Monday, October 28, 2019

REVIEW: Noir Thriller Three Stories Up Via Theatre in the Dark Now Playing Through November 9, 2019

ChiIL Live Shows on our radar
Noir Thriller 
Three Stories Up 
Via Theatre in the Dark
by Mackenzie Gordon
Directed by Corey Bradberry

An immersive experience performed completely in the dark

by bonnie kenaz-mara

As I was sitting in the impenetrable dark with a gin gimlet in hand, it was easy to imagine a black and white cityscape and a smart, gumshoe dame smiling sardonically while crisscrossed with lines from the light of the window blinds. Of course it was all in my mind's eye, as Theatre in the Dark lives up to it's name and this fabulously fun noir thriller is indeed, performed in a dark so enveloping and complete that the audience audibly gasped when we all removed our blindfolds at the start of the show to see... absolutely nothing. Not a sliver of light penetrates the set of Three Stories Up. At first it was disconcerting, but I quickly became so absorbed in the story that I can't imagine this show any other way. The dialogue popped and the audience was so immersed in the plot that there was hardly a rustle or peep for the whole 80 minutes. Three Stories Up has the vibe of iconic pre-TV radio dramas, melded with the intimacy and immediacy of live performance, and the pure joy of being read to as a child. Highly recommended. 

I joked with The Saints who were ushering the show, about how the theatre was getting their money's worth out of them. These ushers went above and beyond the usual easy seating duties by passing out blindfolds, and leading the audience to their seats in small groups, conga line style. It was a vulnerable, empathy inducing experience, and a great way to settle into the show.  

The script for Three Stories Up is poetic, well written, and a joy to experience, and the actors more than do it justice. I thought they could have even punched up the noir jazz and rain motifs even more, but overall the vocal talent and live Foley sound effects were excellent. I had a front row seat, and it was an up close and personal experience that went well beyond stereo. I spent more than a few nervous minutes wondering how the actors navigate in the engulfing dark, and avoid landing in the audience's laps. This is a spoiler-free review as far as plot goes, but I will disclose their blocking secret. The performance space is a large plus, consisting of crossing carpet runners of different textures, and the actors are in socks. Pretty ingenious. If you're ready to get out of your comfort zone for a unique and memorable theatrical experience and some stellar storytelling, then head on out to Three Stories Up for some old school, noir fun, with a dark twist.

Bonnie Kenaz-Mara is a Chicago based writer-theater critic-photographer-videographer-actress-artist-general creatrix and Mama to two terrific teens. She owns two websites where she has published frequently since 2008: (adult) & (family friendly).

Three Stories Up // Theatre in the Dark from Corey Bradberry on Vimeo.

Theatre in the Dark, a new company that focuses on performances staged entirely in complete darkness, will mount as its inaugural production the Chicago premiere of the noir mystery thriller THREE STORIES UP by the Canadian-born Chicago playwright Mackenzie Gordon.The production is an immersive experience - performed completely in total darkness with sound effects and dialogue surrounding the audience,

In Gordon’s 80-minute drama, Vancouver transit cop Beatrice Dulaurier has found her detective husband’s dead body, The police call it a suicide, but Beatrice doesn’t buy that explanation. To find the truth, she enlists the help of her late husband’s last known informant, a drug runner who carries secrets of his own. The two embark on a hair-raising investigation through the city's colorful characters in search of justice… and revenge. Inspired by hard-boiled paperback novels and the radio mystery plays of the ‘30s and ‘40s, it introduces the audience to sadder-but-wiser, hard-boiled detectives and shady characters whose loyalties are never certain.

The new company is the brainchild of Director Corey Bradberry and Associate Producers Mackenzie Gordon, Kelly Greene, James McDougald, and Zachary Parkhurst.

Performed entirely in the dark, as it was in its 2016 world premiere in Vancouver, THREE STORIES UP will combine recorded sound, live Foley effects, and the human voice -- in front, beside, and behind the audience -- to create a three dimensional soundscape that will be far more enveloping and environmental than a mere radio play. Audiences will be blindfolded after their arrival at the performance venue and guided to their seats. They will remove their blindfolds after the performance begins in pitch darkness and the lights will remain out until curtain call. THREE STORIES UP will be unique among Chicago theatre productions in that patrons with low visibility will enjoy exactly the same experience as their fellow audience members.

Bradberry says, “One of the oldest traditions in noir storytelling is the use of setting as a main character. No set designer could outdo the descriptive language of Raymond Chandler or Dashiell Hammett, or for that matter, our playwright Mackenzie Gordon. THREE STORIES UP leans so hard into the words, we decided to turn out the lights altogether.”

THREE STORIES UP will be performed at The Church on Thorndale, 1244 W. Thorndale, in Edgewater. The Chicago production will be directed by Corey Bradberry and the cast will include the playwright, Mackenzie Gordon, and Bethany Arrington.

Left - right: Bethany Arrington, Mackenzie Gordon. Photo by Zachary Parkhurst.

Colin Thomas of VANCOUVER GREENROOM, in reviewing the 2016 premiere of THREE STORIES UP, called the play “Viscerally compelling, THREE STORIES UP makes you pay attention—and it pays off. The plot is satisfyingly complex, and phrase by phrase Gordon’s writing is gorgeous… Stroke of genius to set it in the dark… very, very rewarding.”  Mark Robins of VANCOUVER PRESENTS said, “Gordon’s words, helped immensely by the performances, paint vivid pictures that transcend gimmick.”

Tickets and further information are available at

October 24 – November 9, 2019
Venue: The Church on Thorndale, 1244 W. Thorndale, Chicago (west of Broadway, near Thorndale Red Line station)
Previews: Thursday October 24, Friday October 25 at 8 pm, Saturday October 26 at 3 and  8 pm
Press Opening Sunday October 27 at 7 pm and Wednesday October 30 at 8 pm
Regular run: October 31 – November 9, 2019
Thursdays – Saturdays at 8 pm, Sunday November 3 at 7 pm, Wednesday November 6 at 8 pm

Ticket Prices regular run October 31 – November 9: $35 general, $20 for persons age 25 and under. Group rates available.
Tickets on sale now at, or at box office prior to showtime
Phone for info only (no ticketing): 312.285.0314

Accessibility: Due to the historical nature of our venue, entryways into and out of our building are non-ADA compliant. However, we encourage audiences with special needs to contact us in advance to see how best we can best accommodate them!

Mackenzie Gordon, Bethany Arrington, Corey Bradberry

Corey Bradberry (Director) is a stage director and producer committed to clear, efficient, and compelling storytelling. A Chicago newcomer, he most recently returned to his native Atlanta to direct MURDER! AT THE STRAND II: DARK MATTERS, an immersive sci-fi murder mystery which puts the audience in the central role of Investigator. Chicago: THE LAKES, THE MAN THAT CORRUPTED CHRISTMAS (Inertia Theatre Project); 24-Hour-Playfests (iO, Eclectic Full-Contact); SIMPLER DAYS (Woof Pack Comedy). Atlanta: MURDER! AT THE STRAND (Earl and Rachel Smith Strand); THE DEVIL TREE, THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING (The Collective Project Inc.); THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF SIR WM MCGONAGALL (Atlanta Fringe). Education: Master of Fine Arts in Directing (Theatre), University of Southern Mississippi; Bachelor of Arts in Theatre & Performance Studies (Performance Concentration) from Kennesaw State University; additional training from Dell’Arte International School of Physical Theatre, Kennedy Center MFA Playwright’s Workshop + Directing Intensive, Second City Training Center. Corey was a 2015 National Directing Fellow through the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival and was awarded the 2013 Emerging Artist Award for Theatre from the City of Atlanta’s Office of Cultural Affairs.

