Thursday, December 28, 2017

PHOTO RECAP: HELEN MONEY Avant-Metal Cello Virtuoso at Chicago's Empty Bottle 12/22/17

ALISON CHESLEY aka HELEN MONEY is a cellist who has become known for her adventurous sound, bold compositions, and compelling stage performance. Called “A classical-cellist-turned-avant-metal virtuoso" by the Boston Phoenix, CHESLEY channels her sensibilities and experience as a rock musician through a classical instrument, altering both genres without apology. 

She has played on over 150 albums with artists such as Disturbed, Bob Mould, Mono, Anthrax, Broken Social Scene, Russian Circles, and Archer Prewitt among others.

Full Set Of Shots In The Slideshow Here. 
More favorites embedded below.

It was truly a treat to see Helen Money in action. She was a thrill to shoot and even better to hear! Check out her YouTube videos and catch her in person if at all possible. 

More Favorite Shots:

Wednesday, December 27, 2017


Here's ChiIL Live Shows' photo feature of the one and only SANFORD PARKER opening for YAKUZA on 12/22/17 at Chicago's Empty Bottle. 

All Shots in the Slideshow Here. 
More Favorites Embedded Below:

Empty Bottle Says: These days, if it’s metal and recorded in Chicago, chances are SANFORD PARKER was at the mixing board. His own bands, MINSK and BURIED AT SEA are super killer as well. We’re honored to witness a master at this craft this evening. Pay close attention and maybe you’ll learn a thing or two!


Friday, December 15, 2017


Chi, IL LIVE Shows On Our Radar:

JANUARY 19 – MARCH 11, 2018

This All-New Production of Hatfield & McCoy Now Features a Rich Score of Americana Music Spanning Bluegrass, Folk, Rock, and Pop. In an Homage to Romeo and Juliet, Political Divides Drive a Cycle of Violence Between Two Families

The House’s Company Member Matt Hawkins playing at the Chopin Upstairs Theatre, 1543 W. Division St., January 19 – March 11, 2018. Inspired by the true story of famous feuding families, and by Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet, the production features original songs by Pfautsch and Matt Kahler. Preview performances are Friday, Jan. 19 – Saturday, Jan. 27 following the regular schedule, barring matinees. (NOTE: The January 21 preview performance begins at 7 p.m).  Opening/press night is Sunday, Jan. 28 at 7 p.m.  The performance schedule is Thursdays and Fridays at 7:30 p.m., Saturdays at 3 and 8 p.m. and Sundays at 3 p.m. Preview tickets are $20 and regular run tickets range from $30 – $50. Same-day tickets for students and industry professionals are $20 and available for all dates, seats permitting. For more information and to purchase tickets, please visit or call 773.769.3832. 

On the border of Kentucky and West Virginia, North and South, fact and fiction, two cabins both alike in dignity wage a whip-smart war of words and bullets. Hatfield & McCoy tells the true tale of the most infamous family feud in American history. Set at the close of the Civil War, a battle of Us versus Them catches two young lovers in a deadly cycle of violence.

Gunfire and romance escalate when young Rose Anna McCoy and Johnse Hatfield fall in love, marry in secret, and vow to reconcile their feuding families. Their tale of woe is served up with a heaping helping of original Americana tunes, connecting their past to our present.

New music created for the show represents Americana styles across generations, from bluegrass to 2017 pop. Hatfield & McCoy features a live band on stage comprised of synths, keyboards, an upright bass, fiddle, and guitar plus actors playing guitars, mandolins, banjos and vocals.

Hatfield & McCoy received its world premiere at The House in 2006. Workshops for the 2018 production were supported by University of Chicago’s UChicago Performance Lab.

The cast for Hatfield & McCoy includes: Robert D. Hardaway (Devil Anse Hatfield), Marika Mashburn* (Levicy Hatfield), Michael E. Smith* (Jim Vance), Jeff Mills (Bad Lias Hatfield), Kyle Whalen (Johnse Hatfield), Jenni M. Hadley (Hatfield Sister), Tia Pinson (Hatfield Sister, U/S Alifair), Ann Delaney (Hatfield Sister, U/S Jenni and Tia), Anish Jethmalani^ (Ol Ranl McCoy), Stacy Stoltz*^ (Sarah McCoy), Bradley Grant Smith (“Squirrel Huntin” Sam McCoy), Haley Bolithon (Rose Anna McCoy), Collin Quinn Rice (Calvin McCoy), Khloe Janel (Alifair McCoy), Cody Proctor (Asa “Harmon” McCoy), Tommy Malouf (Tolbert McCoy), Royen Kent (Pharmer McCoy), Kyle Ryan (Randolph “Bud” McCoy), Desmond Gray (Bill Staton) and Jamie Vann (Marshal Frank Phillips).

Additional understudies include Adam Benjamin (U/S Devil Anse Hatfield, Ol Ranl), Tobi Mattingly (U/S Levicy, Sarah), Jacob Fjare (U/S Jim, Bad Lias, Marshal), Andy Monson (U/S Bill Stanton, Harmon, Sam, Sibling Swing) and Ethan Peterson (U/S Sibling Swing).Musicians in Hatfield & McCoy include: Matthew Muñiz* (Music Director/Keyboard), Jake Saleh (Upright Bass), and Jess McIntosh (Fiddle).

The creative and design team for Hatfield & McCoy includes: Matt Hawkins* (director), Shawn Pfautsch* (writer, co-composer), Madison Smith (assistant director), Lee Keenan* (scenic/lighting designer), Ellie Terrell (associate scenic designer, props designer), Emily McConnell (costume designer), Grover Hollway (sound designer), Matt Kahler (co-composer), Katherine Scott (choreographer), Marika Mashburn* (casting director) and Lauren Baston* (stage manager).

