Thursday, April 27, 2017

Chicago Celebrates and Mourns Martha Lavey This Friday With Marquee Dimming


Marquee lights dimmed and a moment of silence to be observed at theatres across Chicago and the suburbs

Friday, April 28, 2017
30 minutes before curtain time

WHAT: Chicago theatres in the city and suburbs will honor former Steppenwolf Artistic Director and ensemble member Martha Lavey by dimming the marquee lights and observing a moment of silence

WHEN: Friday, April 28, 2017, 30 minutes before the start time of the evening production at each theatre

WHERE: Theatres throughout Chicagoland, including Steppenwolf Theatre, Broadway in Chicago, Goodman Theatre, Chicago Shakespeare Theater, Victory Gardens Theater, Northlight Theatre and Writers Theatre, among others.

DETAILS: Martha Lavey, who served as Artistic Director of Steppenwolf Theatre from 1995-2015, is considered to be one of the most important influencers in the history of Chicago theatre. As an actor and Artistic Director, Martha appeared in more than 30 productions at Steppenwolf and was known to support and nurture artists, administrators and other theatres throughout Chicago. She was a champion of the theatre community, and, as such, the community will remember and honor her with the light dimming and moment of silence.
OTHER: Steppenwolf’s curtain on Friday is at 7:30pm. The lights will be dimmed and a moment of silence will be observed at 7:00pm.  Member theatres of the League of Chicago Theatres will likewise participate in honor of Lavey’s extraordinary life and legacy.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

REVIEW: Three's Company, 3C's Chaos at A Red Orchid Theatre

A Red Orchid's latest, 70's era jiggle show lampoon, Apartment 3C, is cringeworthy in the best way. Every character is fatally flawed, empty inside, and utterly recognizable. As we left the theatre, one patron practically ran over us, and couldn't exit fast enough. We overheard him mutter "Candidate for the worst play of the year." In my book, if a cast can evoke such a strong, visceral reaction, even a negative one, they're doing something right. If you're not disturbed by this production, you're not paying attention. 

All production photos by Michael Brosilow

3C brings to stage the familiar archetypes of the blonde bimbo, androgynous girl, and gay Vietnam vet, with fabulously funny, over the top caricatures, with dark undercurrents of alcoholism, sex addiction, closeted homosexuality, poverty, and more. The lecherous landlord and his flakey wife are also exaggerated and taken to the next disturbing level of actual molester, hitting on his young female and male tenants alike, and suicidal stress ball, too neurotic to stay on her meds, and depressed by her abusive train wreck of a marriage.

Jennifer Engstrom, Christina Gorman

The jokes are truly tasteless and offensive, as is the in your face abuse. And that's really the point. As a society, we've become immune to mild mannered sexism and gay bashing comedy, merrily laughing along, while these portrayals in real life and on popular shows seep into our collective unconscious causing bias among even the best intentioned. Come meet the shopping and sex addicted preacher's kid with an abusive past who just wants to feel beautiful and ends up more alone and unhappy than ever, the androgynous alcoholic who may be in love with her female roommate, the closeted gay boy forced to pretend to be a straight boy pretending to be a gay boy, the shallow swinger friend he's in love with, and the landlords from hell.

Steve Haggard, Lawrence Grimm

Sometimes it takes an over the top, black comedy to wake us up to how absurd and awful it truly is to stereotype others and treat them with an utter lack of respect, and how psychologically damaging it can be to hide your true self and not seek help for crippling issues. We live in a sick society when LGBT sexual identity, naïveté, mental illness, physical traits beyond our control, abusive marriages and addictions become the butt of jokes for our consumption. And not much has changed in four plus decades.

Sigrid Sutter, Nick Mikula

Sutter, Gorman, Engstrom, Mikula, Grimm (standing)

This show is well worth seeing, with high energy performances by the entire cast and creative directing choices by the infamous Shade Murray. Just don't let the disco dancing, psychedelic kaftan, and polyester suits lull you into expecting a lighthearted retro comedy. The first half was laugh out loud funny, with loads of innuendo and bumbling physical comedy, but it turns black fast. This show takes a while to process and it was still consuming my thoughts a day later. I was left musing whether the show would come across as even darker and more disturbing with a ubiquitous 70's sitcom laugh track. Come check out the California dystopian flashback that is 3C for yourself. Recommended. 

APRIL 20 – JUNE 4, 2017

Inspired by 70’s sitcoms and the political incorrectness of "jiggle television," 3C is a hilarious and horrifying look at identity and what lies beneath the homogeneous perky veneer. Brad lands in L.A. to start a new life. A wild night of partying finds him passed out in Connie and Linda’s kitchen and the three strike a deal that raises the suspicions of the landlords. Complications spiral out of control, taking the show from farce to something... unexpected. 

Red Night Opening: Friday, April 28, 2017 at 8 p.m.

Regular Run: April 29 – June 4, 2017

Schedule:  Thursdays: 8:00 p.m.
 Fridays: 8:00 p.m.
 Saturdays: 8:00 p.m.  
                 Sundays: 3:00 p.m. (except April 23).

Location:A Red Orchid Theatre, 1531 N. Wells Ave.

Tickets: $30-$35 ($30 Thurs, $35 Fri, Sat, Sun)

Box Office: Located at 1531 N. Wells Ave, Chicago, (312) 943-8722; or online 

The cast of 3C includes Ensemble Members Jennifer Engstrom (Mrs. Wicker), Lawrence Grimm (Mr. Wicker) and Steve Haggard (Terry), with Christina Gorman (Linda), Nick Mikula (Brad) and Sigrid Sutter (Connie). 
The creative team includes Sarah Fabian (Set Designer), Myron Elliott (Costume Designer), Rachel Levy (Lighting Designer), Brando Triantafillou (Sound Designer), Lydia Hanchett (Props Designer) and Jon Martinez (Choreography). The Production Stage Manager is Christa van Baale. 

About A Red Orchid
A Red Orchid Theatre has served as an artistic focal point in the heart of the Old Town community of Chicago since 1993 and was honored this year with a 2016 MacArthur Award for Creative and Effective Institutions. Over the past 23 years, its Resident Ensemble has welcomed into its fold an impressive array of award winning actors, playwrights and theatre artists with the firm belief that live theatre is the greatest sustenance for the human spirit. A Red Orchid is well known and highly acclaimed for its fearless approach to performance and design in the service of unflinchingly intimate stories. In addition to its professional season, the company also produces an annual OrKids (youth) project and hosts The Incubator (providing artists with space and time to explore new work, new forms and new artistic collaborations). 