Mackenzie Gordon (Playwright, Actor) has been writing plays for ten years. His work has been published in DISCORDER MAGAZINE, CARTE BLANCHE, and Speakeasy Theatre’s PULL ANTHOLOGY. His plays have been performed by ITSAZOO Productions (DEBTS, FIVE RED BALLOONS), Western Canada Theatre (THE BALLAD OF THE BURNING LADY), Upintheair Theatre (VISITORS) and Level-Headed Friends Productions (SIX FINE LINES; SHAKE THE SHEETS!; DEAD CELEBRITIES). He is a three-time writing contributor to Sum Theatre's Pull Festival and a four-time Jessie Richardson Theatre Award nominee. THREE STORIES UP was workshopped during the 2014 Playwrights Theatre Centre Colony, dramaturged by author Michael Springate.

Bethany Arrington (Actress) is an actor, model, and voice over talent originally from Carmel, Indiana. She is a proud member of the Artistic Council and ensemble of NoMads Art Collective. Bethany is very pleased to be working with Theatre in the Dark for the very first time. She is represented by Lily’s Talent.  Hear and see more of Bethany at 

Friday, October 25, 2019

Haven Presents FREE Post-Show Discussion with Sonia Sanchez Sunday, October 27 at 6 pm The Den Theatre

Haven Presents
In Conversation with Sonia Sanchez
Sunday, October 27 at 6 pm The Den Theatre

(left to right) Sheree Bynum and Merrina Millsapp in 2 x 2 by Sonia Sanchez, directed by Aaron Mays, part of Haven’s DIRECTORS HAVEN 2019. Photo by Austin D. Oie.

Haven is pleased to host In Conversation with Sonia Sanchez, a free post-show discussion with the esteemed writer, poet and activist. Sanchez’s play 2 x 2 is featured as part of DIRECTORS HAVEN, the company’s ever-growing initiative annually showcasing the talents of three rising directors. Hosted by Artistic Director Ian Damont Martin and the play’s director, Aaron Mays, the conversation about Professor Sanchez’s work, her life and the interplay between arts and activism will be held on Sunday, October 27 at 6 pm (following the 3 pm performance) at The Den Theatre, 1331 N. Milwaukee Ave. in Chicago’s Wicker Park neighborhood. Advance reservations are recommended by visiting Eventbrite.

(left to right) Simon Gebremedhin, Dionne Addai and Juwon Perry in 2 x 2 by Sonia Sanchez, directed by Aaron Mays, part of Haven’s DIRECTORS HAVEN 2019. Photo by Austin D. Oie.

In addition to Sonia Sanchez’s lyrical drama 2 x 2, this year’s DIRECTORS HAVEN also features Caryl Churchill’s ambitious surrealist work THIS IS A CHAIR directed by Lauren Katz and Dan Giles’ tender yet challenging one-act HOW YOU KISS ME IS NOT HOW I LIKE TO BE KISSED directed by AJ Schwartz. The three productions, which will have the support of a full production team, run back-to-back in one program through October 30, 2019 at The Den Theatre. Tickets ($10 suggested donation) are available at

(left to right) Merrina Millsapp and Sheree Bynum in 2 x 2 by Sonia Sanchez, directed by Aaron Mays, part of Haven’s DIRECTORS HAVEN 2019. Photo by Austin D. Oie.

About Sonia Sanchez
Poet. Mother. Professor. National and International lecturer on Black Culture and Literature, Women’s Liberation, Peace and Racial Justice. Sponsor of Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom. Board Member of MADRE. Sonia Sanchez is the author of over 16 books including Homecoming, We a BaddDDD People, Love Poems, I’ve Been a Woman, A Sound Investment and Other Stories, Homegirls and Handgrenades, Under a Soprano Sky, Wounded in the House of a Friend (Beacon Press, 1995), Does Your House Have Lions? (Beacon Press, 1997), Like the Singing Coming off the Drums (Beacon Press, 1998), Shake Loose My Skin( Beacon Press, 1999), and most recently, Morning Haiku( Beacon Press, 2010). In addition to being a contributing editor to Black Scholar and The Journal of African Studies, she has edited an anthology, We Be Word Sorcerers: 25 Stories by Black Americans. BMA: The Sonia Sanchez Literary Review is the first African American Journal that discusses the work of Sonia Sanchez and the Black Arts Movement. A recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts, the Lucretia Mott Award for 1984, the Outstanding Arts Award from the Pennsylvania Coalition of 100 Black Women, the Community Service Award from the National Black Caucus of State Legislators, she is a winner of the 1985 American Book Award for Homegirls and Handgrenades, the Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Humanities for 1988, the Peace and Freedom Award from Women International League for Peace and Freedom (W.I.L.P.F.) for 1989, a PEW Fellowship in the Arts for 1992-1993 and the recipient of Langston Hughes Poetry Award for 1999. Does Your House Have Lions? was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. She is the Poetry Society of America’s 2001 Robert Frost Medalist and a Ford Freedom Scholar from the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History. Her poetry also appeared in the movie Love Jones. Sonia Sanchez has lectured at over 500 universities and colleges in the United States and has traveled extensively, reading her poetry in Africa, Cuba, England, the Caribbean, Australia, Europe, Nicaragua, the People’s Republic of China, Norway, and Canada. She was the first Presidential Fellow at Temple University and she held the Laura Carnell Chair in English at Temple University. She is the recipient of the Harper Lee Award, 2004, Alabama Distinguished Writer, and the National Visionary Leadership Award for 2006. She is the recipient of the 2005 Leeway Foundation Transformational Award. Currently, Sonia Sanchez is one of 20 African American women featured in “Freedom Sisters,” an interactive exhibition created by the Cincinnati Museum Center and Smithsonian Institution traveling exhibition and she was the recipient of the Robert Creeley award in March of 2009.

DIRECTORS HAVEN 2019 includes:

By Caryl Churchill
Directed by Lauren Katz
Mentor: Devon de Mayo
Featuring Catherine Dvorak, Tamsen Glaser, Lakecia Harris, Isaac Snyder, Julian "Joolz" Stroop and Diego Zozaya

This is a Chair is composed of a series of individual vignettes, each including a headline that is meant to be clearly displayed or stated. Each title refers to a contemporary world issue, including “The War in Bosnia,” “Genetic Engineering,” and “Pornography and Censorship” – titles that seemingly share no connection to the scene at hand. Caryl Churchill invites us to dig deep into our personal lives and relationships, exploring the depths of how we interact with the world around us.

