Thursday, November 30, 2017

REVIEW: Don Your Gay Apparel and Catch Other Theatre's Hilarious Barney the Elf at Greenhouse Theater Through December 30th

The Smash Hit Returns!
Other Theatre Presents the Adult Holiday Musical
By Bryan Renaud
Lyrics by Bryan Renaud and Emily Schmidt
Directed and Choreographed by Tommy Rivera-Vega
Music Direction by Nik Kmiecik

Music Arrangements by Jermaine Hill

Through December 30, 2017 at Greenhouse Theater Center

I was expecting parodies of show tunes and holiday classics, a bit of naughty adult humor and an LGBTQ twist on Elf the Musical, but Barney the Elf goes above and beyond. Sure it's creatively campy, but there's a sweet undercurrent of depth here that celebrates the gay community, embraces those who have been kicked out of their homes just for being themselves, and condemns bullies, even while acknowledging that sometimes the bullies win.  

Santa is dead, but Christmas doesn't have to be, with a bit more cheer and holiday enthusiasm from Barney the Elf, the epitome of misfit elves, banished by a decidedly Trump-like Santa Junior on suspicion of being gay. Like the movie and musical this parodies most closely, this elf is given a snow globe and sets off for the big city (Chicago this time) on a quest to find himself (not his dad). He gets robbed, finds a job mopping floors at a drag bar, and ultimately saves Christmas when Junior's sleigh crashes from a lack of Christmas spirit (from it's driver this time).

The Chicago touches are too much fun, like Mrs. Claus' gifting Barney with mace and a warning to watch out for the Wrigleyville Bros, and giving him a wad of cash to buy her HAMILTON tickets. Public transportation construction and gun violence jokes hit the mark with this home town audience too.

This parody is political without being heavy handed, (note the Trump bumper sticker on Junior's sleigh) and the "Make Christmas Great Again" and "War on Christmas" references. It's cathartic and spot on about the culture wars and the current climate toward LGBTQ people, and anyone not mainstream, rich, and capitalistic enough. 

(left to right) Dixie Lynn Cartwright and Roy Samra
All Photos by Carin Silkaitis

Particular standouts are the adorable, Roy Samra (also amazing in The CiviliTy of Albert Cashier) as Barney, Chicago drag sensation Dixie Lynn Cartwright (perfect mix of diva and true friend) returning as Zooey, Maggie Cain as (fierce, foulmouthed, badass mom & advocate) Mrs. Claus, and finally (the blonde Trumpster in training you love to hate) Jaron Bellar as Junior. I was especially impressed Dixie Lynn doesn't just lip synch, but actually sings, and her banter was fabulous.

In the end, love trumps hate. The bullies don't win for long. Barney gets the sleigh and the top spot in the north pole, his soul mate, and the love and respect of legions of elves, all while being true to himself. 

Obviously, leave the kids at home for this one. It's definitely "R" for content and language, but make for a great adult night out, with an enduring message of hope for the weird, quirky and different. And isn't acceptance and love what the Christmas spirit is truly about? 

(center) Maggie Cain with (left to right) Courtney Dane Mize, Cody Talkie, Colleen DeRosa, Lance Spencer, LiSean McElrath and Emilie Rose Danno

(left to right) Lance Spencer, Dixie Lynn Cartwright and Cody Talkie

Other Theatre is pleased to continue its 4th season with the third revival of its holiday hit BARNEY THE ELF, a campy and irreverent musical comedy, written by Bryan Renaud with lyrics by Renaud and Emily Schmidt. After helming the 2016 production, Tommy Rivera-Vega returns to direct and choreograph, with music direction by Nik Kmiecik and arrangements by Jermaine Hill. BARNEY THE ELF will play November 17 – December 30, 2017 at Other Theatre’s resident home, The Greenhouse Theater Center, 2257 N. Lincoln Ave. in Chicago’s Lincoln Park neighborhood.  

Tickets are available at, in person at the Greenhouse Theater box office or by calling (773) 404-7336. Season subscriptions are currently available. 

BARNEY THE ELF will feature Roy Samra as Barney, Chicago drag sensation Dixie Lynn Cartwright returning as Zooey, Maggie Cain as Mrs. Claus, Jaron Bellar as Junior and Courtney Dane Mize as Cookie/Ensemble with Emilie Rose Danno, Colleen DeRosa, LiSean McElrath, Lance Spencer and Cody Talkie.

(pictured) Dixie Lynn Cartwright in Other Theatre’s production of BARNEY THE ELF

After Santa Claus retires, his wicked son begins a not-so-jolly reign as the new head of Christmas. The North Pole begins to crumble under his bigoted rule, and Barney the Elf is forced to leave his home for being different from the others. Soon he embarks on a fabulous journey of self-discovery (or is it elf-discovery?) that lands him in one of Chicago's hottest drag bars. But can he truly leave Christmas behind for a new life in the big city? BARNEY THE ELF brings pop-infused musical numbers galore and plenty of queer holiday cheer to Lincoln Park for the third year in a row! 

"Rather endearing [with] surprising emotional payoffs... Renaud and his collaborators may well have a fringe holiday repeat hit to call home for the holidays."  –The Chicago Tribune

The production team for BARNEY THE ELF includes Michael Johannsen (scenic design), Olivia Crary (costume design), Matthew Carney (lighting design), Ashley Pettit (sound design, production manager), Bobby Taves (asst. music director) and Meghan Erxleben (asst. lighting designer).


Location: The Greenhouse Theater Center, 2257 N. Lincoln Ave., Chicago
Dates: Preview: Friday, November 17 at 8 pm, Saturday, November 18 at 7 pm, Sunday, November 19 at 3 pm and Sunday, November 26 at 3 pm.
Press opening: Tuesday, November 28 at 8 pm
Regular run: Thursday, November 30 – Sunday, December 30, 2017
Curtain Times: Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 pm; Sundays at 3 pm. Please note: there will not be a performance on Sunday, December 24 (Christmas Eve).

Tickets: Previews: $20 with code “PREVIEW.” Regular run: $25. Students $15 with code “STUDENT.” Industry $15 with code “INDUSTRY.” Tickets are available at, in person at the Greenhouse Theater Center box office or by calling (773) 404-7336. Season subscription are currently available.

(center) Roy Samra with (l to r) Lance Spencer, Colleen DeRosa, Cody Talkie, LiSean McElrath, Emilie Rose Danno and Courtney Dane Mize

Creative Team Bios
Bryan Renaud (Book and Lyrics) is the Associate Artistic Director of Other Theatre, where he has premiered his plays Barney the Elf and Other Letters, the latter co-written with Carin Silkaitis. He is also a founding member of Random Acts, where he premiered Strangest Things! The Musical, All Our Twilight and Ladies Night of the Living Dead. As a performer, Bryan has worked with American Theater Co., Pride Films & Plays, Provision Theater, Music Theatre Co., GreatWorks, Prologue Theatre, Shakespeare at the Centre, Oak Park Festival Theatre, NWaC and Two Pigs Productions.

