Thursday, August 31, 2017

OPENING: House Theatre's Heartfelt and Harrowing UNITED FLIGHT 232 Returns To Chopin Theatre 9/1-10/21


Production image of United Flight 232 (2016) by Michael Brosilow

The Play Based on True Events is the Winner of the 2016 Joseph Jefferson Awards for 
“Best Production of a Play” and “Best Ensemble”

We're beyond elated that The House Theatre's highly acclaimed production of United Flight 232 is returning to Chopin Theatre’s Upstairs space. We'll be out for the press opening so check back soon for our full review.

The House Theatre of Chicago is proud to announce the return of the 2016 Joseph Jefferson award-winning show for “Best Production of a Play (midsize),” adapted and directed by Vanessa Stalling+, United Flight 232. The adaptation of Laurence Gonzales’ book Flight 232 tells the story of the harrowing July 19, 1989 flight bound for Chicago’s O’Hare airport. United Flight 232 runs September 1 through October 21 and plays at Chopin Theatre’s Upstairs Theater, 1543 W. Division St.  

Previews begin Friday, September 1 and play through Saturday, September 9. Opening/press night is Sunday, September 10 at 7 p.m. Regular performances are Thursdays - Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 7 p.m., and Saturdays and Sundays at 3pm from September 14 – October 21. Preview tickets are $15 and regular run tickets range from $25 to $45. $15 same-day tickets for students and industry professionals are available for all dates, seats permitting. 

For more information and to purchase tickets, please visit or call 773.769.3832.

A show you “shouldn’t miss” and is “deeply engrossing”
-  Chicago Tribune. 

“Documentary theater doesn’t get much better”
- Chicago Reader.

On July 19, 1989, a DC-10 headed for O’Hare with 296 aboard is paralyzed mid-air. For 44 minutes, the aircraft descended towards an emergency landing and crashed at Sioux City Gateway airport. To the astonishment of all who witnessed the event, 184 of 296 passengers and crew survived. Drawing on the interviews and research conducted by Evanston author Laurence Gonzales for his critically acclaimed book, Flight 232: A Story of Disaster and Survival this award-winning original play, United Flight 232, is a reflection on how to comprehend tragedy and celebrate human ingenuity in the face of overwhelming challenges.

The House Theatre of Chicago welcomes back four members the 2016 Joseph Jefferson Award winning cast for “Best Ensemble,” which includes Company Members Brenda Barrie*+, Elana Elyce+, and Johnny Arena+, along with guest artist Alice da Cunha who’s performances are heralded in Performink as “authentic, heartbreaking and funny.”  Joining the 2017 cast is Company Member Abu Ansari+ and guest artists Dan Lin, Carlos Olmedo, Joseph Sultani, and Jessica Dean Turner.

The Production and Design team includes John Musial, Scenic Designer; Delia Ridenour, Costume Designer; William C. Kirkham*, Lighting Designer; Kaili Story, Associate Lighting Designer; Steve Labedz, Sound Designer & Composer; Matthew Muniz+, Music Director; Paul Deziel, Projection Designer; Eleanor Kahn, Props Designer, and Brian DesGranges, Stage Manager*+.

United Flight 232 was commissioned and developed by The House Theatre of Chicago and the Chicago Performance Lab through the Theatre and Performance Studies Program at the University of Chicago. 

*Member Actor’s Equity Association

+Company Member of The House Theatre of Chicago

Laurence Gonzales was born in St. Louis, Missouri, and grew up in Houston and San Antonio, Texas.  His book about the crash of United Flight 232 at Sioux City, Iowa, July 19, 1989, Flight 232: A Story of Disaster and Survival, from W.W. Norton, was published on July 7, 2014. San Francisco Chronicle called the book, “A richly detailed story that is equal parts heartbreaking [and] inspiring…” while The Washington Post said, “Flight 232 stands alone for its absolutely riveting depiction of the flight’s last minutes and the horrendous aftermath: for its vivid sympathetic portraits of many of those aboard the plane, the crew most particularly.” 

He is also the author of numerous books, including the bestseller Deep Survival: Who Lives, Who Dies, and Why and the sequel, Surviving Survival: The Art and Science of Resilience (both from W.W. Norton). Gonzales has won many awards, including two National Magazine Awards and the Distinguished Service Award from the Society of Professional Journalists. He has appeared as a speaker before groups ranging from the Santa Fe Institute to Legg Mason Capital Management, the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, and the Sloan School of Management at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He is also on the adjunct faculty at Northwestern University in the Medill School of Journalism. His most recent novel is Lucy (Alfred A. Knopf). His essays are collected in the book House of Pain (University of Arkansas Press). He is a Miller Scholar the Santa Fe Institute.

He divides his time between Evanston and Santa Fe. For more, see                                                    

ABOUT VANESSA STALLING, adaptor and director
Vanessa Stalling is excited to once again be at The House, where she is now a company member. Most recently, she directed Lauren Yee's Hookman at Steep Theatre. 

Her upcoming productions include Sarah DeLappe’s The Wolves at The Goodman Theatre. Vanessa is also known for her work as an artist of Redmoon Theater. While at Redmoon, she enjoyed performing, directing and serving as associate artistic director. Redmoon directing credits include a remount of The Cabinet, Winter Pageant, Princess Club, and roaming performances for President Obama’s White House Halloween Celebrations. She is also an instructor of theater and has taught students at Columbia College, Roosevelt University, and University of Chicago.

The House is Chicago's premier home for intimate, original works of epic story and stagecraft. Founded and led by Artistic Director Nathan Allen and driven by an interdisciplinary ensemble of Chicago’s next generation of great storytellers, The House aims to become a laboratory and platform for the evolution of the American theatre as an inclusive and popular artform.