A Red Orchid Theatre is: Lance Baker, Kamal Angelo Bolden, Dado, Mike Durst, Jennifer Engstrom, Kirsten Fitzgerald, Joseph Fosco, Steve Haggard, Mierka Girten, Larry Grimm, Karen Kawa, Karen Kessler, Danny McCarthy, Shade Murray, Brett Neveu, Michael Shannon, Guy Van Swearingen, Doug Vickers and Natalie West.

OPENING: The Firebirds Take the Field World Premiere at Rivendell Theatre Ensemble 4/15-5/27

 ChiIL LIVE Shows On Our Radar:

Rivendell Theatre Ensemble Presents
the World Premiere of
The Firebirds Take the Field
by Lynn Rosen
Directed by Jessica Fisch

Featuring RTE Members Meighan Gerachis, Rebecca Spence,
RTE Artistic Director Tara Mallen and RTE’s newest member Jessica Ervin

April 15 – May 27, 2017

Tonight we'll be ChiILin' on Chi, IL's north side with Rivendell Theatre Ensemble (RTE), Chicago’s only Equity theatre dedicated to producing new work with women at the core! It press opening time for the world premiere of The Firebirds Take the Field by Lynn Rosen and directed by Jessica Fisch. Check back soon for our full review.

The Firebirds Take the Field runs April 15 – May 20, 2017, at Rivendell Theatre Ensemble, 5779 N. Ridge Avenue in Chicago. The Firebirds Take the Field is produced with support from the Alfred P. Sloane Foundation and Ensemble Studio Theater and is the second production of RTE’s 2017 Season ‘Exploring the Mind/Body Connection.’

Regular run: April 27 – May 27, 2017

Schedule: Thursdays-Saturdays at 8:00pm
Saturdays at 4:00pm (no Saturday performance Saturday May 27)
Town Hall Discussions will follow the Saturday matinees 4/6; 4/13; 4/20

Location: Rivendell Theatre Ensemble, 5779 N. Ridge Avenue in Chicago

Tickets: General Admission
Previews: $25
Regular: $38

Student, Senior, Active Military, Veteran:
Previews: $15
Regular: $28

**Pay What You Can: Five seats (10% of the house) are available for each performance. Reservations are made on a first come first served basis.

Box Office: (773) 334-7728 or

It's been 25 years since molecular neuroscientist Avery Kahn left Highland Falls, NY. But when 18 local girls, cheerleaders mostly, are stricken with a mysterious ailment, Avery reluctantly returns home to tackle what the locals derisively call the “girl disease.” As Avery becomes affected—and infected—by the girls, the case becomes more personal than she ever expected. Based on actual events, Firebirds is a fascinating and often hilarious investigation of how women in particular are impacted by the pressures of growing up.

The Firebirds Take the Field was inspired by real events in LeRoy, New York in Fall 2011.  Camera crews descended on the small town when over a dozen teenagers from the same high school developed similar mysterious symptoms, including uncontrollable twitching, tics and verbal outbursts.

The Firebirds Take the Field features RTE Members Meighan Gerachis (Avery), Rebecca Spence (Helen), RTE Artistic Director Tara Mallen (Kathy) and RTE’s newest member most recently honored with a Jeff nomination for Best Actress for her work in last season’s production of Dry Land, Jessica Ervin (Penelope), Margaret Kusterman (Cynthia), Josh Odor (Mark), Aurora Real de Asua (Lucia), and Hannah Toriumi (Agatha).

The Firebirds Take the Field is funded in part by The Ensemble Studio Theatre/ Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Science & Technology Project.

“The play takes place in a dying industrial town stunted by years of decay, where going to ‘the game’ and rooting for victory still mean something and winning gives the town worth and hope,” said director Jessica Fisch. “Pretty, athletic, smiling, golden girls are responsible for rallying the spirits of their community, but to be seventeen and believe your value is inextricably tied to your looks, youth, and exuberance is a recipe for destruction. Off the field, the girls are grappling with challenges and instability without the maturity or vocabulary to handle them. The girls bury their concerns and ignore their own grief, trauma, sadness, and hardship, but the weight of their repression proves too much and their bodies begin to rebel. By ignoring those emotions they deny themselves the process of healing. It turns out, the human body will find a way to grieve.”

“I was surprised when researching the real stories of the teens from LeRoy, New York, to learn that their final diagnosis of ‘Conversion Disorder’ was just a new name for ‘female hysteria.’ Women, in particular, who are diagnosed with mental issues are immediately dismissed both from the medical profession and by society as their conditions are not seen as being ‘real’," comments Artistic Director Tara Mallen. “Yet history and myth are filled with stories of girls exhibiting bizarre symptoms around the time of puberty — and doctors have pondered the connection between our mental and physical health for centuries. The cautionary of tale these three girls exemplifies the sometimes devastating results when we disregard this essential connection.”

The creative team includes new RTE ensemble member Joanna Iwanicka (scenic design), with Katherine Scott (choreography), Paul Toben (lighting design), Stephanie Cluggish (costume design), Sarah D. Espinosa (sound design), and Blake Leo Burke (properties). Tanya Palmer is the dramaturg. Sam Mouryessef is the Production Manager; Andra Sturtevant is the Production Stage Manager; and Joan Sergay is the Assistant Director.