Emily Schmidt (Lyrics) is a freelance playwright and grant writer based in Chicago. She earned her Masters in English from Loyola University. Other works include writing for Acid Reflux Comedy as well as the plays All Our Twilight, Awkward Family Gatherings and Strangest Things! The Musical. 

Tommy Rivera-Vega (Director) returns after directing the 2016 remount of Barney the Elf. He also directed the smash-hit world premiere Strangest Things! The Musical. Chicago Acting credits: Parachute Men, Between You Me and the Lampshade, A View From the Bridge, Momma’s Boyz – Teatro Vista; La Havana Madrid – Steppenwolf and Teatro Vista; Mother Road – Goodman Theatre; West Side Story – Drury Lane; In the Heights – Skylight Music Theatre; In the Heights, My Fair Lady – Paramount Theatre; Three Sisters – Steppenwolf Theatre; Kiss of the Spiderwoman – BoHo Theatre; Augusta & Noble – Adventure Stage; Pippin – Music Theatre Company; CATS – Theo Ubique; Puerto Rico credits: Spring Awakening, Footloose – Black Box Theatre. Episodic: Chicago PD (Ep 411). He is a proud Teatro Vista, Other Theatre Ensemble member and an Artistic Associate of Random Acts. Tommy is represented by Paonessa Talent Agency.

Nik Kmiecik (Music Director) is thrilled to be back with Barney the Elf in his new role of music director. He has music directed youth productions with SELF theatre and musical productions at his alma mater, North Central College in Naperville. Nik was an elf/ensemble member for Barney last year and has performed with numerous theatres in Chicago including Chicago Shakespeare, Chicago Children's Theatre, Filament Theatre, Haven Theatre, Silk Road Rising and Porchlight Theatre. Nik is an artistic associate of Other Theatre and is proudly represented by Stewart Talent.

About Other Theatre:

Other Theatre is dedicated to telling the stories of persons or groups who are othered by systems of oppression. Othering individuals or groups sustains power and privilege. Othering inherently implies hierarchy. Othering keeps the power in the hands of those who already have it.  Othering is an "us" vs. "them" mentality often centered around race, ethnicity, sexuality, gender, identity, class, religion and ability. Other Theatre is committed to telling these stories in the hope that we can lessen the amount of discrimination and oppression in our world. 

We are a collective of artist-activists who believe in the power of theatre to enact social change. We believe in equality for all human beings and we will fight for it. We believe theatre is an excellent conversation starter, and we hope you will come talk with us after the show. We believe radical social change is possible and we will continue to stand up, fight, and resist until it happens.

Other Theatre Artistic Staff: 

Carin Silkaitis, Founder and Artistic Director; Maddie DePorter, Managing Director; Bryan Renaud, Associate Artistic Director; Ashley Pettit, Production Manager; Savanna Rae, Company Manager; Stephen Kossak, Casting Director; Becca Sheehan, Audience Development/Intern Coordinator; Tommy Varela, Social Media Coordinator; Kelly Howe, Resident Dramaturg; Tommy Rivera-Vega, Artistic Associate; Hannah Toriumi, Artistic Associate; Gay Glenn, Artistic Associate; Nik Kmiecik , Artitic Associate.

Other Theatre Board of Directors:

Michele Thornton, President; Kelly Soprych, Vice President; Jermaine Hill, Secretary; Stephen Silkaitis, Treasurer; Lisa Wolfe, Diane Sheehan and Michael Johannsen.

Other Theatre’s 4th Season is presented by generous grants from MacArthur Funds for Arts and Culture at the Richard H. Driehaus Foundation, and The Saints.

OPENING: Chicago Premiere of Obie Award-winning Play You Got Older at Steppenwolf 1/25-3/11/18

ChiIL Live Shows On Our Radar:

Steppenwolf Theatre Presents the Chicago Premiere Production of
the Obie Award-winning Play
You Got Older

Written by Clare Barron, Directed by Jonathan Berry
January 25 – March 11, 2018

Steppenwolf Theatre Company presents the Chicago premiere production of the Obie Award-winning play You Got Older, written by Clare Barron and directed by Jonathan Berry. As previously announced, this bawdy, irreverent and touching play will feature ensemble members Glenn Davis (Mac), Audrey Francis (Hannah), Francis Guinan (Dad) and Caroline Neff (Mae), along with Emjoy Gavino (Jenny), David Lind (Matthew) and Gabriel Ruiz (Cowboy).

You Got Older begins previews on January 25, 2018, opening night is Monday, February 5, 2018 and the production runs through March 11, 2018 in the Downstairs Theatre, 1650 N Halsted St. Single tickets ($20 - $89) are available through Audience Services at 312-335-1650 or

There’s a haunted place between where we started and where we need to be that finds the most tender among us—and breaks them open. In You Got Older, Clare Barron’s bawdy, irreverent and touching new play, Mae, brokenhearted and unemployed, returns home to care for her ailing father and escape the loneliness of a life that just can’t seem to get off the ground.

Director Jonathan Berry shares, “Clare’s work manages to be both remarkably intimate in its exploration of relationships, while, at the same time, embracing a vocabulary that is ferociously bold and singularly theatrical. To be able to introduce this exciting new voice to Chicago audiences, collaborating with these remarkable ensemble actors whose work continues to inspire and challenge, feels like incredible good fortune. I cannot wait to get to work on this fresh and hilarious new look at what it is to hold tight to a disappearing childhood while struggling to avoid the realities of getting older.”

Clare Barron’s plays have been produced by Page 73, Woolly Mammoth Theatre, Clubbed Thumb and The Bushwick Starr, and will be presented by Playwright Horizons in 2018. She is the recipient of an Obie Award, the Paula Vogel Playwriting Award and the Page 73 Playwriting Fellowship. Barron was also the co-winner of the inaugural 2015 Relentless Award established in honor of Philip Seymour Hoffman for her play Dance Nation.

Jonathan Berry joined the Steppenwolf staff as Artistic Producer and Director of The School at Steppenwolf in June 2015. A prolific director, he began his work in Chicago as Steppenwolf’s Artistic Office intern in 1998, and has continued a strong relationship with the company since. His Steppenwolf directing credits include Nick Payne’s Constellations, Melinda Lopez's Gary for First Look and The Crucible and A Separate Peace for Steppenwolf for Young Adults, as well as assisting on The Weir, The Man Who Came to Dinner, Mother Courage and Her Children and This is Our Youth. Since 2009, Berry has taught Viewpoints for the School at Steppenwolf. A company member of both Steep and Griffin Theatres, Berry has also directed for many Chicago companies, including Goodman Theatre, Steep, Griffin, Remy Bumppo, Redtwist, Lifeline, and The Gift.

