Monday, October 11, 2021

Now Streaming: 3 Mini Steppenwolf Works Via Pulitzer Prize-winning Ensemble Member Tracy Letts

Tracy Letts Plays Like You’ve Never Seen Them Before

As a bridge to live performances, Steppenwolf produces three new virtual works 

by Pulitzer Prize-winning ensemble member Tracy Letts 

Now Streaming Through October 24, 2021 

Pictured L to R: Rainn Wilson in "Night Safari", Tracy Letts in "The Stretch" and the puppet character Ted in "The Old Country" (voiced by William Petersen).

In the lead-up to ensemble member Tracy Letts’ extraordinary BUG this November in the Downstairs Theater, Steppenwolf Theatre Company is proud to bring audiences a sampler of the playwright’s singular voice in their homes with a trio of new virtual plays by Letts. The three gripping pieces, each produced for the first-time in a digital format, create the opening landscape of the 2021/22 Comeback Season and mark a bridge to the return of live performances and the highly anticipated opening of the new Arts and Education Center this fall. Steppenwolf’s virtual stage—which has streamed in all 50 states and over 20 countries since its inception last fall—is a celebration of the profound connection that theatre, in whatever form it finds itself, offers us all.

Ensemble member Tracy Letts shares, “These plays share at least one thread: a world off-kilter. But since I wrote these pieces, the actual world has undergone some hair-raising transformations, which have cast mysterious new light on these plays. They feel very much like stories for 2021.”

Ticket Info

Single tickets are now available and grant access to all three virtual plays for $20 at or by calling Audience Services at 312-335-1650. Students, teachers, artists & essential workers get access for $10. The three plays stream from September 29 through October 24, 2021. 

Access to the virtual works is FREE with a Steppenwolf 2021/22 Classic Membership. To purchase a Membership or for more information, visit or call 312-335-1650.

About the Plays


A monologue filmed in a studio location 

Written by ensemble member Tracy Letts 

Directed by Patrick Zakem 

Featuring Rainn Wilson 

Run time: 14 minutes

The nocturnal habits of the Panamanian Night Monkey, the life cycle of the Paradoxical Frog, and the mating rituals of middle-aged male homo sapiens. This wry monologue poses the question: are we so distant from the whims of our biology? Enjoy your tour, and please remember—do not feed the animals.


A filmed vignette, inhabited by puppets 

Written by ensemble member Tracy Letts 

Directed by Patrick Zakem 

Puppet and production design by Grace Needlman 

Featuring ensemble members William Petersen and Karen Rodriguez with Mike Nussbaum 

Run time: 10 minutes 

Two men in a diner drain the last drops of their coffees and think about ordering dessert. In the denouement of their (physical, intellectual, and sexual) lives, they wax nostalgic and try to communicate across a wide divide. 


A monologue filmed in a studio location 

Written by ensemble member Tracy Letts 

Directed by ensemble member Anna D. Shapiro 

Featuring ensemble member Tracy Letts 

Run time: 8 minutes 

And they’re off, for the 108th running of the El Dorado Stakes! But this race is long-distance… and maybe not what it first seems…

This past spring Steppenwolf announced plans to also produce two additional original virtual works by ensemble members Tina Landau and Tarell Alvin McCraney following Tracy Letts’s trio of virtual plays as part of the 2021/22 Comeback Season. Due to scheduling conflicts and production limitations, in consultation with the artists involved, Steppenwolf has decided to not produce Landau and McCraney’s virtual pieces at this time, and will explore future incarnations of the works. Letts’s trio of plays, which are already in production and nearly complete, offer audiences highly original works. From on-location filming with Rainn Wilson to handmade 3D puppets brought to life, and entirely new teams of film and video creatives employed in the creation of each work, Steppenwolf looks forward to sharing these three pieces in the lead-up to live performances of BUG this November. Learn more about the 2021/22 Comeback Season at

Sponsor Info

Night Safari is generously supported in part by Northern Trust. United Airlines is the Official and Exclusive Airline of Steppenwolf. 

Steppenwolf is also grateful for the significant season support from Paul M. Angell Family Foundation, Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, Illinois Arts Council Agency, Ralla Klepak Foundation for Education in the Performing Arts and The Shubert Foundation.

Steppenwolf Theatre Company is a Chicago theater that is home to America’s ensemble. The company began performing in the mid-1970s in the basement of a Highland Park, IL church—today Steppenwolf is the nation’s premier ensemble theater with 49 members who are among the top actors, playwrights and directors in the field. Deeply rooted in its ensemble ethos, the company is committed to equity, diversity, inclusion and making the Steppenwolf experience accessible to all. Productions that premiered at Steppenwolf including August: Osage County and Pass Over—and accolades that include the National Medal of Arts and 12 Tony® Awards— have made the theatre legendary. Artistic programming includes a main stage season; a Steppenwolf for Young Adults season; LookOut, a multi-genre performance series; and the Steppenwolf NOW virtual stage. 2021 marks the opening of the company 50,000 sq. ft. Arts and Education Center—featuring a 400-seat Round Theater, dedicated education floor and new spaces for engagement. The nationally recognized work of Steppenwolf Education engages more than 30,000 participants annually in Chicagoland communities. While firmly grounded in the Chicago community, more than 40 original Steppenwolf productions have enjoyed success nationally and internationally, including Broadway, Off-Broadway, London, Sydney, Galway and Dublin. Anna D. Shapiro is the Artistic Director and E. Brooke Flanagan is the Executive Director. Eric Lefkofsky is Chair of Steppenwolf’s Board of Trustees.