The House was founded in 2001 by a group of friends to explore connections between Community and Storytelling through a unique theatrical experience. Since becoming eligible in 2004, The House has been nominated for 66 Joseph Jefferson Awards (23 wins), became the 
first recipient of Broadway in Chicago’s Emerging Theater Award in 2007, and was awarded a 
2014 National Theatre Company Grant by the American Theatre Wing, founder of the Tony Awards. The 16th season of original work will begin September 2017 and The House will continue its mission to unite Chicago in the spirit of Community through amazing feats of Storytelling.  

The House Theatre of Chicago is proud to announce the return of the 2016 Joseph Jefferson award-winning show for “Best Production of a Play,” adapted and directed by Vanessa Stalling, United Flight 232. The adaptation of Laurence Gonzales’ book Flight 232 tells the story of the harrowing July 19, 1989 flight bound for Chicago’s O’Hare airport. United Flight 232 runs September 1 through October 21 and plays at Chopin Theatre’s Upstairs Theater, 1543 W. Division St.  Previews begin Friday, September 1 and play through Saturday, September 9. Opening/press night is Sunday, September 10 at 7 p.m. Regular performances are Thursdays -  Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 7 p.m., and Saturdays and Sundays at 3pm from September 14 – October 21. Preview tickets are $15 and regular run tickets range from $25 to $45. $15 same-day tickets for students and industry professionals are available for all dates, seats permitting. For more information and to purchase tickets, please visit or call 773.769.3832.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

REVIEW: Strawdog's Scorching Barbecue Heats Up Steppenwolf's 1700 Space

Chi, IL LIVE Shows On Our Radar:



"In America, you sometimes taze the ones you love."

There are few things as all American as a barbecue in the park, dysfunctional families, lying addicts, and dark comedies. Barbecue packs 'em all into a two hour ride that will have your ribs aching. Just when you think you've got it all figured out, the house goes dark, and the game changes. 

All photos by Heath Hays
(L to R) Abigail Pierce, Barbara Figgins, Anita Deely, John Henry Roberts and Kristin Collins

Don't get too comfortable in your seat. Once you're sure you fully grok where this show's going, your grasp on the play's reality is actually hanging by a thread, and ready to snap. I won't give many spoilers to this plot twist laden picnic, as it's better as a full on surprise. I will say it was laugh out loud funny, utterly unpredictable, and a thoroughly entertaining evening. 

(L to R) Abigail Pierce and Ginneh Thomas

Robert O’Hara's witty script is a delicious blend of deep truths wrapped in lies and an expertly funny exploration into family dynamics, deceptions, fictional memoirs, prejudices, our cultural celebrity fixation, and so much more. The comedic timing, body language and talent of this cast is superb as well. Celeste M. Cooper (Marie) was a particular standout. Even her facial expressions had us in hysterics. We're also enamored with Steppenwolf's newest space, the flexible, 80 seat 1700 stage, and this show fit the intimate space exceptionally well. Don't miss this!

Celeste M. Cooper, Deanna Reed-Foster and Kamille Dawkins

Celeste M. Cooper, Terence Sims, Deanna Reed-Foster and Kamille Dawkins

Barbecue by Robert O’Hara runs through September 30, with direction by Damon Kiely at Steppenwolf Theatre Company’s 1700 Theatre, 1700 N. Halsted Street as a LookOut Visiting Company.  


What better way to bring summer to a close than with an emotional bomb shell of a BBQ/family intervention?! We're elated that one of our favorite storefront companies, Strawdog Theatre Company, will be playing one of our fav new cabaret spaces, Steppenwolf Theatre Company’s 1700 Theatre. Not to mention, the author is the acclaimed and multi award winning Robert O’Hara. We adored his hilarious play, BootyCandy, that just ran for months at Windy City Playhouse. This one's sure to be hot! The intimate 1700 space fills fast so don't miss out. 

Regular run performances are Fridays at 8 p.m., Saturdays at 3:30 and 8 p.m. and Sundays at 3:30 p.m. Preview tickets are $35, regular run tickets are $45. Strawdog subscribers enjoy 25% off all ticket prices. 

This production is also available to Steppenwolf’s Red and Black Card holders. Group, senior, student, industry, and rush discounts are also available. To purchase subscriptions to Strawdog’s 2017-18 Season, visit 

To purchase single tickets to Barbecue, please visit HERE.

A modern American family uses a summer barbecue as a pretext to ambush sister Barbara with an intervention.  If you think “all families are crazy” is just a cliché, you’ve not spent time under the influence of the O'Mallerys.  An afternoon in the park with these raucous siblings and you'll be challenging your own assumptions about family, race, and reality. The Chicago premiere of Barbecue by Obie and Helen Hayes Award winner Robert O’Hara will have you laughing out loud and questioning how it’s true that in America, you sometimes taze the ones you love.

Since its world premiere, Barbecue has received critically acclaim. The Los Angeles Times said,  “Ferociously funny! Barbecue raucously sends up the sociological pantomime — life as an award-seeking existential burlesque,” and “Wickedly delightful!” by Variety’s review included, “Barbecue, shrewdly turns the formula for the American domestic comedy on its head.”

The Barbecue cast includes Strawdog Ensemble Members John Henry Roberts and Kamille Dawkins with guest artists Kristin Collins, Celeste Cooper, Anita Deely, Barbara Figgins, Deanna Reed Foster, Abby Pierce, Terence Simms and Ginneh Thomas.

The Barbecue design team includes Strawdog Ensemble Members Costume Designer Aly Greaves Amidei and Sound Designer Heath Hayes with guest artists: Director Damon Kiely, Assistant Director Michael Burke, Set Designer Joanna Iwanicka, Lighting Designer Jared Gooding, Props Designer Leah Hummel and Dramaturg Taylor Barfield. 