Opening: February 5
Regular Run: February 7 – March 11, 2018

Accessible Performances:
American Sign Language Interpretation: Sunday, February 18 at 7:30pm
Open Captioning: Saturday, March 10 at 3pm
Audio Description and Touch Tour: Sunday, March 4 at 1:30pm touch tour; 3pm audio-described performance
Curtain Times: Tuesday – Friday at 7:30pm, Saturdays and Sundays at 3pm and 7:30pm

Ticket prices and offers: 
Previews: $20 – $54, Regular Run: $20 – $89. Prices subject to change 20 for $20: Twenty $20 tickets are available on the day of the performance at 11am (Mon – Sat) and 1pm (Sun) by phone only at 312-335-1650. Limit 2 per person. 
Rush Tickets: Half-price rush tickets are available one hour before each show. Student Discounts: Limited $15 student tickets are available online. (Limit 2 tickets. Must present a valid student ID for each ticket) Group Tickets: All groups of 10 or more receive a discounted rate for any performance.

Black Card Memberships are for audiences interested in extreme flexibility with six tickets for use any time for any production. Credits valid for one year with the option to add additional tickets as needed. Perks include easy and free exchanges, access to seats before the general public, savings on single ticket prices and bar and restaurant discounts for pre- and post-show socializing.
Red Card memberships are available for theatergoers under 30.
Audience Services: To purchase a membership or tickets or for more information, contact Audience Services (1650 N Halsted St) at 312-335-1650 or

Visitor Information & Accessibility
Steppenwolf is located at 1650 N Halsted St near all forms of public transportation and is wheelchair accessible. The parking facility consists of both a covered garage ($12 cash or card) and an open-air lot, located just south of our theater at 1624 N Halsted. Valet parking service ($14 cash) is available directly in front of the main entrance at 1650 N Halsted St starting at 5pm on weeknights, 1pm on weekends and at 12 noon before Wednesday matinees. Street and lot parking are also available. For last minute questions and concerns, patrons can call the Steppenwolf Parking Hotline at (312) 335-1774. Committed to making the Steppenwolf experience accessible to everyone, performances featuring American Sign Language interpretation, open captioning and audio description are offered during the run of each play. Assistive listening devices and large-print programs are available for every performance. With the expertise of Assistive Hearing Systems Ltd., Steppenwolf installed an induction loop on both the main and balcony levels of our Downstairs Theatre in 2015. There is also an induction hearing loop installed in the 1700 Theatre and the Downstairs Theatre.

2017/18 Season
Now playing in Steppenwolf’s 42nd season is The Minutes, a world premiere by ensemble member Tracy Letts, directed by Artistic Director Anna D. Shapiro (through January 7, 2018); BLKS, a world premiere by Aziza Barnes, directed by Nataki Garrett (Dec 7 – Jan 28, 2018); You Got Older, a Chicago premiere by Clare Barron, directed by Artistic Producer Jonathan Berry (Jan 25 – March 11, 2018); The Doppelgänger (an international farce), a world premiere by Matthew-Lee Erlbach, directed by ensemble member Tina Landau (April 5 – May 27, 2018); Guards at the Taj, a Chicago premiere by Rajiv Joseph, directed by ensemble member Amy Morton (May 31 – July 22, 2018); and The Roommate, a Chicago premiere by Jen Silverman, directed by Phylicia Rashad (June 21 – August 5, 2018). 

Front Bar: Coffee and Drinks
Connected to the main lobby is Steppenwolf’s own Front Bar: Coffee and Drinks, offering a warm, creative space to grab a drink, have a bite, or meet up with friends and collaborators, day or night. Open Tuesdays – Sundays from 8am to midnight, Front Bar serves artisanal coffee and espresso is provided by La Colombe and food prepared by Goddess and Grocer. The menu focuses on fresh, accessible fare, featuring grab-and-go salads and sandwiches for lunch and adding shareable small plates and desserts for evening and post show service.

Steppenwolf Theatre Company is the nation’s premier ensemble theater. Formed by a collective of actors in 1976, the ensemble of 49 members represent a remarkable cross-section of actors, directors and playwrights. Thrilling and powerful productions from Balm in Gilead to August: Osage County—and accolades that include the National Medal of Arts and 12 Tony Awards—have made the theater legendary. Steppenwolf produces hundreds of performances and events annually in its three spaces: the 515-seat Downstairs Theatre, the 299-seat Upstairs Theatre and the 80-seat 1700 Theatre. Artistic programing includes a seven-play season; a two-play Steppenwolf for Young Adults season; Visiting Company engagements; and LookOut, a multi-genre performances series. Education initiatives include the nationally recognized work of Steppenwolf for Young Adults, which engages 15,000 participants annually from Chicago’s diverse communities; the esteemed School at Steppenwolf; and Professional Leadership Programs for arts administration training. While firmly grounded in the Chicago community, nearly 40 original Steppenwolf productions have enjoyed success both nationally and internationally, including Broadway, Off-Broadway, London, Sydney, Galway and Dublin. Anna D. Shapiro is the Artistic Director and David Schmitz is the Executive Director. Eric Lefkofsky is Chair of Steppenwolf’s Board of Trustees. For additional information, visit,, and

JEFF RECOMMENDED: Chicago Premiere I Saw My Neighbor on the Train and I Didn't Even Smile at Redtwist Through December 18th

ChiIL Live Shows On Our Radar:

A dysfunctional family of three generations of alienated women with vastly different personalities are thrown together due to circumstances they can’t quite control. They immediately disrupt each other’s lives, then drastically change each other’s worlds, and finally enrich each other’s souls.

CAST (in alphabetical order)
Adam Bitterman (Jamie), John Blick (Paul), Jacqueline Grandt (Rebecca), Emma Maltby (Sadie), Kathleen Ruhl (Daphne), Joshua Servantez (Eric)

Understudy cast: Daniel Dauphin (Paul), Isabel Sophia Dieppa (Sadie), Buzz Leer (Jamie), Darrelyn Marx (Daphne), Jeanne Scurek (Rebecca), Jared Sheldon (Eric)

Erin Murray (Director), Max Colvill (Assistant Director), Jenn M. Thompson (Stage Manager), Josy Gonzalo (Assistant Stage Manager), Joel Collins (Production Manager), Johnnie Schleyer (Tech Director), Arnel Sancianco (Set Designer), Daniel Friedman (Lighting Designer), Sebby Woldt (Sound Designer), Kotryna Hilko (Costume Designer), Abigail Cain (Props Designer), Natalie Santoro (Scenic Charge), Ashley Neal (Vocal Coach), Jan Ellen Graves (Graphic Designer & Marketing), Charlie Hano (Casting Director), E. Malcolm Martinez (Box Office Manager), Charles Bonilla & Johnny Garcia (Box Office Associates), James Fleming & Michael Colucci (Producers)

Showtimes: Thu, Fri, Sat, 7:30pm; Sun, 3pm
Understudy Performance: $20, (seniors & students $5 off), Tue, Dec 12, 7:30pm
Closes: Mon, Dec 18 (7:30pm show)
Running Time: 1:45, no intermission
Tickets: Thursdays, $35; Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays, $40 (seniors & students $5 off)

Call: 773-728-7529

Redtwist is located at 1044 W Bryn Mawr, 2 blks W of LSD, 2 blks E of the Red Line EL station.

