Tuesday, November 7, 2017

OPENING: Pegasus Theatre Chicago's SHAKIN’ THE MESS OUTTA MISERY at Chicago Dramatists' 11/8-12/10/17

ChiIL Live Shows On Our Radar


(Back row, L to R): Darian Tene, Sandra Watson and Toni Lynice Fountain  (Front row, L to R): Felicia McNeal, Melanie Loren, debrah neal and Takesha Meshé Kizart
Photo by Emily Schwartz

Producing Artistic Director Ilesa Duncan Directs the Story of a Young Black Girl’s Coming of Age in the 1960s South

ChiIL Live Shows will be ChiILin' with Pegasus Theatre Chicago November 12th, at Chicago Dramatists' for the press opening of Shay Youngblood's Shakin’ the Mess Outta Misery, a timely remount Ilesa first directed in the 90's. It's the kick off for their 2017 – 2018 season, “Legacies” and we're looking forward to checking it out. 

Pegasus Theatre Chicago is proud to announce the first production in its 2017 – 2018 season, “Legacies,” Shakin’ the Mess Outta Misery, written by Shay Youngblood and directed by Pegasus Theatre Chicago’s Producing Artistic Director Ilesa Duncan, with music direction by Shawn Wallace and choreography by Nicole Clarke-Springer, November 8 – December 10, at Chicago Dramatists, 773 N. Aberdeen, where Pegasus is a resident artist. 

Previews are Wednesday, Nov. 8 – Saturday, Nov. 11 at 7:30 p.m. Opening night is Sunday, Nov. 12 at 3 p.m. or Monday, Nov. 13 at 7 p.m. The performance schedule is Thursdays – Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 3 p.m. Tickets are $30 with $25 for seniors and $20 for students. Tickets are available at or by calling 866.811.4111. Groups of 10 or more contact for group discounts.

Shakin’ the Mess Outta Misery is the story of a young black girl's coming of age in the 1960s South. “Daughter,” the main character and 25-year-old narrator lost her mother when she was very young and a community of women raised her, some blood related, some not. As she remembers how her 'Big Mamas' prepared her for womanhood, the women enter to tell their stories and “Daughter” becomes a child again reliving her vivid memories of growing up--recalling the rituals, the faith healings, the stories she was told and the lessons she learned about survival, healing, deep faith and mystery. Pegasus Artistic Director Ilesa Duncan originally directed this hit play in 1998 at Chicago Theater Company. The Chicago Reader said, “Duncan deftly weaves a seamless narrative fabric from the disparate elements of Youngblood's script.” when Duncan originally directed this hit play in 1998 at Chicago Theatre Company.

“I am honored to be returning to this project,” said Duncan. “This memory play, Shakin’ the Mess Outta Misery, speaks to me and audiences about the importance of relationships, passion, faith, sisterhood and so much more. This heartwarming story originally done in by me in the 90s about life in the 60s still teaches invaluable lessons for all of us living at this time in the 21st century.”

The cast of Shakin’ the Mess Outta Misery includes Melanie Loren, “Daughter;” Felicia McNeal, “Big Mama;” Stacie Doublin, “Aunt Mae;” Tina Marie Wright, “Aunt Mae;” Toni Lynice Fountain, “Miss Lamama;” debrah neal, “Miss Corinne;” Sandra Watson, “Miss Tom/Miss Mary;” Takesha Meshé Kizart, “Maggie/Dee Dee” and Darian Tene, “Fannie Mae/Miss Shine.”

The production team of Shakin’ the Mess Outta Misery includes Elyse Balogh, scenic designer; Paul Kim, costume designer; Kirstin Johnson, sound designer; Katy Vest, props designer and Liam Fitzgerald, production manager.

