Monday, April 30, 2018

OPENING: World Premiere of REFRIGERATOR Via First Floor Theater at The Den 5/13-6/9/18

Chi IL Live Shows On Our Radar:

World Premiere!
First Floor Theater Presents 
By Lucas Baisch
Directed by Artistic Director Hutch Pimentel
May 13 – June 9, 2018 at The Den Theatre

I'll be ChiILin' with Chi, IL's First Floor Theater at The Den, on May 20th, so check back soon for my full review. Here at ChiIL Live Shows, we were impressed with the passion and creativity of their last production, Dontrell Who Kissed The Sea. We're eager to see their latest, the world premiere of Refrigerator, developed in Goodman's 2016-17 Playwrights Unit. 

First Floor Theater is thrilled to continue their sixth season with the world premiere of Lucas Baisch’s poetic and poignant drama REFRIGERATOR, directed by artistic director Hutch Pimentel. REFRIGERATOR will play May 13 – June 9, 2018 at The Den Theatre, 1331 N. Milwaukee Ave. in Chicago. Tickets are on sale now at 

Pictured (top, l to r): Shariba Rivers and Avi Roque (bottom, l to r) Nathaniel Andrew, Kevin Stangler and Andrew Cutler. 

REFRIGERATOR features First Floor company members Andrew Cutler, Shariba Rivers and Avi Roque, with Nathaniel Andrew and Kevin Stangler. 

Eighty-two percent of the planet's people have dispensed with their physical bodies and uploaded their consciousnesses to IceBox in hopes of reaching a digital paradise. Some of the last employees of IceBox and Co. continue to provide transitional services for clients making the ascent. Benjamin has won the lottery, and as he spends his last day in the office, his coworkers battle with their own moral and socioeconomic inability to abandon their individual visions of reality. REFRIGERATOR asks what it is and what it should be.

This play was commissioned by The Goodman Theatre as a part of the 2016-17 Playwrights Unit.

The production team for REFRIGERATOR includes William Boles (scenic design), Uriel Gomez (costume design), Jared Gooding (lighting design), Thomas Dixon (sound design), Amanda Cantlin (props design), Sid Branca (video design), Charlie Baker (fight and intimacy choreographer), Morgan McNaught (dramaturg), Katrina Dion (dramaturg), Bobby Huggins (technical director), Caitlin McCarthy (production manager) and Aaryanna Renee (stage manager).

Location: The Den Theatre, 1331 N. Milwaukee Ave. in Chicago
Dates: Previews: Sunday, May 13 at 3 pm and Tuesday, May 15 at 7:30 pm
Press Performance: Wednesday, May 16 at 7:30 pm
Regular Run: Friday, May 18 – Saturday, June 9, 2018
Curtain Times: Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 pm; Sundays at 3 pm.
Tickets: Previews: $5. Regular Run: $10 - $20. Tickets are on sale now at

About the Creative Team
Lucas Baisch (Playwright) is a playwright and visual artist, originally from San Francisco, based in both Chicago and Providence. Most recently, he has been commissioned as a member of The Goodman Theatre's 2016-17 Playwrights Unit. His work has been read and developed at Chicago Dramatists, InFusion Theatre Company, Salonathon, Victory Gardens Theater, Links Hall, Gloucester Stage, American Theatre Company, The Neo-Futurists, The Wulfden, The DeYoung Museum, SF Playground, etc. Productions include: Refrigerator (First Floor Theatre), The Scavengers (The Healy Theater at DePaul University) and A Measure of Normalcy (Gloucester Stage Company). Next, his artwork will be shown at the RISD Museum as part of “From the Loom of a Goddess: Reverberations of Guatemalan Maya Weaving” opened in February. Baisch is currently pursuing his MFA in Playwriting at Brown University. Education: BFA Playwriting, DePaul University.

Hutch Pimentel (Director) is a director and producer in Chicago. He is the Artistic Director of First Floor Theater where he's directed Polaroid Stories, Edith Can Shoot Things & Hit Them and Animals Commit Suicide, peerless, Two Mile Hollow and produced numerous other shows. During his time in Chicago, he's had the pleasure of working at About Face Theatre, American Theater Company, Polarity Ensemble, Redmoon, The Gift Theatre, The Goodman and Victory Gardens. He's worked outside of Chicago at Oregon Shakespeare Festival and The Vineyard Theatre. He is an Associate Member of SDC and graduated from Kalamazoo College in Michigan.

About First Floor Theater
First Floor Theater stages stories of individuals facing moments of radical change. Through a process of collaborative dramaturgy, FFT expands these stories to ask urgent social questions. FFT was named the "Best New Theater Company" in the Chicago Reader's Best of 2013 Reader's Pick edition. First Floor Theater is a Resident Company at The Den Theatre.

For more information on First Floor Theater, visit

OPENING: Forever Plaid at Theatre at the Center In Munster, Indiana 5/6-6/3/18

Chi IL Live Shows On Our Radar:

Theatre at the Center To Open 
Forever Plaid 
on May 6

Yando Lopez, Adam LaSalle, Christopher Ratliff and Matt Edmonds.  Photo by Guy Rhodes.

Here at ChiIL Live Shows we're looking forward to catching TATC's production of perennial favorite, Forever Plaid, this spring. We thoroughly enjoyed Yando Lopez (Jinx and Dance Captain) in his Jeff-nominated role as Lin-Manuel Miranda in Spamilton at the Royal George Theatre, In the Heights at Porchlight Music Theatre and Little Shop of Horrors with American Blues Theatre. We also adored Christopher Ratliff (Smudge) in his TATC debut as part of the ensemble in A Wonderful Life - The Musical and in Chicago as Jon Snow/Jaime/Ramsay in Thrones! The Musical Parody at the Apollo Theatre. We can't wait to catch them again.

Matt Edmonds, in the role of Sparky, Adam LaSalle as Francis, Yando Lopez as Jinx and Christopher Ratliff as Smudge star in Theatre at the Center’s spring musical Forever Plaid.  Previews begin May 3 with Opening Night May 6 and performances continuing through June 3.

Performances are 2 p.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays; 7:30 p.m. Fridays; 3 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. on Saturdays; and 2:30 p.m. on Sundays, with select Thursday and Sunday night performances. Individual ticket prices range from $42 - $46.  To purchase individual tickets, call the Box Office at 219-836-3255 or at 800-511-1532. Group discounts are available for groups of 11 or more, Student tickets are $20 and gift certificates are also available.  For more information on Theatre at the Center, visit  

Forever Plaid, written by Stuart Ross, is a musical revue that follows a quirky quartet of high school chums who dream of becoming like their singing idols, including the Four Aces, the Four Lads, the Four Freshmen and the Crew Cuts, as they rehearse for the biggest performance of their lives.   Their spirited antics and comic banter weave together such hits as “Three Coins in the Fountain,” “Heart and Soul” and “Love is a Many Splendored Thing,” in a playful tribute to the close harmony “guy groups” of the 1950’s. 

Adam LaSalle, Matt Edmonds, Yando Lopez, and Christopher Ratliff. Photo by Guy Rhodes

Matt Edmonds (Sparky) was last seen at TATC as L.M. in Pump Boys and Dinettes and in multiple roles in Big River. Recent work includes Ragtime at Griffin Theatre, James and the Giant Peach at Drury Lane Oakbrook and Death of a Salesman at Redtwist Theatre which earned him a Jeff Nomination for Best Supporting Actor in a Play.   

Adam LaSalle (Francis) is making his TATC debut. He recently appeared Off-Broadway and in the Chicago premiere of Forbidden Broadway’s Spamilton playing King George and served as the show’s pianist and music director. 