Steppenwolf's mission

Steppenwolf strives to create thrilling, courageous and provocative art in a thoughtful and inclusive environment. We succeed when we disrupt your routine with experiences that spark curiosity, empathy and joy. We invite you to join our ensemble as we navigate, together, our complex world.

Save The Dates: THE WORLD PREMIERE of WHEN HARRY MET REHAB at Greenhouse Theater Center

ChiIL Live Shows on our radar 





Dan Butler, Frasier’s “Bulldog”

by Spike Manton and Harry Teinowitz

Directed by Jackson Gay


Don Clark, Chicago based Film and Theatre Producer and Co-Owner of the Chicago Magic Lounge, presents the World Premiere of WHEN HARRY MET REHAB – a comedy that takes sobriety seriously, based loosely on the real-life experiences of Chicago sports radio personality, Harry Teinowtiz. Dan Butler will star as Harry. Butler is best known for his role as “Bulldog” for seven seasons on the legendary television comedy Frasier, as well as “Art” on Roseanne. WHEN HARRY MET REHAB previews November 24 and opens December 5 at Greenhouse Theater Center, 2257 N. Lincoln Avenue, for a limited engagement. Co-authored by former ESPN personality and playwright Spike Manton (Leaving Iowa), WHEN HARRY MET REHAB chronicles in a humorous yet poignant way how an alcoholic on the edge of clueless annihilation ended up in the hands of a magician whose greatest trick was making his denial and excuses disappear.

In addition to his much-loved role on Frasier, highlights from Butler’s long and illustrious stage career include Broadway productions of Travesties, Biloxi Blues, Twentieth Century as well as the world premiere of Terrence McNally’s Lisbon Traviata with Nathan Lane and John Slattery.  

Butler is surrounded by a powerhouse Chicago cast that includes Ora Jones (Steppenwolf, Chicago Shakespeare Theater, Goodman Theatre, as well as Broadway productions of Les Liaisons Dangereuses and Matilda), Elizabeth Laidlaw (Chicago Shakespeare Theater, Goodman Theatre, Court Theatre, Steppenwolf), Keith Gallagher (Steppenwolf, Lookingglass, Northlight), Chiké Johnson (Steppenwolf, Goodman Theatre, Broadway production of Wit), and newcomer Richard Gomez (Columbia College, Chicago).

WHEN HARRY MET REHAB is an evening in the theater that will leave a mark that is flat-out funny, moving, and unforgettable. It is a story of redemption, perseverance, and hope. It is estimated that over 22 million Americans are in recovery. This show is for them, their families, and their friends.

WHEN HARRY MET REHAB will run at the Greenhouse Theater Center, 2257 N. Lincoln Avenue in Chicago previewing November 24 and opening December 5 for a limited engagement through January 30. The performance schedule is as follows: Wednesday through Saturday evenings at 8:00 pm, Sunday evenings at 7:00 pm, with additional matinee performances on Saturday and Sunday at 3:00 pm. Tickets range from $42 to $85 plus processing fees. For tickets and more information, visit or call the Greenhouse Theatre Center Box Office at 773-404-7336.


Dan Butler – Harry

Ora Jones – Barb

Elizabeth Laidlaw – Andrea

Keith Gallagher – Isaiah

Chiké Johnson – Vince

Richard Gomez – George


Creative Team

(Co-writer) Spike Manton

(Co-writer) Harry Teinowitz

(Direction) Jackson Gay

(Dramaturg/Creative Consultant) Jack Viertel

(Scenic Designer) Regina Garcia

(Costume Designer) Caitlin McLeod

(Lighting Designer) Simean Carpenter

(Sound Designers) Ray Nardelli & Chris Laporte

(Projection Designer) Chris Commendatore

(Casting Director/ Consulting Producer) Laura Stanczyk

(Associate Director) Maggie Spanuello

(Stage Manager) Shannon Golden-Starr

(General Manager) Pemberley Productions


(Director) Jackson Gay

Jackson Gay is a director and co-Producing Artistic Director of New Neighborhood Upcoming work includes the new musical SCKBSTD (book by Mike Rafael with music by Bruce Hornsby); God’s Ear (Juilliard); New Neighborhood’s Endless Loop of Gratitude (REP); Goldie, Max & Milk by Karen Hartman (59e59), and Partnership (Mint Theater). Directing work includes Lucy Thurber’s Transfers for Audible, MCC and New York Stage & Film; Endless Loop of Gratitude with New Neighborhood (New Ohio’s Ice Factory); The Seagull (Juilliard); Kleptocracy by Kenneth Lin (Arena Stage); Lover Beloved with Suzanne Vega and Duncan Sheik (Alley Theater); These Paper Bullets! By Rolin Jones with music by Billie Joe Armstrong (New Neighborhood, Atlantic, Geffen, Yale Rep – Critics Pick Time Out NY, Best Production and Adaptation LA Sage Awards, Time Out Los Angeles, Connecticut Critics Circle Award Best Production and Best Director). Jackson has taught directing and acting at Williams, Yale, New School, Sarah Lawrence, and Columbia. Jackson is the 2021 Guild Hall Artist-in-Residence in East Hampton, NY. Jackson and New Neighborhood recently joined forces with Rattlestick Playwrights Theater and The Commissary to produce Why Would I Dare: The Trial of Crystal Mason. In collaboration with Dan Butler and DMNDR, New Neighborhood produced the first 24-hour reading of Filibustered and Unfiltered: America Reads the Mueller Report which inspired more than a dozen other events across the country. Featured everywhere from the Los Angeles Times (“a live-theater summer sensation!”) to Breitbart News (“the single most boring and pointless way to waste your time!”), the tidal wave of public readings reached its apex when it was name-checked in Congress during Robert Mueller’s nationally televised public testimony. BFA Acting University of the Arts.  MFA Directing Yale School of Drama.

