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Thursday, September 9, 2021

SEASON ANNOUNCEMENT: Victory Gardens Theater 2021/2022 Season to Include 3 Mainstage Productions, a New Reading Series, and a New Play Festival

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Victory Gardens Theater announces plans for the 2021/2022 Season



Victory Gardens Theater announces their 2021/2022 Season, which will be presented in-person at the Biograph Theater in Lincoln Park. The season will feature three mainstage productions: Queen of the Night by travis tate, the World Premiere of In Every Generation by Ali Viterbi, and the Regional Premiere of cullud wattah by Erika Dickerson-Despenza.


Top row: travis tate, Ali Viterbi, Erika Dickerson-Despenza

Bottom row: Ken-Matt Martin, Devon de Mayo, Lili-Anne Brown 


In addition to the mainstage season, Victory Gardens presents the evolution of the Ignition Festival of New Plays, now renamed the Ignition New Play Program, sponsored by The Pritzker Pucker Family Foundation. The Ignition New Play Program consists of two events for the 2021/22 season: the Ignite Chicago reading series, offering free readings of new works between October 2021 and July 2022, and the 20/50 Festival in June 2022, featuring 3 new works by playwrights over 50, staged by VG Directors Inclusion Initiative Fellows.

Top row: Nygel D. Robinson, Brian Quijada, Ada A.

bottom row: Nicholas Pilapil, Gage Tarlton, Rhiana Yazzie


“We have lost so much in the past 18 months, and I don’t take for granted that those of us still living are blessed to have survived,” says Victory Gardens Artistic Director Ken-Matt Martin. “The pandemic has left many of us wondering, ‘How do we move forward?’ All of these plays feature families dealing with the fallout of situations beyond their control—much like the last 18 months we all just endured. These families move forward with love, humor, joy, and a commitment to healing long-held hurts. I am hopeful this season inspires those who see it to do the same.”

The Ignition New Play Program will include the 20/50 Festival and a yearlong new play reading series, Ignite Chicago. The 20/50 Festival will feature 3 playwrights over age 50, and all plays will be staged by the Directors Inclusion Initiative Fellows. Ignite Chicago readings will take place not only at Victory Gardens’ home in Lincoln Park, the Biograph Theater, but at partner locations throughout the city, to bring new plays into Chicago’s many

communities. “It was important to me to not only continue but expand the Theater’s commitment to new play development as we reopen, and credit goes to Roxanna Conner for her instrumental work in redeveloping Ignition for the future,” added Ken-Matt Martin.

“We’ll be offering more resources and opportunities for our Ignite Chicago playwrights, as well as creating a new festival devoted to those often overlooked in our industry: the veterans, and the next generation of up-and-coming artists. By bringing these two groups together, it creates a wonderful opportunity for collaboration and learning between artists who might not otherwise have the opportunity to create together,” shares Acting Managing Director Roxanna Conner.

Flex Passes to the 2021/22 Season are currently on sale at victorygardens.org or by phone at 773.871.3000, and offer 20% savings over single ticket prices. Single tickets will go on sale later this fall, and range from $29-$62. Registration for Ignition New Play Program events will be available at victorygardens.org approximately one month before each event.

In conjunction with a coalition of member theatres of the League of Chicago Theatres, Victory Gardens has new attendance policies in place for the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic. Attendees to all in-person events will be asked to show proof of vaccination or negative COVID-19 test within the last 72 hours, and must remain masked for the duration of their time at the Biograph.

In addition to its onstage work, Victory Gardens has invested in inclusion, diversity, equity, accessibility, and anti-racism (IDEAA) projects over the past year. The outcome of this work has been numerous adjustments to artistic practices and policies, as well as new initiatives designed to make IDEAA an integral part of the Theater’s daily work. For full details on changes and projects to date, visit victorygardens.org/idea. 


Queen of the Night

By travis tate

Directed by Ken-Matt Martin

Saturday, January 29, 2022 - Sunday, March 13, 2022

Press Openings: Friday, February 4 and Saturday, February 5, 2022


A divorced father and his queer son head to the woods of southeastern Texas to relive the camping trips of earlier, easier days. But even without cell service, certain things are inescapable. Playwright travis tate explores masculinity and queerness through the lens of multi-generational Blackness, offering a hilarious, heart-rending family portrait about reckoning with the wilderness of a shared past, while facing an uncertain future. Staged

by Victory Gardens Artistic Director Ken-Matt Martin, Queen of the Night will kick off the 2021/22 Season.

The Queen of the Night design team includes: Sydney Lynne (Scenic), Rueben D. Echoles (Costumes), Sim Carpenter (Lights), and G Clausen (Sound).


World Premiere

In Every Generation

By Ali Viterbi

Directed by Devon de Mayo

Saturday, April 2, 2022 - Sunday, May 1, 2022

Press Opening: Friday, April 8, 2022

Each Passover, for four millennia, we ask: why is this night different from all other nights? And each year, the Levi-Katz clan has answered, while grappling with questions of race and religion that never seem to get resolved. The family finds strength in tradition (vegan brisket or no); but each year of celebration brings more pressing questions about the future: if trauma is generational, then must we be defined by it? Will we ever be free? Written by Ali Viterbi, In Every Generation was the 2019 winner of the National Jewish Playwriting Contest, and will have its world premiere at Victory Gardens, staged by Devon de Mayo (If I Forget, Victory Gardens).


