Friday, June 14, 2019

2019-20 Season Announced: AstonRep Theatre Company at The Edge Theater

Save the Dates:
AstonRep Theatre Company Announces 
2019-20 Season

AstonRep Theatre Company’s 2019-20 Season directors (top, l to r) Co-Artistic Directors Derek Bertelsen and Sara Pavlak McGuire and playwrights (bottom, l to r) Sarah Treem and Peter Shaffer.

By Peter Shaffer
Directed by Co-Artistic Director Derek Bertelsen


Chicago Premiere!
By Sarah Treem
Directed by Co-Artistic Director Sara Pavlak McGuire

Moving to The Edge Theater in Edgewater

AstonRep Theatre Company, under the artistic leadership of Derek Bertelsen and Sara Pavlak McGuire, is pleased to announce its 2019-20 season, to be presented at its new artistic home, The Edge Theater in Chicago’s Edgewater neighborhood. 

AstonRep’s 2019-20 Season kicks off this fall with Peter Shaffer’s psychological thriller EQUUS, directed by Co-Artistic Director Derek Bertelsen. This winter, the season continues with AstonRep’s 11th ANNUAL WRITERS’ SERIES, a daylong festival of workshops from talented local and regional writers. The season concludes next spring with the Chicago premiere of Sarah Treem’s courageous drama WHEN WE WERE YOUNG AND UNAFRAID, directed by Co-Artistic Director Sara Pavlak McGuire.

EQUUS and WHEN WE WERE YOUNG AND UNAFRAID will be staged on The Edge Theater’s mainstage, 5451 N. Broadway St. in Chicago. The 11th annual WRITERS SERIES will be presented in the venue’s studio space, the Edge Off Broadway, 1133 W. Catalpa Ave. Tickets for all productions will go on sale at a later date. For additional information, visit

AstonRep Theatre Company’s 2019-20 Season includes:

September 27 – October 27, 2019
By Peter Shaffer
Directed by Co-Artistic Director Derek Bertelsen
Press opening: Saturday, September 28 at 7:30 pm

Inspired by a true story, EQUUS sets out to explore the complex relationships between devotion and myth. When teenager Alan Strang’s pathological fascination leads him to blind six horses in a Hampshire stable, psychiatrist Martin Dysart is tasked with uncovering the motive behind the boy’s violent act. As Dysart delves into Alan’s world of twisted spirituality, passion and sexuality, he begins to question his own sanity and motivations in a world driven by consumerism.

Saturday, November 23, 2019
Titles to be announced.

A festival of talented local and regional writers who have an opportunity to workshop near-finished plays and works in development. Over the course of a day, five to seven new works are read by professional actors followed by focused talkback sessions – a time-honored celebration of artistic collaboration.

April 9 – May 10, 2020
By Sarah Treem
Directed by Co-Artistic Director Sara Pavlak McGuire
Press opening: Saturday, April 11 at 7:30 pm

In the early 1970s, before Roe v. Wade, before the Violence Against Women Act, Agnes has turned her quiet bed and breakfast into one of the few spots where victims of domestic violence can seek refuge. But to Agnes’s dismay, her latest runaway, Mary Anne, is beginning to influence Agnes’s college-bound daughter Penny. As the drums of a feminist revolution grow louder outside of Agnes’s tiny world, Agnes is forced to confront her own presumptions about the women she’s spent her life trying to help.

Artist Biographies

Sir Peter Shaffer (Playwright, Equus) plays include: Five-Finger Exercise (1960), The Private Ear, The Public Eye (both 1962) and The Royal Hunt of the Sun (1964). In 1965, Shaffer’s adroit farce Black Comedy was performed. Equus (1973; filmed 1977), dealing with a mentally disturbed stable boy's obsession with horses, and Amadeus (1979; filmed 1984), about the rivalry between Mozart and his fellow composer Antonio Salieri, were successes with both critics and the public. Later plays include the biblical epic Yonadab (1985), Lettice and Lovage (1987) and The Gift of the Gorgon (1992). Shaffer was knighted in 2001 and passed away in 2016.

Derek Bertelsen (Director, Equus) joined AstonRep in 2013 and he currently serves as Co-Artistic Director. Previous directing credits with AstonRep include Doubt, Next Fall, Wit, The Lieutenant of Inishmore, The Lyons, the world premiere of The Black Slot, The Laramie Project, and co-directing Eleemosynary with Jeremiah Barr. He produced the sold-out run of Four By Tenn, a festival of one-act plays by Tennessee Williams. He also serves as Artistic Director of The Comrades. Assistant director credits include Goodman and Steppenwolf. Regional credits include Festival 56, Shawnee Summer Playhouse, New Ground Theatre and five seasons at Timber Lake Playhouse.

Sarah Treem’s (Playwright, When We Were Young and Unafraid) A Feminine Ending premiered at Playwrights Horizons and went on to productions at South Coast Repertory and Portland Center Stage, among others. Her play The How and the Why premiered at the McCarter Theater starring Mercedes Ruehl (with Emily Mann directing) and went on to productions at Interact Theatre and Trinity Repertory, among others. Sarah’s other plays include Empty Sky (Bloomington Playwrights Project), Orphan Island (Sundance Theater Lab), Human Voices (New York Stage and Film) and Mirror Mirror. She has been commissioned by Playwrights Horizons, Southcoast Repertory and Manhattan Theater Club, and developed work at the Ojai Playwrights Festival, the Screenwriters Colony, Hedgebrook and Yaddo. In addition to her theater career, Sarah wrote and produced all three seasons of the acclaimed HBO series "In Treatment," for which she won a WGA award and was nominated for a Humanitas award. She was also a writer/producer for the HBO series "How to Make it in America." She has taught playwriting at Yale University, where she earned her B.A. and M.F.A.

Sara Pavlak McGuire (Director, When We Were Young and Unafraid) has been a company member with AstonRep since 2013, where she primarily served as casting director. The 2018-19 season was her first as Co- Artistic Director.  Working primarily as an actor in Chicago, Sara has worked with many different companies around the city; namely Windy City Playhouse, Remy Bumppo, Oak Park Festival Theatre, Filament Theatre, Hubris Productions, Spartan Theatre and of course her home base at AstonRep. She is a two-time Jeff Award nominee (2011, 2018). She received the award in 2011 for her work in Agnes of God, with Hubris Productions. She has assistant directed several productions with AstonRep (Wit, The Lyons, The Laramie Project). Sara holds an MFA in acting from Western Illinois University.

About AstonRep Theatre Company:
AstonRep Theatre Company was formed in the summer of 2008. Since then, the company has produced 24 full-length productions and nine annual Writers’ Series. AstonRep Theatre Company is an ensemble of artists committed to creating exciting, intimate theatrical experiences that go beyond the front door to challenge audiences and spark discussion where the show is not the end of the experience: it is just the beginning.

FREE With RSVP: Victory Gardens Theater Announces Lineup for IGNITION Festival of New Plays August 2 - 4, 2019

Fest Alert:
Victory Gardens Theater Announces
Lineup for IGNITION Festival of New Plays
2019 Festival runs August 2 - 4, 2019

Victory Gardens Theater Artistic Director Chay Yew, Executive Director Erica Daniels and Director of New Play Development Skyler Gray announce the lineup for the 2019 IGNITION Festival of New Plays, including The Tasters by Meghan Brown; The Gradient by Steph Del Rosso; [hieroglyph] by Erika Dickerson-Despenza; #NEWSLAVES by Keelay Gipson; Reckoning: Furies from a New Queer Nation by Geraldine Inoa; and They Could Give No Name by Exal Iraheta. The 2019 Festival runs August 2 -4, 2019 at Victory Gardens Theater, located at 2433 N Lincoln Avenue.