(Producer) Don Clark

Donald Cameron Clark, Jr., Esq. is a renaissance man who believes in the power of storytelling, whether to a jury, in a theater, or to his grandchildren. Clark began his professional career as a trial attorney at some of Chicago’s most venerable law firms. His memoir, Summary Judgment, was recently published. Clark is Executive Producer of the award-winning feature film “Guest Artist,” written by and starring Jeff Daniels. He produces plays on Broadway and in regional theaters. Clark co-owns the Chicago Magic Lounge—a nightlife venue that is top rated on TripAdvisor and one of “Chicago’s Best” according to Chicago Magazine. He is also a member of Chicago’s Cultural Treasures grant program.



Thursday, October 7, 2021

Chicago Fall 2021Theatre Favorites and What's Open in Person in Our Waning Pandemic World

Save the Dates
ChiIL Live Shows On Our Radar:

Ready to venture back out in public and catch a show? If plays are your jam, The League of Chicago Theatres is your connection for discount tickets and the latest word on what's open, and what combination of mask/face shield/vax/negative test is required at each venue to keep audiences safe.

Love all kinds of arts and entertainment? Check out (adult) and (family friendly) early and often for the best in Chi, IL's live theatre, music, food and entertainment scene. We'll give you the heads up on what's coming up each month along with original reviews, ticket giveaways, travel features, and more. We've added an asterisk and bold type for the shows below that we're reviewing.

“After more than a year of introspection, planning, and change while theatres have been closed, it is a thrill to have live theatre back—and to experience this great, collective art form in Chicago again,” comments League of Chicago Theatres Executive Director Deb Clapp.

A list of season openers follow. For a comprehensive list of Chicago productions, visit the League of Chicago Theatres website, Available half-price tickets will be listed at

Chicago theatres prioritize safely gathering. Patrons are encouraged to confirm current protocols at each theatre. Shows and protocols are subject to change.


Now Open


The Second City reopened its Chicago venue with two productions: Happy To Be Here on the Mainstage, and Safer, Shorter & Still So Funny at e.t.c. The Second City welcomes back audiences with 60-minute shows Thursdays through Sundays.

Teatro ZinZanni returned on July 8 with a cast of comedians, aerialists, acrobats, singers, dancers, and a gourmet meal inside the Spiegeltent on the 14th floor of the Cambria Hotel.

The Annoyance returned mid-July with a variety of comedy and improv shows at their Lakeview theatre including Dick Wolf: Special IMPROV Unit, Fire & Beer: The Annoyance House Ensemble, Hitch*Cocktails, and SuperHuman among others.

*Dennis Watkins returns to perform live magic in The Magic Parlour at The Palmer House beginning August 6. & 

Drunk Shakespeare returns to performing in the Loop at The Lion Theatre starting August 6.

*Paramount Theatre produces the regional premiere of the flashy, sexy story of Kinky Boots, August 18 – October 17.

*Theater Wit opens its venue with the return of Mr. Burns, a post electric play, an open run beginning August 27.

City Lit Theater opens the world premiere adaptation of Thirteen Days running September 10 – October 24.

*Marriott Theatre celebrates the songbook from the multi-Tony award-winning team of John Kander and Fred Ebb with The World Goes ‘Round opening on September 15.

Chicago Opera Theater performs Carmen in concert at the Harris Theater for Music and Dance on September 16 and 18.

Metropolis Performing Arts Centre begins their season by transporting audiences to the 1960s with SHOUT: A Mod Musical September 16 – October 30. 

The Lyric Opera of Chicago opens its season September 17 with a new production of Macbeth, marking the inaugural production of Music Director Enrique Mazzola's tenure.

Citadel Theatre in Lake Forest opens its Mainstage season on September 18 with Brighton Beach Memoirs.

*Northlight Theatre opens with a tour-de-force performance by Bethany Thomas in Songs for Nobodies, celebrating the music of Judy Garland, Patsy Cline, Billie Holliday, Edith Piaf and Maria Callas from September 23 – October 31.

The Factory Theater in Rogers Park presents Last Night in Karaoke Town, October 1 – November 6.

Broadway In Chicago presents Rent at the CIBC Theatre from October 5 – 10 in the 25th Anniversary “Farewell Season of Love” tour.

*Mercury Theater Chicago returns to the stage with Sister Act the musical based on the 1992 film, November 5 – January 9. 

Harris Theater for Music and Dance returns October 5 with its Mix At Six series featuring Nathalie Joachim + Spektral Quartet in a celebration of Haitian female artists.

*Rick Bayless and Windy City Playhouse opens its run of the new immersive theater, food, and farce experience A Recipe for Disaster at Petterino’s in the Loop on October 6.

*Court Theatre produces The Tragedy of Othello, the Moor of Venice live from October 7 – November 21 on a set that places audience in the middle of the action, along with an at-home, on-demand streaming option.

Beverly Theatre Guild begins its new season with Roald Dahl’s Matilda The Musical from October 8 –10.

*Black Button Eyes Productions opens Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog at The Edge Theater to benefit the charity Season of Concern on October 8.

The Den Theatre presents four stand-up comedians to kick off its season this fall, beginning with Erik Griffin October 8 & 9.

First Folio Theatre returns to in-person performances with The Jigsaw Bride: A Frankenstein Story, an eerie and suspenseful tale, playing October 13 – November 14.

 The Joffrey Ballet marks its return to the stage with Home: a Celebration, mixed repertory of original work and a beloved classic by co-founder Gerald Arpino from October 13 – 24.

The Auditorium Theatre welcomes back resident company Ensemble Español Spanish Dance Theater as part of their “Made in Chicago Dance Series” on October 16.

