just one. Although the program is new, it will soon be recognized as a place where artists can come to explore questions and opinions that may be considered challenging.


Chicago is a city of the world. Chicago schools count over 100 languages spoken by students. When immigrants first moved to the US, there was pressure to fit in; to disappear, to not stand out. That was the safest way, the best way to survive. But generations later, immigrants are realizing that celebrating their own cultural heritage does not make them less-American. The many voices and cultures of America are what make America the unique country that it is. Now it is time for those voices to be heard, for all stories to be told. America is not a melting pot, but a Mosaic – each one of us adds a different color to the greater picture of this country.


The Playground Theater is thrilled that the first MOSAIC program will run in association with The Department of Cultural Affairs in a 7-month residency at the Chicago Cultural Center.  The Playground Theater, produced by Matt Barbera, will bring together Jo Cattell, Lorena Diaz, Isaac Gomez, Wendy Mateo and Juan Francisco Villa. The program will feature workshops and readings of work currently in development – everything on the program is open to the public and is free of charge. It is recommended reserving a place for workshops, which can be done at


MOSAIC 2015/16 will run November 2015 – through May 2016 at the Chicago Cultural Center, 78 E. Washington Street and features:

Saturday December 5, 2015 @ 10am-1pm

Solo performance & storytelling workshop with Juan Villa, Isaac Gomez and Matt Barbera


Monday January 11, 2016 @ 5pm

Performance of Empanada for a Dream by Juan Francisco Villa

Jeff nominated and award winning solo performer and writer, Juan Villa, will perform his solo show, Empanada for a Dream, which tells his personal story of growing up in New York’s Lower East Side as a child of the Colombian Cartel. The show has performed across the USA in New York City, Chicago, Los Angeles and Syracuse.


Monday January 25, 2016 @ 5pm

Play reading of The Way She Spoke: A Docu-Mythologia by Isaac Gomez

TIME Magazine once reported, “There’s no better place in the world to kill a girl than in Juarez.” With thousands of women disappearing and left buried in the nearby deserts of Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, who is responsible for these crimes? A precursor to La Ruta, The Way She Spoke is an epic solo-performance piece pulling from hundreds of interviews collected down a rabbit hole of drug cartels, ex-convicts, shady reporters and resilient mujeres. 


Monday February 29, 2016 @ 5pm

Play reading and talkback of La Ruta by Isaac Gomez

The desert is hiding many secrets… some of them buried in the sand. Pulled from real testimonies, La Ruta is an ethnographic play centered on the mass murder of women in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico. Laced with Mexican music, this theatrical event examines a community of women attempting to live life in the wake of unspeakable loss.


Sunday March 6Sunday March 13 & Sunday March 20, 2016 @11am – 1pm

Home by Jo Cattell

A series of open workshops where the public is encouraged to come in to the Cultural Center and tell their story of home

HOME, where we grew up, holds an iconic status. It is a place that defines us. That shapes us. It gives us an identity and makes us distinct. A home is our place within an environment and it holds us in constant conversation with each other.


Monday March 21, 2016 @ 5pm

Play reading of Whiskey, Cigarettes and the Bermuda Triangle of Friendship by Lorena Diaz

15 years of friendship under one roof would normally make for an incredible celebration of joy but in one night (24 hours), truths are revealed that will shake the world of these friends and force them to choose if they will move forward together or alone.


Date TBD (please check for updates)

Cultural Center Comedy Workshop

Lorena Diaz and Wendy Mateo of the duo Domizuelan bring their unique skills to the people visiting the Cultural Center and teach how to create comedy from real-life experience.


Monday April 18, 2016 @ pm

Playreading and talkback of screenplay Blood by Jo Cattell

A girl connects to the darkness she sees in a boy and the two commence a twisted journey through love to heartbreak.


Monday May 16, 2016 @ 5pm

Stage versus Screen?

The Playground Artists gather to discuss the changing landscape of theatre and the choice between writing for stage and screen; including a reading of the first episode of Don Chipotle, the webseries, and sitcom, Parent Pit.


