Wednesday, July 19, 2017


Chi, IL LIVE Shows On Our Radar:



Artistic director and co-founder Michael Patrick Thornton proudly announces The Gift Theatre's 2018 season will include: Stacy Amma Osei-Kuffour’s world premiere of Hang Man, directed by ensemble member Erica Weiss (February 9–April 8); Shakespeare’s Hamlet, directed by Monty Cole (June 1–July 29); and the Midwest premiere of Tony Award-winning playwright and ensemble member David Rabe’s Cosmologies, directed by Thornton (October 12–December 9).

The Gift Theatre also announces the addition of five artists to their ensemble: Evan Michael Lee, Chika Ike, Martel Manning, Gregory Fenner, and Hannah Toriumi. The ensemble is composed of actors, directors, writers and improvisers. For 16 years, The Gift Theatre has earned and deepened its reputation as an ensemble dedicated to acting of the highest caliber and a welcome home for new plays.

“Who are we? From the individual level to the national, we are in the midst of a vital articulation of Identity,” Thornton said. “We believe theatre can help orient and navigate people through a life which often contains multitudes of pain and struggle. And yet, the resolve to continue to struggle can define us; giving us, even, perhaps, in the act, a kind of grace. The 2018 Season lives under the aesthetical canopy of Absurdism, wherein characters who struggle to find meaning in life nevertheless continue to pursue meaning. Today, we are also deeply honored and excited to announce an enrichment of our ensemble. Evan, Chika, Martel, Gregory, and Hannah are artists of virtuosic talents with whom we have collaborated over the years in joy and awe. In short, we love them. They have each played a defining role in The Gift’s history and now, as ensemble members, our future.”

The now 37-member ensemble also includes: Danny Ahlfeld, Maggie Andersen, Cyd Blakewell, Brittany Burch, Hillary Clemens Harbor, John Kelly Connolly, Paul D’Addario, Jenny Connell Davis, Brendan Donaldson, Will Eno, James D. Farruggio, Ed Flynn, Gabriel Franken, John Gawlik, Andrew Hinderaker, Marti Lyons, Alexandra Main, Laura Marks, Kenny Mihlfried, Benjamin Montague, Darci Nalepa, Keith Neagle, William Nedved, Lynda Newton, Sheldon Patinkin (in loving memory), Maureen Payne-Hahner, David Rabe, Mary Ann Thebus, Michael Patrick Thornton, Erica Weiss, Jay Worthington and Kyle Zornes.

As usual, The Gift's year begins in January with TEN (January 5-14), the theater's annual celebration of world premiere ten-minute pieces by The Gift and guests, sponsored by Revolution Brewing.


February 9–April 8, 2018
HANG MAN (world premiere)
by Stacy Amma Osei-Kuffour, directed by ensemble member Erica Weiss
The community of a backwoods Southern town grapples with the murder of a Black man who is found hanging in a tree. As events unfold, the hanging mystifies the people of the community, forcing them to confront their complicity in this man’s horrific demise. Osei-Kuffour’s darkly comical, heartbreaking play, which recently made the prestigious 2017 Kilroy’s List, uses absurdity to explore racism, sexuality, and the parts of American history we would all like to forget.

June 1–July 29, 2018
HAMLET, by William Shakespeare, directed by Monty Cole
After the death of his dad, a young black man named Hamlet returns home to grieve and seek revenge. Fighting against the injustice of his father's murder and the powers that want him out of the picture, Hamlet quickly loses power and sanity. Directed by guest artist Monty Cole, The Gift's retelling of Shakespeare's great tragedy will crack open the mind of one of western drama's most fascinating and entertaining characters.

October 12–December 9, 2018
COSMOLOGIES (Midwest premiere)
by ensemble member David Rabe, directed by artistic director Michael Patrick Thornton
Put the whimsical humor of the Keystone Cops and Bugs Bunny into a particle collider with the philosophy of Soren Kierkegaard  and George Berkeley and you’re getting close to the style of this existential absurdist comedy from David Rabe. When a young man’s negotiation for a date goes very wrong, we are transported through kaleidoscopic worlds of possibilities, identities, and loves. 

The Gift Theatre’s Annual Gala will take place on December 1, 2017 at The Copernicus Center; 4802, the new play development engine of The Gift, will present works in progress August 24, 25, and 26 of 2018.  