All readings are free and open to the public, though a reservation is strongly encouraged. For more information or to RSVP, visit or call the Victory Gardens Box Office at 773.871.3000.

IGNITION’s six selected plays will be presented in a festival of readings and will be directed by leading artists from Chicago, including Lili-Anne Brown, Mikael Burke, Monty Cole, Elly Green, Devon de Mayo, and Chay Yew.

"I'm excited to introduce a brave new generation of American playwrights for our eleventh edition of Victory Gardens' IGNITION Festival of New Plays. Since its inception in 2008, we have given world premiere productions to some of our country's most innovative voices from Branden Jacobs-Jenkins and Lauren Yee to Jackie Sibblies Drury and Kristoffer Diaz. We're thrilled to have shared these plays with Chicagoans and the world," says Artistic Director Chay Yew. "This year, we give a home to emerging playwrights who shine light on our diverse humanity, whose powerful plays create meaningful dialogue towards a more unified and equitable world."

"This year's Ignition Festival includes six of the most exciting new voices writing today. Each piece is exploring our complicated world and the people in it with a rich complexity and vibrant urgency that demands these stories be told,” says Director of New Play Development Skyler Gray. “I could not be more excited to introduce Chicago to these powerhouse writers who are paving a new road in the American Theater."

The 2019 Lineup Includes:

Friday, August 2 at 7:30pm
By Keelay Gipson
Directed by Mikael Burke

This Is the Story of Football and Football is the Story of America. A Sports Fantasia on the Commodification of the Black Body in America - Using the NFL Draft as a jumping off point, the show follows three black men as they attempt to free themselves from the history of a nation pitted against itself.

About Keelay Gipson

Keelay Gipson is an Activist, Professor, and award-winning Playwright whose plays include imagine sisyphus happy (Finalist; Eugene O'Neill National Playwrights Conference; P73 Summer Residency at Yale University),  #NEWSLAVES (Finalist; Eugene O’Neill National Playwrights Conference, Seven Devils Playwright Conference), CRH, or the placenta play (Semi- Finalist; The O’Neill, Bay Area Playwrights Conference, AADA Main Stage Live!), Nigger/Faggot (Downtown Urban Theater Festival), The Lost, Or How to Just Be, What I Tell You in the Dark (Premiere Stages Finalist), and Mary/Stuart, a dramatic queering of friederich schiller's classic play (BAM Next Wave Festival, partnership with Wendy’s Subway and Lambda Literary). He is the recipient of New York Stage and Film’s Founders’ Award, the Van Lier Fellowship at New Dramatists, as well as writing fellowships with Lambda Literary, The Amoralists, Page 73, Dramatist Guild Foundation and Playwrights’ Realm. He has held residencies with the MacDowell Colony, New York Stage and Film, the Cultural Affairs Department of the City of New York, and the Administration of Children’s Services of the City of New York. His work has been seen/developed at the Wild Project, Poetic Theater Productions, HERE Arts Center, The Theater at Alvin Ailey, Tom Noonan's Paradise Factory, Pace University, Planet Connections Theater Festivity, The University of Houston, The National Black Theater, Rattlestick Playwrights' Theater, The Fire This Time Festival, Classical Theater of Harlem, and New York Theatre Workshop. Represented by Abrams Artists Agency.

Saturday, August 3 at 11am
They Could Give No Name
By Exal Iraheta
Directed by Chay Yew

Somewhere in the southern end of Arizona, medical examiner Nellie Ramirez descends into near-madness when her fiancé, a border patrol agent, accidentally kills a young immigrant girl. In order to save her future family, Nellie must make a decision that threatens to tear her life apart. Little does she know that soon the desert will come to collect what is due to it. This macabre, magical play takes an unsettling look at the complexities of identity, cruelty of immigration, and the power behind a name.

About Exal Iraheta

Exal Iraheta is a Salvadorian American playwright & screenwriter, born in Houston, TX who is now based in Chicago, IL. Sometimes humorous and often uncomfortable, his writing explores the intersections of Latinx realities, innocence, queerness, violence, and sex. Exal earned an MFA from Northwestern University’s Writing for the Screen and Stage program in 2019, and a BFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in Film & Video Production in 2009. He has worked with several Chicago-based organizations as videographer and editor, media advisor, and film/video equipment instructor. Recently, his short play Open Venas received a production as part of Theater Master's 2019 Take Ten Festival NYC. And his full-length play Rules of a Closed Door was a semi-finalist for 2019 Activate: Midwest New Play Fest, with an excerpt reading at The Goodman Theater the previous year. Exal is a 2018 Hispanic Scholarship Fund Scholar, 2018 Fornés Playwriting Workshop participant, and 2019 Theater Masters Playwright.

Saturday, August 3 at 2pm
Reckoning: Furies from a New Queer Nation
By Geraldine Inoa
Directed by Monty Cole

2015: a year when the Supreme Court's landmark ruling on marriage equality coincided with a record number of trans women being murdered. Reckoning: Furies from a New Queer Nation examines the most pressing issues affecting Queer America today: gay white male privilege and the systemic oppression of trans women. Because when a Supreme Court ruling like marriage equality passes, we must ask: what did we accomplish and who did we leave behind?

About Geraldine Inoa

Geraldine Inoa is a writer for theater and television. She is a story editor for AMC's “The Walking Dead.” Her play Scraps had its world premiere production at the Flea Theater in New York during the 2018/19 season, marking her professional debut. Scraps is making its West Coast premiere at The Matrix Theatre in Los Angeles during summer 2019. As a playwright, she is an alumnus of The Public Theater's Emerging Writers Group and the inaugural recipient of The Shonda Rhimes Unsung Voices Playwriting Commission. She is a L. Arnold Weissberg New Play Award finalist, a P73 Playwriting Fellowship finalist, and a twice-named Eugene O’Neill National Playwrights Conference semifinalist. Her work has been developed at the Atlantic Theater Company and the Labyrinth Theater Company. She holds a B.A. from New York University’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study. She resides in Los Angeles with her dog Alfred.

Saturday, August 3 at 7:30pm
The Tasters
By Meghan Brown
Directed by Devon de Mayo

With government leaders getting poisoned left and right, the Tasters have an important job — eating delicious, gourmet meals, and then waiting to see if they die. When rebellious Taster Elyse goes on hunger strike, she kicks off a series of events that will change the course of history… while putting all of the Tasters’ lives in jeopardy. In her sharp, energetic new play, Meghan Brown (The Pliant Girls) explores the nuances of political resistance, self-interest, and individual action creating hope in the face of hopelessness.