*Raven Theatre begins its season with the world premiere of Joshua Allen’s The Last Pair of Earlies playing October 27 – December 12.

*Broadway In Chicago presents the pre-Broadway premiere of Paradise Square at the Nederlander Theatre November 2 – December 5.

*Steppenwolf Theatre Company revives Tracy Letts’ mind-bending cult classic Bug November 11 – December 12.

More theatre reopenings will continue to be announced. For a comprehensive list of Chicago productions, visit the League of Chicago Theatres website, Available half-price tickets will be listed at

Chicago theatres prioritize safely gathering. Patrons are encouraged to confirm current protocols at each theatre. Shows and protocols are subject to change.

About Chicago theatre 

Chicago theatre is the leader in the U.S. with more than 250 theatres throughout Chicagoland, comprising a rich and varied community ranging from storefront, non-union theatres to the most renowned resident theatres in the country, including 5 which have been honored with Regional Tony Awards, and the largest touring Broadway organization in the nation. Chicago’s theatres serve 5 million audience members annually and have a combined budget of more than $250 million. Chicago produces and/or presents more world premieres annually than any other city in the nation. Each year Chicago theatres send new work to resident theatres across the country, to Broadway, and around the world.  

The League of Chicago Theatres’ Mission Statement

Theatre is essential to the life of a great city and to its citizens. The League of Chicago Theatres is an alliance of theatres, which leverages its collective strength to support, promote and advocate for Chicago’s theatre industry. Through our work, we ensure that theatre continues to thrive in our city.


Monday, October 4, 2021

REVIEW: THE GOLDEN GIRLS: The Lost Episodes, Vol. 5 – SEX! Via Hell in a Handbag Productions Through October 23, 2021

ChiIL Live Shows On Our Radar: 

Hell in a Handbag Productions

Opens Its 20th Anniversary Season with

THE GOLDEN GIRLS: The Lost Episodes, Vol. 5 – SEX!

By Artistic Director David Cerda

Directed by Madison Smith

(left to right) Grant Drager, David Cerda and Lori Lee. 

Now Playing Through October 23, 2021 at the Leather Archives & Museum

Running Time: 90min including intermission

 *COVID POLICY: Handbag will require proof of vaccination and masking at all performances. The entire cast and crew is vaccinated.

(left to right) Ryan Oates, Ed Jones, Danne W. Taylor, David Cerda and Grant Drager in Hell in a Handbag Productions’ The Golden Girls: The Lost Episodes, Vol. 5 – SEX! All photos by Rick Aguilar Studios

 Guest Review by 

Catherine Hellmann

A “Thank you for being a friend!” sing-along opens this fun, much-anticipated return to live theater from Hell in a Handbag Productions. And it is like welcoming back an old friend to see our favorites on stage again after a looooong 18 months. The HIAH team did produce a couple streaming shows during the pandemic, but their outrageousness is so much better enjoyed in person. The multi-talented David Cerda and his high-spirited troops have been entertaining us for twenty years, as this is their anniversary season! Two decades of laughter and merriment!   

This latest parody of “Golden Girls” takes place in a beautiful, intimate theater of 160 seats set in the Leather Archives & Museum in Rogers Park where paintings of hunky men with massive packages in their trousers (some contained, some blatantly revealed) look down on us like sexy angels. Tickets to the show include a 30-day membership to the LA&M so you can return another day to gawk at the displays of leather and kinky props. I want to go back! 

In episode one, “The Pleasure Dome,” Rose and her boyfriend Miles need more than a game of “Hungry, Hungry Hippos” to get their game on. So Miles books them a couple’s trip to Miami’s new spicy spot, The Pleasure Dome. Crashing the party are Blanche and Dorothy who accompany them for “moral support.” Sophia has been working some wild hours to make some extra cash…(her costume here is just the funniest gag ever), and the girls discover Sophia is not out delivering for DoorDash. 

In the next act, “Blanche Makes a Deal,” Sophia nearly kicks the bucket in an accident that leaves Blanche so guilt-ridden that she takes a Vow of Chastity! She holds out longer than we suspect she will... but at one point, Blanche describes herself as “uncomfortably horny,” which was my friend’s favorite line in the show. :-) As Blanche finally succumbs to her desires, Sophia refers to Blanche’s moves on the repairman as “the courtship ritual of the ‘Geriatric Skank.’” (my favorite line in the show!)

The script is penned by David Cerda, who plays Dorothy. There are so many wonderful lines, like referring to the tv show from our childhood “Wild Kingdom” and quipping,”Nobody under fifty will understand that reference.” When Blanche asks what she should do when she can’t fall asleep, she’s advised to “go home,” which is followed by a joke that the dialogue was stolen from an original episode. 

In between acts, Cast Member Lori Lee runs a Golden Girls Trivia contest with fun prizes like GG napkins, buttons, and “sensual arousal gel.” (My best friend from college won a “Golden Girls” Trivia Contest in Boston years ago---the prize was tickets to see a Judy Garland impersonator. He described it as “the gayest night of my life.”)  

We loved the jello molds along the walls of the set. There is great eye candy with a hot cop moving the set pieces very deliberately in a provocative manner as if he works at the Pleasure Dome.  

HIAH regulars Cerda and the always-hilarious Ed Jones both received cheers and applause upon their entrances. So wonderful to see them in person again! Also of note is Grant Drager as Blanche. We saw him after the show and praised his performance, and he was so gracious and lovely. We asked about a particular line, and he immediately recited the words with his Southern-drawl Blanche Voice. We were charmed, indeed. 

Treat yourself, be a friend, and support a wonderful Chicago institution by seeing “Golden Girls.” You’ll be glad you did! “Your heart is true, you’re a pal and a confidant.” 