Regional Premiere

cullud wattah

By Erika Dickerson-Despenza

Directed by Lili-Anne Brown

Saturday, June 11, 2022 - Sunday, July 17, 2022

Press Opening: Friday, June 17, 2022

Thanksgiving, 2016: Flint, Michigan has been without clean water for 936 days. Marion, a third-generation General Motors assembly line worker, worries over impending layoffs while struggling to fight the poison that floods her home—and her family's bodies. When her sister, Ainee, seeks restitution for lead poisoning, secrets bubble to the surface, threatening to capsize not only their family, but all of Vehicle City. Penned by award-winning playwright Erika Dickerson-Despenza, cullud wattah will be staged by Victory Gardens Resident Director Lili-Anne Brown (Lottery Day; School Girls: Or The African Mean Girls Play, Goodman Theatre).

The cullud wattah design team includes: Sydney Lynne (Scenic), Christine Pascual (Costumes), Jason Lynch (Lights), Trey Brazeal (Associate Lights), and Victoria Deiorio (Sound).

cullud wattah is sponsored by The Joseph and Bessie Feinberg Foundation.


Ignite Chicago Reading Series

Readings will take place at Victory Gardens Theater and partner locations to be announced. All readings are free to attend, but RSVPs will be required, as capacity for each reading is limited.


October 2021: Mexodus by Nygel D. Robinson & Brian Quijada

November 2021: Tokens of Promise by Ada A.

December 2021: The Bottoming Process by Nicholas Pilapil

February 2022: exercise your demons: a play on the trauma of a gay male body by Gage Tarlton

July 2022: Nancy by Rhiana Yazzie


20/50 Festival

June 2022 at Victory Gardens Theater

Featuring 3 new works by playwrights over age 50. Full details to be announced next year.

For complete details on the 2021/2022 Season and artists, Flex Passes, and the Ignition New Play Program, please visit victorygardens.org.

Victory Gardens Theater receives major funding from Allstate Insurance, Alphawood Foundation, Crown Family Philanthropies, Exelon Corporation, Illinois Arts Council, John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, The Joyce Foundation, Lloyd A. Fry Foundation, Paul M. Angell Family Foundation, Polk Bros. Foundation, Prince Charitable Trusts, and The Shubert Foundation.

Victory Gardens also receives support from the City of Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs & Special Events, Coffman Law Offices, Conant Family Foundation, Golden Country Oriental Food, Goldman Sachs, a grant from the Illinois Arts Council Agency, Mayer Brown LLP, The Charles H. and Bertha L. Boothroyd Foundation, and The Charles and M.R. Shapiro Foundation.

About Victory Gardens Theater

Under the leadership of Artistic Director Ken-Matt Martin and Acting Managing Director Roxanna Conner, Victory Gardens is dedicated to artistic excellence while creating a vital, contemporary American Theater that is accessible and relevant to all people through productions of challenging new plays and musicals. Victory Gardens Theater is committed to the development, production and support of new plays, which has been the mission of the theater since its founding, set forth by Dennis Začek, Marcelle McVay, and the original founders of Victory Gardens Theater, and continued by former Artistic Director Chay Yew.

Victory Gardens Theater is a leader in developing and producing new theater work and cultivating an inclusive Chicago theater community. Victory Gardens’ core strengths are nurturing and producing dynamic and inspiring new plays, reflecting the diversity of our city’s and nation’s culture through engaging diverse communities, and, in partnership with Chicago Public Schools, bringing art and culture to our city’s active student population.  

Since its founding in 1974, the company has produced more world premieres than any other Chicago theater, a commitment recognized nationally when Victory Gardens received the 2001 Tony Award for Outstanding Regional Theatre. Located in the Lincoln Park neighborhood, Victory Gardens Biograph Theater includes the Začek-McVay Theater, a state-of-the-art 259-seat mainstage, and the 109-seat studio theater on the second floor, named the Richard Christiansen Theater.

For more information about Victory Gardens, visit www.victorygardens.org.  Follow us on Facebook at Facebook.com/victorygardens, Twitter @VictoryGardens, and Instagram @victorygardenstheater.

Saturday, August 28, 2021

KINKY BOOTS KICKS OFF PARAMOUNT THEATRE REOPENING NOW THROUGH OCTOBER 17, 2021

ChiIL Live Shows On Our Radar: 

FIRST REGIONAL PRODUCTION OF KINKY BOOTS

Cast, creative team embrace "the perfect show to reopen our doors"

 

 


Kinky Boots has been one of my favorite musicals since the Pre-Broadway opening right here in Chicago, that I reviewed for ChiIL Mama and ChiIL Live Shows. It was a joy to meet Cyndi Lauper, Harvey Fierstein and the original cast and creatives at that first press junket. I also reviewed the show again when the Broadway touring company came back through Chicago again. That time it was my pleasure to bring the whole family along and they loved it just as much as I did. Now that we're in a post quarantine time of social and economic upheaval, where many businesses need to pivot or go under, this show is as timely as ever. This wonderful tale of resilience, acceptance, and change is the perfect piece for a covid weary world. I'm thrilled to hear our regional theatre arts are rebounding and I can't wait to catch live theatre in person again, and check out Paramount Theatre's rendition of Kinky Boots. 