About Meghan Brown

Meghan is an Ovation Award-winning playwright, screenwriter, and lyricist based in Los Angeles. Current projects include These Girls Have Demons (Pittsburgh CLO SPARK Festival), Cowboy Elektra (with Rogue Artists Ensemble), The Tasters (Portland Center Stage’s JAW Festival), What Happened While Hero Was Dead (Moving Arts’ MADlab Development Lab), and the film adaptation of her play, The Kill-or-Dies. Meghan wrote the lyrics for the song cycle Untuned Ears Hear Nothing but Discord, which premiered at Lincoln Center as part of In Need of Music: The Songs of Ben Toth with Tony Award-winner Lindsay Mendez as Emma Goldman. Full-length plays include The Pliant Girls (winner of the 2014 Ovation Award for Playwriting for an Original Play), The Kill-or-Dies (Max K. Lerner Fellowship winner, Princess Grace Award semifinalist), Psyche (Princess Grace Award finalist), The Fire Room (Hollywood Fringe Festival Award winner), The Gypsy Machine, This Is Happening Now, Perfect Teeth for Crocodile Land, and Shine Darkly, Illyria. She wrote the libretto for Operaworks’ social just opera The Discord Altar, and the book and lyrics for a new musical version of Jane Austen’s Emma with composer Sarah Taylor Ellis. Emma has been workshopped in London, Washington D.C., Brooklyn, Orlando, Los Angeles, and New York City.

Sunday, August 4 at 11am
By Erika Dickerson-Despenza
Directed by Lili-Anne Brown

Involuntarily displaced in Chicago two months post-Katrina, 13-year-old Davis wrestles with the cultural landscape of a new city and school community while secretly coping with the PTSD of an assault at the Superdome. With her mother still in New Orleans committed to the fight for Black land ownership and her father committed to starting a new life in the Midwest, divorce threatens to further separate a family already torn apart. Will Davis be left hanging in the balance? [hieroglyph] traverses the intersection of environmental racism, sexual violence, and displacement, examining the psychological effects of a state-sanctioned man-made disaster on the most vulnerable members of the Katrina diaspora.

About Erika Dickerson-Despenza

Erika Dickerson-Despenza is a Blk feminist poet-playwright, futurist, educator and grassroots organizer from Chicago, Illinois. She’s a 2019 New York Stage and Film Fellow-in-Residence, a 2019 New Harmony Project Writer-in-Residence, a 2018-2019 Dramatists Guild Foundation Fellow, The Lark’s 2018 Van Lier New Voices Fellow and a 2018 Relentless Award Semifinalist. Erika is a 2019-2020 member of Ars Nova Play Group and a member of Ensemble Studio Theatre's Obie-winning Youngblood collective. Current plays in development include: Ocean’s Lip/ Heavn's Shore, Took/Tied; Hung/Split, Shadow/Land and Cullud Wattah (Public Theater, 2020). In addition to this water tetralogy, Erika is developing a 10-play Katrina Cycle, including [hieroglyph], focused on the effects of Hurricane Katrina and its state-sanctioned man-made disaster.

Sunday, August 4 at 3pm
The Gradient
By Steph Del Rosso
Directed by Elly Green

Tess just landed her dream job at sleek tech start-up The Gradient: a center where men accused of sexual misconduct are sent to be rehabilitated. The clients go in with a lifetime of toxic male conditioning and emerge as new people, sensitized and redeemed. It sounds too good to be true, and maybe it is. The Gradient asks what it means to say I'm sorry and whether it's possible for people to truly change.

About Steph Del Rosso

Steph Del Rosso is a playwright, film and television writer, and educator. Her play 53% Of is the winner of the Alliance/Kendeda National Graduate Playwriting Competition and will receive its world premiere at the Alliance Theatre in March 2020. Her play Fill Fill Fill Fill Fill Fill Fill premiered at The Flea Theater and is published by Dramatists Play Service, Inc. Her work has been developed or produced by Soho Rep, Clubbed Thumb, JACK, New York Stage and Film, The Lark, Seven Devils Playwrights Conference, Ojai Playwrights Conference, Colt Coeur, SPACE on Ryder Farm, the Kennedy Center, and others. She is a Theater Masters Visionary Playwright and is currently commissioned by Studio Theatre and La Jolla Playhouse. BA, Northwestern University. MFA, UC-San Diego.

The IGNITION Festival of New Plays receives major support from the Bill and Orli Staley Foundation, The Harold and Mimi Steinberg Charitable Trust, Southwest Airlines - Victory Garden Theater’s official travel sponsor, and Suite Home Chicago-Victory Gardens Theater’s housing sponsor for the 2019 IGNITION Festival.

Performances are at Victory Gardens Theater, 2433 N Lincoln Avenue, in the heart of Chicago’s Lincoln Park neighborhood. Admission to all festival readings and events is free, though an RSVP is strongly encouraged. For more information or to RSVP, visit or call the Victory Gardens Box Office at 773.871.3000.

About Victory Gardens Theater

Under the leadership of Artistic Director Chay Yew and Executive Director Erica Daniels, Victory Gardens is dedicated to artistic excellence while creating a vital, contemporary American Theater that is accessible and relevant to all people through productions of challenging new plays and musicals. Victory Gardens Theater is committed to the development, production and support of new plays that has been the mission of the theater since its founding, set forth by Dennis Začek, Marcelle McVay, and the original founders of Victory Gardens Theater.

Victory Gardens Theater is a leader in developing and producing new theater work and cultivating an inclusive Chicago theater community. Victory Gardens’ core strengths are nurturing and producing dynamic and inspiring new plays, reflecting the diversity of our city’s and nation’s culture through engaging diverse communities, and in partnership with Chicago Public Schools, bringing art and culture to our city’s active student population.  

Since its founding in 1974, the company has produced more world premieres than any other Chicago theater, a commitment recognized nationally when Victory Gardens received the 2001 Tony Award for Outstanding Regional Theatre. Located in the Lincoln Park neighborhood, Victory Gardens Biograph Theater includes the Začek-McVay Theater, a state-of-the-art 259-seat mainstage and the 109-seat studio theater on the second floor, named the Richard Christiansen Theater.

Victory Gardens Ensemble Playwrights include Luis Alfaro, Philip Dawkins, Marcus Gardley, Ike Holter, Samuel D. Hunter, Naomi Iizuka, Tanya Saracho, and Laura Schellhardt. Each playwright has a seven-year residency at Victory Gardens Theater.

For more information about Victory Gardens, visit  Follow us on Facebook at, Twitter @VictoryGardens and Instagram at

Victory Gardens Theater receives major funding from Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, Joyce Foundation, John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, The REAM Foundation, Shubert Foundation, Venturous Theater Fund of the Tides Foundation, Wallace Foundation. Additional major funding comes from Crown Family Philanthropies, Lloyd A. Fry Foundation, the Illinois Arts Council Agency, Polk Bros. Foundation.

Major funders also include: Allstate, Alphawood Foundation, Paul M. Angell Family Foundation, Edgerton Foundation, Exelon, The Harvey L. Miller Supporting Foundation, David Rockefeller Fund, The Harold and Mimi Steinberg Charitable Trust.

Additional funding this season Robert and Isabelle Bass Foundation Inc., Charles H. and Bertha L. Boothroyd Foundation, Capital Group Private Client Services, Elizabeth F. Cheney Foundation, City of Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events, ComEd, Conagra Brands Foundation, Nathan Cummings Foundation, Golden Country Oriental Foods, Goldman Sachs, John R. Halligan Foundation, Illinois Humanities Council (with support from the MacArthur Foundation’s Safety + Justice Challenge), ITW, Mayer Brown LLP, The McVay Foundation, Metropolitan Capital Bank and Trust, National Endowment for the Arts, Negaunee Foundation, Roberta Olshansky Charitable Fund, Origin Ventures, Pauls Foundation, PNC Financial Services Group, Poetry Foundation, Prince Charitable Trusts, Service Club of Chicago, Charles and M.R. Shapiro Foundation, Wrightwood Neighbors Foundation.