Yando Lopez (Jinx and Dance Captain) also makes his TATC debut with Forever Plaid. He was Jeff-nominated for his role as Lin-Manuel Miranda in Spamilton at the Royal George Theatre. Other credits include The Christians at Steppenwolf, In the Heights at Porchlight Music Theatre and Paramount Theatre and Little Shop of Horrors with American Blues Theatre. 

Christopher Ratliff (Smudge) made his TATC debut as part of the ensemble in A Wonderful Life - The Musical. He has also appeared as Jon Snow/Jaime/Ramsay in Thrones! The Musical Parody at the Apollo Theatre, as Jason in Bare: A Pop Opera at Refuge Theatre, as Freddy in Pygmalion at the Rogue Theatre and as Laurie in Little Women at 20% Theatre.

Brenda Didier is Director and Choreographer of Forever Plaid.  Didier made her directorial and choreographic debut at TATC in 2017 with the stage hit My Way: A Musical Tribute to Frank Sinatra. Her work has been seen at Mercury Theater Chicago, Bailiwick Chicago, BoHo, Theo Ubique Cabaret and Porchlight Music Theatre. Didier has received Jeff Awards for both direction and choreography.

The creative team for Forever Plaid includes Scenic Designer Jessie Howe, Lighting Designer G. “Max” Maxin, Sound Designer Michael J. Patrick, Costume Designer Brenda Winstead, Wig Design by Kevin Barthel and Prop Design by Frank Roberts, who also serves as Assistant Director. Stage Manager is Jessica Banaszak. William Underwood is Music Director.

Linda Fortunato, as TATC’s Artistic Director, is teamed with Richard Friedman as General Manager and Ann Davis as Head of Production.

Founded in 1991, the 410 seat Theatre at the Center is a year-round professional theater at its home: The Center for Visual and Performing Arts, 1040 Ridge Road, Munster, Indiana.  Theater at the Center is the only professional theater company in Northwest Indiana, offering downtown caliber performances in an accessible venue with plenty of free parking.   Theater at the Center is located off I-90/94, just 35 minute from downtown Chicago.


Chi IL Live Shows On Our Radar:

May 5-June 17, 2018

Here at ChiIL Live Shows we've been lifelong fans of Patti LaBelle's music. We're looking forward to seeing Black Ensemble Theater's tribute. 

Black Ensemble Theater continues its 2018 Season (Movers and Shakers) with A New Attitude: In Tribute to Patti LaBelle, written and directed by Black Ensemble Theater Associate Director Rueben D. Echoles. A New Attitude: In Tribute to Patti LaBelle will be performed at the Black Ensemble Theater Cultural Center, 4450 N. Clark Street in Chicago, May 5 – June 17, 2018. 

A New Attitude is a fun-filled tribute to the ultimate diva—Patti LaBelle. This night of singing is sure to have you “Over the Rainbow.” Celebrate the life of Patti LaBelle from a shy little girl from Philly to the Superstar singing sensation that she is today.

The cast includes Dawn Bless as older Patti and Cherise Thomas as young Patti. Jessica Seals, Kylah, Williams, and Renelle Nicole are the Blue Belles. Ensemble members include Trequon Tate and Isaac Roseborough. Additional cast members are yet to be announced.

The creative team includes Bekki Lambrecht (set design and stage manager), Denise Karczewski (lighting), David Samba (sound) and Rueben D. Echoles (costumes).

As with all Black Ensemble Theater productions, A New Attitude: In Tribute to Patti LaBelle features live musicians led by musical director/arranger Robert Reddrick (drums). Musicians include Adam Sherod (keys), Gary Baker (guitar) and Mark Miller (bass).

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 (May 5, 6, 11 and 12); $55 (Thursdays and Saturday matinees) and $65 (Fridays, Saturday evenings and Sunday matinees). A 10% discount is available for students, seniors, and groups.

The Black Ensemble Theater is also selling the Five Play Card which allows the holder to see all 5 plays of the 2018 Season or bring five friends to one play or any combination of 5. The Five Play Card is a great deal at $225 which represents a significant savings of $20.00 per full price ticket. For more details or to purchase a Five Play Card contact the box office at 773-769-4451. 

May 5 – June 17, 2018
Previews: May 5, 6, 11 and 12, 2018
Press Performance: Sunday, May 13 at 3pm


Thursdays: 7:30 pm
Fridays: 8:00 pm
Saturdays: 3:00 pm and 8:00 pm
Sundays: 3:00 pm

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.

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, visit

Thursday, April 26, 2018

2-Night Existential Cabaret to Open Brown Paper Box Co. 2018/2019 Season at Mary’s Attic above Hamburger Mary’s in Andersonville

Chi IL Live Shows On Our Radar:

Brown Paper Box Co.
Opens Their 2018/2019 Season With
“An Existential Cabaret”
May 4 and 5, 2018
at Mary’s Attic above Hamburger Mary’s
in Andersonville

Inspired by life’s great mysteries presented in the regional premiere of Branden Jacobs-Jenkins’ Pulitzer Prize finalist EVERYBODY, “An Existential Cabaret” continues Brown Paper Box Co.’s relationship with original cabaret series at Mary’s Attic in Andersonville. As we begin to explore life, love, and death through Branden Jacobs-Jenkins’ modern morality play, guests at Mary’s Attic can expect to hear musical stylings inspired by EVERYBODY’s characters & themes including Love, Death, Stuff, Friendship, Family, Understanding, and even “God.” For only $10 in advance and $15 at the door, join the existential journey with the Brown Paper Box Co. family - and a few special guests - May 4th and 5th at Mary’s Attic. This 2-night cabaret has a little something for everyone and everybody.

Additional information and ticketing information can be found by visiting

With performances by: Erin Shea Brady*, Ben Kaye, Alex Madda, Greg Mills, Emilie Modaff, Nire Nah, Nicole Nola, Rachel Relman, Anna Schutz*, Hannah Starr, Kristi Szczepanek*, and Peter Wilde.

With poster design by Charlie Sheets*, technical support from M. William Panek* & Gin To*, with Emilie Modaff on keyboard, produced by Erin Shea Brady*, and hosted by BPBCo. Artistic Director Kristi Szczepanek*

* denotes Brown Paper Box Co. members

About Brown Paper Box Co.
Brown Paper Box Co. creates challenging and inspiring theatre that focuses on the text. By employing a smart, simple aesthetic in intimate spaces, we connect audiences directly to the heart of the story. For more information, please visit


Chi IL Live Shows On Our Radar:

By Corinne J. Kawecki
Directed by Iris Sowlat

The Buena, Pride Arts Center, 4147 N. Broadway

Magical play exploring life’s joys and challenges at different ages will open May 10 in The Buena, Pride Arts Center

I'll be ChiILin' with Chi, IL's Pride Films and Plays for the press opening of The Days are Shorter on May 10th, so check back soon for my full review.

In THE DAYS ARE SHORTER, by Evanston resident Corinne J. Kawecki,  53-year-old Julia is afraid of getting older. Despite attempts to recapture her youth, her body keeps reminding her of her advancing years. With the help of her younger female lover’s magic act, Julia creates a new, magical life to help her accept the inevitability of aging by finding out who is she is and who really needs her love.  The play was a finalist in Pride Films and Plays’ annual “LezPlay” competition in 2016 and was produced by Queer Theatre Kalamazoo this past January.

Pride Films and Plays company member Iris Sowlat will direct a cast including Gay Glenn, Joan McGrath, Pat Parks and Kendra Verhage. Amy J. Johnson, Jean Marie Koon, and Ren Harris will understudy. The design team will be Chas Mathieu (scenic designer), Sanja Manakoski (costume designer), Liz Cooper (lighting designer), John S. Nichols III (sound designer), Danielle Myerscough (properties designer) and Neil Tobin (magic consultant). Jessie Cole will be stage manager and Deb Kemp will be assistant stage manager and production intern.