Nearly 16 months after dimming its famous marquee due to COVID-19, Aurora’s Paramount Theatre has started rehearsals for its 10th Anniversary Broadway Series season opener, Kinky Boots, marking a pivotal moment for the second largest subscription house in the nation as it returns to live performances next month. 

“It’s my great pleasure to say: We look forward to being one of the first major theaters in Chicago to welcome audiences back, starting August 18! We appreciate our patrons for staying with us. We couldn’t do any of it without you,” said Tim Rater, President and CEO of Paramount Theatre.

Kinky Boots – the flashy, sassy, sexy story of big heels invading a small town – shook Broadway and was adored by critics and audiences, winning every major Best Musical Award including the Tony, the Grammy and London’s Olivier Award. The now mega-popular musical features high-kicking music and lyrics by Grammy-winner Cyndi Lauper, and a book rooted in fun, love and acceptance by Broadway legend Harvey Fierstein.

Paramount Theatre’s Kinky Boots is directed by (from left) Trent Stork. The cast features Devin DeSantis as Charlie, Michael Wordly as Lola, Mark Lancaster as Don, Emilie Lynn as Nicola and Sara Reinecke as Lauren.

Now it’s Paramount’s turn to try Lola’s red, thigh-high stilettos on for size with the first regional production of Kinky Boots, fiercely directed by Paramount’s Associate Artistic Producer and Casting Director Trent Stork.

Meet Charlie, a reluctant shoemaker, and Lola, a fierce drag queen. Charlie and Lola could not be more different. But when they find common ground in shoes, they see a whole new world of possibilities that will turn their small town upside down, and just might save Charlie’s failing shoe factory. Inspired by true events, this huge-hearted hit tells the story of two people with nothing in common – or so they think. From its glorious costumes, to its dizzyingly tall heels and songs that will leave audiences humming for days, no show captures what it means to do what you love and love what you do more than Kinky Boots. 

 

Michael Wordly plays Lola in Kinky Boots.

“Kinky Boots is the perfect show to reopen our doors,” said Stork. “Kinky Boots has moments that feel like a rock show and tender-hearted moments that make you lean in. It expands from killer dance numbers to a book that is as humorous as it is heartening. It’s a show that makes audiences want to connect with their fellow humans. I think we can all use that right now!”

Kinky Boots runs August 18 to October 17, 2021. Paramount Theatre is located at 23 E. Galena Blvd. in Aurora. Single tickets, $36-$74, are on sale now. For tickets and information, visit ParamountAurora.com, or call the box office, (630) 896-6666, Monday-Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.


(Top) Set rendering for Kinky Boots "Land of Lola" scene by Kevin Depinet and Christopher Rhoton. (Bottom) Kinky Boots costume renderings for Lola and Angel by costumer designer Ryan Park

Paramount’s 33-member Kinky Boots cast starts with one of Chicago’s most distinguished leading men, Devin DeSantis, as Charlie the shoemaker. DeSantis’s Paramount credits include Tommy in The Who’s Tommy, Corny Collins in Hairspray and Prince Eric in Disney’s The Little Mermaid.

Lola will be played by Michael Wordly in his Paramount debut. Wordly is a veteran of Spamilton Off-Broadway, national tours of Miss Saigon, The Color Purple and The Little Mermaid, and Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella at Paper Mill Playhouse.

The principal cast also features Mark Lancaster as Don. Lancaster has performed for Goodman Theatre, Lyric Opera of Chicago, Oak Park Festival Theatre and Babes With Blades. Emilie Lynn will play Nicola. Lynn recently starred as Mary Poppins at Drury Lane Oakbrook. Her Paramount credits include My Fair Lady, Miss Saigon and Hair. Lauren is played by Sara Reinecke, a stand out performer in many Paramount musicals including Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, The Producers, Legally Blonde and Mamma Mia! Young actor Daniel Font-Wilets plays Young Lola. Patrick Scott McDermott and Nolan Maddox will alternate as Young Charlie.

Completing the cast are ensemble members Terrell Armstrong, Anthony Avino, Brian Bandura, Matthew Bettencourt, Lydia Burke, Jack Cahill-Lemme, Barry DeBois, Vasily Deris, Neil Friedman, Carisa Gonzalez, Christina Hall, Luke Halpern, Immanuel Houston, Dakota Hughes, De’Jah Jervai, Mark David Kaplan, Christopher John Kelley, Bernell Lassai III, Ken Singleton, Anthony Sullivan Jr., Dana Tretta, Shelbi Voss, J Tyler Whitmer and Missy Wise.