*Company Member with The House  ^Actor’s Equity Association Member

ABOUT SHAWN PFAUTSCH, Playwright, Co-Composer
Pfautsch is a playwright, musician, actor and a veteran company member of The House Theatre of Chicago, enlisting from the very beginning in 2000. His full-length plays, Season on the Line, The Attempters, and Hatfield & McCoy have all received their world premieres with The House. As an actor, he has been on stage around Chicago at: The House (Death & Harry Houdini, Cyrano, Thieves Like Us) Steppenwolf (Theatrical Essays), Chicago Children’s Theatre (A Year with Frog and Toad, Frederick), and The Hypocrites (Gilbert & Sullivan Rep). As part of The Hypocrites’ Gilbert & Sullivan rep, he has performed around the country, from Boston to Berkeley, Louisville and the DC area and most recently in New York City (Skirball Center at NYU) and Pasadena Playhouse. His short plays and one-acts have been produced in Chicago as well as Texas, Florida and Iowa.  

Hawkins is a Chicago-based director, actor, fight choreographer and movement director.  He is a Founding Member of The House Theatre of Chicago and an Artistic Associate with Strawdog Theatre Company.  Over the past fifteen years he has worked with theatres such as the Royal Shakespeare Company, Stratford Festival, Kennedy Center, South Coast Rep, American Players’ Theatre, Drury Lane, Marriott, Paramount, Steppenwolf, Goodman, Lookingglass, Court Theatre and Writers Theatre. He has also worked extensively with Chicago Shakespeare and their education department, by serving as the director and voice/movement director of the Chicago Public Schools program, which was the recipient of the Humanities Youth Program Award in 2014, awarded by The White House and First Lady Michelle Obama.  He holds a BFA in acting from Southern Methodist University and an MFA in directing from The University of Iowa.  He has been nominated for thirteen Jeff Awards and has received five. Later this year he will direct and choreograph Spring Awakening (Notre Dame) and choreograph violence for Macbeth (Chicago Shakespeare). He is currently an Assistant Professor at the University of Notre Dame, where he serves as head of musical theatre for the Department of Film, Television, and Theatre.  He is married to actor/director/documentarian Stacy Stoltz.

Matt Kahler’s regional credits as a performer include The Pirates of Penzance (Actors Theater of Louisville; American Repertory Theater). Chicago credits include Animal Farm (Steppenwolf), Equivocation (Victory Gardens Theater); Hank Williams: Lost Highway (American Blues), Coriolanus, HMS Pinafore, The Mikado, Frankenstein (The Hypocrites); Richard III, Macbeth, Comedy of Errors (Lakeside Shakespeare Theatre); and Watership Down (Lifeline Theater). 

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 70 Joseph Jefferson Awards (22 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 year of original work is underway and The House continues its mission to unite Chicago in the spirit of Community through amazing feats of Storytelling.

REVIEW: The Christmas Schooner Returns For Its Annual Holiday Voyage at Mercury Theater Through 12/31/17

ChiIL Mama's Chi, IL Picks List:

Mercury Theater Chicago
Through December 31, 2017

by Catherine Hellmann, guest writer 

Inspired by true events, The Christmas Schooner is a delightful musical currently playing at the Mercury Theater through the month of December. If you haven't seen it, the show is a wonderful addition to the other holiday-themed theatrical offerings now running in the Windy City. In its seventh year, The Christmas Schooner relates an inspiring story of a Michigan family who braved the icy waters of Lake Michigan to bring Christmas trees from the Upper Peninsula to Clark Street Docks in Chicago in the early 1900s. Selling the trees for fifty cents to a dollar apiece, Captain Herman Schuenemann would also give trees away to the needy. A letter from his cousin in Chicago woefully explains there are no evergreen trees to be had in the bustling city for her beloved Tannenbaum. Against his wife's wishes, she realizes a winter storm on the lake can be deadly, the captain is determined to bring Christmas cheer to the German immigrants of Chicago.
The first outing seems foolhardy, and wife Alma's dismay of her husband, Captain Peter Stossel, daring such a journey in the dead of winter is shown amusingly by Brianna Borger's silent treatment and angry knitting. Ms. Borger has a lovely voice and her stage presence is warm and perfect as the supportive wife, mother, and daughter-in-law. Her husband is played dutifully by a returning Stef Tovar, who was so convincing, and unrecognizable, as the lead character in A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Gynecologic Oncology Unit at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center of New York City. Also of particular note is Don Forston as the German grandfather Gustav Stossel. He lapses into his native German frequently at the beginning, but his daughter-in-law admonishes him to "speak in American." He also utters a "Gott im Himmel!" disguising his swearing in German. Coincidentally, my own father recalled his German grandmother using the exact same phrase when she wanted to curse in front of her grandchildren!  

The costumes and songs are delightful, and my companion and I enjoyed learning a little bit more about Chicago's immigrant past. One of the most memorable songs was the haunting "What Is It about the Water?" We forget what these ship workers and sailors went through, and how anxious life on land was for their patiently waiting wives.  

(There is also a funny scene about how the city could also be a dangerous place not to be trusted as a swindler takes advantage of the Michigan visitors and their gullibility.) On the first voyage, uncertain whether the crew would sell a single tree, they are shockingly greeted with a crowd of 500 people, mostly European immigrants who want to experience the familiar Christmas ritual of decorating a tree in their homes. The "Christmas Schooner," as it becomes dubbed, makes several subsequent journeys for years until tragedy strikes. The danger on the Great Lakes is very real. Interestingly, the last year of the original Christmas Schooner was also the year the Mercury theater opened in 1912.  

Plan to make The Christmas Schooner a part of your family tradition. It will sail into your hearts.

Individual tickets range from $30-$69, and are available online at, over the phone at 773.325.1700, or in person at 3745 N. Southport Avenue, Chicago. 

Meet the creative team of THE CHRISTMAS SCHOONER! from Mercury Theater Chicago on Vimeo.