Pride Films and Plays Artistic Director Nelson Rodriguez explains why THE DAYS ARE SHORTER was selected for a spot in the company’s subscription season. “We love the inter-generational connections between women in this piece as well as the magical elements which build tension and offer surprises. Mostly, I love that it's about a person coming to terms with aging and embracing all the different stages that life offers us: from free-spirited and hopeful youth to the stability and settled-ness of middle-age to the freedom experienced in old age when reflecting on and continuing to pursue a life well-lived. People of all genders and ages will recognize themselves in Julia's touching, hilarious, and misguided attempts to love herself.”

Tickets are $15 for previews, $25 for regular run ($5 discounts for students, seniors, vets for regular performances, excluding Saturdays) Tickets available now at or by phone at 866-811-4111 or 773-857-0222.

Corinne J. Kawecki (playwright). Corinne J. Kawecki’s full-length play THE DAYS ARE SHORTER, was produced by Queer Theatre Kalamazoo in January 2018. Her other productions include the following one acts: CAPE COD MOURNING, A BRIDGE TO SOMETHING, THE MOON, THE LAKE AND FIRE, DEMONS AND MONSTERS, LESBIAN NIGHTMARE, THE INTERVIEW, and SERIOUS. THE WHOLE SHEBANG was selected for the Concurrent Play Lab at the Great Plains Theatre Conference.  Her play SHORT EXPANSE, full-length, was a Finalist in Pride Films and Plays’ Great Gay Play Contest (Chicago) in 2011.  Her full-length plays THE DAYS ARE SHORTER, FREE RADICALS and CIVIL WARS were semi-finalists for the O’Neill National Playwrights Conference in 2012, 2013 and 2017 respectively.  THE DAYS ARE SHORTER was a Finalist in the LezPlay Festival at Pride Films and Plays, Chicago, in 2016.  Corinne was inducted into the Chicago LGBT Hall of Fame in 1997 for her work on behalf of the LGBT community. Corinne is currently developing her newest full-length play, TIES THAT BIND. She is a member of the Writers Network at Pride Films and Plays, Chicago and a member of the Dramatists Guild. 

Iris Sowlat (Director) is thrilled to direct THE DAYS ARE SHORTER at Pride Films & Plays! A proud Company Member at PFP, Iris has previously directed two LezPlay readings, directed the short play VIRGINIA & ORLANDO & VITA FOR HISTORY LEZONS, and produced AFTER ORLANDO, WEFEST, and SHEFEST. Recent directing credits include JOAN OF ARC (RhinoFest), NARRATIVES OF ACHROMATOPSIA (Chicago Fringe Festival), and THAT LAST LIGHT (Chicago Theatre Marathon). Iris is an Artistic Associate at Stage Left, and has also worked with Broken Nose, Collaboraction, 20% Theatre, Global Hive Labs, and NoPassport. Thanks always to my family for their love and support!
 The Days Are Shorter

By Corinne J. Kawecki
May 8 – June 3, 2018
Previews Tuesday May 8 and Wednesday, May 9 at 7:30 pm

Regular performances Wednesdays-Saturdays at 7:30pm and Sunday at 3pm (Except no performance Weds., May 16)
The Buena, Pride Arts Center
4147 N. Broadway

Tickets are $15 for previews, $25 for regular run ($5 discounts for students, seniors, vets for regular performances, excluding Saturdays) Tickets available at or by phone at 866-811-4111 or 773-857-0222.
Julia believes that the answer to all of her problems is youth.  She's tried various ways to recapture her youth but her 53 years continue to dog her steps.  After many sleepless days and nights, she feels herself being slowly consumed by age and madness. Magic is inherent in THE DAYS ARE SHORTER, from Julia’s young lover's magic act to Julia's creation of a magical life in order to find out who really needs her love.

Monday, May 21st at 7:30 PM at Pride Arts Center

Pride Films and Plays brings you an exciting evening showcasing musical performances from the Best Performers, and Best Supporting Performers nominated for the 2017/18 Non-Equity Joseph Jefferson (“Jeff”) Awards.

All proceeds from the evening benefit the New Musical Initiative at Pride Films and Plays.

General Admission tickets are $20. VIP tickets are available for $30 and include reserved seating and program recognition.

Pride Films and Plays creates diverse new work (or work that is new to Chicago) with LGBTQ+ characters or themes that is essential viewing for all audiences. We accomplish this mission through fully-staged productions, writing contests and staged readings, and filming one short film each season.

PFP is the primary tenant in the Pride Arts Center (PAC), which connects and promotes other artists who share our values, creating a safe environment for all. PAC books one-night events or limited runs, cabaret, film, dance, comedy, and other events. PAC opened in 2016 and consists of two performance spaces: The Buena at 4147 N. Broadway which has 50 seats and The Broadway at 4139 N. Broadway which has 85 seats.
Pride Films and Plays is supported by The MacArthur Fund for Arts & Culture at The Richard Driehaus Foundation, The Illinois Arts Council, City of Chicago’s City Arts Fund, the Elliott Fredland Charitable Trust, Proud to Run, the AmazonSmile Foundation, Arts and Business Foundation, Tap Root Foundation and Alphawood Foundation. 

PFP is a member of the Smart Growth Program of the Chicago Community Trust. Pride Films and Plays is a member of the LGBT Chamber of Commerce of Illinois and The League of Chicago Theatres.

For more information, visit or call 1.773.857.0222 or 1.800.737.0984.

PRIDE ARTS CENTER has become an important part of the arts environment in the Buena Park neighborhood and beyond. In addition to performances by PFP, (, PAC hosts monthly events including play readings, film screenings, cabaret nights, and variety shows (PAC the House).

Guest productions are also included in the PAC schedule. Find a full calendar of everything happening at PAC here. 

OPENING: KANEZA SCHAAL: JACK &, A Genre-Bending Comedy of Errors at The Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago

Chi IL Live Shows On Our Radar:

May 24 - 26, 2018

Image credit: Kaneza Schaal: JACK &. Image by Amani Ragland.

The Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago presents JACK &, a genre-bending comedy of errors directed by Kaneza Schaal and starring Cornell Alston that considers the unmeasurable damage of incarceration on one's dreams and aspirations. Through the lens of rituals for entering society, such as prison re-entry programs and debutante balls, this three-part performance explores the lived experience of rebuilding one's life after prison and the transitions and transformations that bridge society's disparate worlds. Whereas the state sees in black and white -- who is innocent and who is guilty -- JACK & focuses on the internal lives of the incarcerated, exposing the complexities and downfalls of how society trains humans to live. With design and text by Christopher Myers and live music by Rucyl Mills, JACK & takes place at the MCA Stage May 24-26, 2018 and is organized by MCA Associate Curator of Performance Tara Aisha Willis.

Building a portrait of a dream interrupted and resumed, Cornell Alston as 'Jack' comes home from working the night shift at a bakery to make a cake for his wife 'Jill.' Marking the return to his own, internal life, Jack whirls through a dance that is part-dream, part-transformation ritual. The play is enacted through familiar forms of expression adapted from stand-up comedy, soul music, recipes, sitcoms, and social dance, with a set that serves as a comedy club, a 1950s kitchen, and a ballroom.

As social rituals both real and imagined play out in these spaces, JACK & resists a linear narrative, offering entry points to broader conversations. Encouraging civic dialogue outside of the performance itself, Schaal, Alston, and Myers led an engagement residency at the MCA earlier this year, sharing the themes of the performance with high school students, educators, and organizers in Chicago, and building audiences with support from Jane M. Saks and Project&.