Don Chipotle by Juan Villa

DON CHIPOTLE is a theatrical experience inspired by both the classic story of DON QUIXOTE and playwright Juan Francisco Villa’s experience growing up in the violent Latino neighborhood of the Lower East Side in New York City. Two young boys, Celestino and Octavio, journey across New York City on an epic adventure encountering dangerous villains, strange creatures and memorable characters. Celestino, as his alter ego Don Chipotle, creates an imaginary world as a means to escape the harsh reality of his violent upbringing.


Play reading and talkback of Parent Pit by Lorena Diaz and Wendy Mateo

It takes a child to raise a village. Trophy Wife meets Three’s Company in this bicultural, blended-family comedy. A “new-fashioned” familia rallies together for the love of 8-year old Angie. Angie’s mom Leila, her father, Jake, and the regretful matchmaker, Sara, come together as a makeshift family for the sake of one little girl. A parental coming of age story.



Matt Barbera

Matt has been the Executive Director of The Playground since 2004. Matt started at The Playground as a member of the incubator team Dr. Fondu and currently performs on House Team Mustang Repair. Matt worked for 5 years as a program coordinator for the TBS Just For Laughs Festival, where he created the ALONE show, featuring the best and brightest in solo sketch comedy. ALONE was later adopted into the CHARACTERS show that currently runs at the Montreal JFL Festival. Matt has created and produced many shows including Grafitti Sketch Comedy, Happy Hour Solo Sketch Comedy, The Give Me 5, Icon, Movieokie, The Tweetlife and Out of Character. Matt teaches sketch and solo sketch comedy at The Playground Training Center. He is a partner in Picaro Media creating original and branded entertainment. He is a fan of comedy and comedians and has dedicated his life to the pursuit of laughter.


Jo Cattell

Jo Cattell has worked in theatre and television in the UK, Germany, France, Canada and the USA.

Jo’s main focus has been on developing new writing. She works with numerous companies in her current home of Chicago, including terraNOVA Collective, Collaboraction and The Playground. She has been working with Juan Villa on his new play, DON CHIPOTLE which received a production at the Storefront Theater, downtown Chicago and is now working with Villa to develop the play into a webseries. She is also working with Isaac Gomez on his play LA RUTA which recently received a workshop at Oregon Shakespeare Festival and a reading at Victory Gardens Theater, and Andrea Lepcio on ME YOU US THEM, which was recently given a workshop presentation at Cherry Lane, NYC. In addition, Jo is working with dandypunk and Darin Basile on HEARTCORPS, which has been invited to Sundance 2016. She recently developed BOOMERS MILLENNIAL HERO STORY by Steve DiUbaldo for a workshop presentation at A Red Orchid Theatre and was Script Consultant on RADIANT BABY, the Keith Haring musical for The Public Theatre, NYC. She has directed and been dramaturg on various plays for numerous companies and was co-founder and Producing Artistic Director of BNTA in Las Vegas; she developed and directed SKYSCRAPING by Tim Stimpson for Net Curtain Theatre Company, which premiered at London’s Soho Theatre Studio and was then transferred to the Southwark Playhouse; assisted Theresa Heskins on Tony nominated playwright, Bryony Lavery’s PRECIOUS BANE, for Pentabus Theatre; co-wrote and directed sketch comedy for the BBC; directed the first digital art installation for Canterbury Cathedral, 18:1-7 with C2atelyst Productions, UK; worked with at-risk youth for Grassmarket Project productions at Rutherglen Town Hall, Glasgow and The Roundhouse, London, staring David Harewood, and she was also Acting Coach for Cirque du Soleil on The Beatles LOVE, Las Vegas.


Lorena Diaz

Character actor and Chicago improviser, Lorena Diaz has played many a role you may not realize you’ve seen her in as she takes great pleasure in the art of masking oneself in character. From 16th Street Theatre’s “ENFRASCADA” (3 characters) to Dominizuelan’s “PEOPLE IN THE CITY” (10 characters, iO Chicago). Lorena is a commercial, film and television actress who has also performed at iO Chicago, Second City and The Playground Theatre .