Damon Kiely is chair of Performance at DePaul’s Theatre School and the author of the book How to Read a Play (Routledge) and the plays Thieves Like Us and The Revel. His production of Hank Williams: Lost Highway won the Jeff Award for Best Musical Midsized. He has directed for American Theatre Company, TimeLine, Route 66, A Red Orchid and many others. He lives in Edgewater with his wife Jennifer and their children, Bella and Finn.

Robert O’Hara has received the NAACP Best Director Award, the Helen Hayes Award for Outstanding New Play, two OBIEs and the Oppenheimer Award. He directed the world premieres of Nikkole Salter and Dania Guiria’s In the Continuum, Tarell McCraney’s The Brother/Sister Plays (Part 2), Colman Domingo’s Wild with Happy as well as his own plays, BootyCandy and Insurrection: Holding History. His new plays Zombie: The American and Barbecue, world premiered at Woolly Mammoth Theater and New York Shakespeare Festival, respectively. He is currently directing a new musical, Uni/son inspired from the poetry of August Wilson at Oregon Shakespeare Festival and a new musical, Bella by Kirsten Childs at Playwrights Horizons. He will direct the world premiere of his play, Mankind, at Playwrights Horizons this fall.

John Henry Roberts, Anita Deely, Barbara Figgins and Kristin Collins

Since its founding in 1988, Strawdog Theatre Company has offered Chicagoland the premiere storefront theatre experience and garnered numerous Non-Equity Jeff Awards with its commitment to ensemble acting and an immersive design approach. The celebrated Company develops new work, re-imagines the classics, melds music with theatre, asks provocative questions and delivers their audience the unexpected.

Strawdog Theatre Company is supported in part by The Richard H. Driehaus Foundation, the Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation, the Alphawood Foundation, Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs, and the annual support of businesses and individuals.

Friday, August 25, 2017

30% OFF DISCOUNT CODE & 2 TICKET GIVE AWAY: Cirque du Soleil LUZIA in Chicago

Chi, IL LIVE Shows On Our Radar:

Thanks to Cirque du Soleil LUZIA for providing ChiIL Mama & ChiIL Live Shows with tickets for our giveaway and for review purposes. As always, all opinions are my own.

Last Call:

Here at ChiIL Mama & ChiIL Live Shows we adore LUZIA by Cirque du Soleil. We've caught it twice already and just can't get enough of this stunning show, particularly the light effects and aerial arts in the waterfalls and Mexican cenotes! If you still haven't seen it or want to catch it again, act fast! The Big Top must leave on September 3rd. Cirque du Soleil tent shows are the best, with world class circus arts, live music, and stunning sets, costumes, and stunts. 


We've got a FREE pair of LUZIA Chicago tickets for one of our lucky readers to any show of your choice through September 3rd pending availability! This is a quick one, but a good one. Enter from now through midnight tomorrow, Saturday 8/26/17. Winner will be e-mailed as well as revealed via our social media outlets on Facebook and Twitter on 8/27/17. 

**CLICK HERE  for your chance to win**


This is your last chance to see LUZIA in Chicago and we've got a great discount for ChiIL Mama & ChiIL Live Shows readers. Grab your tickets HERE for a special 30% off on PL1, 2 and 3 on all performances, valid through September 3rd. 

Once again, thanks to Cirque du Soleil LUZIA for providing ChiIL Mama & ChiIL Live Shows with tickets for our giveaway and for review purposes. As always, all opinions are my own.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

REVIEW: "HAIR: The American Tribal Love-Rock Musical" at Mercury Theater Through 9/17

Chi, IL LIVE Shows On Our Radar:

**As I'm recovering from major knee surgery, Cath Hellmann will be guest reviewing for me throughout August. Cath is a lifelong theatre lover, on stage, directing, and in the audience. She's an English teacher, mom of three, and elated to be living in Chicago again, after a 10 year stint in the wilds of rural Michigan near Kalamazoo. **

Photo Credit for all: Brett A. Beiner

Guest Review by Cath Hellmann

On the way into the charming and intimate Mercury Theater, I spot a couple of anti-Trump buttons. It is an instant reminder that a hippie musical which premiered fifty years ago with its message of love, anti-war sentiment, and feeling disenfranchised from one's government is still sadly relevant today. In fact, a couple of the actors in their bios encourage the audience to support the ACLU or other causes in these troubling times.  

Even with its political intent, "HAIR" is a hell of a great experience at the theater with impressive singing, familiar songs you didn't think you knew, and exuberant performances, particularly by Matthew Keefer as Berger and Evan Tyrone Martin as Hud.

The transport back to the era of the late sixties begins immediately when an usher walks down the aisle bearing a sign with the requisite "turn your cell phone off" direction instead of a house manager announcing the rules. A lone woman with a large afro appears in the balcony singing about "When the moon is in the Seventh House and Jupiter aligns with Mars, then peace will guide the planets..." Suddenly the rest of the cast bursts in from the backstage door to join her in "The Age of Aquarius." ("They look like they just got back from Bonnaroo," my Mexican-Hippie-Music Lover-Companion [permission was suggested and granted for this nickname] whispers.  

When "HAIR" opened on Broadway in April 1968, it ran for an astonishing 1,750 performances. A Broadway revival in 2009 earned a Tony Award and Drama Desk Award for 2009 Best Revival of a Musical. TIME magazine stated in 2008 that "HAIR seems, if anything, more daring than ever." Indeed, one of the songs, "Sodomy," has the lyrics:  "Sodomy, Fellatio, Cunnilingus, Pederasty—Father, why do these words sound so nasty? Masturbation can be fun."  Hmmm...I had season tickets to Lyric Opera for a decade and never read anything close to that in the super titles.  

The plot of "HAIR" is rather thin, with the exception of Claude, played by Liam Quealy, torn over the peer pressure to burn his draft card or please his parents by being shipped off. One of the most affecting lines in the entire show is: "We're all Vietnam Bait." (Another modern tie-in: my teenage son's friend just joined the Marines. As his mother said, "I wouldn't be so worried if Obama was still in office." Parents are still scared for the safety of their children over our leader's political mistakes and hubris.)  