Hear from Director L. Walter Stearns, Music Director Eugene Dizon and Choreographer Brenda Didier and learn why THE CHRISTMAS SCHOONER is so special to them.

Mercury Theater Chicago, 3745 N. Southport Avenue – THE CHRISTMAS SCHOONER will be sailing for its seventh year at Mercury Theater Chicago, from November 24 through December 31, 2017. We are pleased to welcome new cast members to the Schooner family including Nicole Armold, Harter Clingman, Jared Rein, Ron Keaton, Ryan Stajmiger and Holly Stauder with Don Forston returning at the helm as “Gustav Stossel.” The cast will be led by the Jeff-award winning team of L. Walter Stearns (Director), Eugene Dizon (Musical Director) and Brenda Didier (Choreographer). Whether it is your first or tenth time seeing THE CHRISTMAS SCHOONER, this heartwarming Chicago-centric story never fails to remind us what the holidays are all about: sharing love.

The whole family will enjoy this heartwarming musical story of the first Christmas tree ship and the family who risked their lives to fill Chicago with the Christmas spirit. Hailed as "A sacred part of a Chicago Christmas!" by the Chicago Tribune, this production has become one of Chicago’s great holiday traditions. The production features a powerful, moving story, an exquisite score of original music and traditional holiday favorites.
Director L. Walter Stearns: “There are a great many holiday shows to choose from, but the importance of continuing THE CHRISTMAS SCHOONER is too great, not only to us personally, but to the families who have made us part of their holiday tradition each year. This show is a holiday slice of Chicago history...a story of immigrants sharing their family traditions. It seems we need that reminder this year more than ever”

The shipwreck of the Rouse Simmons, known as 'The Christmas Tree Ship,' served as inspiration for THE CHRISTMAS SCHOONER. Her captain and crew risked the notoriously violent winter lake to bring Christmas trees from Michigan's Upper Peninsula to Chicago's German immigrants. Each year, Captain Herman Schuenemann would sell trees right off of the ship at the Clark Street Docks, and was known to give free trees to the needy. On November 23, 1912, the ship was swept up in a terrible storm. It was not until 59 years later that she was discovered, lying in 170 feet of water. Today the Rouse Simmons and her cargo of 5,500 well stacked trees remain preserved in the cold, fresh waters of Lake Michigan and her legend has grown to mythical proportions. The Blaine Nickelodeon - the silent film theater that now houses the Mercury - opened that very same year.
THE CHRISTMAS SCHOONER has entertained audiences in hundreds of productions including a twelve-year run at Chicago's Bailiwick Repertory Theatre. A timely and uplifting tale of love, THE CHRISTMAS SCHOONER is a poignant ode to the rich legacy of Chicago and a reminder of our responsibility to celebrate the living while honoring our heritage. In 2011, Mercury Theater Chicago revived THE CHRISTMAS SCHOONER with a full orchestra and an all-star cast, garnering a "Best Production" nomination for the 2012 Jeff Awards. 

The production has been called "A grand family tradition!" by the Chicago Tribune and "An inheritance to be treasured...Highly recommended!" by the Chicago Sun-Times. Time Out Chicago Kids says that “An emotion-packed, Christmas-themed tale of redemption give the Mercury Theater’s production of THE CHRISTMAS SCHOONER all the trappings of a family holiday tradition in the making!"

THE CHRISTMAS SCHOONER is written by Chicagoans John Reeger (book) and Julie Shannon (music and lyrics).  Don Forston will return to the helm as ‘Gustav Stossel’ with Brianna Borger as Alma and Stef Tovar as Peter Stossel.  Rounding out the crew on this year's schooner voyage are Kelly Anne Clark, Dan Gold and Christian Libonati.  New shipmates include Nicole Armold, Harter Clingman, Leo Gonzalez, Stella Hoyt, Ben Miller, Jared Rein, Ryan Stajmiger, Holly Stauder and Elise Wolf. The scenic design is by Jacqueline and Richard Penrod, with costume design by Carol Blanchard and sound design by Mike Ross.

The beautifully renovated Mercury Theater Chicago is an intimate jewel box of a theater in the heart of the Southport Corridor, a sophisticated neighborhood of restaurants and boutiques just steps from Wrigley Field. A delightful theater destination, Mercury Theater Chicago takes care of its guests from the moment they arrive with valet service and dining at its adjoining restaurant, Grassroots.
The performance schedule for THE CHRISTMAS SCHOONER is Wednesdays at 8pm, Thursdays at 3pm and 8pm, Fridays at 8pm, Saturdays at 3pm and 8pm and Sundays at 3pm.  There are additional holiday performances on Tuesday, December 19th at 8pm and Tuesday, December 26th at 8:00pm.

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Chi, IL LIVE Shows On Our Radar:




SAMANTHA BARKS              




Broadway In Chicago and Producer Paula Wagner announces PRETTY WOMAN: THE MUSICAL will star Samantha Barks (Les Miserables) as ‘Vivian’ opposite Tony Award winner and Grammy Award winner Steve Kazee (Once) as ‘Edward,’ with Tony Award nominee Orfeh (Legally Blonde) as ‘Kit,’ Eric Anderson (Waitress) as ‘Mr. Thompson,’ Jason Danieley (The Full Monty) as ‘Philip Stuckey,’ and Kingsley Leggs (Sister Act) as ‘James Morse’ in a company of 24 that includes Allison Blackwell, Tommy Bracco, Brian Calí, Robby Clater, Jessica Crouch, Anna Eilinsfeld, Matt Farcher, Lauren Lim Jackson, Renée Marino, Ellyn Marie Marsh, Jillian Mueller, Jake Odmark, Jennifer Sanchez, Matthew Stocke, Alex Michael Stoll, Alan Wiggins, Jesse McGraw Wildman and Darius Wright.