Jessica Fisch (Director) Recent credits: Straight White Men (Associate Director, Steppenwolf), Trudy, Carolyn, Martha and Regina Travel to Outer Space (Actors Theatre of Louisville, Humana Festival), Fefu and Her Friends (Goodman Theatre/Rivendell Latina/o Celebration) Opulent Complex and That Thing That Time (Actors Theatre of Louisville, The Tens), The Rosenkranz Mysteries: An Evening of Magic (Royal George Theatre), Psychodramatic (A Red Orchid, Incubator Series), Traces (Feast Productions/ Jackalope Theatre), Far Away (SITE Festival), 42 Stories (Raven Theatre, [Working Title] series), Machinal, Spike Heels (Northwestern University). Selected New York credits: The Realm (The Wild Project),  strive/seek/find (Abingdon Theatre), the 2009 Playwrights Horizons Stories on 5 Stories Benefit, Personal History (Ensemble Studio Theatre), The Redheaded Man (Barrow Street Theatre/Down Payment Productions/FringeNYC/FringeEncores), Dressed In Your Dreams (Public Theater/Emerging Writers Group), an adaptation of the cult 1960’s gothic vampire soap opera Dark Shadows (Williamstown Theatre Festival). Jessica was a resident director at Ensemble Studio Theater, the Playwrights Horizons Directing Resident, a member of the Lincoln Center Directors Lab, and the founding Artistic Director of Down Payment Productions. MFA: Northwestern University. 

Lynn Rosen (Playwright) has had works produced or developed with: Actors Theatre of Louisville, TheatreWorks (Silicon Valley), Women's Project, New Georges, Ensemble Studio Theatre (two EST/Sloan commissions), Centerstage (Baltimore), Studio Theatre, Working Theater, Barrington Stage, The New Group, The Lark, terraNOVA Collective, New Harmony, GEVA, Fault Line Theatre, The Brick Theater, Red Bull Theatre, Todd Mountain Theater Project, The Lark Development Center (Writing Fellow), 52nd Street Project, among others. Lynn was commissioned in 2016 by UCSB for her new play Bernhard which was just produced in their acclaimed Launch Pad series. She also co-writes and co-created the award-winning web series Darwin, directed by Carrie Preston, with whom she is developing two TV pilots. Darwin was named one of the “Top Ten Best Web Series of 2015” by Paste Magazine and season two is currently in production. Her short piece The Amazing America Auction, originally commissioned for Centerstage, is included in Hal Hartley’s feature film My America. Coming up: Gurley! (a musical about Helen Gurley Brown), TheatreWorks Silicon Valley Writers’ Retreat; I Love You with Playing On Air; Washed Up On The Potomac with The Pool, NYC. Lynn got her B.A. in Theatre Arts from Brandeis University and is currently a Resident Playwright at New Dramatists in NYC.

Meighan Gerachis (Avery) is a founding member at Rivendell and has appeared in their productions of The Electric Baby, Precious Little, The Walls, Elliot: A Soldier's Fugue, Indulgences at the Louisville Harem, Factory Girls, My Simple City, Wrens, and Ten Tiny Fingers, Nine Tiny Toes. Other credits include Blue Skies Process (Goodman), Domesticated, Our Town, The House on Mango St. (Steppenwolf), Seven Homeless Mammoths Wander New England (Theater Wit), Solstice (A Red Orchid Theater),  Measure for Measure (Chicago Shakespeare); Cloud Nine (About Face), Cigarettes and Moby Dick, Che Che Che (Latino Chicago), The Underpants (Noble Fool); and The Road to Graceland (Lifeline Theatre). Her Regional credits include: Charm (Mixed Blood Theatre) Elliot; A Soldier's Fugue (Stageworks/Hudson); and A Midsummer Night's Dream (Contact Theatre, Manchester, UK). Film credits include Batman v. Superman, At Any Price, and Virginia. Television credits include Chicago PD, Crisis, Bobby & Iza (NBC), Sirens (USA), and Battleground (Hulu).

Rebecca Spence (Helen) joined Rivendell Theatre Ensemble after appearing in These Shining Lives for which she received Equity Jeff Nomination in 2009.  Other RTE credits include Wrens and How the World Began (Equity Jeff Nomination for Best Actress in 2015). Her most recent work was originating the role of Mary Page Marlowe 40/44 at Steppenwolf Theatre Company where her previous credits include: The Crucible, Our Lady of 121st Street and Pacific. Other theatre credits include: In The Garden (Lookingglass Theatre Company); Concerning Strange Devices from the Distant West (TimeLine Theatre Company); This (Theatre Wit); The Voysey Inheritance, Les Liaisons Dangereuses (Remy Bumppo - Equity Jeff Nom.); Dracula (Defiant Theatre); Cyrano (Milwaukee Repertory Theatre). Film Credits include Kingfisher, Recke, Not Welcome, Bloomin’ Mud Shuffle, Man of Steel, Fools, Tiger Tail in Blue, One Small Hitch, Contagion, The Dilemma, Audrey the Trainwreck, Earthling, Public Enemies, Grace is Gone and The Break-Up.  Television Credits include Easy (Netflix), Chicago Fire (NBC), Crisis (NBC), Betrayal (ABC), Boss (STARZ), The Mob Doctor (FOX), Detroit 1-8-7 (ABC), The Chicago Code (FOX), The Beast (A&E) and Prison Break (FOX).

Tara Mallen (Kathy) is an actor, director, producer and the Artistic Director at Rivendell Theatre Ensemble.  She was most recently on stage in RTE’s production of Grizzly Mama and  the world premiere production of Lynn Nottage’s Sweat at Arena Stage. Prior to that she was in RTE’s Jeff Nominated, world premiere productions of Look, we are breathing and Rasheeda Speaking. Tara appeared in the Steppenwolf Theatre Company production of How Long Will I Cry: Stories of Youth Violence written by Chicago Journalist Miles Harvey. She was part of the ensemble in Rivendell’s World Premiere, Jeff nominated production of The Walls and played Jolene Palmer (inspired by the true-life story of Aileen Wuornos) in Rivendell’s award winning production of Self Defense, or the Death of Some Salesmen -- both productions part of Steppenwolf Theatre Company’s Visiting Theater Initiative.  For Rivendell, Tara has both produced and acted in over thirty productions. She received a Joseph Jefferson award for “Supporting Actress” for her portrayal of Gwenyth in WRENS as part of that production’s Jeff-winning ensemble. She was nominated the following year for “Actress in a Principal Role” for her work in My Simple City.  Screen credits include Steven Soderbergh’s film Contagion, Boss (STARZ) ,Chicago Fire (NBC), Chicago P.D. (NBC), Sense8 (NetFlix), indie feature FOOLS and the CBS/Sony Pictures pilot Doubt .