The full production team is Trent Stork, director; Michael George and Isaiah Silvia-Chandley, co-choreographers; Kory Danielson, music director, conductor and music supervisor; Kevin Depinet and Christopher Rhoton,

co-scenic designers; Ryan Park, costume designer; Greg Hofmann, lighting designer; Adam Rosenthal, sound designer; Joe Burke, projection designer; Katie Cordts, wig, hair and makeup designer; Jesse Gaffney, properties designer; Ethan Deppe, electronic music designer; Catherine Miller, dramaturg and gender consultant; Susan Gosdick, dialect coach; John A. Tovar, fight director; Gaby Labotka, intimacy director; Max J. Cervantes, associate director; Darren Patin, associate director; TJ Tapp, assistant choreographer; Celia Villacres, associate music director/associate conductor; Jinni Pike, stage manager; Luci Kersting, assistant stage manager; Natalie Cohen; production assistant; and Bailey O’Neill, young performer supervisor.

Trent Stork (director), promoted in spring 2021 to Associate Artistic Producer and Casting Director at Paramount, has worked on the directing team for 19 productions at the theater, 13 of those alongside Paramount Artistic Director Jim Corti. In 2018, Stork made his Paramount directorial debut at the helm of Legally Blonde (Broadwayworld.com Award – Best Direction of a Musical.) Outside of Paramount, Stork has worked at the Kaufman Center in New York City, Actors Theatre of Louisville, Angels Theatre Company and The Nebraska Repertory Theatre among others. They also started his own casting company, Trent Stork Casting, and was the Chicago casting director for the new West Side Story adaptation, directed by Steven Spielberg.

The original Broadway production of Kinky Boots, music and lyrics by Cyndi Lauper, book by Harvey Fierstein, was directed and choreographed by Jerry Mitchell, The musical is based on the Miramax motion picture Kinky Boots written by Geoff Deane and Tim Firth.

Kinky Boots performance schedule and ticket information

Kinky Boots runs through October 17. Show times are Wednesdays at 1:30 p.m. and 7 p.m.; Thursdays at 7 p.m.; Fridays at 8 p.m.; Saturdays at 3 p.m. and 8 p.m.; Sundays at 1 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. (exception: No 1:30 p.m. matinee on August 18). Tickets are $36 to $74. 

For tickets and information, visit ParamountAurora.com,  call (630) 896-6666, or stop by the Paramount box office Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. 

Covid 19 protocols

Paramount Theatre will be adhering to all COVID-19 safety guidelines as mandated by the state of Illinois. Paramount anticipates updated guidelines by the state for indoor theater gatherings, and will communicate any updates and changes to policies with all ticket buyers. If Phase 5 gatherings require COVID-19 vaccinations for attendees, patrons will be required to show proof of vaccination to attend this performance. By purchasing tickets patrons are agreeing to adhere to the guidelines put in place at the time of their performance.

Access Services

To request wheelchair, special seating or other assistance, please contact the box office at (630) 896-6666 or boxoffice@paramountarts.com in advance

Paramount offers assistive listening devices free of charge at all performances. Check in at the coat room before the show to borrow a listening device.

For patrons who are deaf or hard of hearing, Kinky Boots will be presented on Friday, October 1 at 8 p.m. with two certified sign interpreters translating all dialogue and lyrics into American Sign Language. Patrons can purchase single tickets with special seating for this performance for $30 with the code ASLPARAMOUNT.

Or, ask for a sign-interpreted subscription to enjoy all four 2021-22 Paramount Broadway Series productions with live ASL interpretation for just $22.50 each.


What’s next in Paramount’s 10th Anniversary Broadway Series?


Cinderella, the classic musical from the genius minds of Rodgers and Hammerstein, is an enchanting story that will make entire families wish fairy godmothers and glass slippers weren’t just for fairy tales. Paramount is planning a mesmerizing new production that gives parents and children a familiar yet reimagined take on the story families have returned to over and over across generations. Brenda Didier, a multiple Jeff Award-winning director and choreographer, including a win for her choreography for Paramount’s 2019 staging of The Producers, will direct. Previews start November 10. Opening Night is Friday, November 19, at 8 p.m. Performances run through January 9, 2022.



 

Groundhog Day, based on the classic Bill Murray film comedy, will be the second Midwest regional premiere produced by Paramount Theatre in the span of one year. Imagine being stuck in a time loop, waking up and realizing you’re living the same day over and over and over and over again. Set your alarm to make sure you see this uproariously funny, surprisingly touching and simply inspirational musical comedy, nominated for seven Tony Awards. Paramount Theatre Artistic Director Jim Corti will direct. Previews start January 26, 2022. Opening Night is Friday, February 4, at 8 p.m. Performances run through March 13.


Are you ready to rock? Rock of Ages will take audiences back into the iconic music era of the ‘80s, where rock ‘n’ roll dreamers turn their fantasies into reality. Nominated for five Tony Awards, including Best Musical, Rock of Ages is a Hollywood love story told through the mind-blowing hits of top ‘80s rock bands like Journey, Bon Jovi, Styx, Poison and more. Paramount Theatre Artistic Producer and New Works Director Amber Mak will direct. Previews start April 13. Press opening is Friday, April 22, at 8 p.m. Performances run through May 29, 2022.