The music, performances, and message drive the show. Matthew Keefer's sexy portrayal of Berger is such fun to watch, as he kisses both genders, strips down to his loincloth, and sings about peace and love. Lucy Godinez, who was so poignant in Porchlight Music Theatre's "In the Heights," delivers as another effective character, the naïve and pregnant Jeanie. In an additional eerie display of timeliness, Hud, played by Evan Tyrone Martin, warns in "Colored Spade," confronting racial stereotypes, "And if you don't watch out, the boogie man will get you. Boo!" 


"HAIR" is known for its groovy costumes, drug references, nudity, rebelliousness, preaching love, and community. The ensemble at Mercury does not disappoint; when the entire group first raised their voices in unison, I got goosebumps. Such power from a small but mighty group of performers was inspiring.  At the end of Act I, when the cast strips down, the display of colored lights keeps the display of skin fairly hidden. Or as my surprised companion hissed, "I've never seen so many tits and dicks onstage!"   

Great singing, fabulous energy, a positive message of love and acceptance, "tits and dicks onstage." "HAIR," running at the Mercury Theater at 3745 N. Southport Avenue, through September 17, has it all. Read more here. Bring your friends for an exciting outing of theater. Maybe leave the kids and Grandma at home to watch Lawrence Welk. Peace out.  

Thursday, August 3, 2017

LAST CALL/ REVIEW: American Blues Theater's Beauty's Daughter

Chicago Premiere
by Dael Orlandersmith, Directed by Ron OJ Parson
Featuring Artistic Affiliate Wandachristine

 All photos feature Wandachistine and are to the credit of Michael Brosilow

The final days of American Blues Theater's acclaimed one woman show, Beauty's Daughter, are upon us. Wandachristine is nothing short of stunning as she embodies a host of diverse characters with ease. We adored this exploration of community, love and loss, families we choose and those we're born into. 

With the slight exception of a bit of confusion when one monologue jumps locations from New York to Ireland, her storylines and characters were clear and easy to follow. We particularly liked the overlap in narrative where the various personas introduced us to the others before we met them. This show is thought provoking, multilayered and magnificent and Wandachristine brings the words to life in a captivating collage of the senses.

Kudos also to the set designers and the brains behind the projections. The imagery was evocative and provided a fabulous canvas for the storyline to play out on. I've never seen projections concentrated directly on a character's clothing before and it was eerily effective.

If there's any drawback it's the sight lines in some of the upper seats. It's an intimate venue so audio is fine anywhere, but if you want an unobstructed view of the seated monologues, arrive early and aim for the lower rows. 

Beauty's Daughter is highly recommended. Don't miss this!

Beauty's Daughter Trailer from American Blues Theater on Vimeo.

Ending August 5, 2017

Chi, IL LIVE Shows On Our Radar:
Beauty’s Daughter
American Blues Theater

American Blues Theater season with the Chicago Premiere of Beauty’s Daughter by Dael Orlandersmith, directed by Ron OJ Parson, and Artistic Affiliate Wandachristine. Beauty’s Daughter runs July 7 – August 5, 2017 at Stage 773, 1225 W. Belmont Ave. in Chicago. 

Thursday:7:30 p.m.
Friday: 7:30 p.m.
Saturday:7:30 p.m.
Sunday: 2:30 p.m. 

Regular Run: through August 5, 2017

Additional performances on Wednesdays, July 12, 19 & 24 at 7:30pm; Wednesday, August 2 at 2:30pm; and Saturday, August 5 at 3:00pm.  There will be no performance on Saturday, August 5 at 7:30 pm.

Location: Stage 773, 1225 W. Belmont Ave. in Chicago

Ticket prices: $19 - $49

Box Office: Buy online at or by calling 773.327.5252.

This Obie Award-winning play by Dael Orlandersmith depicts one woman’s journey through life’s obstacles in an East Harlem neighborhood. Artistic Affiliate Wandachristine takes on 6 different characters during the course of this solo play—some broken, some on the way down, but all memorable.

“Wandachristine’s performance is wholly engrossing as she embodies the gestures, voices, and exceptional rhythms of Ms. Orlandersmith’s world,” says Artistic Director Gwendolyn Whiteside.

The creative team for Beauty’s Daughter includes Caitlin McLeod (scenic design), Artistic Affiliate Jared Gooding (lighting design), Michael Alan Stein (costume design), Eric Backus (sound design), Mary O’Dowd (props design), and Artistic Affiliate Paul Deziel (projection design). The assistant director is Artemis Steakley Freeman, the dramaturg is Wilson Cain and the stage manager is Cara Parrish.