Valet parking for Redtwist is available across the street in front of Francesca’s Bryn Mawr for most performances—hours vary. Dining is not required. 

Limited FREE street parking is available on side streets. There is metered street parking via app or 3-hour Paybox on Bryn Mawr and 2-hour Paybox on side streets. Free on Sundays, and after 10pm Mon thru Sat.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

OPENING: RED VELVET at Chicago Shakespeare Theater 12/1/17-1/21/18

Chi, IL LIVE Shows On Our Radar:

Ira Aldridge (Dion Johnstone) made history as the first black actor to play Othello on the London stage in 1833, explored in Chicago Shakespeare Theater’s production of Red Velvet, directed by Gary Griffin, in CST’s Courtyard Theater, December 1, 2017–January 21, 2018. 

Extraordinary life of trailblazing African-American actor
whose Othello shocked nineteenth-century London

award-winning drama staged by Gary Griffin
featuring celebrated Stratford Festival actor Dion Johnstone
begins performances December 1

We can't wait to catch Chicago Shakespeare Theater's next production, the stirring historical drama Red Velvet, staged by Broadway and Chicago director Gary Griffin and starring celebrated Shakespearean actor Dion Johnstone! It's tough to be the first in any field, and we're eager to see the inspirational story of Ira Aldridge come to life on stage. 

Presented in CST’s Courtyard Theater December 1, 2017–January 21, 2018, the award-winning play by Lolita Chakrabarti shines new light on the seldom-told, true story of Ira Aldridge.

In 1833 at the Theatre Royal in Covent Garden, Edmund Kean, the greatest actor of his age, collapses on stage while performing the lead in Othello. He is replaced by a young, black American actor, Ira Aldridge—a first for the role on London's West End, sending shockwaves through the streets as a bill promoting the abolition of slavery is debated in Parliament. After breaking barriers on the London stage, Aldridge went on to forge a remarkable decades-long career performing across Europe—garnering acclaim in roles like Shylock, Macbeth, and King Lear.

Photo by Liz Lauren.

In what is sure to be a career highlight, Dion Johnstone takes on the role of theatrical trailblazer Ira Aldridge across the span of his storied career. Johnstone is celebrated for his portrayals of some of the most demanding roles in Shakespeare’s canon: he has appeared in nine seasons at Canada’s Stratford Festival, and recently made his off-Broadway debut in the title role of Coriolanus. He returns to Chicago Shakespeare after appearing as Marc Antony in Julius Caesar, and Helicanus in Pericles. Now, after having performed the role of Othello twice, Johnstone explores the pivotal figure who made history by taking on the role.

On portraying Aldridge, Johnstone shared, “Ira Aldridge used his platform on the stage to convince European audiences that people of color had souls and intellects as wise and as deep as theirs. His struggle resonates powerfully today—and yet he’s a part of American and European history that has almost been forgotten. It’s a privilege to be able to bring Ira’s voice to life, and I hope this production helps elevate him to the status he deserves.”

Award-winning director of Broadway and Chicago stages Gary Griffin returns to Chicago Shakespeare, where he stages his twenty-fourth production. Griffin’s work has been seen on Broadway in Honeymoon in Vegas, The Color Purple and The Apple Tree. The ten-time Jeff Award winner’s CST directing credits feature a diverse body of work spanning musicals (Gypsy, Road Show, Follies); Shakespeare plays (A Midsummer Night’s Dream, As You Like It); and classics (Private Lives, Amadeus). His landmark production of Pacific Overtures at Chicago Shakespeare went on to the Donmar Warehouse in London, where it garnered the Olivier Award for Outstanding Musical Production and a nomination for Best Director.

A leading lady of Chicago theater, Chaon Cross portrays the legendary stage actress Ellen Tree, who appears as the ill-fated Desdemona opposite Aldridge’s Othello. Cross makes her highly anticipated return to Chicago Shakespeare, where she has memorably appeared as Celia in As You Like It, Sybil in Private Lives, Imogen in Cymbeline and Cressida in Troilus and Cressida. Michael Hayden depicts Charles Kean, an aspiring actor in the shadows of his famous father, Edmund Kean. Hayden notably garnered Olivier and Drama Desk nominations for his portrayal of Billy Bigelow in the Royal National Theatre/Lincoln Center Theatre production of Carousel, and gained acclaim for performing the title roles of Henry V and Richard II in repertory for DC’s Shakespeare Theatre Company.

Greg Matthew Anderson appears as Pierre LaPorte, the entrepreneurial theater manager who propels Aldridge into the role. The Red Velvet company includes Jürgen Hooper (Casimir/Henry), Tiffany Renee Johnson (Connie), Roderick Peeples (Bernard Ward/Terence), Annie Purcell (Margaret/Halina), and Bri Sudia (Betty).

Collaborators on the Red Velvet creative team are Scenic Designer Scott Davis, Costume Designer Mara Blumenfeld, Lighting Designer Christine Binder, and Sound Designer Chris Kriz. Davis has designed over 25 Chicago Shakespeare productions, including most recently Shakespeare in Love, The Book of Joseph and the Tug of War saga. A four-time Jeff Award winner, Blumenfeld is a frequent collaborator with Griffin, having previously designed King Charles III, Sunday in the Park with George and A Midsummer Night’s Dream at CST. Binder’s designs have graced opera and theatre stages internationally. Kriz has been honored with three Jeff Awards for his Sound Design and original compositions. Award-winning composer and lyricist Jenny Giering creates new music score for the production. Joining Gary Griffin on the directing team is Associate Director Tyrone Phillips, who was named to the Chicago Tribune’s “Hot New Faces of Theater” in 2015. Rounding out the creative team are Dialect Coach Eva Breneman and Fight Choreographer David Woolley.

