Once Upon a Reality


P.O. Box 607900

Chicago, IL 60660

​©2019 Once Upon a Reality Productions

Creating theatrical experiences that focus on themes of mental health awareness. Finding inspiration from the dark corners of the lore that came before us to create new stories that shine a light.

I’ve always had a love for fairy tales. I launched Once Upon a Reality Productions back when I haunted the Los Angeles area and was producing my first play, “Princes Don’t Live in Cyberland.” What was supposed to be a simple 3-woman show about dating, turned into a dive into my family’s history revolving around the lores and legends of my own family tree. From there, a big question came to mind. Whose stories are we forgetting to tell?

Upon closer inspection of fairy tales and lore of the past, there are so many magnificent characters with rich stories. We have a habit of sugar-coating the raw tellings of the Brothers Grimm. We fear being open about struggles that characters encounter in their journey.  But what if we talked about it? Openly. Through theatre. And that is what I’ve set out to do. I started this journey alone. I packed up my circus in Los Angeles, and moved it to New York. In New York, I found a group of amazing storytellers and creators. We brought “Darling” to the stage, and focused on a little girl coping with grief. Using inspiration from the “Peter Pan” lore, this little girl learned to use her imagination to not only escape her pain, but to embrace it and connect with her family.

After spending time in New York, I moved to Boise, Idaho. Boise is an amazing community of makers, doers and dreamers. It was in Boise, where “Penelope” came to life through a staged reading. “Penelope” is inspired by “Pinnochio” but focuses on the father character and his journey of getting through each day. A beautiful marionette came to life before our very eyes. The early stages of this production were forged in a quiet and supportive landscape.

From there, the wagons were loaded and the tent was pitched in Chicago. And with this move, the Rabbit Hole Society was launched. It is a secret society of storytellers who open their clubhouse doors once a season to share their reimagined fairy tales with the public.

I started this journey alone. And every time I move the circus to a new town, I am lucky to meet people with passion who provide a light in the dark as we create new stories together and give a voice to mental health awareness. And I will keep telling these stories. For you. For me. For all of us.

--Erika Jenko

Founding Artistic Director


Founding Artistic Director

Erika Jenko

Erika loves creating fantastical worlds that focus on themes of mental health awareness and reimagining the lore and legends that have helped us to survive. Her background working in entertainment at the Disneyland Resort made her fall in love with themed entertainment and immersive environments. As a playwright, her work has been produced all over the country. Produced as readings by HomeGrown Theatre (Boise, ID): "Steven's Girls," "Expiration Date," and numerous short horror plays for the annual "Horrific Puppet Affair." She is the bookwriter of "Dex: A Killer Parody Musical" (54 Below, Elektra Theatre-NY) and the bookwriter/lyricist of "Captain Hook's Cabaret: The Capture of Wendy Darling (Times Scare, NY). Her company has produced "Darling" at the New York New Works Theatre Festival (semi-finalist), "Penelope" (staged reading, ID), and "Princes Don't Live in Cyberland" (multiple venues: CA, NY, ID). A huge thank you to her father for taking her to see "Hook" when she was 6 years old. Seeing her favorite childhood story reimagined changed her life forever. Also a huge thank you to her mom for always believing in the worlds in her head, even before they're down on paper.