2 x 2
By Sonia Sanchez
Directed by Aaron Mays
Mentor: Pemon Rami
Featuring Dionne Addai, Sheree Bynum, Simon Gebremedhin, Merrina Millsapp and Juwon Perry

Beverly Smith is watching her family fall apart. Her grandchildren are in need of her care while her daughter Ramona, once a fierce activist, struggles with addiction. When Beverly goes to take the kids home with her, she learns about Ramona’s past passion for activism and what led to her decline. This lyrical drama set in North Philadelphia explores social activism, generational differences and the hardships facing urban black communities through the lens of a mother-daughter relationship.

By Dan Giles
Directed by AJ Schwartz
Mentor: Monty Cole
Featuring Morgan Lavenstein and Rolando Serrano

It’s a love story that transcends labels. Two people meet, they fall in love, they U-Haul, life happens. A couple just like any other – well, almost. How You Kiss Me Is Not How I Like To Be Kissed innovatively addresses the urgent contemporary issue of straight representation in the arts. This groundbreaking and oh-so-needed play brings important visibility to the sorrows and joys – and even the inherent flaws – of the heterosexual lifestyle.

Comments Artistic Director Ian Damont Martin, “This cohort of directors is more than ready to bring their work to the Chicago community, and Haven couldn't be more excited to facilitate and support them in this fifth year of our Directors Haven program. Each of these early-career directors have interests and visions that are specific, intelligent and downright exciting. The pieces they have individually selected are glimpses of the kind of work we need to be seeing and making right now – work that asks us the difficult questions – work that makes space for the marginal and the marginalized. This is met with an articulated interest and commitment in intentional processes, which is becoming increasingly important at Haven. We are very much looking forward to bringing you this necessary work from the next generation of artists helping to find and define the future of our practice.”

The production team for DIRECTORS HAVEN 2019 includes Will Tople (scenic design), Angela Mix (costume design), Sim Carpenter (lighting design), Jonesy Jones (sound design) and Emily Boyd (resident props).


Location: The Den Theatre (2A), 1331 N. Milwaukee Ave., Chicago
Previews: Monday, October 14 at 7:30 pm and Tuesday, October 15 at 7:30 pm
Regular Run: Wednesday, October 16 – Wednesday, October 30, 2018
Curtain Times: Sundays at 3 pm; Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays at 7:30 pm

Tickets: $10 suggested donation. Tickets are currently available at

About the Directors
Lauren Katz (This is a Chair) is a freelance director, dramaturg, and teaching artist. She served as the 2016-17 Artistic Apprentice at Steppenwolf Theatre Company, and as a fellow in the 2018-19 Directors Inclusion Initiative at Victory Gardens. Recent directing projects include: Subjective is Beauty (Prop Thtr), Toni and Marcus: From Village Life to Urban Stress (Illinois Holocaust Museum) and Salena’s Story (iO Theater). As an assistant director and dramaturg in Chicago, Lauren has worked with various companies including About Face Theatre, Firebrand Theatre, Theater Wit, Steppenwolf Theatre Company, Writers Theatre and Windy City Playhouse. As a teaching artist, Lauren works with Lookingglass Theatre and Mudlark Theatre.

Aaron Mays (2 x 2) is an emerging director and playwright in Chicago with a passion for stories of the African diaspora and the narratives of marginalized voices. Aaron’s most recent directing credits include Waiting for Godot (Tympanic Theatre) with an all-Latinx cast and Tug of War (CIRCA Pintig), a series of short plays on war, trauma and immigration. In addition, he has worked with Chicago’s top directors, serving as the assistant director for such productions as Sweat (Goodman Theatre), Mosque Alert (Silk Road Rising), Two Trains Running (Goodman Theatre) and Seven Guitars (Court Theatre).

AJ Schwartz (How You Kissed Me is Not How I Like to be Kissed) is a director living and making art in Chicago since 2013. As a theatremaker, they aim to use performance to explore the world through a radical, iconoclastic and undeniably queer lens. Their recent credits include Mike Pence Sex Dream, Refrigerator (assistant director, First Floor Theater), This Bitter Earth (dramaturg), Time Is on Our Side (assistant director, About Face Theatre), Zurich (assistant director, Steep Theatre Co.), and The Henry V Project (director, Loyola University Chicago).  

About Haven:

We exist to be a Haven for The Future. We achieve this through championing the next generation of playwrights, directors and actors by producing and promoting plays and performances that are staking their claim as the immediate future of this art form, and by investing in those at the very beginning of their professional journeys. Through this inspiration, we seek to ignite in each audience member a hope for the Future - the Future of theatre and performance, the Future of each other, the Future of our community.

Wednesday, October 23, 2019


ChiIL Live Shows on our radar
to play Marriott Theatre

Aislinn Rain Photography

Performances set for Tuesday, December 17 at 3pm and 7:30pm

Artists Lounge Live presents SWINGING ON A STAR, A SALUTE TO BING CROSBY AND THE ANDREWS SISTERS starring Broadway’s Jared Bradshaw on Tuesday, December 17, at Marriott Theatre, 10 Marriott Drive, Lincolnshire, IL 60069.

Tis the season to be jolly as Broadway baritone Jared Bradshaw celebrates Bing Crosby, the crooner who immortalized the most famous secular Christmas song of all time – “White Christmas.” Bradshaw is a veteran of the Great White Way, appearing in JERSEY BOYS and CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY. Lauded as “immensely talented” by Associated Press, Bradshaw is an entertainer possessing the easy charm of a bygone era. Also featuring a trio of talented dolls singing the infectious harmonies of the Andrews Sisters, this is one humdinger of a good time! Traditional favorites include “Jingle Bells,” "Chattanooga Choo-Choo," "Mele Kalikimaka," and of course, “White Christmas.”  Presented by Artists Lounge Live.

Tickets are priced at $50. Marriott Theatre subscribers receive a 20% discount. Tickets can be purchased by calling the box office at 847-634-0200, in person at the Marriott Theatre Box Office, or online at (subscriber discount only available at Marriott Theatre Box Office).

Next up in the series is SILLY LOVE SONGS: MICHAEL MAHLER SINGS PAUL MCCARTNEY, March 9 and 10, 2020.

Date:             December 17, 2019, 3:00pm and 7:30pm
Location:        MARRIOTT THEATRE, 10 Marriott Drive, Lincolnshire, IL 60069
Tickets:          $50.00 (not including taxes and fees)
Box Office:     847-634-0200

ABOUT THE ARTIST: The Associated Press calls him “immensely talented,” and Sound and Town cheers “Bradshaw delivers an electrifying performance.” Jared Bradshaw is a Broadway veteran who recently appeared in CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY. Previously, Bradshaw was a long time cast member of the Tony Award-winning smash hit JERSEY BOYS, swinging multiple roles in the Broadway, First National Tour, and Chicago companies.

Off-Broadway, he delighted audiences in numerous incarnations of the wickedly funny FORBIDDEN BROADWAY, deftly taking on celebrities such as Hugh Jackman, Harry Connick Jr, and John Travolta. Pre-Broadway: DAVE. Regional theatre highlights include: THE MUSIC MAN (Harold Hill), SINGING IN THE RAIN (Don Lockwood), GUYS AND DOLLS (Nathan Detroit), JEKYLL AND HYDE (Jekyll/Hyde), WEST SIDE STORY (Riff), CABARET (Cliff), THE LAST FIVE YEARS (Jamie), MY WAY: A MUSICAL TRIBUTE TO FRANK SINATRA, and numerous productions of SMOKEY JOE’S CAFE. Additionally, he travelled as a featured performer aboard Disney Cruise Ships. Jared and wife Lindsay Northen (Broadway’s WICKED) are the proud parents of little Georgia.

