On Wednesday, March 18, eight people locked themselves inside the cult-favorite The Annoyance Theatre in Chicago, Illinois with one goal: to write, rehearse and perform a brand-new, original show in ten days and live-stream the whole thing. They called themselves the Quaran-team.
Let’s set the scene. Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker issued a state-wide shelter-in-place order on Friday, March 13. While most people spent the weekend stocking up on boxed wine and baked beans (just me?), Executive Producer, Jennifer Estlin, and Artistic Director, Mick Napier, devised a plan to keep The Annoyance afloat and its employees paid for the foreseeable future.
“Back in 1992, The Annoyance did a one-week lock-in for fun to create a musical,” Estlin told me. “When I heard about what was happening in Italy...I was brainstorming on how we might still earn income if that happened [here]. I thought of that lock-in.”
The Annoyance, once home to comedy stars including Aidy Bryant, Andy Richter, Vanessa Bayer, Jane Lynch and Amy Sedaris, is known for fearless—and timely–ideas like this. Their annual Halloween show, Splatter Theater, involves buckets of fake blood and a splash zone where the audience must don ponchos. Musicals like ShitFYRE: The Musical and Shark Tank: The Musical are quintessential Annoyance responses to pop culture trends. A creatively-charged lock-in during a global pandemic actually makes a lot of sense for this collective.