About the Artists
Dael Orlandersmith is a Goodman Artistic Associate and Artist-in-Residence at the new Alice Rapoport Center for Education and Engagement at the Goodman. Ms. Orlandersmith collaborated with the Goodman on Black n Blue Boys/Broken Men during the 2012/2013 Season and Stoop Stories during the 2009/2010 Season. Black n Blue Boys/Broken Men was developed as a co-commission between the Goodman and Berkeley Repertory Theatre, where it was staged in May 2012. Ms. Orlandersmith first performed Stoop Stories in 2008 at The Public Theater’s Under the Radar Festival and Apollo Theater’s Salon Series; Washington, D.C.’s Studio Theatre produced its world premiere in 2009. Her play Forever, commissioned by the Center Theatre Group in Los Angeles, was performed at the Mark Taper Forum in fall 2014. The show was then performed at the Long Wharf Theatre, New York Theatre Workshop and Portland Center Stage in 2015. Her play Until the Fall will play the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis in fall 2016. Her play Horsedreams was developed at New Dramatists and workshopped at New York Stage and Film Company in 2008, and was performed at Rattlestick Playwrights Theater in 2011. Bones was commissioned by the Mark Taper Forum, where it premiered in 2010. Ms. Orlandersmith premiered The Blue Album, in collaboration with David Cale, at Long Wharf Theatre in 2007. Yellowman was commissioned by and premiered at McCarter Theatre in a co-production with the Wilma Theater and Long Wharf Theatre. Ms. Orlandersmith was a Pulitzer Prize finalist and Drama Desk Award nominee for Outstanding Play and Outstanding Actress in a Play for Yellowman in 2002. The Gimmick, commissioned by McCarter Theatre, premiered in their Second Stage OnStage series in 1998 and went on to great acclaim at Long Wharf Theatre and New York Theatre Workshop; Ms. Orlandersmith won the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize for The Gimmick in 1999. Her play Monster premiered at New York Theatre Workshop in November 1996. Ms. Orlandersmith has toured extensively with the Nuyorican Poets Café (Real Live Poetry) throughout the United States, Europe and Australia. Yellowman and a collection of her earlier works have been published by Vintage Books and Dramatists Play Service. Ms. Orlandersmith attended Sundance Institute Theatre Lab for four summers and is the recipient of a New York Foundation for the Arts Grant, the Helen Merrill Award for Emerging Playwrights, a Guggenheim award and the 2005 PEN/Laura Pels Foundation award for a playwright in mid-career. She is the recipient of a Lucille Lortel Foundation Playwrights Fellowship and an Obie Award for Beauty’s Daughter.

Ron OJ Parson is a native of Buffalo, New York, and a graduate of the University of Michigan’s professional theatre program. He is the co-founder and former Artistic Director of The Onyx Theatre Ensemble of Chicago, a Resident Artist at Court Theatre and an Associate Artist with Teatro Vista and Writers Theatre. Since moving to Chicago from New York in 1994, he has worked as both an actor and director. His Chicago credits include work with Victory Gardens, Goodman, Steppenwolf Theatre, Chicago Dramatists, Northlight Theatre, Court Theatre, Black Ensemble Theatre, Congo Square Theatre, Urban Theatre Co., ETA Creative Arts Foundation, Chicago Theatre Company, and Writers Theatre. Regionally, Ron has directed shows at Studio Arena Theatre, Alliance Theatre, Actors Theatre of Louisville, Milwaukee Repertory Theatre, South Coast Repertory, Pasadena Playhouse, Geva Theatre, Virginia Stage and Portland Stage (Maine), among others. Ron also has directed at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival in Canada. Acting credits on television and film include ER, Early Edition, Turks, American Playhouse, Vamping, Barbershop 2, Primal Fear, Ali, Drop Squad, Boss and most recently Fox’s Empire.

Wandachristine has graced the small screen in many memorable guest starring roles; the last one playing Birdie on Chicago PD. On the large screen, she’s worked alongside talents like Whoopi Goldberg, Neil Patrick Harris, Paul Newman, Tom Selleck, Clifton Davis; and she starred as Mrs. Jones, in the hit dramedy Me and Mrs. Jones along with Kim Fields and Brian White. On stage, she has appeared in such notable productions as, Spunk, The Vagina Monologues, Oo-Bla-Dee, and the touring company of Fences. However, her role as Quilly in the Writer’s Theatre production of Old Settler, garnered both a Supporting Actress nomination and the Best Actress nomination for the noted Ruby Dee/Black Theater Alliance Award, which was also the last time she and director Ron Oj Parson worked together. Her voice work includes commercials for Mc Donald’s, political campaigns, Scarface the video game, The Justice League and work with Eddie Murphy on the PJ’s. As an alumni of Loyola University, she was commissioned to write a one-act play Welcome Home for the opening of the Newhart Family Theater.  Recent literary projects include her first novel, “I Love You…More Than Shoes!” and her most recent play One Day.

About American Blues Theater
Winner of the American Theatre Wing’s prestigious 2016 National Theatre Company Award, American Blues Theater is a premier arts organization with an intimate environment that patrons, artists, and all Chicagoans call home.  American Blues Theater explores the American identity through the plays it produces and communities it serves.

The diverse and multi-generational artists have established the second-oldest professional Equity Ensemble theater in Chicago.  The 37-member Ensemble has 530+ combined years of collaboration on stage. As of 2016, the theater and artists received 186 Joseph Jefferson Awards and nominations that celebrate excellence in Chicago theater and over 31 Black Theatre Alliance Awards. The artists are honored with Pulitzer Prize nominations, Academy Awards, Golden Globe Awards, Emmy Awards and numerous other accolades.  

The American Blues Theater Ensemble includes all four Founders Ed Blatchford, Rick Cleveland, James Leaming, and William Payne with Dawn Bach, Matthew Brumlow, Manny Buckley, Kate Buddeke, Sarah Burnham, Dara Cameron, Casey Campbell, Darren Canady, Brian Claggett, Dennis Cockrum, Austin Cook, Laura Coover, Ian Paul Custer, Lauri Dahl, Joe Foust, Cheryl Graeff, Marty Higginbotham, Jaclyn Holsey, Lindsay Jones, Nambi E. Kelley, Kevin R. Kelly, Steve Key, Ed Kross, Warren Levon, Michael Mahler, Heather Meyers, John Mohrlein, Christopher J. Neville, Suzanne Petri, Carmen Roman, Editha Rosario, Sarah E. Ross, and Gwendolyn Whiteside.