Kaneza Schaal is a New York City-based theater artist. Her recent work GO FORTH premiered at Performance Space 122, then was shown at the Genocide Memorial Amphitheater in Kigali, Rwanda; the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council's River-to-River Festival; the Contemporary Arts Center in New Orleans; Cairo International Contemporary Theater Festival in Egypt; and Wesleyan University. Schaal received a 2017 MAP Fund award, a 2016 Creative Capital Award, and is the current Aetna New Voices Fellow at Hartford Stage.

JACK & was co-commissioned by Walker Arts Center, REDCAT, On The Boards, PICA, and Center for Contemporary Art Cincinnati with support from the National Performance Network and NEFA National Theater Project. This spring her new work CARTOGRAPHY, a collaboration with artist/writer Christopher Myers, is being workshopped through New Victory Theater Lab, NYU Abu Dhabi, and will show at the Kennedy Center's New Vision New Voices. Her work with The Wooster Group, Elevator Repair Service, Richard Maxwell/New York City Players, Claude Wampler, Jim Findlay, and Dean Moss has brought her to various venues globally, including Centre Pompidou, Royal Lyceum Theater Edinburgh, Whitney Museum, MoMA, and Brooklyn Academy of Music.

Cornell Alston (Jack) is a long-time member of Rehabilitation Through the Arts, a non-profit that uses the arts as a springboard to teach life skills to individuals both inside and outside of state correctional facilities. He initiated the Youth Empowerment Through the Arts initiative that launched in Queens, New York, and he continues to work as an arts-in-education advocate. Alston performed and collaborated with Kaneza Schaal on PLEASE, BURY ME at Baryshnikov Arts Center and GO FORTH during a Performance Space 122, RAMP residency. Other performance highlights include One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, 12 Angry Men, and the title role in Ma Rainey's Black Bottom.

JACK & runs 75 minutes and takes place at 7:30 pm on Thursday-Saturday, May 24-26, with an additional 2 pm show on Saturday, May 26. Tickets for the performances are $30 and are available at the MCA Box Office at 312.397.4010 or

The MCA gratefully acknowledges Creative Engagement and Presenting Collaborator Jane M. Saks and Project&.

Lead support for the 2017-18 season of MCA Stage is provided by Elizabeth A. Liebman. Generous support is provided by Lois and Steve Eisen and The Eisen Family Foundation, Ginger Farley and Bob Shapiro, the Martha Struthers Farley and Donald C. Farley Jr. Family Foundation, Sharon and Lee Oberlander, Maya Polsky, Carol Prins and John Hart/The Jessica Fund, Susan Manning and Doug Doetsch, D. Elizabeth Price and Lou Yecies, and Ms. Shawn M. Donnelley and Dr. Christopher M. Kelly. Additional generous support for MCA Stage is provided by Enact, the MCA's performance affinity group. The MCA is a proud member of the Museums in the Park and receives major support from the Chicago Park District. Season support is provided by Alphawood Foundation. Hotel sponsorship provided by Residence Inn Chicago Downtown Magnificent Mile.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

OPENING: BUDDY – The Buddy Holly Story Via American Blues Theater at Stage 773 Through May 26th, 2018

Chi IL Live Shows On Our Radar:

American Blues Theater Presents
BUDDY – The Buddy Holly Story
By Alan Janes
Directed by Lili-Anne Brown
Musical Direction by Ensemble Member Michael Mahler

April 27 – May 26, 2018

American Blues Theater concludes its 2017-2018 Season with BUDDY – The Buddy Holly Story, written by Alan Janes, directed by Lily-Anne Brown, with musical direction by Ensemble Member Michael Mahler. BUDDY – The Buddy Holly Story runs April 27 – May 26, 2018 at Stage 773, 1225 W. Belmont Ave. in Chicago.

Before the Beatles or the Rolling Stones ever played a note, rock & roll was forever changed by the bespectacled kid from Texas. BUDDY tells the true story of Buddy Holly through his short yet spectacular career and features the classic songs "That’ll be the Day," "Peggy Sue," The Big Bopper’s "Chantilly Lace," Ritchie Valens' "La Bamba," plus many more.

“Buddy Holly is an American music icon. He’s regarded as one of the most significant figures in the birth of rock music and is often cited as the innovator of the traditional rock lineup of instruments – two guitars, bass, and drums. Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Eric Clapton, and Elton John all name Buddy Holly as a major inspiration in their respective careers,” notes Artistic Director Gwendolyn Whiteside. “Lost too soon, we’re fortunate to have his vast songbook and recordings.  American Blues is thrilled to share his legacy with the next generation.” 

The cast of BUDDY includes Angela Alise (Apollo Performer), Chuckie Benson (Apollo Performer), Liz Chidester (Vi Petty), Ian Paul Custer (Hi Pockets), Ann Delaney (Company), Vasily Deris (Big Bopper), Jennifer Dymit (Company), Alex Goodrich (Clearlake Announcer), Derek Hasenstab (Norman Petty), Molly Hernández (Maria Elena), Cisco Lopez (Ritchie Valens), Michael Mahler* (Tommy / Cricket; music director), Kieran McCabe (Jerry / Cricket), Daniel Riley (Apollo Performer), Zachary Stevenson (Buddy Holly) and Shaun Whitley (Joe / Cricket).

The creative team includes Sarah E. Ross* (scenic design), Samantha C. Jones* (costume design), Jared Gooding* (lighting design), Rick Sims* (sound design), Kevin Rolfs (properties), Malcolm Ruhl (music consultant) and John Martinez (assistant director and choreographer). The Production Stage Manager is Cara Parrish*.
*American Blues Theater Ensemble and Artistic Affiliates.

About the Artists
ALAN JAMES (Playwright) is an English writer and producer who has worked in TV, film, radio, and theatre. His best-known work is the musical Buddy – The Buddy Holly Story which ran for over 14 years and almost 6,000 performances in London’s West End and has been on tour in the UK for 17 years. Buddy has also played Broadway, 5 U.S. National Tours, 8 years in Germany, 3 years in Australia and New Zealand, and countless other productions around the world. Janes was nominated for an Olivier Award for Best Musical for Buddy. He also co-wrote and produced the musicals 125th Street and Jailhouse Rock, which both premiered on London’s West End.

LILI-ANNE BROWN (Director) A native Chicagoan, Brown works as a director, actor and educator, both locally and regionally.  She is the former Artistic Director of Bailiwick Chicago, where she directed Dessa Rose (Jeff Award), Passing Strange (BTA Award and Jeff nomination for Best Director of a Musical), See What I Wanna See (Steppenwolf Theatre Garage Rep), and the world premiere of Princess Mary Demands Your Attention by Aaron Holland. Other directing credits include The Wolf at the End of the Block (16th Street Theater); Marie Christine (BoHo Theatre); Peter and the Starcatcher (Metropolis Performing Arts); The Wiz (Kokandy Productions, BroadwayWorld Award); Xanadu (American Theater Company); Jabari Dreams of Freedom by Nambi E. Kelley (world premiere, Chicago Children’s Theatre); American Idiot (Northwestern University); the national tour of Jesus Snatched My Edges; Little Shop of Horrors, Hairspray, Unnecessary Farce, Cabaret, Sweet Charity, The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, and Buddy - The Buddy Holly Story (Timber Lake Playhouse). She is a member of SDC, AEA, SAG-AFTRA, and a graduate of Northwestern University.