The Golden Girls runs through October 23 at 6418 N. Greenview Ave. 

Be aware that Handbag is requiring proof of vaccination at the door and masking at all performances. The entire cast and crew is vaccinated. 

Cath Hellmann is a teacher, theater lover, and a true friend who once washed her bestie’s bloody sheets after a homebirth. 

(left to right) Max McKune, Grant Drager and Danne W. Taylor 

(left to right) Grant Drager, David Cerda, Ed Jones and Ryan Oates

Hell in a Handbag Productions is pleased to welcome back audiences this fall with the return of Chicago’s favorite drag seniors in its long-running parody The Golden Girls: The Lost Episodes, Vol. 5 – SEX!, written by Artistic Director David Cerda* and directed by Madison Smith. Dorothy, Rose, Blanche, Sophia and their whacky friends and relatives explore their naughty side now playing through October 23, 2021 at the Leather Archives & Museum’s 160-seat auditorium at 6418 N. Greenview Ave. in Chicago’s Rogers Park neighborhood (must be 18+ for entry). Single tickets are currently available at (includes 30-day membership to Leather Archives & Museum). Season subscriptions are on sale at

The Golden Girls stars original cast members David Cerda*, Grant Drager*, Ed Jones* and Ryan Oates as the Geriatric Fab Four, joined by Lori Lee*, Max McKune, Michael Rashid* and Danne W. Taylor*. 

 In episode one, “The Pleasure Dome,” Rose and Miles’ relationship needs spicing up and what better way to do that than a trip to the latest Miami hotspot, The Pleasure Dome! Of course, Blanche and Dorothy accompany her to provide “emotional support.” Meanwhile, Sophia has a mysterious part-time job that keeps her out all hours of the night.

 In episode two, “Blanche Makes a Deal,” following a household accident that nearly kills Sophia, Blanche’s guilt drives her to do the unthinkable: take a vow of celibacy! Can Blanche keep her promise to God? Will the truth about what actually happened come out? Will the Smurfs get Rose, or can she outwit them? See for yourself in Chicago’s irreverent long-running parody show.

The production team includes Pamela L. Parker* (scenic design, production manager), Gregory Graham (costume design), Liz Cooper (lighting design), DJ Douglass (sound design), Andrew Milliken (incidental music), Mealah Heidenreich* (props design), Rick Gilbert & Victor Bayona (violence coordinators), Keith Ryan* (wig design), Jack Mink (technical director) and Drew Donnelly* (stage manager).

*Denotes Handbag Ensemble Member

(left to right) Michael Rashid and Ed Jones

(left to right) Ryan Oates and Grant Drager 


Cast (in alphabetical order): David Cerda* (Dorothy), Grant Drager* (Blanche), Ed Jones* (Dorothy) Lori Lee* (Host, Emcee), Max McKune (Jeff, Chip), Ryan Oates (Sophia), Michael Rashid* (Miles) and Danne W. Taylor* (Nancy Drew). Understudies: Miles Brindley, Spenser Douglas Clark, Jamie Smith and Nick Strauss.

Location: Leather Archives & Museum, 6418 N. Greenview Ave., Chicago (must be 18+ for entry)

Regular run: Friday, September 24 – October 23, 2021

Curtain Times: Fridays & Saturday at 7:30 pm; Sundays at 3 pm. Please note: there will be an added performances on Thursday, October 21 at 7:30 pm

Tickets: $27 general admission. $35– $45 VIP/reserved seating. Group rates $23 for 10 or more. Tickets are currently available at (includes 30-day membership to Leather Archives & Museum). Must be 18+ with proof of vaccination.


(left to right) Danne W. Taylor, Ed Jones, Ryan Oates, David Cerda and Grant Drager

About the Artists     

David Cerda (Playwright) is a founding member and Artistic Director of Hell in a Handbag Productions. As resident playwright he has written many a Handbag production as well as acted in them. As a Latinx queer individual, he is a proud inductee in the Chicago LGBT Hall of Fame and recipient of a Jeff Award for lifetime achievement for his 25 years (and counting) of work and service to the community. He lives in Chicago with his partner, Christopher.

Madison Smith (Director) is a director and producer who hails from Nebraska. She is also the Artistic Director of the scrappy new-works focused company Death & Pretzels. Besides directing for D&P, Madison has had the pleasure of working with companies such as The House Theatre, RedTwist, Summer Place, Team StarKid and Three Cat Productions, among others, and she’s delighted to be working with Hell in a Handbag once again. Thank you for being a friend!

About Hell in a Handbag Productions

Hell in a Handbag is dedicated to the preservation, exploration, and celebration of works ingrained in the realm of popular culture via theatrical productions through parody, music and homage. Handbag is a 501(c)(3) Not for Profit. For additional information, visit

(left to right) Ed Jones, David Cerda, Grant Drager and Ryan Oates in Hell in a Handbag Productions’ The Golden Girls: The Lost Episodes, Vol. 5 – SEX! Photo by Rick Aguilar Studios.

Circle Jerks Back On First North American Tour In Over 15 Years

 ChiIL Live Shows On Our Radar



Here at ChiIL Live Shows, our enjoyment of Circle Jerks and 7Seconds predates the internet, social media and the births of many musicians influenced by them today. We've even still got a concert tee from a show in the 80's that hasn't disintegrated yet. If you missed them at Riot Fest in Chicago, they're coming back around. Check it out. 