ABOUT THE PROJECT: Artists Lounge Live is a dynamic concert series featuring popular music of yesterday performed live by tremendous talent of today. Rising stars of stage and screen pay homage to the icons that influenced them in emotional evenings of storytelling and song. In addition to showcasing superb musicianship, powerful storytelling sets Artists Lounge Live apart. Shows explore the lives of icons with empathy and delve into the landscape of America when the music was being made. Headliners are not impersonators; rather, they are artistic descendants to the icon they cover. By sharing their gratitude, the artists offer audiences a piece of their heart. Artists Lounge Live hopes that as you fall in love with the music all over again, you’ll also fall in love with the featured artist dedicated to keeping your music alive for the next generation. Producer/performer Michael Ingersoll states, "Popular music is our shared heritage and we honor it the best way we know how: by gathering together to enjoy live entertainment. We believe in the restorative power of live entertainment, for both the individual and the community."

Artists Lounge Live shows are created by husband and wife team Michael and Angela Ingersoll. Michael is known for starring as Nick Massi of the Four Seasons in JERSEY BOYS, launching the original San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Chicago runs. He went on to start the retro-rock vocal group Under the Streetlamp; recording, touring, and co-starring in the quartet's multiple PBS concert specials. Angela is an Emmy-nominated actress who headlines concert stages nationwide in GET HAPPY: ANGELA INGERSOLL SINGS JUDY GARLAND, as seen on PBS. She won acclaim portraying Garland in the play END OF THE RAINBOW, including Chicago’s Jeff Award and LA Times Woman of the Year in Theatre. The couple live in Chicago.

Friday, October 18, 2019

SAVE THE DATES: Broken Nose Theatre Announces Eighth Season, “Change The Rules”

ChiIL Live Shows on our radar

World Premiere!
By Liam Fitzgerald
Directed by Artistic Director Elise Marie Davis
A Co-Production with The New Colony

U.S. Premiere!
By Beth Steel
Directed by Spenser Davis

World Premiere!
By Eric Reyes Loo
Directed by Toma Langston

BNT’s Perennial Feminist Play Festival

PHOTO CREDIT: Broken Nose Theatre’s 2019-20 season playwrights and directors include (top, l to r) Liam Fitzgerald, Beth Steel, Eric Reyes Loo and Michael Turrentine with (bottom, l to r) Elise Marie Davis, Spenser Davis, Toma Langston and Cassandra Rose.

Broken Nose Theatre is pleased to announce its Eighth Season, exploring the theme “Change the Rules,” with two world premieres and one U.S. premiere to be presented at BNT’s resident home, The Den Theatre, 1331 N. Milwaukee Ave. in Chicago’s Wicker Park neighborhood.

This fall, BNT joins forces with The New Colony to present the world premiere of Liam Fitzgerald’s sexually charged comedy PEG, directed by Broken Nose Artistic Director Elise Marie Davis. PEG will feature Stephanie Shum and Gage Wallace.

Next winter, the 2019-20 season continues with the U.S. premiere of Beth Steel’s propulsive financial drama LABYRINTH, directed by Spenser Davis.

In spring 2020, BNT presents the world premiere of Eric Reyes Loo’s terrifyingly timely drama THIS IS ONLY A TEST, directed by Toma Langston.

The season concludes next summer with BECHDEL FEST 8, BNT’s annual feminist festival, featuring a full slate of new short plays with all female-identifying casts. Playwrights, directors and casting will be announced in 2020.

During its eighth season, BNT will also provide institutional support to two outside playwrights through The Paper Trail – its new play development program. This season’s playwrights include Cassandra Rose and Michael Turrentine.

Comments Artistic Director Elise Marie Davis, “As conversations around concepts like gender roles, class divides and gun safety continue on a national scale, the rules regarding how and when we talk about these issues are also changing. With this upcoming season – my second as Artistic Director – the Broken Nose family is thrilled to bring two world premieres and one U.S premiere to Chicago audiences, stories that illustrate the ways in which societal limits are tested and reset, with a variety of outcomes. Along with these three mainstage productions will be our eighth annual Bechdel Fest and two playwrights whose new work we'll be developing over the course of the season, making this one of our most ambitious years yet. We'll see you at the theater!”

Tickets for all Broken Nose Theatre productions are available on a “pay-what-you-can” basis, allowing patrons to set their own price and ensuring theatre remains economically accessible for all audiences. Tickets for all productions will go on sale at a later date. For additional information, visit

Broken Nose Theatre’s Eight Season includes:

November 13 - December 14, 2019
PEG – World Premiere/Co-Produced with The New Colony
By Liam Fitzgerald
Directed by Artistic Director Elise Marie Davis
Featuring Stephanie Shum and Gage Wallace

Peg is excited. Steve is nervous. Sure, they've opened a nice bottle of wine, dinner smells delicious... but the brand-new strap-on they ordered has just arrived, and tonight's plan is to flip the script. Peg wants to peg Steve. And even though he was all for it initially, his last-minute hesitation will force this ordinary couple to face their kinks, quirks and societal conditioning, as they're quickly reminded that gender politics follow them everywhere - including the bedroom.

January 31 - February 29, 2020
LABYRINTH – U.S Premiere!
By Beth Steel
Directed by Spenser Davis

New York City, 1978. Having just landed his dream job as a Wall Street banker, John Anderson finds himself swept off on luxurious trips to Latin America with only one goal: selling loans to the region’s developing nations eager to borrow. But as the banks’ excessive lending strategy starts pushing whole countries toward the brink of bankruptcy, and the biggest credit bubble in history threatens to burst, John and his colleagues must come to terms with the true price of chasing their fortunes.

May 1 - May 30, 2020
THIS IS ONLY A TEST – World Premiere!
By Eric Reyes Loo
Directed by Toma Langston

Nowadays, it could happen anywhere, at any time, and the faculty at Washington High have decided to take "being prepared" to a whole new level: through a series of cutting-edge Active Shooter Drills, their students will be trained on how to fight back, just in case their school is the next to hit the news cycle. But as they’re asked to quell violence by responding violently, four teenagers begin to wonder: if we’re so prepared, why do we feel even more unsafe?

Summer 2019

BNT'S perennial favorite feminist festival returns! As with the past seven iterations, BECHDEL FEST 8 will feature an ensemble of female-identifying and nonbinary artists performing new short plays written and directed by some of Broken Nose's favorite artists – and all passing the Bechdel-Wallace Test. Created by cartoonist Alison Bechdel, the Bechdel Test asks whether a work of entertainment features two non-male characters talking about something other than men. Playwrights, directors and casting to be announced in 2020.

About the Artists

Liam Fitzgerald (Playwright, Peg) is a Chicago-based writer, director and producer. He holds a BFA from the University of Miami and an MFA from Northwestern University. His work has been performed and developed in Chicago and nationally with theaters including Stage Left, Broken Nose Theatre, Chicago Dramatists, Theatre Masters and the Campfire Theatre Festival. He is a resident designer at Links Hall and has worked for the production departments of Chicago Children’s Theatre, Red Theatre, Theatre Wit, Strawdogs, Pegasus Players, Chicago Dramatists and WildClaw theatre. 

