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Chicago Performs | Every house has a door, Broken Aquarium

September 28, 20242:00 pm

September 29, 20244:00 pm

About the Performance

Broken Aquarium surveys an impossible ecosystem of endangered or extinct sea creatures. Featuring handmade costumes by Finnish artist Essi Kausalainen and live music by Tim Kinsella and Jenny Polus, this performance presents the intricacies and particulars of non-human life as a foundation for human transformation.

Broken Aquarium is the result of Every house has a door director Lin Hixson and dramaturg Matthew Goulish’s multi-year collaboration with Helsinki-based artist Essi Kausalainen. In 2018, Hixson, Goulish, and Kausalainen initiated The Carnival of the Animals. The project set out to follow the 14-movement structure of Camille Saint-Saëns’s 1886 musical suite for children, devising a corresponding original performance work in response to each of the titles, following those imaginative classifications while focusing on endangered species and the concept of extinction. The first of this series of modular performances was in response to the seventh movement in the suite titled Aquarium. With a commission from the Croatian National Theatre Ivan Zajc Rijecka, it was intended to premiere in Croatia in September 2020 with an international group of performers and collaborators. The premiere was subsequently delayed and then canceled in response to the COVID-19 global pandemic. Eventually, work recommenced on what would become Broken Aquarium.

Billing + About the Artists


Director | Lin Hixson

Dramaturg and Writer | Matthew Goulish

Costumes and Textiles | Essi Kausalainen

Producer and Manager | Sarah Skaggs

Technical Director | Christine Shallenberg

Performers and Co-devisers | Alex Bradley Cohen, Elise Cowin, Isaac Cresswell, Kenya Kao Ra Zen Fulton, Matthew Goulish, Essi Kausalainen, Tim Kinsella, Jenny Polus, Bryan Saner, and Corey Smith

Music/sound composed and performed by Tim Kinsella & Jenny Polus

About the Artists

Lin Hixson, director, and Matthew Goulish, dramaturg, formed Every house has a door in 2008 to convene diverse, intergenerational, project-specific teams of specialists, including emerging as well as internationally recognized artists. Drawn to historically or critically neglected subjects, Every house creates performance works and performance-related projects in many media. Based in Chicago, the company presents work for local, national, and international audiences.

Longstanding leaders in Chicago’s performance community, Hixson and Goulish have mentored generations of young artists through the performance department at SAIC and their former collective, Goat Island, which toured works internationally from the mid-1980s to 2007.

Essi Kausalainen’s works operate through performance, textile, text, audio, and video. Collaborating with plants and fungi, artists, musicians, plant biologists, and children, Kausalainen’s work approaches the body as an open-ended process made in, and shaped by, the complex relations with other beings, situations, and environments. Her work has been exhibited and performed in venues such as Kiasma, HAM, Inkonst (Malmö), Somerset House Studios in London, Bildmuseet (Umeå), and Moderna Museet Malmö.


Chicago Performs is supported by The New Works Initiative, which puts the creative process at the heart of the MCA’s relationship with Chicago by supporting the development of new performances and creative projects. Lead support for the New Works Initiative is provided by Elizabeth A. Liebman.

Development of Broken Aquarium was made possible by support from The MacArthur Funds for Art and Culture and the Richard H. Driehaus Foundation, The Foundation for Contemporary Arts FCA Emergency Grants COVID-19 Fund, and the Croatian National Theatre Ivan Zajc Rijecka & Rijeka 2020 — European Capital of Culture, Kone Foundation, Finnish Cultural Foundation, and the Art Promotion Centre Finland.