In-kind support is provided by: Italian Village Restaurants, Southwest Airlines, Roy’s Furniture, Suite Home Chicago, Taco Joint, and Whole Foods Market.

Capital improvement support from the Performing Arts Venue Fund at the League of Chicago Theaters, with funding from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation; and Capacity Building support by Compass-Chicago.

OPENING: CHICAGO PREMIERE of New musical NOW AND THEN at The Broadway at Pride Arts Center

ChiIL Live Shows on our radar

Music and Lyrics by Dennis Manning, Story and Book by Ronnie Larsen
Directed by Ronnie Larsen
Music Direction by Dennis Manning

July 10 – August 11, 2019

New musical NOW AND THEN, about a love between two men across four decades, to begin performances July 10 in The Broadway at Pride Arts Center
Chicago premiere of original musical that enjoyed its World Premiere in Ft. Lauderdale, FL in Fall 2018

NOW AND THEN, a new musical about a long-term loving relationship between two gay men, will be mounted in a commercial production by Now and Then Productions in the Broadway Theatre at the Pride Arts Center from July 10 – August 11. The musical with a folk-infused score by Dennis Manning and a story and book by Ronnie Larsen had its World Premiere at Wilton Theatre Factory in the Ft. Lauderdale area in September 2018 and was recommended for the Carbonell Awards, South Florida’s Theater and Arts Honors.

This musical tells with humor and heart the relationship of the characters Daniel and Greg from their twenties through their middle and later adult years. They meet in college, when Daniel is an aspiring country singer-songwriter and Greg has dreams of being a stand-up comedian. The two characters will be played by six actors, portraying Daniel and Greg in their twenties, mid-thirties and sixties as they deal with such universal relationship challenges as establishing trust, financial pressures, and keeping their love vibrant over time. The story by Ronnie Larsen, whose plays have enjoyed long runs off-Broadway and across the US, is loosely based on events from Manning’s life. Manning, whose wistfully melodic15-song score will be accompanied by three of the actors playing acoustic guitar on stage, has worked as a singer-songwriter and has performed at Nashville’s celebrated Wild Horse Saloon.

Larsen will direct a cast including Carl Herzog, who was just recently given a Jeff Award nomination for his role on THE BRIDGES OF MADISON COUNTY by Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre. Herzog, also known for his work in Theo Ubique’s MY WAY: A MUSICAL TRIBUTE TO FRANK SINATRA and Kokandy Productions’ TOMORROW MORNING, will play “Daniel 2” – the thirtysomething version of the aspiring country singer Daniel. Alex Smith will play “Greg 2,” who in his thirties has become the more practical half of the couple. The cast also will include Will Fulginiti as “Daniel 1” and Benjamin Walton as “Greg 1,” the college-age version of the couple. The couple in their sixties will be played by Manning as “Daniel 3” (the role he originated in the World Premiere production) and Skip Sams as “Greg 3.”

The three versions of the couple will sometimes be on stage simultaneously, as if remembering or anticipating events in their relationship over the decades. Daniel and Greg’s past and present will co-exist on stage, as the title NOW AND THEN suggests. Reviewing the World Premiere production for the website New York Style Guide, critic Bill Hirschman said, “director Larsen stages bookwriter Larsen’s concept deftly and inventively by visually, aurally and dramatically juxtaposing these couples.”

NEW YORK STYLE GUIDE’s Hirschman also praised the score, saying  “Manning’s heartfelt music gloriously meanders in a fusion of several genres. Without intentionally emulating them, it echoes early Indigo Girls, Joni Mitchell, coffeehouse folk and a hint of Grand Ol’ Opry, notable for rippling cascades of finger-picked notes along with strummed background chords that add strength and palpable dimension.” The enthusiastic reception to the score from audiences and critics alike led to a cast recording, which was released in April and is available through Amazon Music, iTunes, YouTube Music, Spotify, Google Play, Pandora, Deezer, and iHeartRadio.

July 10 – August 11, 2019
Previews: July 10 and 11 at 8:00pm All preview seats $15.
Press Opening: Friday, July 12  at 8 pm
Regular Run: July 12 – August 11 with evening performances Thursdays - Saturdays at 8:00pm and Sundays at 7 pm; matinees Saturdays at 4 pm and Sundays at 3 pm
Pride Arts Center - The Broadway
4139 N. Broadway

Premium front row seats $50, general admission seats $35. Tickets available online at 


Dennis Manning (Lyricist and Composer). Dennis has been a singer, songwriter and performer for more than 40 years in the country, pop, folk music industry.  He has performed in Nashville at the celebrated Wild Horse Saloon. He did theater in the early days in productions of GODSPELL, FIDDLER ON THE ROOF, FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO THE FORUM. Dennis was a Franciscan Friar, a restauranteur, and has worked in a variety of industries.  He holds an MS in Training, BS in Marketing, BA in English and has a recording engineering certification.

Ronnie Larsen (Story and Book). Ronnie Larsen is an actor-director-playwright-producer whose work has been seen in every major city in America, as well as in Canada, Australia, Italy and London. Twelve of his plays have been produced and five have been seen Off-Broadway in New York City. He has also made a documentary that had theatrical runs at the Castro Theatre in San Francisco, Cinema Village in New York City and the Laemmle 5 in Los Angeles as well as showings at numerous film festivals in America, England and the Berlin Film Festival. His plays include: SCENES FROM MY LOVE LIFE, MAKING PORN, 10 NAKED MEN, PEEP SHOW, ALL-MALE PEEP SHOW, GIRL MEETS GIRL, MY BOYFRIEND THE STRIPPER, SHOOTING PORN: LIVE ONSTAGE!, A FEW GAY MEN, SLEEPING WITH STRAIGHT MEN, CHARLIE THE SEX ADDICT, COCKSUCKER: A LOVE STORY, SEX AND VIOLENCE, and TWO DEAD CLOWNS. He created the documentary, SHOOTING PORN and he has also hosted THE VAGINA TALK SHOW, THE PENIS TALK SHOW and THE TGIRL TALK SHOW.

Thursday, June 6, 2019

OPENING: THE BALLAD OF LEFTY & CRABBE VIA Underscore Theatre Company at The Understudy Through July 14, 2019

ChiIL Live Shows on our radar
Underscore Theatre Company Presents
Book and Lyrics by Brian Huther, Ben Auxier & Seth Macchi
Music by Ben Auxier and Brian Huther
Additional Music and Arrangements by Ryan McCall
Directed by Rusty Sneary 
Music Direction by Ryan McCall
Choreography by Jenna Schoppe
 June 8 – July 14, 2019 at The Understudy

Underscore Theatre Company is pleased to conclude its 2018-19 season with the musical comedy THE BALLAD OF LEFTY & CRABBE, playing June 8 – July 14, 2019 at Underscore’s newly-remodeled, permanent home, The Understudy, 4609 N. Clark St. in Chicago’s Uptown neighborhood. Named “Best of the Fest” at the 2018 Chicago Musical Theatre Festival, LEFTY & CRABBE features book and lyrics by Brian Huther, Ben Auxier and Seth Macchi, music by Ben Auxier and Brian Huther, additional music and arrangements by Ryan McCall, direction by Rusty Sneary, music direction by Ryan McCall and choreography by Jenna Schoppe. Tickets are currently available at

THE BALLAD OF LEFTY & CRABBE will feature Ben Auxier, Stephanie Boyd, Katy Campbell, Elisabeth Del Toro, Brian Huther, Mike Ott, Reagan Pender, Shea Pender, Natalie Rae and Kyle Ryan. Swings: Sophia Foldvari and Nate Hall.