Tickets are now on sale for the PRETTY WOMAN: THE MUSICAL Chicago world premiere engagement.

PRETTY WOMAN: THE MUSICAL has original music and lyrics by Grammy Award winner Bryan Adams and his longtime songwriting partner Jim Vallance, book by Garry Marshall and the film’s screenwriter J.F. Lawton, and is directed and choreographed by two-time Tony Award winner Jerry Mitchell.

PRETTY WOMAN: THE MUSICAL has scenic design by David Rockwell, costume design by Gregg Barnes, lighting design by Kenneth Posner & Philip S. Rosenberg, sound design by John Shivers, hair design by Josh Marquette, music supervision, arrangements and orchestrations by Will Van Dyke, and casting by Telsey + Company.  101 Productions, Ltd is the Executive Producer and General Manager.

The world premiere of PRETTY WOMAN: THE MUSICAL at Broadway In Chicago’s Oriental Theatre (24 West Randolph Street, Chicago, IL) begins performances Tuesday, March 13, 2018, for a strictly limited 5-week engagement, and tickets are available at all Broadway In Chicago Box Offices (24 W. Randolph St., 151 W. Randolph St., 18 W. Monroe St. and 175 E. Chestnut), the Broadway In Chicago Ticket Line at 800.775.2000, and online at  

Chicago world premiere tickets range from $33 - $110.  The playing schedule for PRETTTY WOMAN: THE MUSICAL at Broadway In Chicago’s Oriental Theatre is: Tuesday through Friday and Sunday at 7:30pm, Saturday at 8pm, with matinees Saturday and Sunday at 2pm.  Please note there will be added 2pm matinees on April 4 and April 11, and no evening performances on April 8 and April 15.

PRETTY WOMAN: THE MUSICAL will begin performances on Broadway on Friday, July 20, 2018, at The Nederlander Theatre (208 West 41st Street), with an official opening night of Thursday, August 16, 2018. 

PRETTY WOMAN: THE MUSICAL is produced by Paula Wagner, Nice Productions, LPO, New Regency Productions, Roy Furman, James L. Nederlander, Caiola Productions, Hunter Arnold, Ed Walson, Michael Cassel Group, Stage Entertainment, Ambassador Theatre Group and The John Gore Organization.

One of the most beloved romantic comedy films of all time, PRETTY WOMAN was produced by Arnon Milchan (New Regency Productions) and swept the world off its feet in 1990 reinventing the romantic comedy genre by making the world believe in happily-ever-after.

Samantha Barks is appearing with the support of Actors' Equity Association.

For more information visit:

Broadway In Chicago was created in July 2000 and over the past 17 years has grown to be one of the largest commercial touring homes in the country.  A Nederlander Presentation, Broadway In Chicago lights up the Chicago Theater District entertaining well up to 1.7 million people annually in five theatres.  Broadway In Chicago presents a full range of entertainment, including musicals and plays, on the stages of five of the finest theatres in Chicago’s Loop including the CIBC Theatre, Oriental Theatre, Cadillac Palace Theatre, and just off the Magnificent Mile, the Broadway Playhouse at Water Tower Place and presenting Broadway shows at The Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University.  For more information, visit


Chi, IL LIVE Shows On Our Radar:

Returning to Andersonville!
Hell in a Handbag Productions’ Hit World Premiere
By David Cerda
Directed by Shade Murray, AJ Wright and David Lipschutz

Extended Again!
Through January 10, 2018 at Mary’s Attic

Break out the cheesecake and eggnog – Chicago’s favorite gals are headed back to Andersonville for the holidays, where it all began! Following an 18-week sell-out run, including six-weeks at Lakeview’s Stage 773, Hell in a Handbag Productions' campy world premiere parody THE GOLDEN GIRLS – THE LOST EPISODES will return to Mary’s Attic (5400 N. Clark St., Chicago) for six additional performances from December 6, 2017 – January 10, 2018. Written by David Cerda and directed by Shade Murray, AJ Wright and David Lipschutz, the campy parody of one of TV's most beloved sitcoms will feature the best of the original run – plus a new holiday-themed episode! THE GOLDEN GIRLS will run in conjunction with the return of Handbag’s holiday favorite RUDOLPH THE RED-HOSED REINDEER. Tickets for both productions are currently available at or by calling (800) 838-3006.  

Enjoy lost, never-before-seen episodes of The Golden Girls featuring Dorothy, Rose, Blanche, Sophia and all of the siblings, daughters, sons, characters and rare diseases that were mentioned once, but never again. The production also features The Golden Girls trivia and games to help fully embrace the Miami experience. 

THE GOLDEN GIRLS – THE LOST EPISODES will feature original cast members David Cerda as the forthright Dorothy, Ed Jones as the sweet airheaded Rose and Adrian Hadlock as the sharp tongued Sophia with newcomer Grant Drager as the lusty Blanche. The cast also includes Chazie Bly, Robert Williams and Michael Miller.

In keeping with the Handbag tradition, THE GOLDEN GIRLS – THE LOST EPISODES is an original parody of the beloved show. Our Golden Girls find themselves in situations never before seen on television – that’s why they’re lost episodes! Watch the girls band together as Rose struggles with a debilitating malady that threatens to tear them apart. See what happens when Blanche has a hot and steamy encounter with a jazzercise instructor. The holiday edition features a new episode where Rose meets Santa Claus.

The production team for THE GOLDEN GIRLS – THE LOST EPISODES includes: Roger Wykes (set design), Myron Elliot (costume design), Cat Wilson (lighting design), Sydney Genco (make-up design), Mealah Heidenreich and Adrian Hadlock.

Location: Mary’s Attic, 5400 N. Clark St., Chicago
Dates: Wednesday, December 6, Monday, December 18, Tuesday, December 19, Wednesday, December 27, Wednesday, January 3 and Wednesday January 10
Curtain times: 7:30 pm
Tickets: $25. VIP seats $35-$80. Group rates $21 for 10 or more. Ticket are currently available at or, or by calling (800) 838-3006.