 Photo credit: Dug Mara/ChiIL Live Shows

Today punk legends - Circle Jerks - have announced their first and only North American tour in over 15 years, which is set to take place Spring 2022. The dates span both coasts and (mostly) everywhere in between with support from Negative Approach and 7Seconds who will be reuniting for the first time in over five years. Circle Jerks’ landmark record Group Sex turned 40 last fall. The band are on tour this fall with AdolescentsNegative Approach and Municipal Waste, in celebration of its anniversary and the commemorative reissue -- available now via Trust Records


Circle Jerks’ current live lineup is vocalist Keith Morris, guitarist Greg Hetson (Bad Religion, Redd Kross), bassist Zander Schloss (The Weirdos, Joe Strummer) and drummer Joey Castillo (The Bronx, QOTSA, Danzig, BL’AST!, Wasted Youth). See below for a full rundown of dates. Tickets are on sale this Friday at 10AM local. Go here for tickets and keep up with updates from Circle Jerks on Instagram here.

Circle Jerks emerged from the punk underbelly of LA’s South Bay in 1979. After serving as a co-founder and lead vocalist of Black Flag during the recording of its essential Nervous Breakdown EP, Keith Morris joined forces with Greg Hetson to form what would become Circle Jerks, along with bassist Roger Rogerson and jazz drummer Lucky Lehrer. Unlike much of the unapologetic hardcore that seeped through the cracks of American suburbia, the music of the Circle Jerks was thoughtfully steadfast, yet relentless and ferocious in nature. Bringing together a potent, articulate rhythm section with earnest yet oftentimes derisive lyrics and themes, the band was thereafter heralded as a leader of the pack - and a force to be reckoned with. 

Plowing forward with a relentless, tooth-cutting work ethic and a rousing stage presence, the band would soon find itself headlining shows at LA’s 5,000-capacity Olympic Auditorium and emblazoned in cult video classics like Decline of Western CivilizationRepo ManNew Wave Theatre, and The Slog Movie. Over the decades, Circle Jerks would release six studio albums, including the acclaimed Group Sex (1980) Wild in the Streets (1982), Golden Shower of Hits (1983), Wonderful (1985), and IV (1987), where they would become a major headliner during the alternative music explosion of the 80’s and 90’s. 

The long list of those influenced by the legacy of the Circle Jerks ranges from Butthole Surfers to Red Hot Chili Peppers - with notable fans being Dogtown skateboarders, Chuck Berry, Alice Cooper, Elton John, Johnny Depp, Guns N’ Roses, and Philip K. Dick. Decades later, their music continues to make an imprint on generations of diverse music fans and those who challenge the status quo.

The Group Sex Deluxe Reissue features packaging by Robert Fisher,designer of Nirvana’s Nevermind, a bonus recording of a 1980 rehearsal, a 20-page booklet including unreleased photos and anecdotes from Tony Hawk, Mike Patton, Shepard Fairey, Ian MacKaye, Lars Frederiksen and many others, in addition to a quality repackaging in a limited colored vinyl schema. The remastered audio is available across all digital retailers and has now sold out of its first two pressings on vinyl format. Check here for updates. 

Circle Jerks Live Dates:

10/27: Sunshine Theatre - Albuquerque, NM #
10/29: Rialto Theatre - Tucson, AZ #
10/30: Van Buren - Phoenix, AZ #
12/10: Soundstage - Baltimore, MD *
12/11: Norva - Norfolk, VA *
12/12: Cat’s Cradle - Carrboro, NC *
12/14: 40 Watt Club - Athens, GA *
12/15: Underbelly - Jacksonville, FL *
12/17: Jannus Live - St. Petersburg, FL *
12/18: The Plaza Live - Orlando, FL *
12/19: Culture Room - Fort Lauderdale, FL *
02/18: Observatory North Park - San Diego, CA #
02/19: House of Blues - Anaheim, CA #
02/20: Ventura Theatre - Ventura, CA #
02/22: Fremont Theatre - San Luis Obispo, CA #
02/ 23: Catalyst - Santa Cruz, CA #
02/25: Fillmore - San Francisco, CA #
02/26: Ace of Spades - Sacramento #
02/27: Clutch Cargo - Reno, NV #
03/01: Knitting Factory - Boise. ID #
03/02: Midtown - Bend, OR #
03/04: Commodore Ballroom - Vancouver, BC #
03/05: Showbox SODO - Seattle, WA #
03/06: Roseland - Portland, OR #
03/17: Grand Room Complex - Salt Lake CIty, UT !
03/19: Ogden Theatre - Denver, CO !
03/21: Granada - Lawrence, KS !
03/22: Red Flag - St. Louis, MO !
03/24: First Ave - Minneapolis, MN !
03/25: The Vic - Chicago, IL !
03/26: St. Andrews Hall - Detroit, MI !
03/28: Town Ballroom - Buffalo, NY !
03/29: Mr. Smalls - Pittsburgh, PA !
03/30: House of Blues - Cleveland, OG !
04/01: Phoenix - Toronto, ON !
04/02: Corona Theatre - Montreal, QC !
04/03: L’Imperial Bell - Quebec City, QC !
04/05: Higher Ground - Burlington, VT !
04/07: Paradise - Boston, MA !
04/08: Stone Pony - Asbury Park, NJ !
04/09: TLA - Philadelphia, PA !
04/14: Irving Plaza - NYC, NY !
04/16: Black Cat - Washington DC !
04/19: Ashville, NC !
04/21: Brooklyn Bowl - Nashville, TN !
04/22: Masquerade, Atlanta, GA !
04/23: New Orleans, LA !
04/26: Mohawk - Austin, TX !
04/29: Paper Tiger - San Antonio, TX !
04/30: White Oak - Houston, TX !
05/01: Granada Theater - Dallas, TX !
05/13: Hollywood Palladium - Los Angeles, CA !^

# - w/ Adolescents & Negative Approach
* - w/ Municipal Waste & Negative Approach
! - w/ 7SECONDS & Negative Approach
^ - w/ The Bouncing Souls
Circle Jerks: WebInstagramFacebook
Trust Records: TwitterInstagramFacebook

Wednesday, September 29, 2021


ChiIL Live Shows on our radar

Venus Cabaret Theater, the intimate performance space at Mercury Theater Chicago, under the director of Cabaret Director Honey West, Artistic Director Christopher Chase Carter and Managing Director Shane Murray-Corcoran, announces its reopening celebration this fall with The Dark Night Series.