Set at the death of vaudeville and the rise of Hollywood, THE BALLAD OF LEFTY & CRABBE tracks two ultra-talented but down-on-their-luck performers and friends as they navigate the ever-changing landscape of the entertainment world. Lightning-fast and "fall down funny," Lefty & Crabbe was born as part of the Kansas City Fringe Festival in 2015, received its first full production at The Living Room Theatre in 2017 and won “Best of the Fest” for its 2018 production at The Chicago Musical Theatre Festival.  

Comments Underscore Artistic Director Whitney Rhodes, “When I was living in Minneapolis, I worked for historic theaters that started as Vaudeville houses and spent years hearing truly magical stories about that history. The Ballad of Lefty and Crabbe sent me on a nostalgic journey that is pure joy; it is a smart and thoughtful piece of work. It's a nod to where the craft began and we can't wait to share it with audiences.”

The production team includes Nicholas Schwartz (scenic design), Christina Leinicke (costume design), Benjamin Carne (lighting design), Robert Hornbostel (sound design), Andy Lynn (production manager), Lacey Pacheco (stage manager) and Christine Lauer (assistant stage manager).

Cast (in alphabetical order): Ben Auxier (Ensemble), Stephanie Boyd (Ensemble), Katy Campbell (Ensemble), Elisabeth Del Toro (Lolo, Ensemble), Brian Huther (Ensemble), Mike Ott (Ensemble), Reagan Pender (Ensemble), Shea Pender (Crabbe), Natalie Rae (Evelyn, Ensemble) and Kyle Ryan (Lefty).

Swings: Sophia Foldvari and Nate Hall.

Location: The Understudy, 4609 N. Clark St., Chicago

Dates: Previews: Saturday, June 8 at 7:30 pm, Sunday, June 9 at 4 pm and Monday, June 10 at 7:30 pm
Press performance: Tuesday, June 11 at 7:30 pm
Regular run: Friday, June 14 – Sunday, July 14, 2019
Curtain Times: Friday and Saturday at 7:30 pm; Sundays at 4 pm; Mondays at 7:30 pm.
Tickets: Previews: $15. Regular run: $20 - $25. Tickets are currently available at

About the Artists:

Brian Huther (Book, Music and Lyric) is a Chicago-based creator, performer and musician, and erstwhile radio producer and greeting-card writer. His projects with creative partners at Friend Dog Studios have accumulated millions of views on YouTube and Facebook (Drunk Trump, 2016 The Movie: The Trailer) and packed out theatres in Kansas City, Missouri (The Ballad of Lefty and Crabbe, Milking Christmas, Hacks). He has written two one-act plays, and is currently developing a five-act near-future epic because he likes the pain. Performing credits include Theatre Wit, Kansas City Repertory Theatre, KC Actors Theatre, The Living Room, Chicago PD and a cornucopia of storefront projects, sketch/improv shows, music projects and commercials.

Ben Auxier (Book, Music and Lyrics) is an actor, writer and comedian originally from Kansas City who moved to Chicago in late 2016. His other co-writing endeavors include the musical comedy Milking Christmas, which premiered in Kansas City in 2017, the dark comedy straight play HACKS, which won a Best of Fringe recognition in 2016, and loads and loads of sketch, including lot of work for the occasionally-viral online comedy channel Friend Dog Studios. His acting credits over the last few years include the original Chicago run of Lefty & Crabbe, Mozart in THEATREWORKS' production of Amadeus in Colorado, and several appearances with KC-based companies The Heart of America Shakespeare Festival and The Living Room Theatre.  

Seth Macchi (Book and Lyrics) is an actor, comedian and writer located in Kansas City. Previous acting appearances at New Theatre in Kansas City include Bernard in Boeing Boeing, Chris in Beau Jest, Paul in Over the Moon and Tony in You Can’t Take It With You. Seth was also in Our Town and A Christmas Carol at the Kansas City Repertory Theatre, The Mistakes Madeline Made, H4CKS, The Ballad of Lefty & Crabbe and Milking Christmas at The Living Room, Not About Heroes at the MET and Fiddler on the Roof at Spinning Tree. Seth is also a co-creator of Friend Dog Studios, a creative collaboration he shares with Ben Auxier and Brian Huther. Together, they have made dozens of online comedy sketches, a podcast, and three world premiere stage productions, which they mounted at The Living Room. Check out some of the stuff they have created online at

Ryan McCall (Additional Music, Arrangements, Music Direction) is a composer/arranger/performer currently serving as the Music Director/Accompanist for the Theater and Dance Department at the University of Kansas. KU credits include: Music Director for La Cage aux Folles, Spring Awakening, Company, Little Women, Into the Woods, Merrily We Roll Along, Anything Goes, The Adding Machine, My Fair Lady, Kiss Me Kate; Composer of And Jesus Moonwalks the Mississippi, Man Equals Man, Summer and Smoke, A Midsummer Night’s Dream (North American Premiere in it’s original pronunciation). Ryan has worked professionally with Kansas City Ballet, Second City, Improv Olympic, KC Rep, Giordano Dance Company and The Living Room Theater. Recently, Ryan joined forces with Friend Dog Studios as a composer and arranger for two new musicals, The Ballad of Lefty and Crabbe and Milking Christmas. He is also the composer of the family musical Noah’s Art, which he wrote with his longtime friend Nathan Tysen (Tuck Everlasting, Amelie), and the rock musical Stillwater with Tysen and their band, Joe’s Pet Project. Ryan has taught songwriting workshops at the Kansas, Florida and International Thespian Conferences and is one of the Music Directors for the Lovewell Institute for the Creative Arts, a program dedicated to teaching young artists how to write for the musical theater stage. Ryan is originally from Salina, KS.

Rusty Sneary (Director) graduated from Missouri State University with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in theatre performance. In the spring of 2010, he co-founded The Living Room Theatre where he serves as the Artistic Director. Rusty has produced and served as Artistic Director on over 50 productions including over 25 world premieres. He has also served as a lighting designer, sound designer and the director of many productions, has acted in numerous productions at The Living Room, and continues to act on other professional Kansas City stages. Directing credits include the world premieres of The Ballad of Lefty & Crabbe, Trigger Happy and The Grave, as well as Annapurna, Some Girl(s), Talk Radio and Race.

Jenna Schoppe (Choreographer) is a choreographer, actor and dancer. She returns to Underscore after appearing in the Tiny Storefront Concert series. Her previous choreographic endeavors include Yank: A WW2 Love Story (Pride Films and Plays, Jeff Award – Best Choreography), Little Women (Brown Paper Box co.), Shrek (Windy City Performs), Book of Merman (Flying Elephant Productions), Bobbie Clearly (Steep Theatre) and The Producers (NightBlue Performing Arts). 