For more information, visit

Red Velvet will be presented in Chicago Shakespeare’s Courtyard Theater, December 1, 2017–January 21, 2018. Single tickets are on sale now for $48–$88 (subject to change). Special discounts are available for groups of 10 or more, as well as CST for $20 tickets for patrons under 35. For more information or to purchase tickets, contact Chicago Shakespeare Theater’s Box Office at 312.595.5600 or visit the Theater’s website at

CST strives to make its facility and performances accessible to all patrons through its Access Shakespeare programs. Red Velvet will have Open-captioned performances on Thursday, December 21 at 1:00 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.; an ASL Duo-interpreted performance on Friday, January 12 at 7:30 p.m.; and an Audio-described performance on Sunday, January 14 at 2:00 p.m. (with optional touch tour at 12:00 p.m.).

A global theatrical force, Chicago Shakespeare Theater (CST) is known for vibrant productions that reflect Shakespeare’s genius for storytelling, musicality of language, and empathy for the human condition. Under the leadership of Artistic Director Barbara Gaines and Executive Director Criss Henderson, Chicago Shakespeare has redefined what a great American Shakespeare theater can be, putting forward a company that delights in the unexpected and defies theatrical category. A Regional Tony Award-winning theater, CST produces acclaimed plays at its home on Navy Pier, throughout Chicago’s schools and neighborhoods, and on stages around the world. In 2017, the Theater unveiled a radical new stage, The Yard at Chicago Shakespeare. Together with the Jentes Family Courtyard Theater and the Thoma Theater Upstairs at Chicago Shakespeare, The Yard positions CST as the city’s most versatile performing arts venue.

Monday, November 27, 2017


ChiIL Live Shows On Our Radar:
Written by Stanislaw I. Witkiewicz
Translated by Daniel Gerould & C.S. Durer

“They are running everything but no one knows who THEY actually are?” Using the text of Stanislaw Witkiewicz, They examines who THEY are and if the secret government really exists.

Adapted and Directed by:
Beata Pilch

Cast Featuring Mary-Kate Arnold, Daniel Chenard, Halie Ecker, Adam Huizenga, and Carl Wisniewski

Opens: Thursday, December 7, 2017 at 8PM
Closes: Saturday, January 13, 2018 at 8PM
Runs: Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays at 8PM

Admission: $20 on Thursdays and Fridays;  $25 on Saturdays, with a special Holiday 2-for-1 Admission on Thursdays and Fridays
Where:  TRAP DOOR THEATRE 1655 West Cortland Ave.  Chicago, IL 60622
For Information/Reservations: 773-384-0494 To purchase online

They tragically examines how the beauty in love and art is poisoned by the toxic remedy of normalization and the destruction of freedom and imagination.

Stanislaw I. Witkiewicz (1885-1939) is one the most brilliant figures of the European avant-garde, Witkiewicz was a poet, painter, playwright, an expert on drugs, an early spokesman for a radically non-realistic theatre and an original philosopher and social critic of mass culture, post-industrial society, and the rise of totalitarianism. He was also a pioneer in serious experimentation with narcotics and prophetically recognized the growing importance that they would have on Western civilization. Politics, revolution, and even art were similar “drugs.” Witkiewicz committed suicide shortly after the outbreak of War in September of 1939. He is best known for his plays The Madman and the Nun, The Mother, The Water Hen, The Anonymous Work, and The Shoemakers.

Beata Pilch- (Director) born in the Polish district of Chicago, holds a Bachelor's Degree in Acting from the United States International University in San Diego, California, and a Master's Degree in Acting from the California Institute of the Arts in Valencia, California. Pilch founded Chicago's Trap Door Theatre in 1990 and still presides as its Artistic Director. She cultivated her life-long fascination with the avant-garde and obscure as a graduate student at the California Institute of the Arts.  A Chicago native and frequent European traveler, she felt that a company that combined bold and physical European acting technique with rich European theatrical literature would provide Chicago's entertainment scene with a unique and vibrant voice. Past favorite directing credits include: Madman and the Nun, Nana, Quills, The Bitter Tears of Petra Van Kant, The Fourth Sister, The Unveiling, Vatzlav, The Shoemakers, The Crazy Locomotive. Most recently, Beata directed Blood on the Cat’s Neck in Barcelona, Spain. She is a featured performer in the work of international multi-media visual artist Catherine Sullivan. She has performed in over 60 Trap Door productions and has toured abroad annually with the company to France, Romania, Hungary, and Poland. She will perform in the next touring production Occidental Express at the international theatre festival in The Republic of Moldova next fall, 2018.
Assistant Director Sami Ismat/ Sound Designer Danny Rockett/ Lighting Design Richard Norwood /Set Design Stefan Roseen/Costume Design Rachel Sypniewski/Graphic Design Michal Janicki/Video Design David Holcombe/Dramaturge Milan Pribisic/Stage Managers Mihta Garan and Elizabeth Melio

Special Art Event: Trap Door is proud to announce its first art show in rep! Original Artwork will be on display throughout the run, with a special artists reception following the performance on Friday, December 8, beginning at 9:30. Exhibiting artists include Kevin Moeller, Brain Morgan, Marzena Bukowska, Robin Rios, CJ Hungerman, Lovietta Simpkins, George Bowles, Poppy G, Bernadette Zawiesjska, Michael Garvey, ter Arts Zawitkowska, Alex XII- Paintings/artwork.


Chi, IL LIVE Shows On Our Radar:


December 9, 2017 – January 21, 2018

Black Ensemble Theater concludes the 2017 Season (The Dance Theater Season) with Sammy: The Story of Sammy Davis Jr., written and directed by Black Ensemble Theater Associate Director Daryl D. Brooks, with choreography by Rueben D. Echoles. Sammy: The Story of Sammy Davis Jr. will be performed at the Black Ensemble Theater Cultural Center, 4450 N. Clark Street in Chicago, December 9, 2017 – January 21, 2018.

ChiIL Live Shows will be out for the press opening December 17th. We can't wait to check out another world premiere musical from acclaimed Chicago favorites, BET! Just in time for holiday gifting... 

Black Ensemble Theater’s “The Dance Theater Season” concludes with Sammy: The Story of Sammy Davis, Jr. Telling the story of the rise of the great entertainment icon and Rat Pack member, this production follows his career from the beginnings in vaudeville to his success in Las Vegas, earning him the nickname greatest entertainers in the world. 

Sammy: The Story of Sammy Davis Jr. features Michael Adkins (Sammy Davis Jr.), Dwight Neal (Sammy Davis Sr.), Rueben D. Echoles (Will Mastin), Rhonda Preston (Rosa Davis), Nathan Cooper (Frank Sinatra), Mark Yacullo (Dean Martin), Emily Hawkins (May Britt), Kylah Williams (Altovis Davis), and Trequon Tate (George Johnson), as well as ensemble members Linnea Norwood and Brian Boler.

As with all Black Ensemble Theater productions, Sammy: The Story of Sammy Davis Jr. features live musicians led by musical director/arranger Robert Reddrick.