Isaac Gomez

Isaac Gomez is a writer and dramaturg currently working as the Literary Manager at Victory Gardens Theater in Chicago where he curates the Public Programs series, directs the new play development department, and heads the IGNITION Festival of New Plays. His dramaturgy credits include The Who & The What, An Issue of Blood, Samsara, Death and the Maiden, Rest (VGT, Chicago); My Mañana Comes, Between You, Me, and the Lampshade (Teatro Vista, Chicago); Badfic Love (Strange Bedfellows, Chicago); assistant dramaturg on Luna Gale and The Solid Sand Below (Goodman Theatre). As playwright: La Ruta (Oregon Shakespeare Festival Latino Play Project; Austin Critics Table New Play Award 2013; Pivot Arts Incubator Series). He is a creative producer at the Alliance of Latino Theatre Artists (ALTA) in Chicago where he runs and is a participant of El Semillero: ALTA Chicago’s Latino Playwrights Circle, an Artistic Associate of Teatro Vista, a steering committee member of the Latina/o Theatre Commons (LTC) and an artistic community member at The Hypocrites in Chicago.


Wendy Mateo

Wendy Mateo is a comedian, actor, writer, and producer and is absolutely thrilled to be a part of the ride that is this production of “Don Chipotle”. Wendy has been seen on comedy stages as part of the duo, Dominizuelan. Dominizuelan can be seen all over stages in Chicago and has been a part of TBS Just for Laughs Festival, Chicago Improv Festival, and the New York Fringe Festival. Dominizuelan has also been featured in Latina Magazine. Wendy has been seen on stage at the Lookingglass Theater in “Big Lake Big City” and on TV in Showtime’s “Shameless”. Wendy is represented by Gray Talent Group and managed by Bryan Brucks at Luber Roklin Entertainment.


Juan Francisco Villa

Juan is an award winning published playwright and actor who’s work has been seen across the USA. Empanada for a Dream written and performed by Juan made Best of Lists for The Chicago Tribune, The Chicago Reader and Los Angeles Times. As a playwright, he is a part of the ALTA El Semillero Playwrights Unit at Victory Gardens to develop his new Untitled 2025 Sci-Fi Play to be presented in June 2015. He has workshopped his plays with Pivot Arts, Theatre Squared, Inviolet, Teatro Vista, and 16th Street Theater. Plays currently in development include el dragon del village, he will rise and gen-tried. He recently acted in a Jeff Nominated run of Teatro Vista’s production of Tamer of Horses by William Mastrinome, Directed by Jeff Award Winner Ron “OJ” Parsons at Victory Gardens Theater. Recent Chicago theater credits include the World Premiere of the Jeff Award winning Mojada by Luis Alfaro (directed by Chay Yew) at Victory Gardens Theater and Your Name Will Follow You Home by Carlos Murrillo  (directed by Dexter Bullard) in Steppenwolf Theater Company’s First Look Repertory of New WorkChicago acting credits include work at The Goodman, Steppenwolf, Rivendell, SALSATION, 16th Street Theater, Chicago Dramatists and Teatro Vista. New York City acting credits include work at The Duke, Rattlestick, Mabou Mines, INTAR, terraNOVA Collective, Rising Circle, Monarch, HERO, Lark, Collaboration Town, BAX, 59E59, and La Mama. Los Angeles acting credits include Los Angeles Theater Center and Celebration Theater. Film credits: He recently Guest Starred on Chicago PD (NBC) and Betrayal (ABC). Film credits: One Night Stand (2014), The Tank (2015), Rogers Park (2016), Lac de Flambeau, Q, Gemini Rising (web series), and East Willy B (web series). Juan will be Assistant Directing Yasen Peyankov at Steppenwolf Theater for their production of Grand Concourse by Heidi Shreck. He is an ensemble member of Teatro Vista16th St.Theater in Chicago, and InViolet in NYC. He is a graduate of The Maggie Flanigan Meisner Studio in New York City. He is Represented by Stewart Talent Agency.