About the Creative Team
 David Cerda (Playwright) is the co-founder and Artistic Director of Hell in a Handbag Productions. He has written and appeared in POSEIDON!  An Upside Down Musical, The Birds, Rudolph the Red-Hosed Reindeer, SCARRIE The Musical, Caged Dames, Lady X, How Whatever Happened to Baby Jane Happened, TROGG! A Rock and Roll Musical, Christmas Dearest, Scream, Queen! SCREAM!, The Rip Nelson Halloween Spooktacular , Sexy Baby and most recently the Jeff recommended Lady X The Musical. His plays have been produced around the country. He has also worked as a songwriter/lyricist with Amazon Films on an animated project and as an actor with various theater companies throughout the city of Chicago. Cerda was recently inducted into the Chicago Gay and Lesbian Hall of Fame for his contributions to Chicago theatre.

Shade Murray (Co-Director) is happy to be back at Hell In A Handbag, where he directed The Divine Sister. He is an ensemble member of A Red Orchid Theater, where he has directed the world premieres of Brett Neveu’s Pilgrim’s Progress and Ike Holter’s Sender, as well as productions of David Adjmi's 3C, Marisa Wegrzyn’s Mud Blue Sky and The Butcher of Baraboo, Annie Baker’s The Aliens, Nick Jones’ Trevor, Mike Leigh’s Abigail’s Party and Kimberly Akimbo by David Lindsay-Abaire. He also performed in the A Red Orchid production of The Mutilated. Other directing credits include Steppenwolf Theatre Company, The House Theater, Steep Theater, Second City, Writers’ Theater and elsewhere. Shade is a lecturer at University of Chicago and teaches at DePaul University and Actors’ Studio Chicago.

AJ Wright (Co-Director) is a graduate of Ball State University and proud ensemble member with Hell in a Handbag Productions where he also serves as Production Manager. Directing credits include:  The Golden Girls: The Lost Episodes (Late Night Edition), Caged Dames (Jeff Recommended), Christmas Dearest (Jeff Recommended), and Rudolph the Red-Hosed Reindeer (2011, 2012 & 2017). As an actor, he has been seen in Bewildered (Darrin G), The Golden Girls: The Lost Episodes (Blanche), Rip Nelson’s Holiday Spectacular (Peggy Lennon), Sexy Baby (Kyle Kennedy) and SCARRIE (Tommy Ross). AJ is also a member of the Jeff Committee and had the pleasure of writing and assistant directing the 44th Annual Non-Equity Joseph Jefferson Awards and looks forward to writing the 45th Annual ceremony in 2017. 

David Lipschutz (Co-Director) is a proud company member, he has worked on nearly twenty Handbag productions. David previously directed the staged reading of Psycho Beach Party and assistant directed Miracle and Christmas Dearest. He has also directed/assistant directed with Underscore Theatre, Runaways Lab Theatre, Generic Theatre Company and BPB Co. (company member), where he will be directing the upcoming production of Speech & Debate. 

About Hell in a Handbag Productions
Hell in a Handbag is dedicated to the preservation, exploration, and celebration of works ingrained in the realm of popular culture via theatrical  productions through parody, music and homage. Handbag is a 501(c)(3) Not for Profit.

For additional information, visit

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

OPENING: The Second City's She the People Is Back at Up Comedy Club 1/11-4/1/18

The Second City presents the return of
The Second City’s She the People: 
Girlfriends’ Guide to Sisters 
Doing it for Themselves

The hit sketch show is back to take on women’s issues with wit and wisdom
January 11 – April 1, 2018
*Run Time: 100 minutes (2 Acts with a brief intermission)**

Here at ChiIL Live Shows, we love sketch comedy and funny women. Can't wait to catch this remount of The Second City’s hit, She The People.

Back by popular demand, The Second City’s She the People: Girlfriends’ Guide to Sisters Doing It for Themselves, a sketch show created, designed and performed entirely by the women of Second City, returns to the stage in 2018. Under the direction of Carly Heffernan with musical direction by Mary Mahoney, She the People runs January 11 – April 1, 2018, in The Second City’s UP Comedy Club. Tickets start at $26 and can be purchased at the box office, by phone at (312) 662-4562 or online at UP Comedy Club is located on the 3rd Floor of Piper’s Alley at 230 W North Ave, Chicago.

We’ll bet you 72 cents on the dollar (or much, much less!) you’ll cheer for the women of The Second City as they roast the patriarchy! This mimosa-and-madness-fueled foray takes on everything from having it all to having that sick feeling your government is trying to send you back to the Middle Ages. It’s time for women everywhere to collectively reclaim comedy!

She the People is written by Carisa Barreca, Marla Caceres, Carly Heffernan, Tien Tran and Lauren Walker. Casting will be announced at a later date. 

She the People plays on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm and Sundays at 7pm at UP Comedy Club, located at 230 W North Ave, 3rd Floor of Piper’s Alley, Chicago. Tickets, starting at $26, are available at the Second City Box Office (230 W. North Ave, First Floor, Piper's Alley), by phone at 312-337-3992 or online at

About the Artists
CARLY HEFFERNAN (Director) is an award-winning alumna of The Second City Toronto, where she wrote and performed in four Mainstage revues. She recently co-wrote the hit show The Second City Guide to the Symphony and toured with it across Canada and the United States. She directed the critically acclaimed Second City Toronto Mainstage revue Come What Mayhem!, as well as The Second City Touring Company and several Norwegian Cruise Line shows. Carly currently writes for Second Jen (CityTV), The Irrelevant Show (CBC Radio) and Air Farce Canada 150 special (CBC).