The designers are Alexia Rutherford (costumes), Denise Karczewski (set/lights), Aaron Quick (sound/projection design), David Samba (sound). The equity stage manager is Bekki Lambrecht.

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

Featuring: Michael Adkins (Sammy Davis Jr.), Dwight Neal (Sammy Davis Sr.), Rueben D. Echoles (Will Mastin), Rhonda Preston (Rosa Davis), Nathan Cooper (Frank Sinatra), Mark Yacullo (Dean Martin), Emily Hawkins (May Britt), Kylah Williams (Altovis Davis), Trequon Tate (George Johnson), and ensemble members Linnea Norwood and Brian Boler

Creative Team: Alexia Rutherford (costumes), Denise Karczewski (set/lights), Aaron Quick (sound/projection design), David Samba (sound), Bekki Lambrecht (equity stage manager)

December 9, 2017 - January 21, 2018
Previews: December 9, 10, 15 and 16

Thursdays: 7:30 pm (except 12/14)
Fridays: 8:00 pm
Saturdays: 3:00 pm (12/23, 12/30, 1/6, 1/13, 1/20 only)
8:00 pm
Sundays: 3:00 pm (except 12/24 and 12/31)
No performances on Christmas Eve (12/24) or New Year’s Eve (12/31)

Location: Black Ensemble Theater Cultural Center, 4450 N. Clark Street, Chicago

Valet parking is available.

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

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

On November 18, 2011, The Black Ensemble Theater Cultural Center opened and is able to accommodate larger-scale productions, bigger audiences and a wider range of educational programming. The new facility includes amenities such as a 299-seat main stage theater (double the capacity of the original venue); 14 offices, classroom space, rehearsal hall, dance studio, scene shop, costume shop, and wardrobe rooms; seven dressing rooms; rehearsal room for musicians; front lobby space with concession areas; and an indoor parking garage.  The completion of a 150-seat theater, which will serve as an experimental stage for the work of the Black Playwright Initiative (BPI), with construction by General Contractor Norcon Inc., is expected in 2018.

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

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Chicago Gift Ideas for Theatre Lovers: New Gift Card Option at Steppenwolf

Steppenwolf Announces New Gift Card 
Give the Gift of a Great Night Out 

Steppenwolf Theatre Company announces an exciting new promotional deal in time for the 2017 holiday season. Perfect for both personal and business gifting, it’s easy to warm hearts with the gift of theatre. Spread some holiday cheer with a Night Out Gift Card that includes two flexible ticket credits to any Steppenwolf performance and $25 Front Bar gift card for the low price of $179. The Night Out Gift Card can be purchased through Audience Services (1650 N Halsted St) at 312-335-1650 or\holiday. Limited time offer through January 6, 2018.

Upcoming Shows

The Minutes
Written by ensemble member Tracy Letts
Directed by Artistic Director Anna D. Shapiro
November 9 – December 31, 2017 in the Downstairs Theatre
A scathing new comedy about small-town politics and real-world power exposes the ugliness behind some of our most closely-held American narratives.

Written by Aziza Barnes
Directed by Nataki Garrett
December 7, 2017 – January 28, 2018
Three friends. One f**ked up night. A whole lot of growing pains.

You Got Older
Written by Clare Barron
Directed by Jonathan Berry
January 25 – March 11, 2018
Mae, brokenhearted and unemployed, returns home to care for her ailing father and escape the loneliness of a life that just can’t seem to get off the ground.

The Doppelgänger (An International Farce)
Written by Matthew-Lee Erlbach
Directed by ensemble member Tina Landau
April 5 – May 27, 2018 
After a British businessman's untimely death, his unwitting American doppelgänger is thrust into background deals that could shape the face of Africa.

Guards at the Taj
Written by Rajiv Joseph
Directed by ensemble member Amy Morton
May 31 – July 22, 2018
As the sun rises for the first time on the newly-constructed Taj Mahal, two hapless imperial guards are charged with an unspeakable task that will shake their faith in God, the empire and their lifelong friendship.

The Roommate
Written by Jen Silverman
Directed by Phylicia Rashad
June 21 – August 5, 2018
A comically mismatched pair of roommates leads to a surprising and touching friendship. Think The Odd Couple meets Breaking Bad.

Front Bar: Coffee and Drinks
Connected to the Downstairs Lobby is Steppenwolf’s own Front Bar: Coffee and Drinks, offering a warm, creative space to grab a drink, have a bite, or meet up with friends and collaborators, day or night. Open Tuesdays – Sundays from 8am to midnight, Front Bar serves artisanal coffee and espresso provided by La Colombe and food prepared by Goddess and Grocer. The menu focuses on fresh, accessible fare, featuring grab-and-go salads and sandwiches for lunch and adding shareable small plates and desserts for evening and post show service.

Steppenwolf Theatre Company is the nation’s premier ensemble theater. Formed by a collective of actors in 1976, the ensemble of 49 members represent a remarkable cross-section of actors, directors and playwrights. Thrilling and powerful productions from Balm in Gilead to August: Osage County—and accolades that include the National Medal of Arts and 12 Tony Awards—have made the theater legendary. Steppenwolf produces hundreds of performances and events annually in its three spaces: the 515-seat Downstairs Theatre, the 259-seat Upstairs Theatre and the 80-seat 1700 Theatre. Artistic programing includes a seven-play season; a two-play Steppenwolf for Young Adults season; Visiting Company engagements; and LookOut, a multi-genre performances series. Education initiatives include the nationally recognized work of Steppenwolf for Young Adults, which engages 15,000 participants annually from Chicago’s diverse communities; the esteemed School at Steppenwolf; and Professional Leadership Programs for arts administration training. While firmly grounded in the Chicago community, nearly 40 original Steppenwolf productions have enjoyed success both nationally and internationally, including Broadway, Off-Broadway, London, Sydney, Galway and Dublin. Anna D. Shapiro is the Artistic Director and David Schmitz is the Executive Director. Eric Lefkofsky is Chair of Steppenwolf’s Board of Trustees. 

For additional information, visit,, and

REVIEW: Acclaimed It’s a Wonderful Life: Live in Chicago! Now in 16th Year at American Blues Theater

American Blues Theater Presents
16th Annual Production of
It’s a Wonderful Life: Live in Chicago!
From Frank Capra’s film
Directed by Artistic Director Gwendolyn Whiteside

Through January 6, 2018 

Photo credit for all: Michael Brosilow

**Holiday Events: Children 12 & under receive keepsakes on December 16 (Hanukkah) and December 24 (Santa visits)**

Guest Post by Lori Morrison-Contreras

It’s a Wonderful Life is one of my favorite Christmas movies. It was one of my Grandma’s too and I have so many wonderful memories of watching it with her that it now has much deeper meaning for me. The live radio version of It’s a Wonderful Life by American Blues Theater is a wonderful old fashioned treat to kick off the holiday season! The stage was gorgeously set, in deep red with lots of light and many, fully decorated Christmas trees. As you walk in, the actors are singing your favorite classic holiday songs. 