Jessica Ervin (Penelope) ,one of RTE’s newest members returns to Rivendell where she was last seen in Dry Land (Ester) and also understudies their touring production of Women at War. Other Chicago theatre credits include touring artist with Erasing the Distance, Herculaneum (Blue Goose Theatre Ensemble), Summer in the Parks production of The Wild (Walkabout Theater Company), 12 Ways to Play Festival (The Public House Theatre), and Collaboraction’s final Sketchbook Festival. She can also be seen in the upcoming feature film Princess Cyd. Jessica is a graduate of Ball State University with a B.F.A. in Acting, and is represented by Gray Talent Group.

Margaret Kusterman (Cynthia) has appeared at Next Theatre where she appeared in The Luck of the Irish and Great God Pan. She understudied the role of Patricia in The Herd at Steppenwolf, where she was also in the Ensemble of No Place Like Home. At Seanachai she was part of the Jeff-nominated ensemble of The Big Picture. She was in Tartuffe at Remy Bumppo and Uncle Vanya at Strawdog. After understudying the role of Meg in The Beauty Queen of Leenane at Steppenwolf, she played the role at Northern Stage in Vermont. Margaret has worked with Jackalope, The Gift, Defiant, Livebait, Lifeline and Center Theatre. She holds a Masters Degree in Theatre from Northwestern University. 

Josh Odor (Mark) most recently performed in Griffin's Winterset, The Hypocrites' You on the Moors Now, Haven Theater's The Distance and The Time of Your Life with the Artistic Home. Josh has also worked at Steppenwolf, The Goodman, TimeLine, Steep, Teatro Vista, The Inconvenience, The House, The New Colony, Collaboraction, LiveWire, Buffalo Ensemble and as a member of Pine Box.  Josh's television work includes Chicago PD, Chicago Fire, Betrayal and Boss.

Aurora Real de Asua (Lucia) is working with the Rivendell Ensemble for the first time. Past Chicago credits include Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead (Metropolis), You On the Moors Now (u/s Hypocrites), Twelfth Night (u/s Chicago Shakespeare in the Park), as well as work with the Goodman Theatre and American Myth Project. She recently graduated from Northwestern University.

Hannah Toriumi (Agatha) has performed with such theaters as The Gift, Goodman Theatre, Silk Road Rising, Step Up Productions, and TOTC. She has also made appearances in commercials, film, and television. Hannah is represented by Paonessa Talent, is a graduate of The School at Steppenwolf Class of 2015 and holds a BA in Theatre Performance from North Central College.

Parking and Transportation: Free parking is available in the Senn High School parking lot (located a block and a half from the theatre behind the school off Thorndale Avenue). There is limited paid and free street parking in the area and the theatre is easily accessible via the Clark (#22) or Broadway (#36) bus and is a short walk from the Bryn Mawr Red Line El station.

Among the cast are four RTE Members, including Meighan Gerachis, Rebecca Spence, RTE Artistic Director Tara Mallen and RTE’s newest ensemble member, Jessica Ervin, most recently honored with a Jeff nomination for Best Actress for her work in last season’s production of Dry Land.  
The dramaturg is Tanya Palmer, the Goodman’s Director of New Play Development.

**Rivendell fills an important role in the Chicago region as the only Equity theater dedicated to producing artistically challenging and original plays created by and about women.**

About Rivendell Theatre Ensemble
Founded in 1994, Rivendell Theatre Ensemble advances women’s lives through the power of theatre. Rivendell cultivates the talents of women artists -- writers, actors, directors, designers and technicians – by seeking out innovative plays that explore unique female experiences and producing them in intimate, salon environments.

Rivendell fills an important role in the Chicago region as the only Equity theatre dedicated to producing artistically challenging and original plays created by and about women. After years of being an itinerant company, we moved into our own theater space in 2010 in Edgewater. As new members of the neighborhood, we are focused on becoming an integral community partner and serving as a catalyst to engage our audiences in a discussion of local social issues.

For more information about Rivendell Theater Ensemble, Follow RTE on Facebook at and on Twitter @RivendellThtr.

The Firebirds Take the Field was commissioned by Ensemble Studio Theater through support from the Alfred P. Sloane Foundation Grant. Founded in 1934 by industrialist Alfred P. Sloan Jr., the Foundation is a not-for-profit grantmaking institution that supports high quality, impartial scientific research; fosters a robust, diverse scientific workforce; strengthens public understanding and engagement with science; and promotes the health of the institutions of scientific endeavor.

Rivendell Theatre Ensemble is supported by generous grants from Allstate Insurance Company; The Lester and Hope Abelson Fund; The Alphawood Foundation; The Arts Work Fund for Organizational Development; The Chicago Community Trust; The Chicago Foundation for Women; The Elizabeth F. Cheney Foundation; The Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation; The MacArthur Funds for Arts and Culture at The Richard H. Driehaus Foundation; The Reva and David Logan Foundation; The Elizabeth Morse Charitable Trust; SIF Fund at The Chicago Community Trust; The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation; The University of Illinois at Chicago Institute for Policy and Civic Engagement; Cultural Outreach Program Grant from the City of Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs & Special Events; and the Illinois Arts Council Agency.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

OPENING: World Premiere of T. at American Theater Company May 18 - June 25

Chi, IL LIVE Shows On Our Radar:

American Theater Company announces casting for world premiere
of Dan Aibel’s competitive ice skating saga
Directed by Margot Bordelon
May 18 - June 25, 2017

We'll be out on the 22nd for the press preview, so check back then for our full review. American Theater Company is one of our favorite Chicago storefronts and they've been pushing the boundaries this season with energetic, edgy productions, as they explore the question, "What does it mean to be an American?" We can't wait to catch the world premiere of T.

American Theater Company (ATC) concludes its Season 32 with the world premiere of Dan Aibel’s T., an exploration of the competitive ice skating saga between Nancy Kerrigan and Tonya Harding. Margot Bordelon directs a cast featuring Guy Massey (Al), Leah Raidt (T.), ensemble member Tyler Ravelson (Jeff), Kelli Simpkins (Joanne) and Nate Whelden (Shawn). T. runs from May 18-June 25, 2017.

“Ice Follies” read the cover of Time Magazine on January 24, 1994, after ice skating medalist favorite Nancy Kerrigan was struck in the leg with a police baton by Shane Stant. In his darkly funny and unrelenting play, Dan Aibel explores the lengths one will go to for fame. Margot Bordelon returns to Chicago to direct this world premiere play named for Tonya Harding, the first woman ever to complete a triple axel jump in competition. Nancy Kerrigan never saw her coming.