Join the growing ranks of more than 41,000 Broadway Series subscribers at downtown Aurora’s Paramount Theatre. New three--play subscriptions including Cinderella, Groundhog Day and Rock of Ages are on sale now, ranging from $54 to $118.50 (without fees).

To subscribe or purchase single tickets, visit ParamountAurora.com, call (630) 896-6666, or stop by the Paramount Theatre, 23 E. Galena Blvd. in downtown Aurora.


About Paramount Theatre

 Paramount Theatre, 23 E. Galena Blvd. in Aurora, is the center for performing arts and education in the second largest city in Illinois. Designed by renowned theater architects C.W. and George L. Rapp,

Paramount opened on September 3, 1931. Today, Paramount remains downtown Aurora’s anchor attraction, a beautiful, 1,843-seat theater graced with a 1930s Art Deco influence and original Venetian décor, nationally known for its high-quality productions, superb acoustics and historic grandeur.

Since Paramount Theatre launched its own Broadway Series in 2011, it has grown to be the second largest subscription house in the U.S. More than 41,000 subscribers signed up from all over Chicagoland and the Midwest in 2019-20 to enjoy Paramount’s affordable, critically acclaimed, Broadway-quality productions.

In addition to its Broadway Series, Paramount presents an array of internationally known comedians, music stars, dance events and family shows.

Paramount Theatre continues to expand its artistic and institutional boundaries under the guidance of Tim Rater, President and CEO, Aurora Civic Center Authority; Jim Corti, Artistic Director, Paramount Theatre; a dedicated Board of Trustees and a devoted staff of live theater and music professionals.

Paramount is one of five live venues programmed and managed by the Aurora Civic Center Authority. ACCA also oversees the newly-renovated, 165-seat Copley Theatre, right across the street from Paramount; RiverEdge Park, the city’s outdoor concert venue; Stolp Island Theatre, slated to open in summer 2022 as a 99-seat immersive theater space, and the new Paramount School of the Arts.

For the latest updates, visit ParamountAurora.com or follow @ParamountAurora on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.


Thursday, August 26, 2021

REVIEW: Chicago's Blue Man Group Takes The Stage For Live Shows Again

ChiIL Live Shows On Our Radar

Back In Blue: 

Chicago's Favorite Indigo Entertainers 

Return to Open Run at 

Briar Street Theatre



Photo by D. Kenaz-Mara


GUEST REVIEW:

By Dugan Kenaz-Mara

The Blue Man Group is back and it’s as wonderful as ever! After 15 or so months off from performing, The Blue Man Group has brought all of their loveable antics back to Briar Street Theater and has reignited the joy of seeing live theater. And they do it all safely too! Everyone was required to wear a mask and any audience member drawn onto the stage was given a face shield before interacting with the Blue Men. 

Photo by D. Kenaz-Mara

Before the show even starts you get a fun experience! From the moment you enter the lobby, you might notice classical paintings lining the walls with a little extra blue thrown in. From there you’ll pass a giant blue face perfect for photo ops, before entering the actual theater bathed in blue light. Then the pre-show looping text helps set the chaotic funny mood for the upcoming show. How many twinkies does a Blue Man eat in his life? What bout the amount of toilet paper used in a day in the US? These questions and more are answered (sarcastically) before the show even starts. 

Photo by D. Kenaz-Mara

When the show begins, the audience is bombarded with spectacle after spectacle. From paint drums to musical pipes to Cap'n Crunch, there’s never a dull moment. I especially loved the design elements that went into making the show. The lighting design brought tons of colors to the black stage and out into the audience, the instruments and props were all super creative takes on normal items, and the set was able to change in an instant using their multitude of screens. In addition to that, all of the actors were fabulous too. The Blue Men were able to effortlessly connect to the audience without using words. From subtle gestures to knowingly blank stares, the Blue Men really tapped into human emotion which the viewers were able to recognize easily. They even brought that energy into their props, breathing life into instrumental pipes and controlling people using their signal light wands. 

One of their specialties is keeping the audience on the edge of their seats. When watching the show you never know when you specifically might be singled out. The pre-show announcements called out specific audience members, and the show stopped to call attention to people arriving late. There were also many points in the show where the Blue Men would venture out into the audience (sometimes via the aisles and sometimes climbing right over people’s heads) to pick an audience member to go on stage and help in the performance. But if you don’t get singled out you’ll still have the chance to participate. There are many moments scattered throughout the show where audience members will get to stand up, dance, scream out, and catch things thrown from the stage.

Photo by D. Kenaz-Mara


In the end, watching Blue Man Group was an exhilarating show and I would recommend it to anyone who loves to have fun and wants to have the experience of a lifetime. 

Dugan Kenaz-Mara is an actor, designer, and photographer studying theatre and psychology at Northwestern University. Contrary to popular belief, he is not a time traveler.