American Blues Theater programs and activities are made possible, in part by funding by The MacArthur Funds for Arts & Culture at Prince, the Shubert Foundation, The Chicago Community Trust, SMART Growth Grant, Gaylord & Dorothy Donnelley Foundation, the Illinois Arts Council Agency, Anixter Foundation, Actors’ Equity Foundation, and the Chip Pringle Fund. ComEd is the Season Lighting Sponsor.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

OPENING: Regional Premiere HONEYMOON IN VEGAS at Marriott Theatre 8/23-10/15


“A real-live, old-fashioned, deeply satisfying Broadway musical in a way few new shows are anymore.” –The New York Times

 Terry James, Executive Producer
Aaron Thielen, Lead Artistic Director
Andy Hite, Artistic Director

Led by the original Broadway powerhouse team, including ten-time Jeff Award-winning director Gary Griffin, Tony Award-nominated choreographer Denis Jones, and Emmy Award-winning costume designer Brian Hemesath (PBS’s “Sesame Street”, NBC’s “SNL”), HONEYMOON IN VEGAS, a loving throwback to the classic American musical, makes its Regional Premiere at Marriott Theatre, 10 Marriott Drive in Lincolnshire with previews August 23, opening August 30 at 8 pm, and running through October 15. 

With music and lyrics by three-time Tony Award-winning composer Jason Robert Brown and book by highly-acclaimed American screenwriter Andrew Bergman, HONEYMOON IN VEGAS is a hysterical romantic comedy, based off the hit 1992 film. The veteran team also includes Jeff Award-winning musical director Ryan T. Nelson and Jeff Award-winning associate choreographer William Carlos Angulo.

“HONEYMOON IN VEGAS brings a modern twist to the beloved classic American musical, written by a contemporary writer for today’s audiences,” says Director Gary Griffin. “And there’s just something about Chicago. I am excited to give The Marriott Theatre audiences unprecedented access to this particular show, with so many touch points coming straight from the Broadway stage.”

A delightful and bouncy mix of old-time Vegas and contemporary musical theatre, HONEYMOON IN VEGAS tells the story of Brooklyn couple Jack Singer and Betsy Nolan, who have escaped to Las Vegas to tie the knot. Everything changes when the couple encounters Tommy Korman, a dashing Vegas gambler who believes Betsy is a spitting image of his deceased wife. With Tommy’s determination and Jack’s hopeful heart, HONEYMOON IN VEGAS throws the audience on a hilarious rollercoaster ride of love, humor, and competition for true romance.

HONEYMOON IN VEGAS stars Jeff Award Winner Michael Mahler as “Jack Singer” (Broadway: Miss Saigon; Marriott Theatre: October Sky, Hero, City of Angels); Samantha Pauly as “Betsy Nolan” (Marriott Theatre: Evita, Elf the Musical); Jeff Award Winner Sean Allan Krill as “Tommy Korman” (Broadway: Mamma Mia!, Honeymoon in Vegas, and On a Clear Day; National Tour: Thoroughly Modern Millie; Marriott Theatre: Brigadoon, 1776, and Pirates of Penzance); Cole Burden as “Buddy Rocky/Roy Bacon” (National Tours: Les Misérables, The Bridges of Madison County; Marriott Theatre: Legally Blonde); Marya Grandy as “Bea Singer” (Broadway: Les Misérables; Marriott Theatre: How to Succeed In Business Without Really Trying, Sister Act, and On the Town); and Steven Strafford as “Johnny Sandwich” (National Tours: Spamalot, Peter Pan, Cinderella, and Grease; Marriott Theatre: She Loves Me and Madagascar). Also starring in HONEYMOON IN VEGAS are DeShawn Bowens, Christine Bunuan, Aaron Choi, Shana Dagny, Devin DeSantis, Alejandro Fonseca, Alex Goodrich, Anne Gunn, Kristina Larson, Tyler John Logan, Richard Manera, James Rank, Jessica Wolfrum Raun, Drew Redington, Laura Savage, Allison Sill, and Ambria Sylvain.

The production will feature set design by Kevin Depinet, lighting design by Jesse Klug, sound design by Robert E. Gilmartin, properties design by Sally Weiss, projections design by Anthony Churchill, and musical supervision and orchestra conducted by Patti Garwood.

The performance schedule for HONEYMOON IN VEGAS is Wednesdays at 1:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m., Thursdays and Fridays at 8:00 p.m., Saturdays at 4:30 p.m. and 8:00 p.m., Sundays at 1:00 p.m. and 5:00 p.m., with select Thursday 1:00 p.m. shows. Ticket prices range from $50 to $60, including tax and handling fees. Call for student, senior and military discounts. On Wednesday and Thursday evenings there are a limited number of FREE dinners available with the purchase of a full-priced theatre ticket, which can only be purchased through the Marriott Theatre Box Office. To make a restaurant reservation, please call 847.634.0100. Free parking is available at all performances. 

To reserve tickets, please call The Marriott Theatre Box Office at 847.634.0200 or go to Visit for more information.


Chi, IL LIVE Shows On Our Radar:


A Remarkable True Chapter in the Struggle for Women’s Suffrage: 
The English Suffragettes who Learned Jiu-jitsu

Babes With Blades Theatre Company (BWBTC) continues its 20th Anniversary Season: “Origins” with the Chicago premiere of The Good Fight, playing at City Lit Theater, 1020 W. Bryn Mawr Ave., January 6 – February 17, 2018.  Developed in 2011 through BWBTC’s Fighting Words program under the title Deeds Not Words, the play is written by Anne Bertram, executive director of Theatre Unbound, a Minneapolis/St. Paul company devoted to work by and about women. Elizabeth Lovelady, a Jeff Award-winning artist based in Chicago, directs The Good Fight, which features combat by Violence Designer Gaby Labotka with Assistant Violence Designer Almanya Narula. 