“I have always loved Margot's work, I think she has an incredible eye for detail and a brilliant storytelling style,” says ATC Artistic Director Will Davis. “It's a pleasure to have her back in Chicago for this very new play, and I'm thrilled for audiences to see her bring those skills to this rich and complex text.”

T.’s design team includes Andrew Boyce (set), Stephanie Cluggish (costumes), Rachel Levy (lights), Miles Polaski (sound) and Mealah Heidenreich (props).  

Performance schedule
Previews: Thursday, May 18 at 8 p.m.; Friday, May 19 at 8 p.m. Saturday, May 20 at 8 p.m.; and Sunday, May 21 at 2 p.m.
Press Opening: Monday, May 22 at 7 p.m.
Regular Run: May 25-June 25: Thursdays and Fridays at 8 p.m.; Saturdays at 2 p.m. (with the exception of May 27) and 8 p.m.; Sundays at 2 p.m.

Single tickets for T. range from $20-$38 and are available by calling the ATC box office at 773-409-4125, or visiting Season subscriptions are also on sale now and range from $40-$112.50, with special pricing available for members under the age of 35.

Guy Massey’s (Al) Chicago credits include the 2013 and 2014 productions of Smokefall as well as Blue Skies Process at the Goodman Theater, Failure:  A Love Story at Victory Gardens Theater, Tigers Be Still at Theater Wit, Of Mice and Men at Steppenwolf for Young Adults, Louis Slotin Sonata at A Red Orchid Theatre, These Shining Lives at Rivendell Theatre Ensemble, Jon with Collaboraction and The Strangerer with Theater Oobleck. He also appeared in Death of a Salesman at Milwaukee Repertory Theater.

Leah Raidt (T.) returns to American Theatre Company after columbinus 2.0 directed by PJ Paparelli. Credits include The Flick (Rose u/s) at Steppenwolf Theatre, Punk Rock and national tours of Letters Home with Griffin Theatre, among work with Chicago Shakespeare Theatre, Pavement Group, The Blind Owl, Jackalope Theatre, and Emerald City Children's Theatre. Leah holds a BFA from The Theatre School at DePaul University, and is a graduate of The School at Steppenwolf.

Tyler Ravelson (Jeff) is an ensemble member at American Theater Company. At ATC: It's a Wonderful Life: The Radio Play, The Original Grease, RENT, columbinus, and Sons Of The Prophet. In Chicago: Sweet Bird of Youth at The Goodman Theatre, Girls Vs. Boys and The Nutcracker at The House Theater, The Hundred Dresses at Chicago Children's Theater, How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying at Porchlight Music Theater, The Pajama Game at The Music Theater Company, and Talk Radio at State Theater Chicago.

Kelli Simpkins (Joanne) is a company member of Tectonic Theater Project and is one of the original creator/performers of The Laramie Project--Off-B’Way, Denver Center, Berkeley Rep., LaJolla Playhouse. Theater credits: Spill at EST in NYC and Timeline Theater; Men on Boats at ATC; The Secretaries at About Face Theater; Cocked at Victory Gardens; Teddy Ferrara at Goodman; The Kid Thing at About Face; Pony at About Face; In Darfur at Timeline; Late: A Cowbow Song at Piven; The Laramie Tour: TLP & TLP Epilogue, Celebrity Row at ATC; Fair Use, Good Boys and True and One Arm all at Steppenwolf Theatre; Execution of Justice at About Face; The People’s Temple at The Guthrie, Perseverance and Berkeley Rep.; I Think I Like Girls at LaJolla and Cherry Lane.

Nate Whelden (Shawn) was last seen in the world premiere of Carlyle at the Goodman Theatre, where he returned after performing in the New Stages workshop production the year before. Whelden is an ensemble member at Sideshow Theatre Company where he runs the new work development program The Freshness Initiative, and where his acting credits include Stupid Fucking Bird, Antigonick, Maria/Stuart, The Ugly One, and Strangerland (Chicago Fringe Festival).  Other Chicago credits include Pinkolandia (16th Street Theater), The Peacock (Jackalope Theatre Company), Common Hatred (The Ruckus at Rhino Fest) and the video performance piece Space Pursues Them (Live to Tape Festival).  

Dan Aibel's plays have been developed and/or produced by the Detroit Rep, the Sundance Institute, Syracuse Stage, the Blank Theater (Los Angeles), Flashpoint Theatre Co. (Philadelphia), the Source Theatre (Washington, D.C.) and Outsider's Inn Collective (Seattle). In New York he has worked with Page 73, Rattlestick and The New Group. His play The Meaning of Lunch was seen in Chicago at Stage Left as part of Leapfest 7. A 2014 Sundance Theatre Lab fellow, Dan's plays have been published by Smith & Kraus and Playscripts. He lives in New York.

Margot Bordelon is a New York based director who specializes in new work. Recent projects include Too Heavy For Your Pocket by Jiréh Breon Holder at the Alliance, The Pen by Julianne Wick Davis and Dan Collins for Premieres NYC (NYT's Critic's pick), peerless by Jiehae Park at Marin Theatre Company and Yale Rep, A Delicate Ship by Anna Ziegler for The Playwrights Realm (NYT's Critic's pick), and Okay, Bye by Joshua Conkel at Steppenwolf Theater. In New York, she’s developed new plays with Ars Nova, Atlantic Theatre, The Bushwick Starr, Cherry Lane, Clubbed Thumb, Dodo, Juilliard, The Lark, NYTW, Primary Stages, Rattlestick, Roundabout Underground, SPACE at Ryder Farm, Target Margin, and Theater Masters, among others. She’s developed work with The Wilma Theater, Play Penn, Yale Repertory Theater, Woolly Mammoth, Perry Mansfield, Berkeley Rep Ground Floor, and Portland Center Stage. She is a founding member of Theatre Seven of Chicago, where she conceived and directed We Live Here; Lies & Liars; and Yes, This Really Happened to Me (all with Cassy Sanders). She spent four seasons working at Lookingglass Theatre, where she served as Literary Manager and Company Dramaturg. In Chicago she also worked for Collaboraction, Timeline, Pavement Group, Live Bait, Around the Coyote, Bailiwick, Hell in a Handbag, and Steppenwolf Theatre where she assistant directed for both Tina Landau and Austin Pendleton. She spent three years as a storyteller for 2nd Story, and her autobiographical work has been seen numerous times on the Victory Garden’s stage, including her one-woman show You Are Here.