About Underscore Theatre Company

Founded in 2011, Underscore Theatre Company is a team of producing artists dedicated to exploring stories of power and resonance through a musical lens; fostering the development of new musicals; and bolstering Chicago’s role as a national leader in musical theatre. Since its creation, Underscore has produced or co-produced 65 new mainstage and workshop musicals in Chicago. Underscore is proud to be Chicago's home for new musicals.

Thursday, May 30, 2019

REVIEW: Griffin Theatre Company's FOR SERVICES RENDERED May 19 – July 6, 2019 at The Den Theatre

ChiIL Live Shows on our radar

Griffin Theatre Company Presents
By W. Somerset Maugham
Directed by Robin Witt

May 19 – July 6, 2019 at The Den Theatre

(left to right) Lynda Shadrake, Israel Antonio, Ella Pennington, Krystal Ortiz, Tim Newell 
and Cindy Marker 
All Photos by Michael Brosilow.

by bonnie kenaz-mara

FOR SERVICES RENDERED is a great period piece with gorgeous costumes, a lovely set, compelling characters, and a biting message. Griffin Theatre's  excellent production not only crosses the pond, but spans nearly a century to remain eerily relevant. As long as homeless veterans line our highway on ramps, and an average of 22 US servicemen commit suicide daily, this production should awaken equal parts compassion and rage, and a burning passion to change the way we treat our returning soldiers. 

(left to right) Marika Mashburn and Robert Quintanilla 
Photo by Michael Brosilow.

We still live in an era where earmarking funds for caring for injured soldiers' physical and mental health is considered too expensive, and yet the military industrial complex gobbles up billions annually in an ever expanding budget. 

(left to right) Marika Mashburn, Ella Pennington and Krystal Ortiz 
Photo by Michael Brosilow.

FOR SERVICES RENDERED offers an array of interesting, nuanced, female roles with depth and insight unusual for the 1930's. They provide a glimpse into the lives and inner lives of those who bear the brunt of the caregiving when soldiers return injured and/or traumatized. These women have desires, dreams and schemes apart from the men in their lives, and it's refreshing to see them making unpredictable choices. 

Sure, some of the opportunities for women have improved since this play's 1932 inception, and the unmarried aren't automatically relegated to old maid purgatory. Yet a shocking amount of the abhorrent behavior of older, married men toward teenage girls is still occurring in our current #MeToo climate. And women are still too often held hostage to the economic and philandering whims of their partners. 

(left to right) Krystal Ortiz and Matt Fletcher
Photo by Michael Brosilow.

(left to right) Krystal Ortiz and Matt Rockwood
Photo by Michael Brosilow.

Kristal Ortiz as desirable daughter, Lois Ardsley, Israel Antonio as injured veteran, Sydney Ardsley, and Lynda Shadrake as matriarch, Charlotte Ardsley, are particular standouts among a superb cast. I caught the opening Memorial Day weekend, and this is an excellent and timely choice as Chicago's veterans in need become more visible in the spring and summer months. Highly recommended.

(left to right) Israel Antonio and Lynda Shadrake 
Photo by Michael Brosilow. 

Bonnie Kenaz-Mara is a Chicago based writer-theater critic-photographer-videographer-actress-artist-general creatrix and Mama to two terrific teens. She owns two websites where she has published frequently since 2008: (adult) & (family friendly). 

(left to right) Ella Pennington and Krystal Ortiz
Photo by Michael Brosilow.


Griffin Theatre Company is pleased to continue its 31st season with W. Somerset Maugham’s classic war drama FOR SERVICES RENDERED, directed by ensemble member Robin Witt*, playing May 19 – July 6, 2019 at The Den Theatre (Upstairs Main Stage), 1331 N. Milwaukee Ave. in Chicago’s Wicker Park neighborhood. Tickets are currently available at or by calling (773) 697-3830. The press opening is Sunday, May 26 at 7 pm.

FOR SERVICES RENDERED features Israel Antonio, Eddie Dzialo, Matt Fletcher, Jennifer Huddleston, Cindy Marker, Marika Mashburn, Tim Newell, Krystal Ortiz, Ella Pennington, Robert Quintanilla, Matt Rockwood and Lynda Shadrake*.

Years ahead of its time, W. Somerset Maugham’s 1932 landmark play shows the impact of war on civilian life and suggests that the ideals of honor, patriotism and glory mean nothing if we show no care for the victims of conflict. A blistering portrait of the devastating aftermath of war and its effect on its survivors. FOR SERVICES RENDERED continues the Griffin’s exploration and mission to unearth rarely produced classic plays from the past (Men Should Weep, London Wall and Time and the Conways) with relevance to today and introduce them to Chicago audiences for the first time.

The production team for FOR SERVICES RENDERED includes Sotirios Livaditis (scenic design), Aly Renee Amidei (costume design), Brandon Wardell** (lighting design), Thomas Dixon (sound design), Rachel Watson (props design), Adam Goldstein (dialect coach), Lucy Carapetyan (casting director), Spencer Ryan Diedrick (assistant director), Emily Kefferstan (production manager), Derik Marcussen (technical director), Hannah Beehler (stage manager) and Rachelle ‘Rocky’ Kolecke (assistant stage manager).

*Denotes Griffin Theatre ensemble members   **Denote Griffin Theatre artistic associates

Cast (in alphabetical order): Israel Antonio (Sydney Ardsley), Eddie Dzialo (Leonard Ardsley), Matt Fletcher (Howard Bartlett), Jennifer Huddleston (Gertrude), Cindy Marker (Gwen Cedar), Marika Mashburn (Eva Ardsley), Tim Newell (Dr. Prentice), Krystal Ortiz (Lois Ardsley), Ella Pennington (Ethel Bartlett), Robert Quintanilla (Collie Stratton), Matt Rockwood (Wilfred Cedar) and Lynda Shadrake* (Charlotte Ardsley).

Understudies: Aida Delaz, Harrison Hapin, Darren Hill and Tom Jansson.

Location: The Den Theatre (Upstairs Main Stage), 1331 N. Milwaukee Ave., Chicago

Regular run: Thursday, July 30 – Saturday, July 6, 2019

Curtain Times: Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 pm; Sundays at 3 pm. Please note: there will not be a performance on Thursday, July 4.

Tickets: Previews $28. Regular run $37. Students, seniors & veterans $32 ($23 previews). Group discount are available for groups of ten or more. Tickets are currently available at or by calling (773) 697-3830.

About the Artists
W. Somerset Maugham (Playwright) was an English novelist, playwright, and short-story writer whose work is characterized by a clear unadorned style, cosmopolitan settings, and a shrewd understanding of human nature. Maugham was orphaned at the age of 10; he was brought up by an uncle and educated at King’s School, Canterbury. After a year at Heidelberg, he entered St. Thomas’ medical school, London, and qualified as a doctor in 1897. He drew upon his experiences as an obstetrician in his first novel, Liza of Lambeth (1897), and its success, though small, encouraged him to abandon medicine. In 1908 he achieved a theatrical triumph – four plays running in London at once – that brought him financial security. His reputation as a novelist rests primarily on four books: Of Human Bondage (1915), a semi-autobiographical account of a young medical student’s painful progress toward maturity; The Moon and Sixpence (1919), an account of an unconventional artist, suggested by the life of Paul Gauguin; Cakes and Ale (1930), the story of a famous novelist, which is thought to contain caricatures of Thomas Hardy and Hugh Walpole; and The Razor’s Edge (1944), the story of a young American war veteran’s quest for a satisfying way of life. Maugham’s skill in handling plot, in the manner of Guy de Maupassant, is distinguished by economy and suspense. In The Summing Up (1938) and A Writer’s Notebook (1949) Maugham explains his philosophy of life as a resigned atheism and a certain skepticism about the extent of man’s innate goodness and intelligence; it is this that gives his work its astringent cynicism.