MICHAEL MAHLER (Tommy / Cricket; Music Director) is an Ensemble member of American Blues Theater. His Blues appearances include It’s a Wonderful Life: Live in Chicago!, “Seymour” in Little Shop of Horrors, “Clifford” in Side Man, and “Jimmy” in Hank Williams: Lost Highway. Other Chicagoland credits include Honeymoon in Vegas (Marriott Theatre); The March (Steppenwolf Theatre); Working (Broadway Playhouse); The Illusion (Court Theatre); The Fox on the Fairway, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (Jeff nomination), and The Producers (Theatre at the Center). Recent music directing credits include Parade (Writers Theatre) and Road Show (Chicago Shakespeare Theater, Jeff nomination). Michael is a composer/lyricist who contributed additional lyrics to the new Broadway production of Miss Saigon. Other works include Diary of a Wimpy Kid, The Man who Murdered Sherlock Holmes (Jeff Award), October Sky (San Diego Theatre Critics Circle Award), and Hero (Jeff Award).

ANGELA ALISE (Apollo Performer) returns to American Blues Theater, where she was last seen in Little Shop of Horrors. Some of her favorite Chicago credits include The Wolves (Goodman Theatre), The House That Will Not Stand (Victory Gardens Theater), Saturday Night/Sunday Morning (Prologue Theatre at Steppenwolf Garage Rep), Hairspray (Drury Lane Oakbrook), How We Got On (Haven Theatre), The Wiz (Kokandy Productions), Parade (BoHo Theatre), and Coming Home (Erasing the Distance, where she is an Ensemble member). Regional credits include Black Side of the Moon and Nothing to Lose but Our Chains (The Second City at Woolly Mammoth Theatre) and Almost Accurate Guide to America (The Second City at The Kennedy Center). Angela holds a BA in Theatre from Loyola University Chicago and is represented by Gray Talent Group.

CHUCKIE BENSON (Apollo Performer) recently originated “Truman Hayes” in the world premiere musical, TRU, at the Chicago Music Theatre Festival. He received a Jeff nomination for his performance as the “Lion” in Kokandy’s production of The Wiz. Chuckie was also a part of the Chicago cast of Spamilton. He has played some of his favorite roles at Wagon Wheel Center of the Arts including “Coalhouse Walker Jr.” in Ragtime, “Curtis” in Sister Act, and “Teen Angel” in Grease!  Regional credits include: Hair (Mercury Theater Chicago), “Tom Collins” in Rent (Theo Ubique), Woman of the Year (Porchlight Music Theatre), and “Jim” in Big River (Timber Lake Playhouse). Chuckie received his BFA in Music Theatre Performance from Western Michigan University, and is a native to Lansing, MI.

LIZ CHIDESTER (Vi Petty) is a singer/songwriter, actor, and teaching artist from Virginia. Her Chicago theatre credits include: Lizzie (Firebrand Theatre), High Fidelity (Refuge Theatre Project, Jeff Award - Best Musical), Billy the Kid (Cabinet of Curiosity Events), Big River and Pump Boys and the Dinettes (Theatre at the Center), Ring of Fire (Mercury Theater Chicago), and Stupid F**ing Bird (Sideshow Theatre Company). Her original albums with her band LIZ AND THE LOVELIES include Progress into Simplicity (2017 - Best Roots EP, Independent Music Awards 2018), Otter Hill (2015), and People Pumping Pedals (2014). She teaches group and private lessons at Old Town School of Folk Music.

IAN PAUL CUSTER (Hi Pockets) is an Ensemble member at American Blues Theater. Recent American Blues credits: “David Halberstam” in The Columnist (Jeff nomination - Best Production, Midsize), It’s A Wonderful Life: Live in Chicago! (Jeff nominations - Best Ensemble and Best Production, Midsize), “Orin Skrivello” in Little Shop of Horrors (Jeff nomination - Best Production of a Musical, Midsize), and “Adam” in Yankee Tavern. Recent Chicago credits: Bad Jews (Theater Wit, North Shore Center, Royal George), 33 Variations (TimeLine Theatre, Jeff Award - 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 credits: Hero: The Musical (Asolo Rep Theatre), Cymbeline (Notre Dame Shakespeare), Romeo and Juliet (Cardinal Stage), and Peter Pan (360 Entertainment - London, England).  Television credits: APB, Empire, Chicago Fire, and Chicago PD.  

ANN DELANEY (Company) is making her American Blues Theater debut. Her recent Chicago theatre credits include Hatfield and McCoy (The House Theatre of Chicago); It’s a Wonderful Life, Cabaret, Nice Work If You Can Get It, Spamalot, and Big Fish (Theatre At The Center); All Our Tragic and Gilbert and Sullivan Rep (The Hypocrites); Hobo King (Congo Square Theatre); and Mr. Burns (Theater Wit).

VASILY DERIS (Big Bopper) Chicago credits: the Jeff Award-winning Smokey Joe's Café (Theo Ubique), “Barry” in the Jeff Award-winning High Fidelity (Refuge Theatre Project), “Eric” in Creatives (Chicago Theatre Workshop), “Shawn Eckhardt” in Tonya and Nancy: The Rock Opera (Underscore Theatre), and “Pharaoh” in Joseph (Paramount Theatre).

JENNIFER DYMIT (Company) is making her American Blues Theater debut. Chicago credits include Chicago Dramatists, Buffalo Theatre Ensemble, First Folio Theatre, The Hypocrites, Raven Theatre and Remy Bumppo Theatre Company.  She was also seen in Tracy Letts’s world premiere adaptation of Three Sisters at Steppenwolf Theatre.  In addition to her work on stage, Jennifer is a voiceover artist whose work can be heard in numerous television and radio commercials as well as the animated series Stray Cat Smut. Film credits: Distortion. Jennifer is a graduate of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, The School at Steppenwolf, and is a member of SAG-AFTRA. 

ALEX GOODRICH (Clearlake Announcer) makes his American Blues Theater debut. Credits include Hero: The Musical (Jeff Award - Best Supporting Actor in a Musical); Honeymoon in Vegas; She Loves Me; How To Succeed in Business..; Elf the Musical; On The Town; I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change; and For The Boys (Marriott Theatre); The Importance of Being Earnest (Writers Theatre); Love's Labor’s Lost; The Emperor’s New Clothes; A Midsummer Night’s Dream; Seussical; Taming of the Shrew; Aladdin; and How Can You Run... (Chicago Shakespeare Theater); Miss Bennet; Shining Lives; Civil War Christmas; and She Stoops to Conquer (Northlight Theatre); Old Jews Telling Jokes (Royal George); The Comedy of Errors and One Man Two Guvnors (Court Theatre); Everything Is Illuminated (Next Theatre); A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Indiana Repertory); and Goodnight Moon and Harold and the Purple Crayon (Chicago Children’s Theatre).

DEREK HASENSTAB (Norman Petty) makes his American Blues Theater debut. Chicago theatre credits include shows with Lookingglass Theatre Company, Goodman Theatre, Steppenwolf Theatre, Writers Theatre, Chicago Shakespeare Theater, About Face Theatre, Victory Gardens Theater, Court Theatre, Marriott Theatre, and Drury Lane Oakbrook, among others. Regional credits include: “Doc” in Come Back, Little Sheba (IRNE and Elliot Norton Nominations, Huntington Theatre Company), “Hermes” in Metamorphoses (Arena Stage, Mark Taper Forum), and “Tom” in The Glass Menagerie (Kansas City Repertory Theatre). National Tour: “Zazu” in The Lion King.

MOLLY HERNÁNDEZ (Maria Elena) makes her debut at American Blues Theater. Favorite credits include “Rosabella” in The Most Happy Fella (Theo Ubique); “Julie Jordan” in Carousel, Mary Poppins, Evita, and Scapino (Timber Lake Playhouse); Crime Scene: Breath Life and Forgotten Future: Education Project (Collaboraction). Last year she was given the Award of Excellence in Professional Theatre from the Illinois Theatre Association and was nominated for a Jeff Award for Best Actress in a Musical for her work in The Most Happy Fella. Molly can be seen on Chicago PD ep. 105 as “Elisa Rodríguez” and APB ep. 105 as “Maya Ruiz”.