About American Theater Company
American Theater Company (ATC) challenges and inspires its community by exploring stories that ask the question, "What does it mean to be an American?" ATC’s Ensemble includes Patrick Andrews, Kareem Bandealy, Jaime Castañeda, Kelly O’Sullivan, Tyler Ravelson, and Sadieh Rifai.

American Theater Company is partially supported by a grant from the Illinois Arts Council, a state agency, and CityArts grant from the City of Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events, the Lloyd A. Fry Foundation, Polk Bros. Foundation, the MacArthur Fund for Arts and Culture at Prince, and the Shubert Foundation.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

1 Night Only Withnail & I With Post-Show Q&A With Star Richard E. Grant at Music Box Theatre This Monday 4/24

Chi, IL LIVE Shows On Our Radar:

Film star Richard E. Grant appears at Music Box Theatre
one night only for 30th anniversary screening of cult film
Withnail & I and 
post-show Q&A with audience

Monday, April 24 at 7 p.m.

Grant currently in Chicago for Lyric Opera’s My Fair Lady

l-r: Richard E. Grant; Paul McGann and Richard E. Grant in Withnail & I.

TV and film star Richard E. Grant (Logan, Jackie, Girls, Game of Thrones) appears at the Music Box Theatre on Monday, April 24 for a special one-night-only 30th anniversary screening of the cult classic film Withnail & I, which launched Grant’s career in 1987. The British black comedy follows two unemployed young actors during what is supposed to be a relaxing getaway weekend to a country cottage. The film will be screened on 35mm, and immediately following Grant will participate in a Q&A with the audience about the film, his career, and first time performing in Chicago for Lyric Opera’s My Fair Lady.

The one-night-only 30th anniversary screening of Withnail and I at the Music Box Theatre (3733 N. Southport Avenue) is Monday, April 24 at 7 p.m. with a Q&A with Richard E. Grant immediately following. Tickets are $12 and available now at

Withnail & I is a British black comedy about two “resting” actors – living off a diet of booze and pills in a squalid Camden Flat – who decide to take a trip to a country house (belonging to Withnail’s uncle) to “rejuvenate.” Faced with bad weather, altercations with the locals, and the unexpected arrival (and advances) of Uncle Monty, the pair’s wits and friendship are tested.

Richard E. Grant is currently in Chicago for Lyric Opera’s grand-scale company premiere of My Fair Lady, starring as Henry Higgins alongside Lisa O’Hare as Eliza Doolittle. The cast also includes Bryce Pinkham (Freddy Eynsford-Hill), Nicholas Le Prevost (Colonel Pickering) and Donald Maxwell (Alfred Doolittle). My Fair Lady plays April 28-May 21, 2017, at Lyric’s Civic Opera House, 20 N. Wacker Drive. Tickets start at $22 and are available now at or at 312-827-5600.

Richard E. Grant has proven to be one of the great character actors of his generation since appearing in his first film as the perpetually inebriated title character in Withnail and I. Some of his most memorable credits include Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Henry & June, L.A. Story, The Player, The Age of Innocence, The Portrait of a Lady, Spice World, Gosford Park, and The Iron Lady. He has countless television credits, including featured roles on Girls, Downton Abbey, and Game of Thrones. In 2008, Grant performed the role of Henry Higgins in My Fair Lady with Opera Australia. Following the recent releases of the acclaimed films Jackie and Logan, he has several other films scheduled for release, including the romantic comedy Their Finest and the dark comedy Can You Ever Forgive Me? with Melissa McCarthy.

Music Box Theatre
For the last two decades, the Music Box Theatre has been the premiere venue in Chicago for independent and foreign films. It currently has the largest theater space operated full time in the city. The Music Box Theatre is independently owned and operated by the Southport Music Box Corporation. SMBC, through its Music Box Films division, also distributes foreign and independent films in the theatrical, DVD and television markets throughout the United States.

Follow The Music Box Theatre on Instagram @musicboxchicago and Twitter @musicboxtheatre

Lyric Opera of Chicago
Lyric Opera of Chicago’s mission is to express and promote the life-changing, transformational, revelatory power of great opera. Lyric exists to provide a broad, deep, and relevant cultural service to Chicago and the nation, and to advance the development of the art form.

Founded in 1954, Lyric is dedicated to producing and performing consistently thrilling, entertaining, and thought-provoking opera with a balanced repertoire of core classics, lesser-known masterpieces, and new works; to creating an innovative and wide-ranging program of community engagement and educational activities; and to developing exceptional emerging operatic talent.

Under the leadership of General Director, President & CEO Anthony Freud, Music Director Sir Andrew Davis, and Creative Consultant Renée Fleming, Lyric strives to become The Great North American Opera Company for the 21st century: a globally significant arts organization embodying the core values of excellence, relevance, and fiscal responsibility.

To learn more about Lyric, go to You can also join the conversation with @LyricOpera on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. #Lyric1617 #LongLivePassion

Friday, April 14, 2017

SEASON ANNOUNCED: Chicago Shakespeare Theater's 2017-18 Season To Include 3rd Stage, The Yard

Chicago Shakespeare Theater announces
2017/18 Season
Including the introduction of innovative third venue:

The Yard at Chicago Shakespeare

Here at ChiIL Live Shows and ChiIL Mama, we're elated about Chicago Shakespeare Theater's new season and new stage, a third Navy Pier performance venue, The Yard at Chicago Shakespeare! We can't wait to check it out.

Chicago Shakespeare Theater announces nine productions of the 2017/18 Season—which will engage audiences with timeless stories in transformational settings. The season also marks the introduction of the Theater's new and innovative third performance venue, The Yard at Chicago Shakespeare. Additional productions are to be announced this summer.