About The Gift Theatre
The Gift’s 16th season consists of three world premieres and kicked off in February with Mona Mansour’s war-torn drama Unseen, directed by ensemble member Maureen Payne-Hahner, followed by Claire Kiechel’s Pilgrims, co-directed by ensemble member Michael Patrick Thornton and guest artist Jessica Thebus (June 2-July 30). The season closes with Janine Nabers’ time-hopping love story A Swell in the Ground, directed by guest artist Chika Ike (October 13-December 10). 

Season subscriptions are available for as little as $75. The Gift subscribers ("Gifters") receive admission to three shows, free parking at Gale Street Inn, free admission to all Wednesday night “Natural Gas” improv shows and invitations to special subscriber-only special events. Subscribe at or call 773-283-7071.


Chi, IL LIVE Shows On Our Radar:

Mercury Theater Chicago Casting Announcement 
July 27 – September 17, 2017

**Note: The production contains scenes that briefly depict 
profanity, nudity and simulated drug use.** 

Mercury Theater Chicago, 3745 N. Southport Avenue – is pleased to announce the cast of HAIR: THE AMERICAN TRIBAL LOVE-ROCK MUSICAL, playing from July 27 through September 17. Press opening is Thursday, August 3rd at 8:00pm. 

A celebration of 50 years since the 1967 “Summer of Love”, HAIR will inspire audiences to “let the sun shine in” and stand up for what they believe in. This rousing rock musical will be led by Jeff Award Winners Brenda Didier (Director) and Eugene Dizon (Musical Director) with choreography by Christopher Carter.  A talented cast of Chicago artists featuring Matt Keffer and Liam Quealy will take the stage in this celebration of love, life, and freedom. 

In the year 1967, a group of young hippies in Greenwich Village explore sex, love, and rock ‘n’ roll while fighting for civil rights and the end of the Vietnam War. A passionate cry for hope and change, HAIR defined one generation and continues to inspire today. To an infectiously energetic rock beat, the show wows audiences with songs like "Aquarius," "Good Morning Starshine," "Hair," "I Got Life," and "Let The Sun Shine In." Exploring ideas of identity, community, global responsibility and peace, HAIR remains relevant as ever as it examines what it means to be a young person in a changing world.

HAIR brought the passion and revolution of the late 1960s to audiences around the world. After an off-Broadway debut in October 1967, the show opened on Broadway in April 1968 and ran for 1,750 performances. Since then, numerous productions have been staged around the world. Some of the songs from its score became Top 10 hits, and a feature film adaptation was released in 1979. A Broadway revival opened in 2009, earning rave reviews and winning the Tony Award and Drama Desk Award for 2009 Best Revival of a Musical. In 2008, Time magazine wrote, "Today HAIR seems, if anything, more daring than ever."

HAIR was written by James Rado and Gerome Ragni, with music by Galt MacDermot. The scenic design is by Jeffry Kmiec with costume design by Robert Kuhn, lighting design by Nick Belley, sound design by Carl Wahlstrom and properties design by Mealah Heidenreich. The production stage manager is Kristi J. Martens with assistance by Hannah Wichmann.

HAIR will feature video projections designed by Peter Guither, Artistic Director of The Living Canvas, which will tell compelling stories with performers’ bodies clothed with the textures of projected images. The Living Canvas celebrates the beauty and expressive power of the human form through performance art and photography, nurturing a sense of body acceptance for performer and audience. It is spectacle and storytelling, utilizing creative lighting, sound, and multi-media imagery that interact with the human canvas. 

After an extensive casting process, Mercury Theater Chicago is pleased to introduce a talented cast of Chicago artists featuring 
Matt Keffer as “Berger” 

and Liam Quealy as “Claude.” 

The tribe will also include Caleb Baze, Chuckie Benson, Aaron Davidson, Candace C. Edwards, Lucy Godinez, Michelle Lauto, Miciah Long, Andrew Lund, Mallory Maedke, Evan Tyrone Martin, Cherise Thomas, Leryn Turlington, Marco Tzunux and Craig Underwood.

Michelle Lauto

The beautifully renovated Mercury Theater Chicago is an intimate jewel box of a theater in the heart of the Southport Corridor, a sophisticated neighborhood of restaurants and boutiques just steps from Wrigley Field. A delightful theater destination, Mercury Theater Chicago takes care of its guests from the moment they arrive with valet service and dining at its adjoining restaurant, Grassroots. 

The performance schedule for HAIR is Wednesdays at 8pm, Thursdays at 8pm, Fridays at 8pm, Saturdays at 3pm and 8pm and Sundays at 3pm. 