CISCO LOPEZ (Ritchie Valens) makes his American Blues Theater debut. Chicago credits include Merrily We Roll Along, Woman of the Year, New Faces Sing Broadway 2001, and In the Heights (Porchlight Music Theatre); Bonnie & Clyde (Kokandy Productions); In To America and Letters Home (Griffin Theatre); Planted (Rogue Elephant Productions); Dead Man Walking (Piven Theatre); Mutt (Stage Left and Red Tape Theatre); Macbeth (Midsommer Flight); Take Me Out (Eclectic Theatre); and Fiddler on the Roof and Damn Yankees (Light Opera Works). Film credits: Boystown and Closet Memories. He holds a BFA in Theatre Performance from Baylor University and is represented by Shirley Hamilton.

KIERAN MCCABE (Jerry / Cricket) This Philadelphia native is making his American Blues Theater debut. Kieran’s favorite credits include “Fluke Holland” in Million Dollar Quartet, “Scapino” in Scapino, “Orin Scrivello” in Little Shop of Horrors, “Agustin Migaldi” in Evita, “Mr. Manningham” in Gaslight, “Stacee Jaxx” in Rock of Ages, Carousel, Mary Poppins, Titanic, and A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (Timber Lake Playhouse), and “Freak” in columbinus (Loyola Chicago). Kieran drums and writes for the Indie Rock trio Day Off (@dayofftheband). Kieran puts his English Creative Writing degree to good use as a Head Writer for Kettle Camp Studios, a Chicago based production company.

DANIEL RILEY (Apollo Performer) is a Chicago-based performer who studied at Harold Washington College and Roosevelt University.  He has worked in theatre and cabaret with numerous groups in and around Chicago, most recently Paramount Theatre, Davenport’s Piano Bar, The Inconvenience, and the Ravinia Festival. Dan also coaches and accompanies soloists and choirs of all ages in many styles of music. He regularly sings with Holy Name Cathedral and the Lakeside Singers, and can be seen Sunday mornings on WGN-TV singing for Mercy Home for Boys and Girls. Dan is also featured (along with Michael Mahler) on Dark Side of the Moon A Cappella (VOCOMOTION Productions).

ZACHARY STEVENSON (Buddy Holly) makes his American Blues Theater debut. Originally from Vancouver Island, Canada, Zach recently relocated to Chicago after spending the last few years being based in Kansas City, MO. Select credits include: Million Dollar Quartet (Paramount Theatre – “Carl” U/S), Hair (CanStage), Ring of Fire (Chemainus Theatre Festival / Western Canada Theatre), Hank Williams: The Show He Never Gave (Blue Bridge Repertory), Urinetown (Belfry Theatre), Red Rock Diner (Arts Club Theatre), Assassins (Quintessence), and more than ten productions of Buddy - The Buddy Holly Story throughout the US and Canada, for which he’s been nominated for a Jessie Richardson Award and Ovation Award. Zachary has also had the pleasure of music directing several productions, including Million Dollar Quartet (Arts Club), and Ring of Fire (Chemainus Theatre Festival), as well as performing in countless headlining concerts across North America. Off stage, Zach is busy writing a one-man show about the 1960s folksinger and activist, Phil Ochs.

SHAUN WHITLEY (Joe / Cricket) returns to American Blues Theater. He is a multi-instrumentalist, actor, composer, and Jeff-nominated music director. He performed nearly 1800 times as “Carl Perkins” in the longest running Broadway musical in Chicago history, Million Dollar Quartet. Other Chicago credits include: Chicago Shakespeare Theater, Drury Lane Oakbrook, The Second City, Remy Bumppo Theatre Company, Strawdog Theatre, TUTA, Redmoon Theater, Blindfaith Theatre, and Provision Theater. He studied Shakespeare at RADA in London. He teaches at the Old Town School of Folk Music.

Community Service
For this production, American Blues Theater will offer complimentary tickets to students of Chicago Public Schools and Guitars Over Guns. In addition, artists will visit assisted-living facilities to give mini-concerts. American Blues also continues its “Pink Previews” to donate proceeds from all preview performances to The Lynn Sage Foundation for breast cancer research.

Dates: April 27 – May 26, 2018
Previews: April 27 – May 2, 2018
Press Opening: Friday, May 4, 2018 at 7:30 p.m.
Regular Run:May 5 – 26, 2018

Schedule: Thursdays:  7:30pm
Fridays: 7:30pm
Saturdays: 3:00pm (except May 5 & 19) & 7:30pm
Sundays:  2:30pm
Free post-show discussions on Sundays
Additional Industry Night performance Monday, May 14 at 7:30pm
Additional Matinee performance Thursday, May 24 at 2:30pm

Stage 773, 1225 W. Belmont Ave. in Chicago

Ticket prices: $19 - $49
Box Office: Buy online at or by calling 773.327.5252.

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 34-member Ensemble has 600+ combined years of collaboration on stage. As of 2018, 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.

OPENING: THE EXPLORERS CLUB Via Citadel Theatre in Lake Forest 4/27-5/27/18

Chi IL Live Shows On Our Radar:

The Explorers Club
by Nell Benjamin
Directed by Robert D. Estrin

Here at ChiIL Live Shows, we haven't had a chance to check out Citadel's take on the multi award winning play, THE EXPLORERS CLUB, but we caught Windy City's production in 2016 and adored it. The show is a hoot! If you can make it to Lake Forest, catch it if you can. 

Nell Benjamin’s comedy THE EXPLORERS CLUB is a spoof of all those bold Victorian adventurers who ravaged foreign lands and annihilated indigenous cultures in the name of science. It’s London 1879 and the prestigious Explorers Club is in crisis: a brilliant, beautiful woman who has discovered a legendary Lost City wants to join, but letting her in might shake the very foundations of the British Empire! THE EXPLORERS CLUB, which enjoyed a successful run off-Broadway in 2013, was honored with awards including the Outer Critics Circle Award for Outstanding Off-Broadway Play, the Edgerton Foundation New American Plays Award, and an Alfred P. Sloan Foundation grant.

THE EXPLORERS CLUB, which will conclude Citadel's 2017-18 season, will be directed by Robert D. Estrin, whose previous directing credits at Citadel include OTHER PEOPLE’S MONEY, LEND ME A TENOR, DON’T DRESS FOR DINNER, CABARET, and A CHRISTMAS STORY: THE MUSICAL.  Additionally, he was scenic designer for Citadel’s productions of A CHIRSTMAS CAROL, SOMETHING’S AFOOT and LITTLE WOMEN.

Estrin’s cast will include Jacob Fjare (Professor Cope), Frank Gasparro (Luigi), Edward Kuffert (Sir Bernard Humphries), Erik Pearson (Professor Walling), Scott Phelps (Beebe/Irish Assassin), Elizabeth Rude (Phyllida Spotte-Hume, Countess Glamorgan), Bob Sanders (Professor Sloane), Nate Strain (Lucius Fretway), and Guy Wicke (Harry Percy).  Phelps is a member of Actors Equity Association.

Top row left-right: Nate Strain, Jacob Fjare, Frank Gasparro, Edward Kuffert, Erik Pearson. Bottom row left-right: Scott Phelps, Bob Sanders, Elizabeth Rude, Guy Wicke.