Artistic Director and Carl and Marilynn Thoma Endowed Chair Barbara Gaines said, "On the heels of the Theater's 30th Anniversary and the yearlong Shakespeare 400 Chicago festival, we have curated a season that reflects upon historic moments with radically fresh eyes—and at the same time blazes a trail forward by reimagining Shakespeare’s plays for today’s audiences. These works give voice to our collective soul, and serve to unite us in a time when the world feels more divided than ever.”

Regarding the opening of The Yard at Chicago Shakespeare, Executive Director Criss Henderson shared, "We are thrilled to introduce audiences this season to The Yard—a forward-thinking venue that is one-of-a-kind in terms of its flexibility and artistic vision. In concert with our existing spaces in the Courtyard Theater and Upstairs at Chicago Shakespeare, The Yard allows us to best serve our artists and audiences with a dynamic range of spaces that will be responsive to theater-makers for generations to come."

Opening in the 2017/18 Season,The Yard at Chicago Shakespeare redefines the traditional, fixed relationship between artist and audience—offering a radically versatile theatrical platform. Repurposing the footprint of Navy Pier's former Skyline Stage with an enclosed, year-round theater space, this third performance venue connects to Chicago Shakespeare's two existing spaces—the Courtyard Theater and the theater Upstairs at Chicago Shakespeare—through expanded lobbies. The innovative design features a series of mobile towers that allow the space to be configured in a variety of shapes and sizes with audience capacities ranging from 150 to 850. The new space allows the Theater to expand its programming, host a wide range of international productions, and double its service to students and teachers.

Kicking off the season, Barbara Gaines re-examines Shakespeare's notorious "battle of the sexes" in The Taming of the Shrew (September 16–November 12, 2017; Courtyard Theater) with an all-woman company. Gaines partners with playwright Ron West (CST's The Comedy of Errors, 2008) to frame Shakespeare's story as a performance by a group of Suffragettes in 1919—on the eve of the passing of the 19th Amendment.

In The Yard is James Thierrée's The Toad Knew (September 19–23, 2017; The Yard at Chicago Shakespeare), presented by his La Compagnie du Hanneton from France as part of CST’s World’s Stage series. Blending together the artistry of dancers, contortionists, and high-wire artists with Thierrée's extraordinary physical prowess, this spectacle premiered at the Edinburgh International Festival, where it was called "flamboyant, hallucinatory and ravishingly beautiful" by The Guardian. Thierrée returns to CST after his magnificent Farewell Umbrella (2007) and Bright Abyss (2005). Tickets for The Toad Knew will go on sale later this summer; CST subscribers and donors will have early access to this limited engagement.

Chicago Shakespeare then partners with the Chicago Latino Theater Alliance (CLATA) in its inaugural International Latino Theater Festival (Fall 2017; Upstairs at Chicago Shakespeare) with a Latin American production as part of the World’s Stage series to be announced. Founded through an alliance between the National Museum of Mexican Art, Puerto Rican Arts Alliance, and the International Cultural Center, CLATA aims to celebrate and amplify the voices of Latino theater artists in Chicago.

A theatrical revolution comes to the stage in Red Velvet (December 1, 2017–January 21, 2018; Courtyard Theater), staged by leading Broadway and Chicago director Gary Griffin. The award-winning play by Lolita Chakrabarti chronicles the seldom-told, true story of Ira Aldridge, an African-American actor who challenged convention by taking the London stage as the first black Othello in 1833—sending shockwaves through the city at a time when anti-abolition protesters rioted in the streets.

In 2018, the abridged Short Shakespeare! A Midsummer Night's Dream (January 24–March 10, 2018; The Yard at Chicago Shakespeare) introduces Shakespeare's mystical comedy to family and student audiences in a new production in The Yard, where its extended run will serve thousands of additional students and teachers next year.

Two resolute rulers—Queen Elizabeth I of England and Mary, Queen of Scots—face off in a struggle for the faith of the nation in Schiller's Mary Stuart (February 21–April 15, 2018; Courtyard Theater), with an electric adaptation by Peter Oswald. The production is staged by acclaimed director Jenn Thompson, former artistic director of The Actors Company Theater (TACT), which was named "Company of the Year" by The Wall Street Journal during her tenure.

Celebrated director and playwright Aaron Posner and Teller (of famous duo Penn & Teller) join forces with a new production of Macbeth (April 25–June 24, 2018; The Yard at Chicago Shakespeare), returning after their Jeff Award-winning production of The Tempest at Chicago Shakespeare in 2015. This supernatural thriller dives into the psyches of the power-hungry Macbeth and Lady Macbeth with astounding magic to immerse audiences in the storytelling.

Featured as part of Chicago Shakespeare's World's Stage series is Samuel Beckett's masterpiece Waiting for Godot (May 23–June 3, 2018; Courtyard Theater), presented by Ireland's Druid Theatre and staged by Tony Award-winning director Garry Hynes. The Irish Times called it, "the freshest, funniest and most affecting production of the play in at least a quarter of a century." This production marks the company's third return to Chicago Shakespeare following The Cripple of Inishmaan (2011) and The Walworth Farce (2009).

Touring to neighborhood parks across the City in Summer 2017 in partnership with the City of Chicago, Chicago Park District, Boeing and production sponsor BMO Harris, Chicago Shakespeare in the Parks presents FREE performances of Shakespeare's timeless Romeo and Juliet (July–August, 2017; neighborhood parks across Chicago) in a gripping 75-minute production, adapted and directed by Marti Lyons.

These productions join the previously announced summer family musical, Madagascar – A Musical Adventure (July 13–August 27, 2017; Courtyard Theater). Based on the DreamWorks Animation motion picture, this wild new musical is directed and choreographed by Matt Raftery at the Theater's home on Navy Pier.

For information on purchasing tickets, visit or call the CST Box Office at 312.595.5600. A variety of flexible packages start at just $180—offering savings over single tickets, and guaranteeing your seat at every production you choose to see. Discounted tickets are also available for groups of 10 or more; Access Shakespeare patrons; and anyone under age 35 through the CST for $20 initiative.