Blue Man Group Chicago. Photo credit Caroline Talbot Photography


Theatrical phenomenon Blue Man Group has made its long-awaited return to Chicago’s Briar Street Theatre! A dynamic combination of art, music, comedy and technology, Blue Man Group encourages audiences to reconnect with their inner (and outer) child in order to see the world through a new perspective.  

“For more than 20 years, Blue Man Group has established itself as one of the top entertainment destinations in Chicago,” said Mary Grisolano, Managing Director of Blue Man Group. “We are absolutely thrilled to return to the stage and welcome new and returning audiences to the Briar Street Theatre.”  

Blue Man Group originally debuted at the Briar Street Theatre in Chicago’s Lakeview neighborhood in 1997. Three bald and blue men explore today’s cultural norms with wonder, poking fun at the audience’s collective quirks and reminding them how much they all have in common. The show is continually refreshed with new music, stories, custom instruments and state-of-the-art technology.   

Blue Man Group Ticket Information

Blue Man Group Chicago ticket prices range from $49 – $89. Tickets can be purchased by visiting www.blueman.com. A full show schedule and pricing can also be found at www.blueman.com.  

Special rates are available for groups of 10 or more, varying from $57 – $70 per person. For groups of 10 or more, email chicagogroups@blueman.com to request information.  


2021 Performance Schedule: 

August  

Thursday, August 26 at 8 p.m. 

Friday, August 27 at 8 p.m. 

Saturday, August 28 at 5 and 8 p.m. 

Sunday, August 29 at 2 and 5 p.m.  


September 

Wednesday, September 1 at 8 p.m. 

Thursday, September 2 at 8 p.m. 

Friday, September 3 at 5 and 8 p.m. 

Saturday, September 4 at 5 and 8 p.m. 

Sunday, September 5 at 5 and 8 p.m. 

Wednesday, September 8 at 8 p.m. 

Thursday, September 9 at 8 p.m. 

Friday, September 10 at 8 p.m. 

Saturday, September 11 at 5 and 8 p.m. 

Sunday, September 12 at 2 p.m. 

Wednesday, September 15 at 8 p.m. 

Thursday, September 16 at 8 p.m. 

Friday, September 17 at 8 p.m. 

Saturday, September 18 at 5 and 8 p.m. 

Sunday, September 19 at 2 p.m. 

Wednesday, September 22 at 8 p.m. 

Thursday, September 23 at 8 p.m. 

Friday, September 24 at 8 p.m. 

Saturday, September 25 at 5 and 8 p.m. 

Sunday, September 26 at 2 p.m. 

Wednesday, September 29 at 8 p.m. 

Thursday, September 30 at 8 p.m. 

  

October 

Friday, October 1 at 8 p.m. 

Saturday, October 2 at 5 and 8 p.m. 

Sunday, October 3 at 2 p.m. 

Additional fall and holiday performances will be announced at a later date. 

  

About Blue Man Group 

Blue Man Group is a global entertainment phenomenon, known for its award-winning theatrical productions, iconic characters and multiple creative explorations. Blue Man Group performances are euphoric celebrations of human connection through art, music, comedy and non-verbal communication. Since debuting at New York’s Astor Place Theatre in 1991, the live show has expanded to additional domestic residencies in Boston, Chicago, and Las Vegas, an international residency in Berlin, and multiple North American and World tours, reaching more than 35 million people worldwide. Blue Man Group is universally appealing to a broad range of age groups and cultural backgrounds, and continually injected with new music, fresh stories, custom instruments and sensory stimulating graphics. Blue Man Group is owned and operated by Cirque du Soleil Entertainment Group. For more information, please visit www.blueman.com.  

Saturday, August 14, 2021

OPENING: Chef Rick Bayless and Windy City Playhouse Team Up On "A Recipe for Disaster" Beginning October 6th at Petterino’s

ChiIL Live Shows On Our Radar


Of all the live shows slated to return to Chicago this fall, “A Recipe for Disaster” tops our short list. We've loved Windy City Playhouse since their inception and can't wait to get a taste of their collaboration with James Beard Award-winning Chef Rick Bayless! In 2012 I met Rick Bayless at the first press conference when he announced that he was joining forces with Lookingglass Theatre Company to create “Cascabel,” the story of food’s capacity to change lives. We were in the audience for opening night of “Cascabel” for a memorable meal with circus performers precariously balanced on a tightrope above the diners, and a gloriously fun, funny, crazy talented cast of actors, musicians, singers. We're beyond jazzed to catch this new pairing. This is not your parents' dinner theatre. Tickets are on sale now.

Chef Rick Bayless and Windy City Playhouse Artistic Director Amy Rubenstein have announced that “A Recipe for Disaster,” their outrageous, immersive farcical experience, will take place on the Club Level at Petterino’s, located at 150 N. Dearborn in Chicago’s historic Theatre District. Tickets for the production, which begins October 6, are on sale now.  

Bayless, Rubenstein and Associate Artistic Director Carl Menninger are teaming up to create a fully scripted immersive event, with audiences enjoying tastes of cocktails, wine and food created by Bayless as the hilarity unfolds. Based on Bayless’s real-life experiences, the story revolves around a special event at a well-known restaurant where everything that could possibly go wrong occurs, sending the restaurant staff into a tailspin. A drunk chef, a couple in crisis, a dishonest health inspector and a spy from a competing restaurant all contribute to the chaos with side-splitting results. 