It is definitely the full 40’s small town Beford Falls experience with the actors greeting everyone as they walk in and passing out cookies and milk as you leave. They even kept the commercials and all references within the theme of old time 40’s language and charm.

As it is a radio play, there is no physical action on stage. Yet, you are able to see each actor change the tone and expression of their voice to truly become so many different characters that it keeps audience members of all ages engaged and entertained. My son and I loved being able to see the sound booth and how ordinary items like glasses and crinkled paper are used to do all the sound effects and add so much to the telling of the story.

In these times of huge special effects, it is a welcome change to go back to a more minimalist, basic approach with this classic. Some of my favorite, more visual scenes (like falling into the pool during the dance contest) are left out of the radio telling, but all the classic elements of George Bailey’s life are there and at the end you will still have a tear in your eye as Clarence earns his wings and George realized that he truly is the richest man in town.

About the Show:
American Blues Theater continues its 2017-2018 Season with its 16th Annual Production of It’s a Wonderful Life: Live in Chicago! from Frank Capra’s film and directed by Artistic Director Gwendolyn Whiteside with musical direction by Ensemble Member Michael Mahler. It’s a Wonderful Life: Live in Chicago! runs through January 6, 2018 at Stage 773, 1225 W. Belmont Ave. in Chicago.

Wednesdays:  7:30pm
Thursdays:  7:30pm
Fridays:  7:30pm
Saturdays:  4:30pm & 7:30pm
Sundays:  2:30pm

Additional performances on November 29 at 2:30pm; December 20 at 2:30pm; and January 2 at 4:30pm and 7:30pm

No performances on December 13 at 7:30pm; December 25 (Christmas Day); or January 6 at 7:30pm

Arrive 10 min early for prizes and audiograms

Ticket prices: $19 - $49

Box Office: Buy online at or by calling 773.327.5252.

For 16 years, the American Blues Ensemble has treated Chicago audiences to a live 1940s radio broadcast of holiday favorite It’s a Wonderful Life. The incredible cast recreates the entire town of Bedford Falls with Foley sound effects, an original score and holiday carols. The Bedford Falls “residents” extend their hospitality after every performance treating audiences to milk and cookies served by the cast.

“This story is a staple of our mission: American Blues Theater explores the American identity through the plays it produces and communities it serves,” notes Artistic Director Gwendolyn Whiteside. “This story reminds us of the fragility of life. Frank Capra’s line – “Each man’s life touches so many other lives. When he isn’t around, he leaves an awful hole, doesn’t he?” – resonates throughout the year. During the holidays, it becomes a poignant reminder as we gather with our loved ones.”

The cast of It’s a Wonderful Life: Live in Chicago! includes Blues artists Dara Cameron (Violet), Ian Paul Custer (Harry), Shawn Goudie (Foley), James Joseph (Uncle Billy), Zach Kenney (George Bailey), Michael Mahler (Announcer), John Mohrlein (Clarence/Mr. Potter), Camille Robinson (Mary Bailey – 12/20-1/6) and Gwendolyn Whiteside (Mary Bailey – 11/16-12/17). 

The creative team includes Austin Cook (score composer), Grant Sabin (scenic), Christopher J. Neville (costumes), Katy Peterson (lighting), Elyse Dolan (properties) and Paul Deziel (projection design). The stage manager is Kathryn Lochert.

It’s a Wonderful Life: Live in Chicago! has received Joseph Jefferson Award nominations for Best Midsize Production and Best Ensemble. 

About the Artists
GWENDOLYN WHITESIDE (Director, Mary Bailey Nov. 16 – Dec. 17) is a proud Ensemble member of American Blues Theater and has served as Producing Artistic Director since 2010. Under her leadership, American Blues has nearly doubled the size of its Ensemble, added 28 Artistic Affiliates, and diversified its base of artists. She created the nationally-recognized annual Blue Ink Playwriting Award, Blueprint Development for new work, implemented community service into the company’s mission, and adapted the arts education program The Lincoln Project for Chicago Public Schools which serves over 1,500 students annually. She led American Blues through its 2009 rebirth and built the operational budget from zero to $825,000 in six (6) years. Whiteside served numerous panels for the National Endowment for the Arts and sat on the national Board of Directors for Network of Ensemble Theaters. She’s a graduate of Northwestern University (cum laude), The School of the Art Institute of Chicago (MFA), and a Kellogg Executive Scholar in Nonprofit management (Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University). She was nominated for “Chicagoan of the Year” in Chicago Magazine and twice listed in Newcity’s annual Players list. In six years, six American Blues’ productions won or were nominated for best production by the Joseph Jefferson Award committee. She’s received 11 Joseph Jefferson Awards, Citations, and nominations as an actress and Producing Artistic Director. Her favorite performances include Jeff Award for Solo Performance (Grounded), Jeff Award nomination for Solo Performance (the K of D), Mary’s Wedding (Top 5 performances in Indianapolis), Collected Stories (Best Actress Broadway World Chicago Award), and 6 years as “Mary Bailey” (It’s a Wonderful Life: Live in Chicago!). She’s the recipient of two (2) After Dark Awards and numerous Broadway World Chicago Awards and nominations.

DARA CAMERON (Violet) is a proud Ensemble member of American Blues Theater. She so happy to be back with her American Blues family for her fifth It’s a Wonderful Life: Live in Chicago. Other favorite credits include Audrey in Little Shop of Horrors (American Blues Theater); Jovie in Elf, October Sky, Sister Act, City of Angels, Hero, The Wizard of Oz, Cinderella, Fiddler on the Roof, and Little Women (Marriott Theatre); Old Jews Telling Jokes (Off-Broadway and at the Royal George); Wednesday in The Addams Family (Mercury Theatre); Sunset Boulevard, Seussical, Thoroughly Modern Millie, and Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story (Drury Lane). She is a proud member of Actors’ Equity and a graduate of Northwestern University. As always, she’s delighted to share the stage with her husband, Michael Mahler, and even more delighted that this year they get to share their favorite holiday tradition with their son-to-be, due to arrive in March. 