HAIR runs approximately 2 hours, 10 minutes. We recommend this production for theatergoers over the age of 12. The production contains scenes that briefly depict profanity, nudity and simulated drug use. 

Individual tickets range from $30-$65, and are available online at, over the phone at 773.325.1700, or in person at 3745 N. Southport Avenue, Chicago. 


Chi, IL LIVE Shows On Our Radar:


July 22 – September 3, 2017

Black Ensemble Theater Founder and CEO Jackie Taylor continue the 2017 Season (The Dance Theater Season) with the world premiere musical Last Dancer Standing (More Than Hip Hop), written, directed, and choreographed by Black Ensemble Theater Associate Director Rueben Echoles. Last Dancer Standing (More than Hip Hop) will be performed at the Black Ensemble Theater Cultural Center, 4450 N. Clark Street in Chicago, July 22 – September 3, 2017. The official press opening is Sunday, July 30, 2017 at 3:00pm.

From Black Ensemble Theater’s Associate Director Rueben Echoles comes a world premiere musical that speaks to audiences of all ages.  Last Dancer Standing (More Than Hip Hop) gives us a glimpse of the behind-the-scenes world of the newest (fictional) reality dance competition. Ten of the finest dancers from all across the country—and all different walks of life—battle it out for a chance to win $10,000 and an opportunity to tour with R&B singing sensation Justin Paul. Like most reality shows “Last Dancer Standing” has its full share of humor, tension, drama and conflict. It’s reality TV live on the stage.  At the core of the show are ten dancer/actors challenged with all types of routines from hip hop to ballet and everything in between. Who will survive and win? That’s up to our live studio audience. Last Dancer Standing (More Than Hip Hop) is a journey where we learn that no matter what our circumstances are in life, we have much more in common than we think we do.

The cast of Last Dancer Standing (More Than Hip Hop) includes Shari Addison, Deverin Deonte, Lemond Hayes, Renelle Nicole, Linnea Norwood, Alexis J. Roston, Joan Ruffin, Jessica Seals, Andre Teamer, Taylah Thomas, and Kylah Williams. Additional cast to be announced at a later date.

Tickets are available at the Black Ensemble Box Office located at 4450 N. Clark St in Chicago, or online at, or by phone at (773) 769-4451. Tickets are $45 for previews (May 6, 7, 12 and 13, 2017); $55 (Thursdays and Saturday matinees) and $65 (Fridays, Saturday evenings and Sunday matinees).  There is a 10% discount for students, seniors and groups.

Dates:July 22 - September 3, 2017
Previews: July 22, 23, 28 and 29
Press Performance: Sunday, July 30, 2017 at 3:00 p.m.

Schedule: Thursday: 7:30 p.m.
Friday: 8:00 p.m.
Saturday: 3:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m.
Sunday: 3:00 p.m.

Location: Black Ensemble Theater Cultural Center, 4450 N. Clark Street, Chicago
Valet parking is available.

Ticket prices: $45 Previews
$55 on Thursdays and Saturday matinees;
$65 on Fridays, Saturday evenings and Sunday matinees
A 10% discount is available for students, seniors, and groups.
Box Office: Buy online at or call (773) 769-4451

The 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 Five 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.

On November 18, 2011, The Black Ensemble Theater Cultural Center opened and is able to accommodate larger-scale productions, bigger audiences and a wider range of educational programming. The new facility includes amenities such as a 299-seat main stage theater (double the capacity of the original venue); 14 offices, classroom space, rehearsal hall, dance studio, scene shop, costume shop, and wardrobe rooms; seven dressing rooms; rehearsal room for musicians; front lobby space with concession areas; and an indoor parking garage.  The completion of a 150-seat theater, which will serve as an experimental stage for the work of the Black Playwright Initiative (BPI), with construction by General Contractor Norcon Inc., is expected in 2017.

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, please visit or call 773-769-4451.

Monday, July 17, 2017

PHOTO RECAP: Opening Weekend 2017 Adventures at Bristol Renaissance Faire

Travel Back in Time and Party Like It's 1599!

We've been avid fans and frequent visitors to Bristol Renaissance Faire for decades, since the early 90's. The faire has grown and changed greatly over the years, with an increase in shows and family friendly fare, and basic comforts like more modern plumbing. We can't rave enough about how much fun the faire is!

Check out Sir Dugan's Full Set of Photos Here
 More favorites are embedded below. 
Photo credit for most: Dugan Kenaz-Mara (16)

Disclosure: Thanks to Bristol Renaissance Faire for providing my family with complimentary tickets for review purposes. As always, all opinions, experiences, and photos are our own. 