Elise Marie Davis (Director, Peg) is entering her second year as Artistic Director of Broken Nose Theatre, where she has performed in the award-winning productions of Girl in the Red Corner, Plainclothes and At The Table, as well as My First Time, several iterations of Bechdel Fest, and her own play A Phase. She is also an ensemble member with The Factory Theater, where she was onstage for the world premieres of Adventures of Spirit Force Five and Zombie Broads. Other Chicago acting credits include Blue Stockings (Promethean Theatre), Baby With the Bathwater (Eclipse Theatre), Pine (Uncommon Ground), Hot Pink (New American Folk Theatre), Kin Folk and Here After (The New Colony), A Funny Thing… (Route 66, u/s), Speech & Debate (Brown Paper Box), as well as work with Lyric Opera, Strawdog, Artemisia, Midsommer Flight, American Blues and Pride Films and Plays, among others. She recently appeared in Squid, a short-form comedy series now released on Amazon Prime. As a playwright, she has had her work performed at Steppenwolf 1700, First Floor Theater, Broken Nose and Arc Theatre, while her play A Phase has been taught at the University of Chicago. She is represented by Big Mouth Talent Agency.

Beth Steel (Playwright, Labyrinth) is U.K.-based playwright. She was awarded the Charles Wintour Award for Most Promising Playwright at the Evening Standard Theatre Awards. Her first play Ditch premiered at the HighTide Festival, transferred to the Old Vic Tunnels and was shortlisted for the John Whiting Award. Wonderland, Steel's critically acclaimed second play, was directed at Hampstead Theatre by Edward Hall; it was broadcast live worldwide through the Guardian website and was a finalist for the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize, an award for best new play in the English language by a female playwright. Labyrinth is her third play; it had its world premiere at Hampstead Theatre in 2016, with Anna Ledwich directing. This marks the play's U.S. premiere.

Spenser Davis (Director, Labyrinth) is Director of Programming for Broken Nose Theatre, where his directorial credits include At The Table (Jeff Awards – Best Director, Production, Ensemble), his own play Plainclothes (Jeff Award – Best Ensemble), A Phase, From White Plains and several iterations of Bechdel Fest. Other credits include Blue Stockings (Promethean Theatre); May the Road Rise Up and Adventures of Spirit Force Five (The Factory Theater, ensemble member); Bachelorette (Level 11); the upcoming world premiere of Under The Tree with The New Colony; as well as readings, workshops and festivals with American Blues Theater, A Red Orchid, Hell in a Handbag, ATC, Strawdog, Otherworld, First Floor and Pride Films and Plays, to name a few. As a playwright, his play Plainclothes received the 2019 M. Elizabeth Osborn Award from the American Theatre Critics Association and was named a finalist for the 2019 Harold and Mimi Steinberg/ATCA New Play Award. He is currently adapting his first play Merge as a pilot for television. He is a series writer-director on Squid, a short-form comedy series on Amazon Prime. He is proud to be represented by William Morris Endeavor.

Eric Reyes Loo (Playwright, This is Only a Test) is a Los Angeles-based playwright and television writer. He writes for the upcoming Netflix series A.J. & the Queen. Eric’s plays have been developed at LA theatres including Rogue Machine, Moving Arts and East West Players. Eric helps run new play development at Chalk Repertory Theatre, where he is also a company member. His play, Death and Cockroaches was produced by Chalk Rep in Fall 2018. Eric received an MFA in Dramatic Writing from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts and attended undergrad at Santa Clara University. His mother would want you to know that he’s a product of a prestigious Jesuit education. 

Toma Langston (Director, This is Only a Test) is a freelance theater director. Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre: Hedwig and The Angry Inch. The New Colony: The Light (2018 Joseph Jefferson Nomination for Director – Play). Victory Gardens: 2015 Directors Inclusion Initiative Director Fellowship (Assistant Director) Sucker Punch. Jackalope Theatre: (Assistant Director) 1980 (or Why I’m Voting for John Anderson). Sideshow Theatre: (Assistant Director) truth and reconciliation and Give It All Back. Other directorial credits include The Last Five Years, The Shadow Box, For Colored Girls Who Considered Suicide/When the Rainbow Is Enuf. 

About Broken Nose Theatre:

Broken Nose Theatre is a Pay-What-You-Can theatre company. Founded in 2012, BNT was the 2018 recipient of the Emerging Theater Award, presented by the League of Chicago Theatres and Broadway in Chicago. The company has produced and developed 20 full-length plays (including 12 Chicago or world premieres) and over 50 new short plays through our annual Bechdel Fest. We strive to spark conversation, cultivate empathy, and amplify underrepresented voices, and are committed to making new, exciting and relevant theatre that is economically accessible to all audiences. For more information, please visit

Thursday, October 17, 2019


ChiIL Live Shows on our radar



Winner of the Best Musical Tony Award and Based on the Billy Wilder Academy Award-Winning Film, Sunset Boulevard Features Music by Andrew Lloyd Webber, Lyrics and Book by Don Black and Christopher Hampton, Direction by Porchlight Music Theatre Artistic Director Michael Weber, Choreography by Shanna VanDerwerker and 
Music Directed by Aaron Benham

Guest Review
by Catherine Hellmann

“I AM BIG! It’s the pictures that got small,” declares Norma Desmond, 

Playing an icon from Sunset Boulevard takes a singer of tremendous stature with serious acting chops. Luckily, there is Hollis Resnick. She is mesmerizing in this role as the delusional, larger-than-life, fascinating, and narcissistic silent-film-star-turned-recluse who dreams of returning to her former glory in movies.

From her initial entrance down the staircase of her eerie mansion to her final audition as Salome for her imagined comeback, it’s hard to take your eyes off Ms. Resnick. She is dramatic without being a caricature. Bill Morey’s costumes are just wonderful; I liked seeing what Norma, the aging diva, would be wearing next. 

Norma’s biggest (only?) fan and devoted butler Max von Mayerling is played beautifully by Larry Adams. His reserved demeanor was perfect for Max, and his singing was exquisite.  


Billy Rude does a fine job as struggling writer Joe Gillis who becomes Norma’s editor/lover/boy toy/kept man. The scene where Joe is treated to a new, expensive wardrobe at Norma’s expense was one of my favorites. (“What is this? Mink?” asks his pal later at a party when he takes Joe’s coat.) 

Joe’s writing partner (and eventual love interest) Betty Schaefer is played by the charming Michelle Lauto who has a lovely voice and stage presence. She may not be able to offer Joe gold, engraved cigarette cases, but she is persistent in advocating for his writing career.  

I loved the little inside jokes, like the lyric that “Billy Wilder will know my name,” from the wanna-be actors in Hollywood (Billy Wilder was the writer and director of the original movie) and William Holden’s picture on one of the many projected movie posters (handsome Holden, one of my Hollywood crushes, was the original Joe Gillis.)  All of the projected images constantly remind us of the film noir genre of old Hollywood glam. When Norma visits the movie set to chat with DeMille about her script, a boom microphone is over her head momentarily; Norma pushes it away with disgust, a nice touch to show her disdain for “talkies.”  