The design and production team will include Jose Soto (Set Designer), Sandie Bacon (Scenic Artist), Matthew Wofford (Lighting Designer), Bob Boxer (Sound Designer), Paul Kim (Costume Designer), Mark Holley (Properties Designer), Lynn Baber (casting director), Jason Clark (Master Carpenter), Samantha Tink (Stage Manager), Robert Tobin (fight choreography) and Catherine Gillespie (dialect coach).

The Press Opening is Friday, April 27 at 8:00pm at Citadel’s West Campus Theatre at 300 S. Waukegan Rd., Lake Forest, following previews on Wednesday, April 25 and Thursday, April 26 at 7:30pm. THE EXPLORERS CLUB will run April 27 through May 27, 2018 with performances Thursdays at 7:30pm, Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm, and Sundays at 3pm, plus 11 am matinees on May 2 and May 16. Citadel Theatre (300 S. Waukegan Rd) is a 144-seat venue with a thrust stage and comfortable stadium seating. 

Tickets are available online at or over the phone by calling the Citadel Theatre box office at 847.735.8554. Tickets are $20.00 for previews, $37.50 for regular run Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays, and $40.00 for Saturdays and Sundays. Discounts are available for seniors, students, theatre industry professionals and groups.

Robert D. Estrin (Director) Directing credits include A CHRISTMAS STORY: THE MUSICAL, A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO THE FORUM, DON’T DRESS FOR DINNER, CABARET, OTHER PEOPLE’S MONEY, LEND ME A TENOR (Citadel); THE SUM OF US (1027 Productions). Director/Designer: SUCH A PRETTY FACE (Off Broadway Equity Showcase production, New York City). Designer: A CHRISTMAS CAROL, LITTLE WOMEN, THE PRISONER OF SECOND AVENUE, THE BOARDING HOUSE, SOMETHING’S AFOOT (Citadel); CORPUS DELICTI, MR. SHAW GOES TO HOLLYWOOD, SIDE EFFECTS MAY INCLUDE (MadKap Productions). Retired in 2005 from New Trier High School after thirty-four years of teaching theatre. Visit Bob on his Facebook page. Education: Northern Illinois University (B.A.); University of Illinois (M.A.).

Nell Benjamin (playwright) is a multi-talented playwright, composer and lyricist with several Broadway and off-Broadway credits. She received 2007 Tony and Drama Desk nominations and the Olivier and Helpmann Awards for Best Musical for her music and lyrics on LEGALLY BLONDE, co-written with her husband Laurence O’Keefe.  She is the lyricist of MEAN GIRLS, which will open on Broadway this spring and of the Broadway -bound musicals DAVE and HALF TIME (which had a pre-Broadway tryout in Chicago under the title GOTTA DANCE). Ms. Benjamin is the author of PIRATES!, an adaptation of THE PIRATES OF PENZANCE, developed at Goodspeed Opera House and Paper Mill Playhouse. She wrote book, music and lyrics for CAM JANSEN with Laurence O’Keefe, wrote lyrics for SARAH, PLAIN AND TALL and THE MICE, won a Kleban Award and a Jonathan Larson Foundation grant and is a member of ASCAP and the Dramatists Guild of America. Her television writing includes UNHAPPILY EVER AFTER, Animal Planet's WHOA!, SUNDAY WITH MO ROCCA and the new ELECTRIC COMPANY.

Ticket prices: Thurs., & Fris. $37.50, Sats. and Suns. $40.00, Previews $20.00. Discounts available for Seniors, Students, and for Groups of 10 or more.

Citadel Theatre is one of Chicagoland’s premier live theatres, producing hundreds of performances annually and inspiring audiences for over 14 years. Founded by Scott and Ellen Phelps in 2002, Citadel Theatre is comprised of its Main Stage performances, its On Tour programs, and its theatre acting classes for children. A proud member of the League of Chicago Theatres and the Lake Forest/Lake Bluff ArtsLink, Citadel Theatre offers a unique intimate theatre experience that transports you to another setting and leaves you feeling exhilarated and wanting more. A recognized 501(c)3 non-profit organization, Citadel can accept tax-deductible donations. For more information, ticketing, and to make a donation, please visit Citadel online at or call 847.735.8554.

ART BEAT: MCA Chicago Opens Interactive Summer Commons Artist Project, Joan Giroux, Eco Monopolies

May 1 - October 7, 2018

Image credit: Joan Giroux, eco monopolies in the Commons (working models), 2018. 
Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago

The Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago announces the summer Commons Artist Project, Joan Giroux: eco monopolies, an interactive installation that explores the impacts of development on different Chicago neighborhoods and how it connects with larger global movements. Using map-making and games, the artist invites visitors to consider their role in shaping the future of open, green spaces in cities and preserving natural resources. Giroux's project for the Commons is inspired by recent local and national land rights activism, with a focus on the ways Chicago's residents and government define and maintain public land that is threatened by political decisions and commercial development in the city's diverse neighborhoods. Joan Giroux: eco monopolies takes place in the Commons May 1 to October 7, 2018 and is organized by January Parkos Arnall, MCA Curator of Public Programs.

Giroux's practice considers the nature, identity, and ownership of public green space in her work. Early conversations about climate change, especially during the presidential debates between George W. Bush and Al Gore in 2000, were central to Giroux's first work on public land ownership. Titled Eco Monopoly, the piece was part of a symposium of artists, educators, and environmentalists advocating to save a public park in Yokohama, Japan. The site-specific project took the form of an interactive sculptural board game that visually layered public green space above city maps showing densely populated areas with these open areas removed.

Similarly, Giroux's installation in the Commons comprises a set of interactive stations for the public to play games, using mapping as a conceptual framework to understand place and notions of home and ownership. Through the recognition that citizens have rights to and agency in public spaces, Giroux asks participants to consider their role in the conservation of precious green spaces that have been integral to Chicago's identity and community building.

The installation includes books, games, and iPad content that is provided through partnerships with other local institutions and organizations, including the Chicago Park District.

The Commons is both a physical space and an ongoing program, bringing together artists, thinkers, and audiences in a constellation of art projects, conversations, performances, interactions, workshops, presentations, and readings that explore culture and contemporary life. It is a place to experience socially-engaged and audience-focused practices, and an invitation for visitors to participate in projects led by Chicago artists. The launch of the Commons in 2017 also signaled the start of a new engagement and partnership program. Civic and cultural organizations who make up the rich and diverse cultural communities throughout Chicago will be offered opportunities to be short and long-term participants in the work of the museum.

Joan Giroux lives and works in Chicago, New York, and Santa Barbara. In her practice, Giroux provides context for community and personal reflections on loss and absence through active play and participation. Her work has been featured in group exhibitions at the Weinberg/Newton Gallery, Chicago (2017); University of Buffalo, New York (2017); Urban Institute for Contemporary Art, Grand Rapids, Michigan (2013); Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago (2007); Ace Gallery, New York, (2002); and Artist's Space, New York (1991); among others. She has performed at Queer, Ill, and Okay, The Storefront Theater, Chicago (2015); Terrain, Oak Park (2012); Darmstädter Kunstbiennale, Darmstadt, Germany (2007); Yatoo Biennale, Gongju, South Korea (2001); Volksbühne Roter Salon, Berlin, Germany (1993); BACA Downtown, Brooklyn (1991); and other venues. She is an Associate Professor in Columbia College Chicago's Art and Art History Department.

Opening Brunch and Letterbox Workshop
Saturday, May 5, 11 am
Joan Giroux celebrates the opening of her Commons Artist Project with a conversation about letterboxing and the kickoff to a challenge that asks visitors to extend their experience beyond the Commons to 15 other cultural centers throughout Chicago.

