Robert Tenges

Robert Tenges

Robert Tenges is a playwright and musician. His play STRANGERS KNOCKING was produced by the side project in May/June 2005, and subsequently presented Off-Broadway by The New Group in May/June 2007. In 2010, the side project produced his play PEOPLE WE KNOW, which went on to receive a Joseph Jefferson Award nomination for Best New Work. His play FOUND was awarded the 2004 Illinois Arts Council Playwriting...
Robert Tenges is a playwright and musician. His play STRANGERS KNOCKING was produced by the side project in May/June 2005, and subsequently presented Off-Broadway by The New Group in May/June 2007. In 2010, the side project produced his play PEOPLE WE KNOW, which went on to receive a Joseph Jefferson Award nomination for Best New Work. His play FOUND was awarded the 2004 Illinois Arts Council Playwriting Fellowship and was workshopped and read at Victory Gardens Theater, and subsequently presented at Ensemble Studio Theatre and the Abingdon Theater, both in New York. His play THREE HYMNS OF APATHY was produced by the side project in 2008 (dir. Brandon Ray), and he has also written English-language adaptations of Chekhov's UNCLE VANYA and THE THREE SISTERS, both of which were produced by Chicago’s LiveWire Theatre in 2004 and 2005, respectively.

His play ELSEWHERE was developed and workshopped Off-Broadway at The New Group in April 2012, under Ian Morgan’s direction, and was given a full production in April 2013 by the side project, under Adam Webster’s direction. His play KANSAS, was workshopped by The New Group in June/July 2014, and given a public reading by Chicago Dramatists in March 2015; and his newest play, WHATEVER, was produced by the side project in July-August 2015, directed by Adam Webster, and was named to the Chicago Tribune's list of Best Plays of 2015.

His next play, DEAD CHILDREN, will premiere in Fall 2016, as a co-production between Chicago Dramatists and the side project.

From 1999 until 2012, Robert Tenges was an administrator and faculty member at The Old Town School of Folk Music, where he served as Director of Education & Programs beginning in 2007. In 2013, he joined Columbia College Chicago, and now serves as the college's Assistant Provost for Continuing & Community Education. He is a member of New River Dramatists, an artist with The New Group, and became Resident Playwright at Chicago Dramatists in 2014. He lives in the Logan Square neighborhood.

Plays

  • WHATEVER
    Everything will be fine for sixteen year-old Chloe once this afternoon's abortion is checked off her list. Likewise, her boyfriend Declan has finally found the courage to go off his anger meds and keep his hyper-concerned mother at bay. Two suburban teenagers try to navigate love, anger, and the bewildering adults who orbit their world.

    HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. 2015 "BEST OF FRINGE"...
    Everything will be fine for sixteen year-old Chloe once this afternoon's abortion is checked off her list. Likewise, her boyfriend Declan has finally found the courage to go off his anger meds and keep his hyper-concerned mother at bay. Two suburban teenagers try to navigate love, anger, and the bewildering adults who orbit their world.

    HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. 2015 "BEST OF FRINGE" THEATER. "Small word choices reveal universes in Robert Tenges' tense WHATEVER...as (the play) slowly builds up steam to the conclusion of its 100-minute journey into suburban emotional anomie, it also digs up uncomfortable truths about why—and indeed, whether—we actually need the people who surround us in life...stark and effective." –CHICAGO TRIBUNE

    HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. "Tenges builds his story out of tense, hushed conversations, which Webster and his crackerjack cast execute with deft attention to detail...For a story that points fingers at so many crumbling institutions—marriage, family, mental health, schools, masculinity—like the entirety of Generations X and Y, it rarely comes off as hysterical. It might be alarmist, but the alarm is a silent one.” –NEW CITY

    HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. "Tenges isn’t afraid to let his characters utter some pretty dreadful shit concerning empathy, sex, and love, but he also backs up that darkness with flashes of unexpected warmth. In Webster’s staging, lights dim, then return for just a few seconds, creating effective micromoments of anticipation.” -CHICAGO READER

    “★★★★★…refuses to offer any easy resolutions, but portrays loneliness, the world, and what it does to the characters within the play with humor, pathos, and compassion.” –AROUND THE TOWN CHICAGO

    RECOMMENDED. “In a tense and urgent 100 minutes, Tenges exposes the layers deep within us, even those we think no one else can see…Director Adam Webster has created a truly wonderful staging within such an intimate space.” –CHICAGO STAGE STANDARD
  • ELSEWHERE
    In 1969, Monica squirrels away money to help her son, Adam, avoid the draft, if needed. Meanwhile, Adam rebels in subtle and not-so-subtle ways. A play about bonds that stretch and break.

    "HIGHLY RECOMMENDED…The play has a lovely structure...ELSEWHERE is a poignant progression of very human moments, and not one of them feels false." – Chicago Sun-Times Centerstage

    "...
    In 1969, Monica squirrels away money to help her son, Adam, avoid the draft, if needed. Meanwhile, Adam rebels in subtle and not-so-subtle ways. A play about bonds that stretch and break.