MARY MAHONEY (Music Direction/ Sound Design) has worked as a Musical Director for sketch and improv comedy all over the continent while touring with Second City Theatricals aboard the Norwegian Dawn and The Second City Touring Company. A former music faculty member of Western Washington University, she is now a faculty member at The Second City Training Center.

ABBY BEGGS (Lighting Design) When she’s not in the booth at The Second City, she can be found stage managing, directing and composing music for theatre around town. Stage management credits include: L'enfant et les Sortilèges, L'incoronazione di Poppea (Roosevelt University), The Out of Tooners (Off-Color Theatre Company), Gallo (Guerilla Opera), Blue Window (Brown Box Theatre Project), The Scene, Good People and Barefoot in the Park (Dorset Theatre Festival), among others.

Tickets: Starting at $26
Groups of 16 visit the Group Events page for party package options.

Box Office: 230 W. North Ave, First Floor, Piper's Alley
phone at 312-337-3992 or online at

About The Second City
Since opening its doors 1959, The Second City has grown to become the world’s premier comedy club, theater and school of improvisation, entertaining 1 million theatergoers a year around the globe. Alumni of The Second City’s resident stages, touring companies, and theatrical divisions include some of the biggest names in entertainment, and in addition to the sold-out shows playing nightly on resident stages in Chicago and Toronto, the comedy empire has staged productions with a wide range of illustrious creative partners and theatre companies, including the Lyric Opera of Chicago, Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Goodman Theatre, Center Theater Group Los Angeles, Portland Center Stage, Toronto Symphony Orchestra, La Jolla Playhouse, Woolly Mammoth Theatre, and even the Chicago Bulls.

Monday, December 11, 2017

OPENING: Chicago Premiere of NEVERMORE – The Imaginary Life and Mysterious Death of Edgar Allan Poe at The Edge Theater Via Black Button Eyes 1/5-1/28/18

Chi, IL LIVE Shows On Our Radar:

Chicago Premiere!
Black Button Eyes Productions Presents
NEVERMORE – The Imaginary Life and 
Mysterious Death of Edgar Allan Poe
Book, Music and Lyrics by Jonathan Christenson 
Directed by Ed Rutherford 
Music Direction by Nick Sula
Choreography by Derek Van Barham

January 5 – 28, 2018 at The Edge Theater

Following its hit production of SHOCKHEADED PETER, Black Button Eyes Productions is pleased to conclude its 2017-18 season with the Chicago premiere musical NEVERMORE – The Imaginary Life and Mysterious Death of Edgar Allan Poe, the moving life story of the iconic American writer told through haunting music, poetic storytelling and stunning stagecraft, with book, music and lyrics by Jonathan Christenson. Directed by Producing Artistic Director Ed Rutherford, with music direction by Nick Sula and choreography by Derek Van Barham, NEVERMORE will play January 5 – 28, 2018 at The Edge Theater, 5451 N. Broadway in Chicago. Tickets are currently available at

NEVERMORE features Kevin Webb as Edgar Allan Poe with Megan DeLay, Jessica Lauren Fisher, Ryan Lanning, Matt McNabb, Maiko Terazawa and Jeremy Trager.

Edgar Allan Poe’s life reads like one of his short stories: an unrelenting tale of misery and woe. His death is also shrouded in mystery. Was he just spectacularly unlucky, or did a supernatural shadow fall over his life? This Chicago premiere weaves fact and fiction into a tapestry of music and poetry.

The production team for NEVERMORE includes: Jeremy Hollis (scenic design, technical director) Beth Laske-Miller (costume design), Liz Cooper (lighting design), Robert Hornbostel (sound design), Catherine Woods (props design, puppet design) and Hazel McCabe-Flowers (stage manager).

Location: The Edge Theater, 5451 N. Broadway, Chicago
Regular run: Saturday, January 6 – Sunday, January 28, 2018
Curtain Times: Thursdays, Fridays & Saturdays at 7:30 pm; Sundays at 3 pm. 
*Please note: there will be added matinee performances on Saturday, January 13, Saturday, January 20 and Saturday, January 27 at 2 pm. 

Tickets: $30. Tickets are currently available at Tickets may also be purchased in person beginning one hour prior to each performance.

About the Artists:
Jonathan Christenson (Book, Music & Lyrics) is a director, writer and composer whose original musical plays have been presented at major theatres and festivals throughout the U.K., Australia, the U.S. and Canada. His work has been recognized with more than 40 British, Canadian and American awards and nominations, including a Lucille Lortel nomination for Outstanding New Musical of New York’s 2015 Off-Broadway season. His plays have been published by Playwrights Canada Press, Newest Press and Bayeaux Arts, recordings of his music can be found on iTunes and at Broadway Records, and his productions are featured in American Theatre, Maclean’s, CTR, PRISM International, Canada World View and All Stages. He was named one of “Alberta’s Fifty Most Influential People” by Venture Magazine and Alberta Playwrights Network chose him as one of Alberta’s one hundred most significant theatre artists of the past one hundred years.

Ed Rutherford (Director) recently directed Black Button Eyes’ Jeff-Recommended Shockheaded Peter, preceded by Amour (Chicago premiere), Goblin Marke, and Stephin Merrit's musical adaptation of Coraline (Midwest Premiere). In 2017, Ed also directed the Jeff-Recommend productions of The Liar with Promethean Theatre Ensemble and Paula Vogel’s The Baltimore Waltz at Brown Paper Box Co. He is an artistic associate at Promethean, where he additionally directed his own world premiere adaptation of the Peter S. Beagle fantasy novel The Last Unicorn, Brecht’s The Caucasian Chalk Circle and the company's inaugural production, Christopher Durang’s Beyond Therapy. As an actor, he has performed with Drury Lane Oakbrook, Porchlight, Theater Wit and many others. A graduate of Northwestern's theater program, he is currently completing his MBA at Kellogg.