Screening, Fieldwork Collaborative's Public Park
Friday, June 8, 6 pm
In tandem with eco monopolies, the MCA presents a preview of "Public Park," a mini-documentary focusing on the Field House in Chicago's Humboldt Park, where hurricane Maria evacuees received medical assistance, coats and winter gear, interpretation services, and safe housing while the storm ravaged mainland Puerto Rico. Their experience is captured in this documentary-in-development by Fieldwork Collaborative.

Game Night
Friday, June 15, 6 pm
An open invitation to Chicago's analog gaming community to come and share their latest creations with friends, other creators, and museum visitors, inspired by Joan Giroux's Commons Artist Project.

Screening, Citizen Jane: Battle for the City
Friday, June 29, 6 pm
Jane Jacobs upended the field of urban planning with her 1960 book The Death and Life of Great American Cities and was a life-long activist in the fight to keep New York City's public spaces sacred. Jacobs' life story provides a timely example of the activism and ethics necessary to keep cities livable and functional for all. This screening of "Citizen Jane: Battle for the City" is followed by an open discussion led by Joan Giroux. 

Edible Garden Workshop
Saturday, July 14, 11 am
Guests are guided in a project on the MCA's Kern Terrace to create their own edible kitchen gardens.

Talk: Food Activism
Friday, July 27, 6 pm
Panelists lead an open discussion to consider various forms of food activism and guerrilla gardening in Chicago and beyond. The panel considers food's power to save the world and gardening as a radical act.

Lead support for the Commons is provided by Rebecca W. Knight and Lester B. Knight and the Thomas Wilson-Jill Garling Foundation.

WEEKEND PICKS: The Chicago Independent Film (+TV) Festival April 28th-29th

What We're Watching: Indie Films & TV Shows On Our Radar

The Chicago Independent Film (+TV) Festival runs April 28th-29th and showcases an impressive lineup of narrative and documentary films in competition. The line-up includes 38 projects (2 narrative features, 7 documentary features, and 5 television pilots, and 24 short films) representing 8 countries. The festival screens stories that appeal to a wide range of audiences focusing on diverse voices and excellent storytelling. The full schedule can be found here.

CIFF also offers filmmakers first look deals with two distribution companies as well as a panel on distribution with Cowlamp Films, local filmmaker Brent Kado and Questar Entertainment. Beer provided by Lagunitas Brewing Company.

The weekend is co-sponsored by Loyola University's Film and Digital Media Department.

Monday, April 23, 2018

OPENING: Midwest Premiere of BULL IN A CHINA SHOP Via About Face Theatre at Theater Wit May 24 - July 1, 2018

Chi IL Live Shows On Our Radar:

About Face Theatre 
Announces Casting for Midwest Premiere of
By Bryna Turner
Directed by AFT Artistic Associate Keira Fromm

May 24 – July 1, 2018 at Theater Wit

I'll be ChiILin' with Chi, IL's About Face Theatre for the press opening on May 31st, so check back soon for my full review. I've enjoyed Keira Fromm's directing talent on many recent productions and I'm eager to see AFT's take on this true feminist love story.

About Face Theatre is pleased to announce casting for its Midwest premiere of Bryna Turner’s comedy BULL IN A CHINA SHOP, based on the true story of revolutionary academics and lovers Mary Woolley and Jeanette Marks. 

BULL IN A CHINA SHOP will feature AFT Artistic Associate Kelli Simpkins* with Aurora Adichi-Winter, Adithi Chandrashekar, Mary Beth Fisher and Emjoy Gavino.

Directed by AFT Artistic Associate Keira Fromm*, BULL IN A CHINA SHOP will play May 24 – June 30, 2018 at Theater Wit, 1229 W. Belmont Ave. in Chicago. Tickets now on sale at by calling (773) 975-8150 or in person at the Theater Wit Box Office. 

BULL IN A CHINA SHOP explores the fascinating lives of Mary Woolley and her partner, Jeanette Marks, two brilliant women who reimagined and revolutionized women's education at the turn of the twentieth century. This fast-moving feminist comedy chronicles the growth of the women's suffrage movement, as well as Mary and Jeanette's romantic relationship. It examines the strength it takes to find your voice, be brave and find yourself less at odds with the world.

“As a queer female director, I'm always excited by plays with gay narratives,” comments director Keira Fromm. “Plays that deal specifically with gay female stories aren't terribly common, so when I came across Bryna Turner's radical play, I was immediately taken with it. Bryna is an incredibly smart and savvy playwright. She has a way of writing words and characters that live in both the past and the present simultaneously. The play honors the past and present so beautifully. Mary and Jeanette's struggle to reform women's education and advocate for the suffrage movement echoes the fights that women still wage today – whether that fight be for equal pay, fair representation or for the protection of women's health initiatives. Ultimately the play is a unique meditation on bravery.”

The cast of About Face Theatre’s Midwest premiere of BULL IN A CHINA SHOP includes (top, l to r) Kelli Simpkins, Aurora Adichi-Winter, Adithi Chandrashekar (bottom, l to r) Mary Beth Fisher and Emjoy Gavino.

The production team for BULL IN A CHINA SHOP includes William Boles (scenic design), Mieka Van Der Ploeg* (costume design), Claire Chrzan (lighting design), Eric Backus (sound design), Jamie Karas (properties design), Helen Lattyak (production stage manager), Andrea Enger (asst. stage manager) and Catherine Allen (production manager).

*Denotes AFT Artistic Associate

Location: Theater Wit, 1229 W. Belmont Ave., Chicago
Dates: Previews: Thursday May 24 at 7:30 pm, Friday May 25 at 7:30 pm, Saturday May 26 at 7:30 pm, Sunday May 27 at 3 pm and Wednesday May 30 at 7:30 pm.

Regular run: Friday, June 1 – Saturday, June 30, 2018
Curtain Times: Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 pm; Sundays at 3 pm. 

Tickets: Previews: $15. Regular run: $20-$38. Discounts available for groups of 10 or more. Tickets now on sale at, by calling (773) 975-8150 or in person at Theater Wit Box Office.

Artist Biographies
Bryna Turner (Playwright) is a Brooklyn-based playwright originally from Northern California. Her play Bull in a China Shop recently premiered at LCT3 (directed by Lee Sunday Evans). Her work has been developed with Abingdon Theatre Company, Clubbed Thumb, Colt Coeur, Ensemble Studio Theatre, LCT3, Mount Holyoke College, Rutgers University and Rainbow Theatre Project. Other plays include: Carlo at the Wedding, Lights Over Philo, The Stand-In and How to Separate Your Soul from Your Body (in ten easy steps!). She is an alum of Clubbed Thumb’s Early Career Writer’s Group and holds an MFA in Playwriting from Rutgers University.

Keira Fromm (Director) is a Jeff Award-nominated director, a casting director and a teacher based out of Chicago. Favorite recent directing credits include: Significant Other, Bright Half Life and A Kid Like Jake (About Face Theatre), hang (Remy Bumppo), A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Gynecologic Oncology Unit at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Hospital of New York City (Route 66 Theatre), The Columnist (American Blues Theater), How the World Began (Rivendell Theatre Ensemble), Luce (Next Theatre), Charles Ives Take Me Home (Strawdog), The How and the Why (TimeLine Theatre), Broadsword (Gift Theatre) and Fallow (Steep Theatre). Keira is a proud Artistic Associate with About Face Theatre. She received her MFA from DePaul University and her BFA from Boston University. She is a member of SDC, as well as the Lincoln Center Theater Directors Lab. Keira is a frequent guest director at DePaul, as well as Roosevelt University.

About Face Theatre creates exceptional, innovative, and adventurous theatre and educational programming that advances the national dialogue on sexual and gender identity, and challenges and entertains audiences in Chicago and beyond.

Help Out: Wonka Ball Benefit for About Face Theatre happens Friday May 11th

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