“A Recipe for Disaster” will be directed by David H. Bell, who won a Jeff Award for his direction of Windy City Playhouse’s smash hit “Southern Gothic,” which ran for more than a year. The design team includes set designer William Boles, who won a Jeff Award for his design of Windy City Playhouse’s “The Boys in the Band,” and costume designer Uriel Gomez, who was nominated for a Jeff Award for his work on the same production and sound designer Willow James. Additional designers and casting will be announced at a future date.  

Petterino’s main dining floor, which has been closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, is slated to reopen in mid-August. While the cocktails, wine and food served to “A Recipe for Disaster” guests are created by Bayless for the production, the chef will not be affiliated with the reopening of the main restaurant. “A Recipe for Disaster” attendees may enter Petterino’s Club Level from the Randolph Street entrance. 

Tickets to “A Recipe for Disaster,” which include six bite-size tastings and three cocktail and wine samplings are on sale now, with regular and VIP options (including an expanded food and beverage menu) available. For ticket availability and more information, please visit WindyCityPlayhouse.com.

About Rick Bayless  

Most people know Rick Bayless from winning the title of Bravo’s “Top Chef Masters.” His highly rated public television series, “Mexico: One Plate at a Time,” is broadcast coast to coast and his nine cookbooks have earned multiple high-profile accolades.  

Located in Chicago, Rick's Frontera Grill and Topolobampo have each received the “Outstanding Restaurant of the Year” designation from the James Beard Foundation — an unprecedented feat for side-by-side restaurants. His wildly popular fast-casual Xoco debuted in 2009 and Tortas Frontera at Chicago’s O’Hare airport has changed the face of airport dining. In 2016, he opened Frontera Cocina in Disney Springs. In 2018, Rick expanded his Clark Street restaurants by opening Bar Sótano, a Oaxacan-inspired mezcal bar with modern Mexican bar food. Tortazo, Rick's new fast-casual concept, debuted in 2020 in Chicago's iconic Willis Tower, with plans to open an outpost in New York City in fall 2021.  

In 2012 and again in 2014, Rick joined forces with Lookingglass Theatre Company to create “Cascabel,” the story of food’s capacity to change lives. The audience for “Cascabel” shared a meal with the cast of actors, musicians, singers and circus performers as the tale of unrequited love resolved into magical beauty.  

Always a philanthropist, Rick and his staff established the Frontera Farmer Foundation in 2003 to support small Midwestern farms. To date, the Foundation has awarded nearly 200 grants totaling nearly $3 million. He also launched the Frontera Scholarship, a culinary school scholarship for Mexican-American students in Chicago. 

In 2019, Rick founded Impact Culinary Training, a restaurant job readiness program on the city’s west side. And in 2017 he established the Bayless Family Foundation to support the city’s vibrant theater scene with grants to Chicago theater companies totaling $1.5 million to date. 

The Government of Mexico has bestowed on Rick the Mexican Order of the Aztec Eagle–the highest decoration bestowed on foreigners whose work has benefitted Mexico and its people. 


About Windy City Playhouse 

Windy City Playhouse is a professional theater and 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, located on Chicago's northwest side. Premiering in March of 2015 with a mission to present contemporary, relevant, and approach art, the Playhouse has quickly become a mainstay of the Chicago theater scene. In 2018, its runaway hit, the immersive “Southern Gothic” solidified the Playhouse as the first choice in Chicago theater for one-of-a-kind audience experience. "Experience driven. Audience first." 

For more information, visit WindyCityPlayhouse.com and follow on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.    

Tuesday, August 10, 2021

Mercury Theater Chicago Grand Re-Opening Season to Include Diversity and Feel Good Fun

ChiIL Live Shows On Our Radar:

 



SISTER ACT
WOMEN OF SOUL
PRISCILLA QUEEN OF THE DESERT
CLUE

Here at ChiIL Live Shows, we've been reviewing at Mercury Theater for years, and we were devastated during the pandemic when it looked like they were going dark for good. Happily that's not the case and their upcoming season looks like a fun one. Check back with us early and often for updates. Tickets are on sale now for their first show opening November 5th through January 9th. We're crossing our fingers that Delta will be done with us by then and we can get back to in person theatre, with all the joy and energy of live performances. 

Artistic Director Christopher Chase Carter and Managing Director Shane Murray-Corcoran announced the 2021-2022 Mercury Theater Chicago season. Mercury Theater Chicago welcomes audiences back in November to its beautiful home in the Southport Corridor with the feel-good blockbuster hit SISTER ACT directed by Reneisha Jenkins, featuring Chicago favorites Alexis J. Roston and Hollis Resnik.  The season continues with a tribute to WOMEN OF SOUL, written and directed by Daryl D. Brooks.  A spectacular musical based on the movie PRISCILLA QUEEN OF THE DESERT, will celebrate PRIDE Month directed by Artistic Director Christopher Chase Carter and features Honey West; and the Chicago Premiere of the hilarious murder mystery CLUE, directed by Executive Producer Walter Stearns. 