Preview performances are Saturday, Jan. 6 at 8 p.m., Sunday, Jan. 7 at 3 p.m., Friday, Jan. 12 at 8 p.m., Saturday, Jan. 13 at 8 p.m., and Sunday, Jan. 14 at 3 p.m. Opening Night is Monday,Jan. 15 at 8 p.m. Regular performances are Thursdays – Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 3 p.m. Preview tickets are $10, student and senior tickets are $15, early bird general admission (available online through January 15, 2018) are $20 and general admission (after January 15, 2018) are $25. To purchase tickets and for more information, please visit

The Women's Social and Political Union (WSPU), led by Emmeline Pankhurst and her daughter Christabel, was the primary militant group pushing for women's suffrage in the United Kingdom. Under the slogan "Deeds, not words," the WSPU advocated targeting property as a form of protest, from smashing shop windows to burning and bombing buildings. Imprisoned WSPU members – including Pankhurst – launched hunger strikes, which were initially countered by the authorities with force-feeding; later the government introduced the "Cat and Mouse Act," under which starving suffragettes were released, only to be re-imprisoned once regaining their health. To defend their leaders and comrades, the WSPU established "The Bodyguard" – a secret, all-female security team, trained in jiu-jitsu – and the good fight began. 

“The Good Fight imagines the personal lives of the historical women who literally fought for the vote in London in the early 20th century. The parallel to continued struggles for women's autonomy and gender parity cannot be ignored,” says Co-Artistic Director Kathrynne Wolf. Co-Artistic Director Elyse Dawson agrees and adds, “Babes With Blades Theatre Company is proud to shed light on this neglected corner of women's martial history as part of our 20th Anniversary Season. We're premiering The Good Fight in Chicago to remind our audiences that our good fight is far from over.”

The cast of The Good Fight includes Elisabeth Del Toro, "Mary;" Alison Dornheggen*, "Christabel Pankhurst/Edith Garrud;" Delia Ford*, "Harriet Kerr;" Jyreika Guest, "Gertrude Harding;" David Kaplinsky, "Mr. Dickinson/Charlie/Inspector McBrien/Constable;" Jean Marie Koon, "Emmeline Pankhurst;" Jillian Leff, "Cicely;" Arielle Leverett, "Grace Roe;" C. Jaye Miller, "Hilda;" Taylor Raye, "Emily Wilding Davison/Wardess;" Joseff Stevenson, "Home Secretary McKenna/Constable/Inspector Gray/Prison Guard" and Richard Traub, "Mr. Hunt/Bill/Constable/Jujitsu Demonstrator" with Tina Arfaee and Catherine Dvorak*, understudies.

*denotes BWBTC ensemble member

Anne Bertram is a founding artistic associate of Theatre Unbound, a Minneapolis/St. Paul company devoted to work by and about women. She currently serves as its executive director. Her work as a playwright has been seen in venues from off-Off Broadway to middle-school classrooms in Fargo, as well as successful runs with Theatre Unbound, including Murderess (2011) and The Good Fight (2012). Awards and commissions include Northwestern University’s Agnes Nixon Playwriting Award (lovehateforgive), The Playwrights’ Center’s Jones Commission (The Donner Gold), Studio Z’s Playwright in Electronic Residence Commission (St. Luke’s) and the Tennessee Williams One-Act Prize (Liability).

Elizabeth Lovelady is a director, playwright, arts administrator and sometimes performer. She won the 2016 non-equity Jeff for Best Adaptation for D.O.A. with Strawdog Theatre, which she also directed. She is an artistic associate of Red Theater where she directed Prince Max's Trewly Awful Trip to the Desolat Interior and 20% Theatre where she directed Fanny's First Play and Photograph 51. Other favorite directing credits include Lone Star/Laundry and Bourbon, Crimes of the Heart, The Dining Room (Oil Lamp); The War to End War: Los Alamos (The Island) and Off the Spectrum, a devised piece she created as part of Red Tape Theatre’s Fresh Eyes project. She also created and performed the one-woman show A Simple Lesson in Baking with Marie Antoinette. 

Gaby Labotka previously worked with BWBTC as assistant violence designer and Gloucester/Hartleur/John Bates for Henry V. Upcoming, Labotka is directing Wasteland Hero for the Reutan Collective, the violence director for Night in Alachua County presented by WildClaw Theatre and the fight choreographer/assistant director for 'Twas the Night Before Christmas presented by Emerald City Theatre.  She is an advanced actor combatant with the Society of American Fight Directors (SAFD) and is frequently a teaching assistant for stage combat classes at Movement and Combat Education (MACE), The Actors Gymnasium and regional stage combat workshops. She is a proud member of the Alliance of Latinx Theatre Artists (ALTA).

Almanya Narula is an actor, combatant, fight choreographer and voiceover artist from Bangkok, Thailand. She is affiliated with both the Society of American Fight Directors (SAFD) and the British Academy of Stage & Screen Combat (BASSC). Most recently she was the fight choreographer and lead actor in the music video for Nickelback's “Feed the Machine.” In Chicago, she is currently featured in the Factory Theater's production of Fight Cityand will be the fight choreographer for upcoming productions with Steep Theatre Company and Jackalope Theatre Company.

The Invisible Scarlet O’Neil
September 2 – October 14

Written by BWBTC Ensemble Member Barbara Lhota
Directed by BWBTC Ensemble Member Leigh Barrett
Violence Design by BWBTC Ensemble Member Libby Beyreis
Factory Theater, 1623 W. Howard Street
Previews: Saturday, Sept. 2 at 8 p.m.; Sunday, Sept. 3 at 3 p.m.; Thursday, Sept. 7 and Friday, Sept. 8 at 8 p.m.
Press Opening: Saturday Sept. 9 at 8 p.m.
Regular run: Thursdays - Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 3 p.m.
Ticket Price: Previews $10.00; Early Bird General Admission $20.00 (available through September 9); General Admission $25.00 (after September 9)

A mishap in her father's lab gave Scarlet O'Neil the power of invisibility – a power she promised him she'd never use. But Daddy never knew there'd be days like these….