In theater, the night off is known as a ‘dark night’ since the lights are off.  At Mercury Theater Chicago, the ‘ghost light’ burns so brightly that even when we are taking a break, the doors to the Venus Cabaret Theater are open for The Dark Night Series. The schedule will include open mic nights, karaoke, comedy, bands, variety, celebrity guests, and cabaret, and so much more. 

The Venus Cabaret Theater will open with The Dark Night Series on October 2.  The signature programming from Sundays through Tuesdays includes cabaret performances by Luminaries on Sundays, Comedy hosted by actor, comedian and OUT Chicago Radio’s Scott Duff, and Open Mic Nights with Chuck Larkin plus artists produced Cabaret. The month concludes on Halloween with a special Murder Mystery event.  The intimate venue features specialty cocktails by Beverage Director Sarah Wurz.

Cabaret Director Honey West comments, “We are thrilled to celebrate the Grand Reopening of Venus Cabaret Theater. The Venus Cabaret Theater is a gorgeous, versatile space that gives a home to musicians, actors, variety artists and comedians.” 

Christopher Chase Carter adds, “There is no other cabaret venue in Chicago as special as our gorgeous gem on Southport Avenue. Honey and I are assembling a lineup of shows by Chicago’s favorite artists, along with nationally recognized visiting artists, for not-to-be-missed evenings. We look forward to welcoming audiences back to experience the music, joy, comedy and variety with us and our family of artists.”

The calendar of events for The Dark Night Series and other events is available at Programing includes:

Cabaret performances special guest Luminaries as well as local talented favorites

Comedy Night, hosted by Scott Duff

Open Mic featuring Chuck Larkin on piano

Karaoke with Cray from Craoke in Chicago

Variety Nights and Jam Nights


Tickets to Venus Cabaret Theater produced shows are $15 with a two-drink minimum.  Tickets for all Venus Cabaret Theater and Mercury Theater Chicago performances are available at

The previously announced Mercury Theater Chicago season follows. Season memberships and tickets to Sister Act and Women of Soul are currently available at


SISTER ACT                                     November 5, 2021 to January 9, 2022

Music by Alan Menken, Lyrics by Glenn Slater

Book by Bill and Cheri Steinkellne, and Douglas Carter Beane

Directed by Reneisha Jenkins

Music Direction by Diana Lawrence

Choreography by Christopher Chase Carter

Featuring Chicago Legends Alexis J. Roston (Deloris) and Hollis Resnik (Mother Superior)


This feel-good musical comedy is based on the hit 1992 film that has audiences jumping to their feet!  Featuring original music by Tony and Oscar winner, Alan Menken (Newsies, Beauty and the Beast, Little Shop of Horrors), this uplifting musical was nominated for five Tony Awards, including Best Musical.  When disco diva, Deloris Van Cartier, witnesses a murder, she is put in protective custody in the one place the cops are sure she won't be a found: a convent! Disguised as a nun, she finds herself at odds with both the rigid lifestyle and uptight Mother Superior. Using her unique disco moves and singing talent to inspire the choir, Deloris breathes new life into the church and community but, in doing so, blows her cover.  Sister Act is reason to rejoice!

WOMEN OF SOUL                               January 27, 2022 to March 13, 2022

Written and Directed by Daryl D. Brooks


A celebration of the most powerful women of soul to ever grace the stage. You’ll jump to your feet as we honor incredible women including Whitney Houston, Donna Summer, Diana Ross, Janet Jackson, Janis Joplin, and of course, you’ll get a little of Gladys, Dionne and Patti. Featuring powerhouse voices singing memorable music including “I Say a Little Prayer” “I Will Survive” and “Respect.”  This concert recognizes the struggles and triumphs these women went through to reach the pinnacle of their success. This is a once in a lifetime musical masterpiece that you will want to experience over and over again! 


PRISCILLA, QUEEN OF THE DESERT      June 10, 2022 to August 7, 2022

Book by Stephan Elliott and Allan Scott

Based on the MGM Film

Directed and Choreographed by Artistic Director Christopher Chase Carter

Music Direction by Executive Producer Eugene Dizon

Featuring legendary cabaret chanteuse Honey West as Bernadette


Based on the smash-hit movie, Priscilla is the heartwarming, uplifting adventure of a glamorous Sydney-based performing trio who take their show to the middle of the Australian outback. They hop aboard a battered old bus (nicknamed Priscilla) searching for love and friendship and end up finding more than they ever imagined. With a hit parade of dance floor favorites including “It's Raining Men," "I Will Survive," "Hot Stuff," "Boogie Wonderland," "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun," and "I Love The Nightlife" this wildly fresh and funny musical is a journey to the heart of fabulous!