This year was a bit different for us. Our kids are now 14 & 16, and well in the throes of their teen years. Hence, for the first time ever, they chose not to dress up. I'm hoping they come back to a love of costumes when they grow up a bit more. But fashion is a choice and dress up is certainly not mandatory for anyone. Chose your battles. Plenty of visitors to merry olde England are far more comfortable in 21st century summer shorts, and the plethora of freaks and geeks who love to dress up still make the people watching prime. 

Flashback to Bristol Ren Faire 2008 when my costumed kids were 
knighted by the queen & met Greenman.


(For 2017 my daughter went fairly 21st century, but she did consult Pinterest for a fun hairstyle and concede to a pirate(ish) skull n crossbones necklace/bones t-shirt tho I wouldn't go so far as to say she went in costume.  My son did bring Renaissance looking pants and shirt and a pouch of juggling balls, but decided at the last minute that the pants were too hot, so he just did the shirt & pouch.) 

Ren Hair Don't Care

(Can't complain about the teens' new lack of enthusiasm for 16th century garb too much. My 14yo did a fabulous job dutch braiding my hair in a circular crown!)

Despite my teens, I have not outgrown playing dress up, and happily came in Renaissance(ish) garb (tho sadly I have temporarily outgrown my beloved blue corset from 7 years ago). I brought 2 parasols and loaned one to my MIL, and they were a HUGE hit. We were complimented all day on them and stayed cool and comfortable, out of the direct sun. 

We caught many old favorites among the shows like Barely Balanced, Adam Crack, 

and Mooney, 

as well as two new acts. Cirque du Sewer (the trained rat & cat show) and Duende, an energetic, multiculti accordion outfit with a red hair woman lead and ballads from around the world. Duende is a high-energy dance band that marries melodies from the Balkan Regions with Latin flavors & American vivacity. This accordion-heavy band led by Amanda Kitchens will take you on a journey of passion through the music of other cultures. Whether you are looking to free-style or dance a traditional lesnoto, Duende is the band for you. Both shows end at Bristol Ren Faire July 30th. Don't miss this!! 

Speaking of old favorites, I've been dreaming of a Mile High Chocolate Crepe all winter. Literally every time we get one, someone says "WOW! What is THAT and where can I get one?!" They also have a couple other versions I've never tried (because chocolate... duh) that feature fruit instead. I also tried a root beer float at another stand, which hit the spot on a hot weekend. They make a sarsaparilla version as well. 

Of course we saw our old friends, The Swordsmen, and got our annual Doug & Doug shot. I think we have at least one a year since my husband Doug (Dug) did the audio for The Swordsmen DVD in 2007. I bump into David Woolley at theatre openings in Chicago throughout the year while reviewing shows, but we only get Doug Mumaw sightings at Bristol Renaissance Faire. Doug's are a rare bunch, though reputed to be concentrated in the arts and particularly on the ren faire circuit!

Flashback to Bristol Ren Faire 2008

When both Dougs had long brown curls and my kids were much shorter! Somehow David Woolley remains the same.

Another big change this year is the teens were old enough to go venturing out in the world to make their fortunes... or was that the hobbits and 3 little pigs?! At any rate, they were over hanging with the adults, so we sent the teens off and got some quality adult shopping, noshing and show time in. It was lovely! After a bit, my 16 year old son, who has a great eye and artistic bent, asked to borrow my pro camera and media credentials. I happily handed them over and he took off to shoot some amazing photos. His Fairy Garden shots are epic, and he captured the creativity of the crowds well too. 


(Check out more photo favorites at the bottom of this feature).

As always, we had a terrific time and can't wait to return. Bristol Renaissance Fair is one of the best in the nation and wins awards annually. Highly recommended. 

Click HERE for full information on admission prices, hours, ticket purchasing, ticket discounts, special themed dates and more.

Bristol Renaissance Faire is open for nine weekends. Located just west of I-94’s Russell Road exit, near Kenosha, Wis. Open rain or shine, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., every Saturday and Sunday, July 8 through Sep. 3, and Labor Day Monday, Sep. 4. 

Tickets are $25.95 for adults and $11.50 for children, ages 5 to 12. Advance ticket discounts are available at RENFAIR.COM, and participating Walgreens stores.

Disclosure: Once again, thanks to Bristol Renaissance Faire for providing my family with complimentary tickets for review purposes. As always, all opinions, experiences, and photos are our own. 

 More of Sir Dugan's Fabulous Photos:




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