Several years ago, my Theater Camp Pal Mary and I saw Sunday in the Park with George because we had never seen that classic before. “That was Porchlight, too,” Mary observed. “They have really hit their stride.” We were enthralled with Porchlight’s End of the Rainbow and Side Show. It’s exciting to have musicals of this caliber being produced in Chicago. Mary had seen Sunset Boulevard in London twenty years ago. But she liked Porchlight’s version better because of the intimacy of the theater space and the performers.  Porchlight is ready to celebrate their 25th anniversary and ready for their “close-up with Mr. DeMille.” 

Sunset Boulevard’s run has already been extended. It’s one of those shows that will go into Chicago theater history. You won’t want to miss it. 

Catherine Hellmann is a long time teacher and theater junkie. One of her absolute favorite movies of all time is Sunset Boulevard. 

Porchlight Music Theatre’s 25th Anniversary Mainstage season launches with 
Sunset Boulevard, 
at The Ruth Page Center for the Arts, 
1016 N. Dearborn Street. 

Featuring music by Andrew Lloyd Webber, lyrics and books by Don Black and Christopher Hampton, Sunset Boulevard stars Hollis Resnik and is directed by Michael Weber, choreographed by Shanna VanDerwerker and music directed by Aaron Benham. 

The regular run performance schedule is Thursdays at 7:30 p.m., Fridays at 8 p.m., Saturdays at 3:30 p.m. and 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. with weekday matinees on Thursday, Oct. 24 and Nov. 14 at 1:30 p.m. and an added performance Sunday, Nov. 24 at 6 p.m. 

Tickets are $39 - $66 and are available at or by calling the Porchlight Music Theatre box office, 773.777.9884.

The first musical by Andrew Lloyd Webber to be produced at Porchlight, and winner of eight Tony Awards including Best Musical, Best Original Score and Best Book of Musicals, this landmark work has electrified audiences around the world. In her mansion on Sunset Boulevard, faded, silent-screen goddess, Norma Desmond (Hollis Resnik), lives in a fantasy world. When impoverished screenwriter Joe Gillis (Billy Rude) on the run from debt collectors, stumbles into her reclusive domain he is persuaded to work on Norma’s “masterpiece,” a screenplay that she believes will put her back in front of cameras. Seduced by Norma and her luxurious lifestyle, he finds himself trapped in her clutches until his love for another woman leads him to try and break free with shattering consequences. 

Based on the iconic Billy Wilder film, Sunset Boulevard, the musical, has a long and storied history of its own with productions and revivals around the world starring Patti LuPone, Glenn Close, Diahann Carroll, Petula Clark and others. The production also features a rich score including the hit songs “With One Look” and “As if We Never Said Goodbye.” 

The principal cast of Porchlight Music Theatre’s Sunset Boulevard includes: Billy Rude as “Joe Gillis;” Michelle Lauto as “Betty Schaefer;” Larry Adams as “Max Von Meyerling;” Joe Giovannetti as “Artie Green” and David Girolmo as “Cecil B. DeMille.” The ensemble includes Anna Brockman, Marcellus Burt, Justin Cavazos, Shane Roberie, Laz Estrada, Brian Healey, Alex Jackson, Molly Kral, Jerry Miller, Mandy Modic, Michelle Owens, Danny Spagnuolo, Laura Sportello and Ambria Sylvain. 

Sunset Boulevard’s production team includes: Michael Weber, director; Shanna VanDerwerker, choreographer; Aaron Benham, music director; Kevin Barthel, wig design; Anthony Churchill, projection design; Maggie Fullilove-Nugent, lighting design; Robert Hornbostel, sound design; Jeff Kmiec, set design; Bill Morey, costume design and Michael Hendricks, stage manager.

Returning to Porchlight Music Theatre where she was last seen in the Porchlight Revisits production of The Rink, Hollis Resnik is the recipient of 12 Joseph Jefferson Awards, 2 Sarah Siddons Awards, the Helen Hayes Award and was a 2012 recipient of the Lunt-Fontanne Fellowship at Ten Chimneys. Her Chicago theatre credits include One Man, Two Guvnors, The Little Foxes, Travesties, Angels in America, Man of La Mancha, The Cherry Orchard, The Learned Ladies, Titus Andronicus, The Good Book and Carousel (Court Theatre); Grey Gardens and You Can’t Take It with You (Northlight Theatre); Candide, A Little Night Music, Wings, and The House of Martin Guerre (Goodman Theatre); Mame, Anything Goes, Into the Woods, Hairspray (Marriott Lincolnshire); and as “The Beggar Woman” in Sweeney Todd (Ravinia Festival). National tours include Les Misérables, Thoroughly Modern Millie, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels and Sister Act. 

Making his Porchlight Music Theatre Mainstage debut, Billy Rude appeared in the Porchlight Revisits production of They’re Playing Our Song. Recent credits include the National Tour of Million Dollar Quartet as “Jerry Lee Lewis,” a role he has played numerous times regionally at PCPA, Laguna Playhouse, Little Theatre on The Square and Maples Repertory Theatre, Beauty and the Beast (Drury Lane), Murder for Two (Marriott Theatre), Altar Boyz (Theo Ubique) and The Civility of Albert Cashier (Stage 773).  

Michelle Lauto returns to the Porchlight stage were she has appeared in In The Heights and the Porchlight Revisits production of 1776. Lauto is a Jeff Award-winning actor and Porchlight Music Theatre’s education associate. Performance credits include Seussical the Musical, Oklahoma! and Ragtime (Marriott Theatre), HAIR (Mercury Theater), Spamilton (The Royal George, Jeff Award-Best Actress in a Revue), Xanadu (American Theater Co.), 35mm (Circle Theatre), The Boy From Oz (Jeff Nominated-Best Supporting Actress; Pride Films & Plays) and Murder Ballad (Bailiwick Chicago).

ABOUT LARRY ADAMS, “Max Von Meyerling”
Making his Porchlight Music Theatre Mainstage debut, Larry Adams has worked with many of Chicago's leading theatre companies, including: The Goodman Theatre, Chicago Shakespeare Theater, Lyric Opera of Chicago, Drury Lane, The Paramount Theatre, The Marriott Theatre, Theatre at the Center, Light Opera Works and Victory Gardens Theatre. Broadway credits include The Phantom of the Opera. Off Broadway credits include The Hunchback Variations and Photo Op.  National Tours credits include Scrooge. Regional credits include the title role in Sweeney Todd (Fulton Theatre). 

David Girolmo returns to Porchlight where he appeared in Candide, played the title role in Sweeney Todd, the Demon Barber of Fleet Street and, most recently, in the Porchlight Revisits production of Can-Can. Broadway credits include Candide, directed by Hal Prince, and War Paint. Regionally, he has appeared at The Goodman, Chicago Shakespeare, Drury Lane, Marriott Theatre, Northlight, Paramount Theatre, Ravinia, Fulton Theatre, Maine State Music Theatre and more. Film and TV credits include “Crisis,” “Chicago P.D.,” “Chicago Fire, E.R.” and “Death Of A President,” on NBC and “Empire,” on FOX.