Chicago Shakespeare Theater's 2017/18 Season (at press time)
Madagascar – A Musical Adventure
in CST's Courtyard Theater
July 13–August 27, 2017
based on the DreamWorks Animation Motion Picture
book by Kevin Del Aguila | original music and lyrics by George Noriega & Joel Someillan
directed and choreographed by Matt Raftery

Chicago Shakespeare in the Parks
Romeo and Juliet
in neighborhood parks across Chicago
July–August, 2017
by William Shakespeare
adapted and directed by Marti Lyons

The Taming of the Shrew
in CST's Courtyard Theater
September 16–November 12, 2017
by William Shakespeare
adapted and directed by Barbara Gaines
additional dialogue by Ron West

from FRANCE | La Compagnie du Hanneton
The Toad Knew
in The Yard at Chicago Shakespeare
September 19–23, 2017
by James Thierrée

International Latino Theater Festival
Title to be announced
Upstairs at Chicago Shakespeare
Fall 2017

Red Velvet
in CST's Courtyard Theater
December 1, 2017–January 21, 2018
by Lolita Chakrabarti 
directed by Gary Griffin

Short Shakespeare! A Midsummer Night's Dream
in The Yard at Chicago Shakespeare
January 24–March 10, 2018
by William Shakespeare

Schiller's Mary Stuart
in CST's Courtyard Theater
February 21–April 15, 2018
in a new version by Peter Oswald
directed by Jenn Thompson

in The Yard at Chicago Shakespeare
April 25–June 24, 2018
by William Shakespeare
adapted and directed by Aaron Posner and Teller

from IRELAND | Druid Theatre
Waiting for Godot
in CST's Courtyard Theater
May 23–June 3, 2018
by Samuel Beckett
directed by Garry Hynes

Chicago Shakespeare Theater (CST) is a leading international theater company and a recipient of the Regional Theatre Tony Award®. Under the leadership of Artistic Director Barbara Gaines and Executive Director Criss Henderson, CST is dedicated to creating extraordinary production of classics, new works and family programming; to unlocking Shakespeare's work for educators and students; and to serving as Chicago's cultural ambassador through its World's Stage Series. Through a year-round season encompassing more than 650 performances, CST attracts 225,000 audience members annually. One in four of its audience members is under eighteen years old, and today its education programs have impacted the learning of over one million students. CST is proud to take an active role in empowering the next generation of literate, engaged cultural champions and creative minds. Throughout 2016, CST spearheaded the international arts and culture festival, Shakespeare 400 Chicago, a yearlong, citywide celebration of the playwright's 400-year legacy.

Monday, April 10, 2017

OPENING: Into The Empty Sky at Trap Door Theatre 5/11-6/17

Chi, IL LIVE Shows On Our Radar:

THE TRAP DOOR THEATRE is proud to present...
Into the Empty Sky
Based on the poetry collection, MAP, by Wislawa Szymborska 
Translated by Clare Cavanagh and Stanislaw Baranczak 
Devised and Directed by Monica Payne

Cast: Maryam Abdi, Tiffany Addison, Marzena Bukowska, Rashida Curtis, Halie Ecker, Mike Mazzocca, Kelsey Shipley 

Into the Empty Sky, devised and directed by Monica Payne, draws from a selection of Wislawa Szymborska’s poems as the catalyst for this new work. Szymborska, a beloved Polish poet and Nobel laureate, tended to view her subjects, both large and small, from an unusual, pragmatic, and wry perspective. Into the Empty Sky features six women trapped in a purgatorial landscape; unsure of their surroundings, haunted by the past, and trying desperately to escape.

Opens: Thursday May 11, 2017 at 8PM 
Closes: Saturday June 17, 2017 at 8PM
Runs:  Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays at 8PM
Admission: $20 on Thursdays, Fridays, $25 on Saturdays, 2 for 1 Admission on Fridays 
Where: TRAP DOOR THEATRE 1655 West Cortland Ave. Chicago, IL 60622

For Information/Reservations: 773-384-0494 To purchase online

Wisława Szymborska (Playwright) was born July 2nd, 1923 in Kórnik, Poznań province. Between 1945 and 1948 she studied Polish, Literature, and Sociology at the Jagiellonian University in Kraków. She made her debut in March 1945 with the poem Looking for Words published in a supplement to the daily newspaper "Dziennik Polski". From 1953 to 1981 she worked on the Krakow-based weekly magazine "Życie Literackie", where she ran the poetry column and the book review column "Lektury nadobowiązkowe" (later resumed as "Gazeta o Książkach" in the supplement to Gazeta Wyborcza). 

Szymborska published 13 collections of poetrythat has been translated into over forty languages. She also translated poetry herself, mainly from French and German. In 1991 she received the Goethe Prize. In 1995 she won the Herder Prize, and in May of that same year, she was awarded the honorary degree honoris causa by Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań. In 1996, Wisława Szymborska received the Polish PEN Club award and the Nobel Prize for Literature. In 2001 she became an honorary member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and in 2011 she was awarded the highest Polishnationaldecoration, the Order of theWhite Eagle. Wisława Szymborska died on February 1st, 2012 in Kraków.

Monica Payne (Director) is a freelance director who last worked with Trap Door in the spring of 2016, staging a reading of the award-winning Polish play Trash Story by Magda Fertacz, for the International Voices Project. She directed full productions of the same play in New York (Kulture+ Productions) and Los Angeles (UCLA TFT) and has traveled to Krakow twice through the Adam Mickiewicz Institute to study Polish theatre. Payne has also directed at UCLA, The Pittsburgh Playhouse, Theatre Lumina (LA), Point Park University, and The Artistic Home. As an assistant director, she has worked at Steppenwolf, The Goodman Theatre, Theatre Y, The Latino Theatre Company, and La Mirada Center for the Performing Arts. As a former actress, Payne has worked with Steppenwolf, The Artistic Home, The Hypocrites, The Journeymen, and Famous Door, among others. Payne has taught for several universities, including UCLA, Carnegie Mellon, and Point Park University. She has been a Meisner teacher for 16 years and has taught for The School at Steppenwolf, The Artistic Home, The Audition Studio, Steppenwolf Classes West, and independently. She earned her M.F.A. in Directing from the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television and is a member of both the NY and LA Directors' Labs. www.monicapaynedirector. com.

Set Designer Eleanor Kahn/ Lighting Design Richard Norwood/ Costume Design Rachel Sypniewski/ Sound Design/Composer Mike Mazzocca / Make-Up Design Zsófia Ötvös / Graphic Design Michal Janicki/ Dramaturg Milan Pribisic / Stage Manager Kristin Davis

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