CLUE on stage                                   August 26, 2022 to October 30, 2022

Adapted from the screenplay by Jonathan Lynn and Sandy Rustin

Additional Materials by Hunter Foster and Eric Price

Directed by Executive Producer Walter Stearns


Based on the iconic 1985 Paramount movie which was inspired by the classic Hasbro board game, Clue is a hilarious farce-meets-murder mystery. The tale begins at a remote mansion, where six mysterious guests assemble for an unusual dinner party where murder and blackmail are on the menu. When their host turns up dead, they all become suspects. Led by Wadsworth – the butler, Miss Scarlett, Professor Plum, Mrs. White, Mr. Green, Mrs. Peacock and Colonel Mustard race to find the killer as the body count stacks up. Clue is the comedy whodunit that will leave both cult-fans and newcomers in stitches as they try to figure out…WHO did it, WHERE, and with WHAT!


About Mercury Theater Chicago

The beautifully renovated Mercury Theater Chicago is in the heart of the Southport Corridor at 3745 North Southport Avenue, within a sophisticated neighborhood of restaurants and boutiques just steps from Wrigley Field. A delightful destination, Mercury Theater Chicago is a live-theater seating 280 people, adjoining Venus Cabaret Theater (seating 80).

The building that houses the Mercury opened in 1912 as a silent film nickelodeon, named The Blaine Theatre after actor and former Senator and Secretary of State James G. Blaine. The Blaine became obsolete when talking pictures became popular nationwide in 1928. The building served a variety of uses until 1994, when it was purchased by theater producer Michael Cullen and transformed into a live theatre, named the Mercury Theatre.

In 2010 the building was sold again and reopened as Mercury Theater Chicago under the direction of Walter Stearns, a veteran theater director and producer. Mercury Theater Chicago's second performance space, Venus Cabaret Theater, offers a unique intimate theatrical experience complemented by specialty cocktails. Mercury Theater Chicago is thrilled to be part of the city's vibrant theatre community, boasting record-setting long runs, employing hundreds of artists and recognized with dozens of award nominations. Mercury Theater Chicago's team includes Christopher Chase Carter (Artistic Director), Shane Murray-Corcoran (Managing Director), Walter Stearns and Eugene Dizon (Executive Producers) and Honey West (Cabaret Director). Visit

Carter, Murray-Corcoran, Dizon, Stears

BLACK ENSEMBLE THEATER Is Back With Their BE GALA October 15 And CONCERT CABARET SERIES Through December 19, 2021

Chi, IL Live Shows On Our Radar

Black Ensemble Theater will cautiously open its doors again this fall for live performances starting October 1, 2021. Black Ensemble Theater will launch its pre-opening with an exciting different kind of entertainment titled Concert Cabaret. This fun, uplifting, inspiring and soothing Concert Cabaret Series will feature inspirational spoken word, comedic vignettes, and great music. The Series is designed to move audiences through the challenges and uncertainties of the time with a strong message of faith and hope.

The pre-opening is not be the beginning of the regular season. The Four Play Season of Excellence will be announced at a later time. 

Black Ensemble Theater Founder, Executive Director Jackie Taylor states “Due to the challenges and uncertainties that have been brought about by the pandemic, Black Ensemble Theater is proceeding slowly, cautiously, and carefully. In an effort to keep our audiences as safe as possible, the Concert Cabarets will be 80 minutes with no intermission. Concessions will not be sold. Everyone entering the building must wear a mask and we are asking that masks remain in place the entire time until folks are outside of the building. There will also be hand sanitizers throughout the building. For social distancing purposes the audiences will be limited to 80 people. And of course, thorough cleaning will take place after every performance. We know our audiences are accustomed to large casts but, along with the safety measures that we have taken for our artists, technicians and volunteers, the Concert Cabaret cast will be small but mighty! We have the best audiences in the world – so I’m expecting that they will be amenable and adjust to the changes.”  

The Concert Cabaret Series will feature a potpourri of musical styles including jazz, gospel, pop, rock, soul, and blues. Each concert will feature a variety of music, including old school, new school and in-between. 

Black Ensemble Theater’s Concert Cabaret Series guarantees to lift your spirits and soothe your soul. Come join us for all three concerts and make a joyful noise – let the music move you. 

Tickets are $45 and are available at or by calling the box office at 773-769-4451. No contact ticketing is available. 

Cynthia Carter. Jessica Seals. Ariel Williams. Jayla Williams Clark. 
Photo Credit Alan Davis

The schedule of events includes:

The Feel Good Musical Revue

directed by Producing Managing Director Daryl D. Brooks

starring Dwight Neal, Robin DeSilva and Cynthia Carter

Friday, October 1 and Saturday, October 2 at 8:00 p.m.

Sunday, October 3 at 3:00 p.m.

The Joy of Life

directed by Black Ensemble Theater Founder, Executive Director and CEO Jackie Taylor

starring Rhonda Preston and Cynthia Carter

Friday, November 19 and Saturday, November 29 at 8:00 p.m.

Sunday, November 21 at 3:00 p.m.

A Black Ensemble Holiday Spectacular

directed by Producing Managing Director Daryl D. Brooks

featuring favorite Black Ensemble performers

Saturday, December 11 at 8:00 p.m.

Sunday, Dec 12 at 3:00 p.m.

Saturday, December 18 at 8:00 p.m.

Sunday, December 19 at 3:00 p.m.

Black Ensemble Theater  

Founded in 1976, by the phenomenal producer, playwright and actress Jackie Taylor, Black Ensemble Theater is the only African American theater located in the culturally, racially and ethnically diverse north side Uptown community. Through its Four Play Season of Excellence, The Black Ensemble Theater dazzles audiences locally, nationally and internationally with outstanding original musicals that are entertaining, educational and uplifting. The Black Ensemble Theater has produced more than 100 productions and employed over 5,000 artists. 

The mission of the Black Ensemble Theater Company is to eradicate racism and its devastating effects upon society through the theater arts. For more information on the Black Ensemble Theater Company, visit or call 773-769-4451. 

Google Analytics