ABOUT MICHAEL WEBER, director / artistic director
Michael Weber is the artistic director of Porchlight Music Theatre where, under his leadership, the company has received the Best Production Equity Jeff Award for five consecutive years. He previously served as artistic director for the inaugural season of Drury Lane Theatre Water Tower Place (now The Broadway Playhouse) and at Theatre at the Center (1998 – 2004). Most recently at Porchlight he directed Gypsy starring E. Faye Butler and the Porchlight Revisits production of 1776 and he appeared on stage in  Porchlight Revisits Do Re Mi. His productions of End of the Rainbow, Sweeney Todd, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, Pal Joey, Assassins and Side Show at Porchlight Music Theatre, Grand Hotel at Drury Lane Theatre Water Tower Place and She Loves Me at Theatre at the Center were each nominated for the Joseph Jefferson Award for Best Production. Weber is proud to serve as a Public Television pledge host on WTTW, Channel 11. 

ABOUT AARON BENHAM, music director
Aaron Benham returns to Porchlight where he music directed the Mainstage productions of Merrily We Roll Along and Side Show and the Porchlight Revisits production of City of Angels.  Most recently Benham served as the associate music director on the Broadway National Tour of Beautiful - The Carole King Musical and as music director of The Book of Merman Off-Broadway. Chicago credits include Grand Hotel and Sweet Smell of Success (Kokandy); Marie Christine (BoHo); Bewildered (original score –Hell in a Handbag); Pumpboys and Dinettes (Timberlake Playhouse); Benham has won two Jeff Awards and additional local credits include work with About Face, ATC, Bailiwick Chicago, Chicago Opera Theater, Circle, Montana Shakespeare, Piven, Pride Films, Second City, Theo-Ubique and Writers Theatre. 

Shanna VanDerwerker is an inaugural recipient of The Rachel Rockwell Memorial Fund supporting fierce women behind the table at Porchlight Music Theatre and recently choreographed Porchlight Revisits Can-Can. She received her Bachelor of Arts in Dance from Point Park University and is a Chicago-area choreographer and educator. Locally, she has been the associate choreographer of Pippin at Venus Cabaret Theater as well as Beauty and the Beast and Joseph at Drury Lane Oakbrook. VanDerwerker received a Jeff Nomination for her choreography on Lysistrata Jones for Refuge Theater Project. Other choreography credits include: My Fair Lady, Newsies, 42nd St, South Pacific, Beauty and the Beast and Singin’ In The Rain at The Fireside Theatre in Fort Atkinson, WI. She was Christopher Gattelli’s associate for over 10 years, working on Broadway’s Amazing Grace, High Fidelity, and Silence! The Musical at the NY Fringe Festival. In the summer of 2018 she set his Tony-winning Broadway choreography of Newsies at NewArts in Newtown, CT. Performing credits: Beauty and the Beast at Drury Lane, “Lady in Green” in Singin’ in the Rain at the Fireside Theatre, swing in the Broadway company of Wicked, dance captain of the 1st National Tour of Wicked, company member of with directors Andrew Palermo and Taye Diggs and several other shows at The Fireside. 

Porchlight Music Theatre is proud to be part of the 2019 Year of Chicago Theatre, presented by the City of Chicago and the League of Chicago Theatres. To truly fall in love with Chicago, you must go to our theatres. This is where the city bares its fearless soul. Home to a community of creators, risk-takers and big hearts, Chicago theatre is a hotbed for exciting new work and hundreds of world premieres every year. From Broadway musicals to storefront plays and improv, there’s always a seat waiting for you at one of our 200+ theatres. 

Porchlight Music Theatre is proud to be a member of the vibrant Ruth Page Center for the Arts community and an Artist In-Residence. Central to the Ruth Page Center for the Arts’ programming is the Artists In-Residence program, which is designed to serve organizations looking for a home base while they grow or expand their artistic and organizational capabilities. The Center is committed to nurturing and assisting dance and other performing artists, allowing for exchange and collaborative relationships to develop within the artistic community. The Ruth Page Center for the Arts is a destination for quality performing arts, accessible to a wide community regardless of race, gender, age, education or disability. An incubator of artistic energy and excellence, the Ruth Page Center for the Arts carries forward the vision of its founder, legendary dance icon Ruth Page, to be a platform for developing great artists and connecting them with audiences and community.

As the home for music theatre in Chicago now in its 25th season, Porchlight Music Theatre is nationally recognized for reimagining classic productions, developing new works and showcasing musical theatre’s noted Chicago veterans and rising stars. Porchlight elevates the genre by providing intimate and powerful theatrical experiences of music theatre through the lens of the “Chicago Style.” The 2017–2018 year marked a milestone for Porchlight as the company became an Artist In-Residence at the historic Ruth Page Center for the Arts in Chicago’s Gold Coast. Porchlight’s rich history includes the staging of more than 70 productions with 15 Chicago premieres and five world premieres. Through Porchlight’s “Off the Porch” new works program, the musicals of the next generation are developed and given a first audience. The School at Porchlight is Chicago’s center for music theatre training in the areas of performance, writing and appreciation including the launch of a youth summer “Make Your Own Musical” Camp in 2017. The company’s many accolades include 28 Black Theatre Alliance nominations and 12 awards, as well as a total of 150 Joseph Jefferson Award nominations resulting in 42 Jeff Awards including five consecutive Best Production awards for The Scottsboro Boys (2017), Dreamgirls (2016), Sondheim on Sondheim (2015), Ain’t Misbehavin’ (2014) and A Class Act (2013).

Ms. Resnik's performance is sponsored by Virginia and Gary Gerst.  

Special thanks to June Golin for production support.

The 2019 – 2020 25th Anniversary Season is dedicated to the memory of long-time Board Member George K. “Kim” Sargent. 

Porchlight Music Theatre is partially supported by generous contributions from the Abe and Ida Cooper Foundation, Actors’ Equity Foundation, Allstate, Bayless Family Foundation, Michael Best & Friedrich LLP, Chapman | Spingola, Attorneys at Law, the Gaylord & Dorothy Donnelley Foundation, Elegant Event Lighting, Elevate Energy, James P. and Brenda S. Grusecki Family Foundation, Harris Family Foundation, Hearty Boys, Hopsmith, A.L. and Jennie L. Luria Foundation, the MacArthur Fund for Arts & Culture at the Prince Foundation, the Pritzker Traubert Foundation, Daniel and Genevieve Ratner Foundation, The Saints, the Stuart Family Foundation, and the Topfer Family Foundation. The season program is partially supported by a grant from the Illinois Arts Council Agency, a state agency, and by a CityArts Grant from the City of Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs & Special Events. 

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

REVIEW: A Man of No Importance Now Playing at The Pride Arts Center Through November 10, 2019

ChiIL Live Shows on our radar
Music by Stephen Flaherty, Lyrics by Lynn Ahrens, Book by Terrence McNally
Directed by Donterrio Johnson
Music Direction by Robert Ollis 
The Broadway, Pride Arts Center, 4139 N. Broadway, Chicago

Guest Review
by lori morrison 

Alfie Byrne is a middle-aged bachelor living with his sister in 1964 Dublin. His two great loves are Oscar Wilde and the theater.

Alfie is a bus conductor who spends his days reading Wilde’s poetry to his community riding the bus. He also directs many of those same passengers in amateur productions of Wilde’s plays at the local parish hall.