Robin Witt (Director) For Services Rendered is the fifth play Robin has directed for Griffin where she is an ensemble member. Other Griffin productions: London Wall, Men Should Weep, Flare Path, and Stage Door. She is also an ensemble member at Steep Theatre where her productions include Linda by Penelope Skinner, Lela & Co. by Cordelia Lynn, and Wastwater by Simon Stephens. Robin recently directed A Doll’s House Part 2 for Steppenwolf and A Number at Writers Theatre. She is an Associate Professor at UNC Charlotte and she holds a BFA from NYU and a MFA from Northwestern. Next up: Alistair McDowall’s Pomona at Steep Theatre (July/Aug. 2019).

The Griffin Theatre Company's 2018/2019 Premiere Season Sponsors are Michael and Mona Heath.

The Griffin Theatre Company is a Blue Star Theater and is proud to support our military enlisted and veterans. 

About Griffin Theatre Company
Established in 1988. the mission of the Griffin Theatre Company is to create extraordinary and meaningful theatrical experiences for both children and adults by building bridges of understanding between generations that instill in its audience an appreciation of the performing arts. Through artistic collaboration the Griffin Theatre Company produces literary adaptations, original work and classic plays that challenge and inspire, with wit, style and compassion for the audience.

The Griffin Theatre Company is the recipient of 115 Joseph Jefferson Award nominations for theater excellence in Chicago. The Griffin was honored with four 2018 Jeff awards for Ragtime including Best Ensemble, Best Musical, Best Director-Musical and Best Performer in a Supporting Role-Musical. Additionally, the company was the repeat winner of the 2016 Jeff Award for Best Production of a Play for London Wall having won the same award in 2015 for its production of Men Should Weep.

The Griffin Theatre Company is partially supported by the Illinois Arts Council, a state agency.

For additional information, visit

(left to right) Eddie Dzialo, Israel Antonio, Krystal Ortiz, Marika Mashburn, Ella Pennington and Matt Fletcher in Griffin Theatre Company’s production of FOR SERVICES RENDERED. Photo by Michael Brosilow.

CASTING ANNOUNCED: U.S. Premiere of SONS AND LOVERS August 29 – September 29, 2019 at Greenhouse Theater Center

Greenhouse Theater Center & On The Spot Theatre
Announce Casting for the U.S. Premiere of

Based on the novel by D.H. Lawrence
Adapted and Directed by Mike Brayndick

August 29 – September 29, 2019 at Greenhouse Theater Center

The Greenhouse Theater Center and On The Spot Theatre are pleased to announce casting for the U.S. premiere of the full-length drama SONS AND LOVERS, based on the novel by D.H. Lawrence and adapted and directed by On The Spot Artistic Director Mike Brayndick.

SONS AND LOVERS will play August 29 – September 29, 2019 in The Greenhouse Theater Center’s (Upstairs Studio), 2257 N. Lincoln Ave. in Chicago. Tickets are currently available at, in person at the box office or by calling (773) 404-7336. The press opening is Saturday, August 31 at 7:30 pm.

The cast includes Pete Blatchford, Brian Boller, Miles Borchard, Emma Brayndick, Baird Brutscher, Erika Caldwell, Heidi Drennan, Stephen Dunn, Amy Gray, Corrie Riedl, Andrew Rowson and Tina Shelley.

(top, l to r) Pete Blatchford, Brian Boller, Miles Borchard, Emma Brayndick, Baird Brutscher and Erika Caldwell with (bottom, l to r) Heidi Drennan, Stephen Dunn, Amy Gray, Corrie Riedl, Andrew Rowson and Tina Shelley.

Set in England during the first decade of the twentieth century, SONS AND LOVERS dramatizes the early years of the spirited and lyrically inspired writer D.H. Lawrence as he charted his course from a Midlands coal mining town into the larger world. The story portrays his parents’ turbulent, mismatched marriage, his own first affairs of the heart, and his mother’s jealousy about the women he brought into his life. In the process, Lawrence developed his views on the mystical role of sexuality in shaping the soul and the power of determined creativity to overcome dark circumstances.   

Comments Director Mike Brayndick, “D.H. Lawrence was rhapsodic about the glories of our physical and spiritual being. He also provided an unstinting vision of human flaws. Written in 1913, Sons and Lovers has a very modern resonance dynamically revealing the tension between the desire for love and the need for a fulfilled individuality. This play tells the story from the perspective of his older self who relives the past he must constantly rediscover, ruefully struggling to grow and be free in the present of a time-haunted life.”

The production team includes Emma Brayndick and Pat Henderson (scenic design), Casey Brayndick and Andy Long (sound design), Andy Long (stage manager) and Andrew Rowson (production assistant).

Location: The Greenhouse Theater Center (Upstairs Studio), 2257 N. Lincoln Ave, Chicago

Dates: Previews: Thursday, August 29 at 7:30 pm and Friday, August 30 at 7:30 pm
Press Performance: Saturday, August 31 at 7:30 pm
Regular run: Sunday, September 1 – Sunday, September 29, 2019
Curtain times: Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 pm; Sundays at 2:30 pm.

Tickets: Previews: $20 Regular run: $20 - $29. Discounts: $25 students/seniors/groups. On The Spot donates a limited number of tickets for each performance to Vet Tix, which provides free tickets to veterans. Group discounts are available. Tickets are currently available at, in person at the box office or by calling (773) 404-7336.

About the Artists
Mike Brayndick (Adapter/Director) is the Artistic Director of On The Spot Theatre Company. He began as resident writer at the Chicago Playwrights’ Center with Fragments from the Permanent Collection, Connecting Flight, Anna Gerhardt and In the Garden of the Prison, also broadcast on WJUF. His adaptation of D.H. Lawrence’s Sons and Lovers commissioned by Traffic of the Stage in Hampstead toured the UK and was performed at London’s Bloomsbury Theatre. Smithsonian and Luce Foundation grants led to How to Make a Rainbow, developed at the Juilliard, and directed by Mike at the 2005 St. Ives Festival in the UK and the Greenhouse Theater Center in Chicago in 2013. Also at the Greenhouse, On The Spot presented his adaptations of Turgenev's Home of the Gentry and Balzac's, Pére Goriot, as well as his original works, Pieces of Klee, Lisette Dances Divine and Scenes For A Green World.  Mike's contemporary comedies Only You Could Think That, What About Martha, All About Armando, Sex Lives of the Zebra Finch and Lost and Found have all been produced in Chicago. Most recently, his full-length romance set in 1950’s Cornwall, England, Called Home By the Sea, was performed at Berger Park Coach House Theatre along with his one-act farce set in contemporary London, Rondelay.

About the Companies

The Greenhouse Theater Center (GTC) is a producing theater company, performance venue and theatre bookstore located at 2257 N. Lincoln Ave. in Chicago’s Lincoln Park neighborhood.

GTC began its producing life in 2014 with the smash hit Churchill, followed by 2016’s much-lauded Solo Celebration!, an eight month, 16 event series highlighting the breadth and depth of the solo play form. In 2017-18, the Greenhouse presented its first full subscription season, including Machinal (4 stars from Chicago Tribune's Chris Jones), a remount of the Jeff Award-winning Rose and the Chicago premiere of Birds of a Feather. 