(L to R): Melanie Loren, Felicia McNeal and Takesha Meshé Kizart
Photo by Emily Schwartz


Georgia born writer Shay Youngblood is author of the novels “Black Girl in Paris” and “Soul Kiss” (Riverhead Books) and a collection of short fiction, “The Big Mama Stories” (Firebrand Books). Her published plays Amazing Grace, Shakin' the Mess Outta Misery and Talking Bones, (Dramatic Publishing Company), have been widely produced. Her other plays include Square Blues, Black Power Barbie and Communism Killed My Dog. She is the recipient of numerous grants and awards including a Pushcart Prize for fiction, a Lorraine Hansberry Playwriting Award, an Edward Albee honoree, several NAACP Theater Awards, an Astraea Writers' Award for fiction and a 2004 New York Foundation for the Arts Sustained Achievement Award. Youngblood received her MFA in Creative Writing from Brown University and has taught Creative Writing to faculty and graduate students at NYU and has been Visiting Writer in Residence at the University of Mississippi and Texas A&M Universities. She was recently awarded a National Endowment for the Arts sponsored Japan-US Creative Artist Fellowship for 2011.


Ilesa Duncan is the producing artistic director at Pegasus Theatre Chicago. Her other recent directing work includes the world premiere of Jeff-Recommended Rutherford’s Travels and For Her as a Piano for Pegasus, Broken Fences at 16th Street Theater, the Jeff Award-nominated The Nativity with Congo Square and the Jeff Award-winning Jar the Floor at ETA Creative Arts. Duncan has also worked with Goodman Theatre, Writers Theatre, Victory Gardens Theater, Rivendell Theatre Ensemble, Lifeline Theater, Stage Left and Chicago Dramatists, as well as Contemporary American Theatre Company (Ohio), The Alliance Theatre (Atlanta), Arena Stage (Washington DC) and Lincoln Center Theater (New York). Duncan’s creative nonfiction short stories have been published (Columbia College Chicago) and she’s written poems and screenplays.  For the stage, she co-adapted Rutherford’s Travels from the National Book Award-winning novel Middle Passage, co-wrote and directed Blakk Love: Stoeez of A Darker Hue and facilitated the devised project Do You See What I’m Saying for Chameleon.

ABOUT SHAWN WALLACE, music director/composer

Shawn Wallace is a keyboardist, composer and music director. He has music directed and composed for such theatres as MPAACT, Chicago Theatre Company and DanzTheatre Chicago.  He has worked with artists such as Common, Ice Cube, Bobby Brown, Dwele, Johnny Gill, Jon B., Bilal, Estelle, Julie Dexter, Rene Neufville, Rakim, Eric Roberson, Maggie Brown, Ugochi and Cherisse Scott. Wallace studied Music Theory and Composition at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and currently serves as musical director for two New Thought congregations: The Emmaus Center and the Namaste Center for Spiritual Living-Chicago.  He has worked for several years as a teaching artist throughout Chicago schools teaching Record Production and Theatre Tech to youth in 6th through 12th grades. His independent film score credits include; “Severed Ties” (Showcase Productions/ Lions Gate Films), “Puzzle Love” (Storybox Productions) and “Son of America” (Tanskin Productions/N’Spire Entertainment INC).


Nicole Clarke-Springer is a member of Deeply Rooted Dance Theatre where she has performed with artists such as Roberta Flack in Kevin Iega Jeff’s Flack as well as Jennifer Holiday in the world-renowned Penumbra Theatre’s Black Nativity. As a member of Deeply Rooted’s artistic team, Clarke-Springer choreographed works such as Nine, Dounia and Femme, and was assistant choreographer to Kevin Iega Jeff for Congo Square Theatre’s Nativity for two years.  In 2013, Clarke-Springer was named Deeply Rooted Dance Theatre’s Emerging choreographer for the program Generations. She received her B.S. in Arts Administration-Dance from Butler University in Indianapolis, IN where she also was awarded Butler Ballet’s Outstanding Performer.

Pegasus Theatre Chicago has been a mainstay in the Chicago theater community for nearly 38 years. Its recent rebranded mission is to produce boldly imaginative theatre, champion new and authentic voices and illuminate the human journey. The theatre adheres to the core values of community engagement, social relevance, boldness, adventure and excellence.

Pegasus is also committed to initiating important conversations through the arts with strong community engagement and socially relevant programming, including the Young Playwrights Festival for high school-age scribes, which celebrated its 31st Anniversary this year. Pegasus Theatre Chicago has received seventy-seven Joseph Jefferson Citations since its inception.

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