Nick Sula (Music Director) is a pianist, arranger and award-winning music director for theater and cabaret. He is proud to return to Black Button Eyes where he performed as music director for Amour and Coraline. Recent theater credits include music direction at Porchlight Music Theatre, Pride Films and Plays, Bohemian Theatre Ensemble and Chicago Theatre Workshop. Nick is an instructor, music director and vocal coach at the Chicago College of Performing Arts at Roosevelt University. He is also a member of the Chicago Cabaret Professionals, performing with vocalists at venues such as Davenport’s, Uptown Underground, Stage 773, Victory Gardens, The Twisted Vine and the Park West.

Derek Van Barham (Choreographer) is the Associate Artistic Director of Pride Films & Plays, a member of the Red Tape Theatre ensemble and a former Artistic Director of The Ruckus. For PFP, he has directed Angry Fags (Steppenwolf Garage Repertory), Songs from an Unmade Bed (Jeff nomination: Best Director of a Musical or Revue), PRISCILLA, Queen of the Desert: The Musical (co-directed by David Zak). He also wrote, directed and choreographed BITE: A Pucking Queer Cabaret and Kill Your Boyfriends. Other directing credits include Three Days of Rain (Boho), Miracle! by Dan Savage and Skooby Don't (Hell in a Handbag) and Trash (New American Folk Theatre). He has choreographed for Black Button Eyes (Shockheaded Peter, Coraline the Musical, Goblin Market, Amour), Permoveo (Albert Cashier), The Plagiarists, Inappropriate Theatre,and Salonathon. He can currently be seen improvising with the LGBT team Baby Wine (Fridays at The Annoyance). He was recently named one of Windy City Times 30 Under 30, recognizing individuals from Chicago's LGBTQ community. He holds an MFA from Chicago College of Performing Arts.

About Black Button Eyes Productions
Along with the Jeff-Recommended Chicago storefront premiere of Shockheaded Peter, the other production of the 2017-2018 season, Nevermore continues Black Button Eyes Productions' mission to bring to Chicago premieres and seldom-seen works containing elements of fantasy, in which the magical and surreal invade reality. The company was founded in 2014 with the acclaimed Midwest Premiere of the musical Coraline, and continued in 2015 by producing the musical Goblin Market in its first Chicago production in over 15 years, attended by the author, Chicago native Polly Pen. In 2016 the company presented the Chicago premiere of the musical Amour.

Sunday, December 10, 2017


Chi, IL LIVE Shows On Our Radar: 


It takes talent to talk a room full of strangers into feeling like friends. And it takes balls to shed the facade of playing roles others have written and tell your own backstory, warts and all, playing yourself. Mitchell Fain does all this and more. Whether he's kicking back on the Christmas set, relaxing in his bedroom slippers, or prancing across the stage in long time friend and former roommate Meghan Murphy's stiletto heels (Yes they have the same size feet!), Fain gives us the intimate treat of walking in his shoes for a few hours.

He is utterly at home on stage, playing himself, and he brings us home with him, for a drink, holiday song serenade with a few good friends, and tales of his childhood. The true chemistry of long time friendships shines through with easy camaraderie. Cameos by a rotating roster of Chicago cabaret powerhouses like Meghan Murphy, Vanessa Dunleavy and Amy Lewis Montgomery and madcap pianist Julie B. Nichols are also on tap, which is truly a treat. 

The set is dominated by a huge Christmas tree, all decked out for the holidays, a faux fireplace, a snowy window, a piano and mic ripe for holiday favorites and improv originals, and a cozy living room complete with blanket. It's an odd set up for a "Christmas special" seeing as how Fain is Jewish, and this is his story, but it works better than more schmaltzy Christian "meaning of the season" shows, as he hits a rare authenticity and joyful celebration of friends, festivities, and family, even when they're flawed. This is a holiday tale of the families we find and keep as our own, as much as it is of the families we come from.

I was expecting comedy, and Fain is a funny guy with a flair for the dramatic, and great comedic timing. Yet, I left feeling more moved and sentimental about the holidays than my usual Christmas jaded self ever gets. Since then, at least once a day, his stellar line about Christmas haunts me: "You need Jews to entertain and gays to decorate."

This show changes a bit each time, so it's a core of the same backstories along with a dose of audience inspired tangents and improv. Though certainly not kid appropriate, the press opening ended up being more sincere than snark and I left feeling like I'd just had one of those chance encounters at a party where you finally get past the small talk with someone you've known peripherally for years and genuinely get to know what they're all about.

THIS WAY OUTTA SANTALAND is both personal and universal in an exciting and relevant way, and a joy to see. Highly recommended.

Here at ChiIL Live Shows, we've enjoyed Mitchell J. Fain's annual holiday snark in The Santaland Diaries for years. I worked two seasons as an actor in a "santaland" set up in Ohio, with a trail of full blown improv fairy tale scenes leading up to Santa. We lost one alcoholic Santa after payday when he was a no show. The next, much more animated elf, was fired after the director and I walked in on him in an elevator actually smoking a crack pipe! As much as I empathize, and as funny as the Sedaris classic is, we're truly looking forward to the next iteration, as Fain returns as creator and performer of his own Very Special Xmas Special(tm), playing his own funny self in Chicago’s frothiest holiday show.

After an amazing workshop last year, Chicago's favorite holiday performer, Mitchell J. Fain, returns to Theater Wit with a full-blown, mainstage production of his hilarious and touching tell-all, This Way Outta Santaland (and other Xmas miracles). Press opening is Friday, November 24 at 7:30 p.m. Performances run through December 30.

For eight seasons as the star of Theater Wit’s The Santaland Diaries, Fain was forced to restrain his most anarchic, improvisatory impulses while constrained in stripey tights and a silly elf costume.