As a performance venue, the Greenhouse complex offers two newly-remodeled 198-seat main stage spaces, two 60-seat studio theaters, a newly-built 44-seat cabaret space, two high-capacity lobbies and an in-house rehearsal room. GTC also houses Chicago’s only dedicated used theatre bookstore, located on the second floor the complex. 

The Greenhouse Theater Center’s mission is first and foremost to grow local theatre. GTC seeks local theatre companies and artists to partner on co-productions, offering partners a multitude of resources including an equitable split of production costs, production manager, full-service box office and front-of-house staff, artistic consultation, marketing and public relations support and a full-service bar with concessions. For additional information, contact Nicholas Reinhart at (773) 404-7336, ext. 13.

On The Spot Theatre Company was created in 2003 by Mike Brayndick to develop and stage new plays for performance “on the spot” in a variety of venues. In the new play development process, Mike creates a collaborative space in which he works with actors to allow characters and stories to evolve out of a few initial scripted scenes or the exploration of a germ idea. Each week he brings in more scenes for the actors to play with as the script grows into a whole. Discussion of the play continues as it goes through multiple readings in the workshop from one draft to the next. On The Spot intends to continue to expand the ensemble and develop new plays in the evolving method outlined above. For additional information, visit


ChiIL Live Shows on our radar

JUNE 8 – JUNE 30 

 Photo Credit for all: Josh Hawkins

A Near-Future Apocalyptic Story Told through Tap Dance, Original Live Music and Narration by Slam Poetry Creator Marc Kelly Smith

Artistic Director Mark Yonally and Chicago Tap Theatre (CTT) are proud to present Saving The World, a science fiction tap dance story show set to all-original music composed and performed live by Diana Lawrence, directed by Raphael Schwartzman, written by Slam Poetry Creator Marc Kelly Smith and choreographed by Yonally, June 8 – June 30, at Stage 773, 1225 W. Belmont Ave. Opening night is Saturday, June 8 at 7:30 p.m. The performance schedule is Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 3 p.m.  Tickets are $40 for adults, $30 for seniors, students and dancers. Group discounts are also available. For tickets, go to or call the Stage 773 box office at 773.327.5252. 

Saving The World is Chicago Tap Theater’s first all new story show in three years since 2016’s award-winning Time Steps and 2017’s box office smash Changes. From the creative team behind Time Steps, comes a show about pride, arrogance and demagogues. CTT Writer-in-Residence (and creator of the world-wide Slam Poetry genre) Marc Kelly Smith weaves a brand new tale of the near future.  As a corporation begins to aid those hit by every-increasing natural disasters, a collision between helping those who need it most and profiting mightily from them is looming. Throughout the performance tap dancers, with the aid of video projection, will be embodying the natural disasters, including tornadoes and tsunamis.

“Marc Smith has really laid it all out there for this one,” said Yonally, “I feel since we first started working together there were themes that recurred through his work, and this show is, in many ways, is the culmination of all of his work with Chicago Tap Theatre.” Yonally continued, “We are working with a new director for this production, and he, along with the script by Marc, are pushing us to try truly new and innovative things. Even if you’ve seen every story show, you will see a LOT of new ideas on stage.”

That new director, Raphael Schwartzman, is a noted movement theater director creating his first tap opera with Chicago Tap Theatre. Schwartzman brings a fresh new approach to narrative dance, along with a stronger focus on emotional resonance and depth of character. CTT is proud to work with composer/Music Director Diana Lawrence, who is creating an all-original score for Saving The World that features live performances by her and two other musicians. This score veers from rock opera to folk to 80s chip tune.

The cast includes: Jennifer Pfaff Yonally, Kirsten Uttich, Isaac Stauffer, Aimee Chase, Mark Yonally, Christopher Matthews, Anabel Watson, Bailey Caves, Heather Latakas, Sterling Harris, Case Prime and Molly Smith .The production staff includes Sarah Lackner, production and stage manager; Dustin Derry, projection design; Emma Cullimore, costume design; Jimmy Jagos, set and prop design


Marc Kelly Smith is the creator of the international Poetry Slam movement and has performed weekly at the Uptown Poetry Slam (now the Uptown Poetry Cabaret) since 1986. He has chalked up over 3,000 national and international engagements and is highly sought after as the authority on performance poetry. In the past seven years he has created six all-original shows with Chicago Tap Theatre as their Writer-in-Residence, including Eyes Without a Face, LoveTaps, TightWire, Mama’s Boy and the award winning TimeSteps (Top 10 Dance Events of the Year, Chicago Tribune and Best New Production of 2016, Dance Magazine Reader’s Poll).


Raphael Schwartzman is over the moon to direct Saving the World with Chicago Tap Theatre. A graduate of Butler University in Indiana, Schwartzman has worked in the Chicago theatre scene for the better part of the last decade.  He's also trained and made theatre in the UK, Russia, and Italy.  Chicago directing credits include The Curse on Mordrake House (Chicago Fringe Festival), Thinking Sacks of Meat (Piccolo Theatre), and Visiting Hours (MadKap Productions). 

ABOUT MARK YONALLY, choreographer

Mark Yonally is the founder and Artistic Director of Chicago Tap Theatre, one of the most critically well-regarded dance companies in Chicago. They perform an annual three-show season in Chicago and tour both throughout America and Europe. Their performances have been chosen as the Top Ten Dance events of the year by the Chicago Tribune, the Chicago Sun-Times, SeeChicagoDance and Windy City Media. Their 2016 Time Travel Story Shoe, “TimeSteps” was selected as the Best New Production of 2016 by the Dance Magazine Reader’s Poll. Yonally has developed a national and international reputation as a performer, with solo performances in Chicago, Helsinki, Barcelona, New York, Amsterdam and Paris. He has been blessed to have Sam Weber, Sarah Petronio, Dianne Walker, Bill Evans and Billy Siegenfeld as mentors. He has also recorded with live musicians, including an appearance with the Polyphonic Spree on their song “Mental Cabaret” and on stage with them at Lollapalooza.

ABOUT DIANA LAWERNCE, music director 

As a music director and improviser, Diana  Lawernce has worked with organizations such as The Second City, the Goodman Theatre, Porchlight Music Theatre and Hubbard Street Dance Chicago. Lawernce created original music for Steppenwolf Theatre’s 2016 premiere of Mary Page Marlowe, and her musical, Mill Girls, was granted a 2018/19 Incubator workshop at the O’Neill Theatre Center. Lawerence is also a teaching artist with Storycatchers Theatre, where she creates musical theater with incarcerated youth. L


Founded in 2002, Chicago Tap Theatre is a growing and vibrant dance company dedicated to preserving the quintessentially American dance form of tap while taking it to the next level of creativity, innovation and quality. CTT performs exclusively with live music provided by some of Chicago’s finest musicians playing everything from Duke Ellington to David Bowie and many artists in between. Under the dynamic direction of master teacher and performer Mark Yonally, CTT has gained a loyal and sizable following in Chicago and continues to tour both nationally and internationally. Having pioneered the “tap opera” format, which tells stories with compelling characters and intriguing plots, CTT has used the language of tap dance, live music and narration to move Chicago audiences for over 10 years.

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