Although never acting on it or getting close to anyone, much to his sister's (who keeps trying to set him up with woman after woman so she can marry her love) annoyance, he is also secretly in love with his friend and driver to the bus, Robbie.

Having had past success with staging The Importance of Being Earnest, Alfie sets out to produce his dream production, the much more explicit, Salome. 

This play is a character study of Alfie struggling with his secret and shame over a love “that dare not speak its name.” With visions of Wilde as his only confidant and hero, he eventually comes to believe Wilde and realize "The only way to get rid of a temptation is to yield to it".

In doing so, he faces violence, bigotry, the loss of his church and his beloved theater company. 

However, it is theatre that once again changes his life and gains him the support of his true friends.

Ryan Lanning does an excellent job of playing Alfie. You really feel for his character and become invested in him. 

The music was great and did a lot to drive the story forward in an interesting and fun way. 

It is a small stage with lots of scene changes and some big props. This did sometimes lead to some traffic jams and if you are sitting in the front row, better keep your feet pulled in. 

Lori Morrison is an unschooling Chicago mom who lives in LaGrange with her three kids. She is a 2nd degree black belt in TKD and a burlesque dancer, who teaches self defense and works for Edge Theatre, NFP.

Pride Films and Plays will stage the first Chicago production in more than a decade of A MAN OF NO IMPORTANCE, the heartwarming musical created by Lynn Ahrens, Stephen Flaherty, and Terrence McNally, the team that wrote RAGTIME and ANASTASIA. A MAN OF NO IMPORTANCE is based on a 1994 film starring Albert Finney as a Dublin bus conductor and features a gorgeous Irish-influenced score. Donterrio Johnson, the Jeff award-winning actor who directed PFP’s BUYER AND CELLAR earlier this year and recently appeared in THE SPITFIRE GRILL with American Blues Theater, will direct. Music direction is by Robert Ollis, who most recently music directed SOUTHERN COMFORT for Pride Films and Plays. Ollis received a Jeff Award for his music direction of KISS OF THE SPIDER WOMAN, plus Jeff nominations for six other shows, including HAYMARKET: A NEW FOLK MUSICAL  in 2019.  Ollis was Music Director for the 2008 production of A MAN OF NO IMPORTANCE, which earned five Jeff Award nominations for Bailiwick Repertory.

Alfie Byrne is a middle-aged, unmarried bus conductor who idolizes Oscar Wilde and harbors a secret crush on his handsome young co-worker Robbie Fay. Much of the musical’s comedy comes from Alfie’s determined efforts to stage a production of Wilde’s SALOME with his quirky community theater group. 

Director Johnson says “I find A MAN OF NO IMPORTANCE to be above all, a story about community and how art is keeping this particular community together. I’m very honored to be bringing A MAN OF NO IMPORTANCE back to Chicago with this unbelievable and diverse cast of actor/musicians. This is a show I’ve always had an affinity for, and to be given the chance to retell this story about acceptance and the power of the theatre will be an awe-inspiring experience for the cast and audiences alike.”

Johnson’s cast will be led by Ryan Lanning as Alfie. Lanning appeared as Robbie Fay in the 2008 production. Lanning is a Jeff Award winner for his Molina in Bailiwick’s KISS OF THE SPIDER WOMAN and his leading roles on Chicago stages also include the title roles in CANDIDE for Porchlight and HEDWIG AND THE ANGRY INCH for Haven Theatre. Nick Arceo, who recently performed the leading role in Underscore Theatre’s workshop of NOTES AND LETTERS, will play Robbie Fay.

Also featured in Johnson’s diverse cast are Ciera Dawn (of THE LITTLE MERMAID and JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR at Paramount and WE ARE PROUD TO PRESENT…. at Steppenwolf) as Adele Rice, Sarah Beth Tanner (of HAYMARKET for Underscore Theatre and TWELFTH NIGHT for Midsommer Flight) as Lily Byrne, and Jeff Award-winner Tommy Bullington (who most recently played Pseudolus in A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO THE FORUM at Metropolis Arts Center) as William Carney.

Also in the cast are Ryan Armstrong (Ernie, Rasher Flynn), Tiffany Taylor (Mrs. Patrick), Ian Rigg (Father Kenny), Kimberly Lawson (Mrs. Grace), Jessica Lauren Fisher (Miss Crowe), Christopher Davis (Baldy), Orlando Shelly (Peter), Amanda Giles (Mrs. Curtin), Thomas Tong (Sully O’Hara), Kevin O’Connell (Brenton Beret, Oscar Wilde), Patrick O’Keefe (Swing) and Jenni Carroll (Swing). The production team includes Robert S. Kuhn (costume design), Evan Frank (scenic design), Mike McShane (lighting design), Allison Petrillo (assistant director), Emily Marrazzo (stage manager), and Justus Wright (sound engineer).

Top row L-R: Ryan Lanning, Nick Arceo, Ciera Dawn, Sarah Beth Tanner, Tommy Bullington.
Second row L-R: Jessica Lauren Fisher, Ryan Armstrong, Kimberly Lawson, Thomas Tong, Patrick O'Keefe, Christopher Davis.
Bottom row L-R: Orlando Shelly, Tiffany Taylor, Ian Rigg, Amanda Giles, Kevin O'Connell, Jenni Carroll.

A MAN OF NO IMPORTANCE will be staged in the 85-seat Broadway Theatre of the Pride Arts Center and will open to the press on Monday, October 14 following previews from Thursday, October 10. It will play through Sunday, November 10. Tickets are on sale now at

October 10 – November 10, 2019
Thursdays through Saturdays at 7:30 pm, Sundays at 2:30 pm., plus Wednesday November 6 at 7:30 pm

Premium reserved seats $40, general reserved seats $30, student/senior/military $25 (not valid Saturdays)
The Broadway, Pride Arts Center, 4139 N. Broadway, Chicago
Tickets available by phone at 866-811-4111 or 773-857-0222 or online at


Pride Films and Plays produces a year-round festival of work centered on LGBTQ characters or themes that are essential viewing for all. Since opening Pride Arts Center in 2016, with our two intimate spaces, Pride Films and Plays is in many ways the center of queer programming in the Midwest thanks to our award-winning full productions, cabarets, film fests, new play development and special events. Founded in 2010, Pride Films and Plays has earned 36 Jeff Recommendations and Awards. 

Pride Arts is grateful for hundreds of individual donors, especially the recurring donors in the Pride Society.  The company is most grateful for foundation support from Illinois Arts Council, a State Agency, City Arts Grant, The MacArthur Fund for Arts and Culture at The Richard Driehaus Foundation, The Heath Fund, the Pauls Foundation, The Service Club of Chicago, Arts and Business Council, Taproot Foundation, Alphawood Foundation, Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation, Chicago Community Trust, Elliott Fredland Charitable Trust, AmazonSmile Foundation, among others. 

Pride Arts is grateful for the support of Braintree, which sponsors our Pride Parade float, the Australian Consulate-General Chicago and Qantas Airlines, and the Consulate General of Canada, Chicago. Pride Arts is a member of the League of Chicago Theaters, Northalsted Business Association, Buena Park Neighbors, Uptown United, and Lakeview East Business Association.

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