A tour-de-force blend of storytelling, improvisation, cabaret and cocktails, This Way Outta Santaland is a sweet, sentimental evening of hard truths that change night to night. Fain squeezes holiday tales from his audience, then swirls them with his own personal war stories about family, drunks, jewelry, funerals, the holiday spirits and more than 250 performances as Crumpet the Elf.

Chicago Theater Review hailed last season’s workshop production "Highly recommended. A brand new, indispensable tradition, at once hilarious, tragic, moving and profane."

Don’t miss This Way Outta Santaland, conceived and performed by Fain, in this new, fully decked-out production directed by Jeremy Wechsler, and designed by Julie B. Nichols (music), Courtney O’Neill (set), Mike Durst (lights) and Jeffrey Levin (sound).

Performances are November 24-December 30: Thursday through Saturday at 7:30 p.m., Sunday at 3 p.m., with two added holiday week performances, Wednesday, December 20 and 27, at 7:30 p.m.

Theater Wit is located at 1229 N. Belmont, in the heart of the new Belmont Theatre District in Chicago’s Lakeview neighborhood.

The best way to secure seats to This Way Outta Santaland is to sign up for a Theater Wit Membership. Wit’s “all the theater you can eat” deal comes with special perks and lets members see as many plays at they want in any of Wit’s three spaces for one low monthly fee of $29/$22 for students. This includes shows presented at Wit by 2017-18 resident companies About Face, Kokandy Productions and Shattered Globe, and other top storefront and visiting companies.

Single tickets to This Way Outta Santaland are $28-$40.

To purchase tickets, a Membership, or to inquire about Flex Pass options, visit or call the Theater Wit box office, (773) 975-8150.

Behind-the-scenes of This Way Outta Santaland

In addition to eight years in Theater Wit’s perennial holiday hit The Santaland Diaries, Mitchell J. Fain has also been seen in This at Theater Wit, Le Switch at About Face, at UP Comedy Club at The Second City as host of Best Musical, at La Jolla Playhouse with The Second City and at Actors Theatre of Louisville in Lookingglass Theatre’s Lookingglass Alice. Fain is an Artistic Associate of The Midnight Circus and About Face Theatre and former co-host of The Windy City Queercast. Other credits include Stilettos, Circus and Soul, Hamlet-The Musical, Henry VI, Hamlet, Comedy of Errors, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, As Bees in Honey Drown, Bitches, Hay Fever, The Mystery of Edwin Drood and The Lynching of Leo Frank. He also performed improv and sketch comedy on The Norwegian Star as a part of a Second City touring company.

Jeremy Wechsler (director) most recently staged Theater Wit’s Midwest premiere of Anne Washburn’s 10 Out of 12, last season’s holiday workshop of Mitchell Fain’s This Way Outta Santaland and the extended Midwest premiere of Mat Smart’s Naperville. Other directing credits at Wit include the company’s election night reading of The Trump Card by Mike Daisey, The New Sincerity by Alena Smith, The (curious case of the) Watson Intelligence by Madeleine George, Bad Jews by Joshua Harmon, Mr. Burns, a post-electric play by Anne Washburn, Madeline George’s Seven Homeless Mammoths Wander New England, and that show’s summer remount at Art Square Theatre in Las Vegas. Wechsler also staged Wit’s acclaimed Completeness and The Four of Us (Itamar Moses), Tigers Be Still (Kim Rosenstock), This (Melissa James Gibson), Spin (Penny Penniston), Feydeau-Si-Deau (Georges Feydeau), Men of Steel (Qui Nguyen), Thom Pain (Based on Nothing) (Will Eno), Two for the Show (James Fitzpatrick and Will Clinger) and The Santaland Diaries. A veteran director in Chicago with over 50 productions, his work has been nominated for and won multiple awards for design, performance, adaptation and best new plays. 

About Theater Wit

Theater Wit, Chicago’s “smart art” theater, is a major hub of the Chicago neighborhood theater scene, where audiences enjoy a smorgasbord of excellent productions in three, 99-seat spaces, see a parade of talented artists and mingle with audiences from all over Chicago.

In addition to This Way Out of Santaland, Theater Wit’s 2017-18 season opens with Significant Other by Joshua Harmon, author of Wit’s 2015 smash hit Bad Jews, about a gay man in New York whose girlfriends are all getting married, co-produced with About Face Theatre (November 2–December 10, 2017). Wit also presents America’s premiere monologist, Mike Daisey, three nights only, in three different shows commenting on the current state of the U.S.A.: This is Not Normal, The End of Journalism and The White Man’s Burden, November 16, 17 and 18.

2018 opens with Wit’s world premiere of The Antelope Party, Eric John Meyer’s comedy about adult fans of My Little Pony (January 5-February 24, 2018). Spring sees the Chicago debut of Women Laughing Alone with Salad, Sheila Callaghan’s meta-feminist satirical comedy about friendship, salad, sex, bodies, yoga, salad, men, envy, diets, salad, uppers and salad (March 9-April 29, 2018).

“A thrilling addition to Chicago’s roster of theaters” (Chicago Tribune) and “a terrific place to see a show” (New City), Theater Wit is now in its seventh season at its home at 1229 N. Belmont, in the heart of the new Belmont Theatre District in Chicago’s Lakeview neighborhood. In 2014, Theater Wit was awarded the National Theatre Award by the American Theatre Wing for strengthening the quality, diversity and dynamism of American theater.

The company’s most recent hits include 10 Out of 12 and Mr. Burns, a post-electric play by Anne Washburn, Naperville by Mat Smart, The New Sincerity by Alena Smith, Bad Jews by Joshua Harmon, The (curious case of the) Watson Intelligence and Seven Homeless Mammoths Wander New England by Madeleine George, and Completeness and The Four of Us by Itamar Moses.

To receive an “artisanal selection of consonants and vowels from Theater Wit,” sign up at for exclusive updates, flash deals and behind-the-scenes production scoop every few weeks.

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