    "HIGHLY RECOMMENDED…The play has a lovely structure...ELSEWHERE is a poignant progression of very human moments, and not one of them feels false." – Chicago Sun-Times Centerstage

    "It's a subtle staging of the hormonal angst of high school, and the compassionate adults who have to relive it from the other side....poignant and well-acted…(director Adam) Webster and Tenges have learned what resonates in the intimate space: subtle, realistic staging, language and emotion."
    – Windy City Times

    "FOUR STARS…Tenges has a fine ear for the voices of folksy Christian Midwesterners...full of provocative moments...The snug side-project space only intensifies this moving, very intimate and at times disturbing production."
    – Time-Out Chicago

    "This SWEETLY SORROWFUL DRAMA…glistens with the golden hue of an episode of The Wonder Years. Its characters are curious and the play’s urges and convictions altogether genuine. Tenges’ most honorable success with this work, though, is how comfortably it lives in its period…a broad acknowledgment of the voiceless acquiring a voice, and the pros and cons of that ascension."
    – New City

    "RECOMMENDED…The cast is outstanding…each scene is well paced and the energy is great…strong writing and (Tenges has) an ear for dialogue…the performances are spot-on." – Chicago Theater Beat
  • PEOPLE WE KNOW
    The lives of two married couples are sent spiraling out of control when one of their friends, a grade school teacher, is thrown in prison for molesting one of his students. His wife, who believes her husband is innocent, makes an attempt to re-connect with her friends.

    "TIP OF THE WEEK: PEOPLE WE KNOW...Robert Tenges’ script is full of vulnerability, pain and love...The ensemble’s appealing...
    The lives of two married couples are sent spiraling out of control when one of their friends, a grade school teacher, is thrown in prison for molesting one of his students. His wife, who believes her husband is innocent, makes an attempt to re-connect with her friends.

    "TIP OF THE WEEK: PEOPLE WE KNOW...Robert Tenges’ script is full of vulnerability, pain and love...The ensemble’s appealing naturalism is perfect...Adam Webster’s direction peels away emotional layers as the show progresses and gives the piece a cool complexity.” – Lisa Buscani, NEW CITY

    "PICK OF THE WEEK...extremely good, wonderfully performed, and very, very thoughtful and provocative." – Kelly Kleinman, WBEZ's 848

    "FOUR STARS... People We Know delivers powerful, and often powerfully comic, insight into the resources and limitations of friendship and love...Webster’s characteristically snappy production features a seasoned and sensitive cast." –John Beer, TIME OUT CHICAGO

    "Robert Tenges's latest play is what Donald Margulies's Dinner With Friends could've been...Tenges excels at truthy dialogue dipped in acid, and Adam Webster's cast of six could hardly be better at landing his lines with razor precision." – Kerry Reid, CHICAGO READER

    "HIGHLY RECOMMENDED...a great think piece...entertaining as well as thought-evoking...what theater is all about...a well done production."
    – Al Bresloff, STEADSTYLE

    “EDGY… disturbing… twisted…Playwright Robert Tenges has it right…”
    – Nina Metz, THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE

    “EVOCATIVE…intuitive direction…strong ensemble…powerful.”
    – Chicago Stage Review

    “SPECTACULAR… a feast of great theater. If you can get a ticket, do so.”
    – Don Hall Blogspot

    “QUIET INTENSITY that is riveting… directed with quiet and steady pressure by Adam Webster.” – Chicago Theatre Blog
  • STRANGERS KNOCKING
    Set during the course of a single day, a mother, father and their fourteen year-old daughter struggle to connect with the world around them, and each other.

    "Recommended...thoughtful and disturbing...moves easily between the prosaic and the lyrical...has the patina of unvarnished truth...Under the perfectly paced direction of Adam Webster, the actors tap into the play's tone and...
    Set during the course of a single day, a mother, father and their fourteen year-old daughter struggle to connect with the world around them, and each other.

    "Recommended...thoughtful and disturbing...moves easily between the prosaic and the lyrical...has the patina of unvarnished truth...Under the perfectly paced direction of Adam Webster, the actors tap into the play's tone and tensions with masterful control...Tenges is at work on a new play. STRANGERS KNOCKING is more than good enough to lure me back." – Hedy Weiss, The Chicago Sun-Times

    "Surprisingly intense. This is a strikingly resonant show...with this compelling ensemble and this level of truth and attention to the little perils of life, it hits home with disarming force.” – Chris Jones, The Chicago Tribune

    "Recommended...absorbing...expert sense of timing...I, for one, felt a surprising moral uplift." – New City

    “Don’t miss STRANGERS KNOCKING. It’s one of the most thoughtful commentaries on love and fear around…Tenges is adept at limning family dynamics, has a way with dialogue, and a natural way of presenting emotion.”
    – Windy City Times

    "Compelling...sophisticated...unexpected depth...raw to the bone..."
    – TimeOut Chicago

    "Startlingly true...Robert Tenges, director Adam Webster, and an incredible cast explore (a touchy subject) with grace and empathy...paints a strong portrait of teen sexuality..." – Chicago Reader