It's the Windy City of the 1940s, and Dr. O'Neil's ex-lab assistant Evanna Keil is desperate to perfect her mind-controlling Ruby Red Lipstick before selling it to the KGB. The ensuing mayhem threatens everything Dr. O'Neil worked for, and everything Scarlet holds dear. Can Scarlet save her deceased father’s reputation, his scientific collaborators, AND their military secrets, plus her kidnapped landlady, a young prodigy, a small dog, the gals at the City News and all of Chicago – if not the world? It's the Invisible Scarlet O’Neil to the rescue! 

Gender parity is a hot topic, with news clip after article after report documenting how women, and women’s stories, are still underrepresented. Babes With Blades Theatre Company’s response – now, for the past 20 years, and moving forward – is to develop and present scripts focused on complex, dynamic (and often combative) female characters.

In each element of their programming, they embrace two key concepts: 
1) Women are central to the story, driving the action rather than responding or submitting to it
2) Women are capable of a full emotional and physical range, up to and including violence and its consequences.

The company offers participants and patrons alike an unparalleled opportunity to experience women as heroes and villains; rescuers and rescuees; right, wrong, and everywhere in between: exciting, vivid, dynamic PEOPLE. It’s as simple and as subversive as that.

BWBTC’s 2017-18 programming is partially made possible by the kind support of The Gaylord & Dorothy Donnelley Foundation, The Paul M. Angell Family Foundation, The Illinois Arts Council Agency, and a CityArts Grant from the City of Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs & Special Events.


Linda Fortunato, Artistic Director of Theatre at the Center (TATC), Northwest Indiana’s only professional theater company, has announced the mainstage titles for TATC’s 2018 Season.

Fortunato will direct three of the five productions, including Steel Magnolias, which will launch the 2018 season. Forever Plaid and The Lady with All the Answers are the spring and summer shows. In the fall, Fortunato will also direct Ghost The Musical, a stage adaptation of the 1990 Academy-Award winning film. Closing the 2018 season, she will direct and choreograph Meredith Willson’s Miracle on 34th Street: The Musical inspired by the 1947 classic film.

Steel Magnolias (February 22 – March 25, 2018) is a hilarious and heart-warming play set in a Louisiana beauty shop. It follows the hopes, dreams, triumphs and tragedies of six colorful characters and inspired the 1989 film which starred Julia Roberts, Sally Field, Shirley MacLaine and Dolly Parton. It’s a story exploring the bond between a mother and daughter, and friendships of those who feel like family.

Spring welcomes Forever Plaid (May 3 – June 3, 2018), one of the most popular and beloved of musical revues. “The Plaids” are a quirky quartet of high school chums in the spotlight for the biggest performance of their lives. Their spirited antics and comic banter weave together such hits as “Three Coins in the Fountain,” “Heart and Soul” and “Love is a Many Splendored Thing,” in this playful tribute to the close harmony of “guy groups” of the 1950’s.

An up-close and personal introduction to the real Ann Landers awaits audiences in The Lady with All the Answers (July 12 – August 12, 2018).  Popular advice columnist Ann Landers had a life which seemed letter-perfect. With more than 90 million readers each day, she had a quick wit which could be comical and creative, as well as sharp and shocking, all in the same sentence. The play unfolds in Landers’ Lakeshore Drive apartment in 1975 where she shares some of her most fascinating stories as she prepares to write the most difficult column of her career.

In the fall, Ghost The Musical (September 13 – October 14, 2018) is the musical adaptation of the 1990 Academy-Award winning film sharing the love story of Sam and Molly. After Sam’s untimely death, he tries to protect Molly from an unknown threat. In an attempt to communicate with her, he enlists the help of a storefront psychic to hilarious and harrowing effect. This tale about the power of love features a score by Grammy Award winning songwriters Dave Stewart and Glen Ballard, and includes the classic “Unchained Melody.”

The holidays are celebrated with Meredith Willson’s Miracle on 34th Street: The Musical (November 15 – December 23, 2018), from the composer of The Music Man. Inspired by the beloved 1947 film, audiences will enjoy the gift of music and laughter. After Santa encounters a skeptical little girl during the season of sharing and caring, a message about the importance of believing is made clear to all. “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas” became famous as one the memorable songs in this joyous favorite for all ages.

“In choosing Theatre at the Center’s 2018 season, I wanted to create a blend of different styles to engage our audience,” Fortunato said.

“Through intimate plays, a beloved musical revue, a new musical, and a holiday classic, we will explore the bonds of friendship and family, of loves lost and found, and meet strangers who feel like family. I hope our audiences will laugh heartily, maybe cry a little, and enjoy some favorite music and songs as they join us for both familiar stories and new ones, as well.” 

Founded in 1991, the 410 seat Theatre at the Center is a year-round professional theater at its home at The Center for Visual and Performing Arts, 1040 Ridge Road, Munster, Indiana. Theatre at the Center is the only professional theater company in Northwest Indiana, offering downtown caliber performance in an accessible venue with plenty of free parking. Theatre at the Center is located off I-80/94, just 35 minutes from downtown Chicago.

Renewal for existing Season Subscriptions begins Aug. 20 and continues through Sept. 24, with sales for new Season Subscription patrons beginning Oct. 10. Individual tickets for any of the five mainstage shows of the new 2018 Season are on sale beginning Dec. 12.

Theatre at the Center mainstage show performances are 2 p.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays, 7:30 p.m. Fridays, 3:00 and 7:30 p.m. Saturdays; 2:30 p.m. Sundays and select Thursday and Sunday evenings.  Individual ticket prices range from $42 - $46.  To purchase individual tickets, including the remaining shows of the 2017 Season, call the Box Office at 219-836-3255 or at 800-511-1552.   Group discounts are available for groups of 11 or more and gift certificates are also available. 

For more information about Theatre at the Center, visit

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