IAN PAUL CUSTER (Harry) is a proud ensemble member of American Blues Theater.  Recent American Blues credits: The Columnist (David Halberstam, Jeff Nomination for Best Production – Midsize), It’s A Wonderful Life: Live in Chicago! (Jeff Nomination for Best Ensemble and Best Production – Midsize), Little Shop of Horrors (Orin Skrivello, Jeff Nomination for Best Production of a Musical – Midsize), and Yankee Tavern.  Recent Chicago theatrical credits: Bad Jews (Theatre Wit, North Shore Center, Royal George), 33 Variations (TimeLine Theatre, Jeff Award for Best Production – Midsize), Annie Bosh is Missing (Steppenwolf Theatre), High Holidays (Goodman Theatre), To Master the Art (Broadway Playhouse/TimeLine Theatre), Strangers, Babies (Steep Theatre), and Fiddler on the Roof (Paramount Theatre).  Regional theatrical credits: Hero: The Musical (Asolo Rep Theatre), Cymbeline (Notre Dame Shakespeare), Romeo and Juliet (Cardinal Stage), Peter Pan (360 Entertainment - London, England).  Television credits: APB, Empire, Chicago Fire, and Chicago PD.  Love to Shannon, my friends, and my family for all the support.  

SHAWN J. GOUDIE (Foley) is a proud Artistic Affiliate of American Blues Theater. He excited to be returning for his 9th season of It's A Wonderful Life: Live in Chicago. It is a joy for him to share the magic of old time radio with so many wonderful folks year after year. He would like to thank his amazing wife, their endlessly curious children and his loving parents.

ZACH KENNEY (George Bailey) is a proud Artistic Affiliate of American Blues Theater. He is thrilled to return as “George”, and to return to It’s a Wonderful Life: Live in Chicago for a third time. Previous work with American Blues also includes Waiting for Lefty, directed by Kimberly Senior. Chicago credits include: Hit the Wall (The Inconvenience); Hair (American Theater Company); The March (u/s, Steppenwolf Theatre); Chicago Boys (Goodman Theatre New Stages); The Gospel According to James (Victory Gardens Theater); and The Farnsworth Invention and Not Enough Air (TimeLine Theatre). Regional: The Great Gatsby, Red, Mary’s Wedding (opposite Gwendolyn Whiteside), and Who Am I This Time? (Indiana Rep); A Little Night Music (u/s) and 1776 (A.C.T.); 1776 (Asolo Rep); and An Immaculate Misconception (Eureka Theatre Co.). Television/film: Chicago Fire, LifeSteps…, and Schizo Cool. A San Francisco native, Zach trained at A.C.T.'s Young Conservatory (originating the title role in Horton Foote's The Actor in 2002) before attending The Theatre School at DePaul University. Zach resides in Los Angeles and thanks Alli, GTG, and this exceptional company.

JAMES JOSEPH (Uncle Billy) is a proud Artistic Affiliate of American Blues Theater. He returns for his eighth season of It’s A Wonderful Life: Live in Chicago!  Also at American Blues he appeared in Tobacco Road, performed voiceovers for Hank Williams: Lost Highway and American Myth, and has written for the Ripped festival.  He has performed on Chicago stages for twenty years, including at Steppenwolf Theatre, Northlight Theatre, Victory Gardens Theater, and TimeLine Theatre.  He is your audio guide for the permanent Chicago Authored exhibition at the Chicago History Museum, and was nominated for a Non-Equity Jeff Award (Supporting Actor) for his role in Faith Healer with UMA Productions.  

MICHAEL MAHLER (Announcer/Pianist) is a proud Ensemble member of American Blues Theater. He happily returns for a seventh season in Bedford Falls. American Blues credits include Little Shop of Horrors, Side Man, and Hank Williams: Lost Highway. Other Chicagoland credits include: Honeymoon in Vegas, City of Angels, and The 25th Annual… Spelling Bee (Marriott Theatre); The March (Steppenwolf Theatre); Working (Broadway in Chicago); and The Fox on the Fairway, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (Jeff nomination), and The Producers (Theatre at the Center). Michael is the Jeff award-winning composer/lyricist of Diary of a Wimpy Kid, October Sky, The Man who Murdered Sherlock Holmes, Wonderland: Alice's Rock & Roll Adventure, and Hero. He also contributed additional lyrics to the new Broadway production of Miss Saigon. Up next, Michael will music direct and appear in Blues’ production of Buddy: the Buddy Holly Story. He is proud to share the stage with his wife, Dara Cameron, who is full of the joy of the season (and also a baby).

JOHN MOHRLEIN (Clarence/Mr. Potter) is a proud Ensemble member of American Blues Theater. 16 years as “Clarence/Mr. Potter”, and he loves getting to revisit and reinvent these characters year after year.  At American Blues, he’s appeared in Half of Plenty, It’s a Wonderful Life, A View from the Bridge, Strictly Dishonorable, American Dead, The Hairy Ape, A Lie of the Mind, Endgame, American Buffalo, The Skin of Our Teeth, The Threepenny Opera, A Stone Carver (Jeff nomination for Best Actor, After Dark Award for Outstanding Performance), and directed Catch-22. Other credits: The Glass House at the Art Institute of Chicago; nine productions at Goodman Theatre; and Cripple of Inishmaan, Heart of a Dog, and Murder of Cardinal Tosca at Northlight Theatre. His extensive television and film work includes Golden Boy, Good Night Sweet Wife, Dillinger, Killing Floor, Early Edition, Crime Story (recurring role), Untouchables, Devil’s Dominoes, Stranger Than Fiction, No Place to be Somebody, Hellcab, Hero, and Cold Justice.  Now he’s developing “Star Crossed Lovers”, “Pope Frank in Venice”, while continuing to install his art works.

CAMILLE ROBINSON (Mary Bailey, Dec. 20 – Jan. 6) is a proud Artistic Affiliate of American Blues Theater. She is thrilled to be returning to this lovely, timeless show! She owes everything to her family for she would be nothing without their love and support. Recent Chicago theater credits include: Lizzie (Firebrand Theatre), Big River (Theatre at the Center), Jesus Christ Superstar (Paramount Theatre), A Wonder in My Soul (Victory Gardens Theater), Wonderful Town (Goodman Theatre), and Little Shop of Horrors (American Blues Theater). Recent TV/Film credits include: Chicago Med and Chicago PD (NBC). Represented by Gray Talent Group.

Community Service
For this production, American Blues Theater will support and partner with the USO and U.S. Dept of Veterans Affairs, and Misericordia. American Blues also continues its “Pink Previews” to donate proceeds from all preview performances to The Lynn Sage Foundation for breast cancer research.

Soldier Spotlight
During each performance, American Blues Theater honors one serviceman or servicewoman with a short personal tribute, a projected photo, and two (2) complimentary tickets. Submissions should be sent to American Blues Theater. There are limited spots available for the 2017 production. Neither you nor the nominee must be present to receive the spotlight.  For more information, contact Elyse Dolan at 

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 36-member Ensemble has 530+ combined years of collaboration on stage. As of 2017, the theater and artists received 195 Joseph Jefferson Awards and nominations that celebrate excellence in Chicago theater and over 35 Black Theatre Alliance Awards. The artists are honored with Pulitzer Prize nominations, Academy Awards, Golden Globe Awards, Emmy Awards and numerous other accolades.  

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.

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