“As Mercury Theater Chicago prepares for its joyous reopening, I am ecstatic and energized by the season we have assembled. Our goal was to program diverse productions that provide an entertaining experience for all as we gather together again,” comments Artistic Director Christopher Chase Carter.

Memberships and tickets for Sister Act are on sale now at www.MercuryTheaterChicago.com.


The Mercury Theater Chicago 2021/22 Season:

SISTER ACT November 5, 2021 to January 9, 2022
Music by Alan Menken, Lyrics by Glenn Slater
Book by Bill and Cheri Steinkellne, and Douglas Carter Beane
Directed by Reneisha Jenkins
Music Direction by Diana Lawrence
Choreography by Christopher Chase Carter
Featuring Chicago Legends Alexis J. Roston (Deloris) and Hollis Resnik (Mother Superior)

This feel-good musical comedy is based on the hit 1992 film that has audiences jumping to their feet!  Featuring original music by Tony and Oscar winner, Alan Menken (Newsies, Beauty and the Beast, Little Shop of Horrors), this uplifting musical was nominated for five Tony Awards, including Best Musical.  When disco diva, Deloris Van Cartier, witnesses a murder, she is put in protective custody in the one place the cops are sure she won't be a found: a convent! Disguised as a nun, she finds herself at odds with both the rigid lifestyle and uptight Mother Superior. Using her unique disco moves and singing talent to inspire the choir, Deloris breathes new life into the church and community but, in doing so, blows her cover.  Sister Act is reason to rejoice!



About Mercury Theater Chicago
The beautifully renovated Mercury Theater Chicago is in the heart of the Southport Corridor at 3745 North Southport Avenue, within a sophisticated neighborhood of restaurants and boutiques just steps from Wrigley Field. A delightful destination, Mercury Theater Chicago is a live-theater seating 280 people, adjoining Venus Cabaret Theater (seating 80). 

The building that houses the Mercury opened in 1912 as a silent film nickelodeon, named The Blaine Theatre after actor and former Senator and Secretary of State James G. Blaine. The Blaine became obsolete when talking pictures became popular nationwide in 1928. The building served a variety of uses until 1994, when it was purchased by theater producer Michael Cullen and transformed into a live theatre, named the Mercury Theatre.

In 2010 the building was sold again and reopened as Mercury Theater Chicago under the direction of Walter Stearns, a veteran theater director and producer. Mercury Theater Chicago is thrilled to be part of the city's vibrant theatre community, boasting record-setting long runs, employing hundreds of artists and recognized with dozens of award nominations. Mercury Theater Chicago's team includes Christopher Chase Carter (Artistic Director), Shane Murray-Corcoran (Managing Director), Walter Stearns and Eugene Dizon (Executive Producers) and Honey West (Cabaret Director). Visit www.MercuryTheaterChicago.com.


Sunday, August 8, 2021

DAVENPORT’S PIANO BAR & CABARET HAS REOPENED



After More Than a Year of Virtual Performances, 

Davenport’s Returns with LIVE Performers 

in The Cabaret and Piano Bar


Davenport’s Piano Bar & Cabaret has long been a favorite of ours here at ChiIL Live Shows. We're thrilled they weathered the crazy past year of streaming shows and shuttered venues. We can't wait to catch their eclectic talent lineup in person! 

Chicago’s premier location for enjoying music in an intimate setting, announces its roster of August performances in its Cabaret and Piano Bar. Davenport’s, 1383 North Milwaukee Avenue, is open Thursdays from 7 - 11 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays from 7 p.m. - 12 a.m. and Sundays from 6 - 11 p.m.  Performers, tickets and more are available at DavenportsPianoBar.com.

“We are so grateful for all the support during this past year our followers have shown for our virtual offerings,” said co-owner Donna Kirchman. “However, nothing can beat the sound of live music and seeing the audience’s response to the cabaret performers and our talented performing staff.”

General Manager Debra Steward added, “Our August kicks off our reopening to live shows with some of our most popular performers and we look forward to welcoming the audiences back to their favorite cabaret spot.”

All performances In the Cabaret are ticketed events with a two-drink minimum on the night of the performance.


In The Cabaret this August are:

Joan Curto in Back in Business at Davenport's Piano Bar & Cabaret

Thursday, Aug. 5 - Sunday, Aug. 8 at 8 p.m.


Tickets are $30 with a two-drink minimum on the night of the performance.A joyful celebration of the re-opening of Davenport’s featuring Beckie Menzie on piano, Jim Cox on bass and Tim Davis on percussion and special guests each night.

Cathy Glickman and Anna Palermo in Judy and Liza, Don’t Tell Mama at Davenport's Piano Bar & Cabaret

Saturday, Aug. 14 at 8 p.m and Sunday, Aug. 15 at 7 p.m.

 Tickets are $25 with a two-drink minimum on the night of the performance.

Cathy Glickman and Anna Palermo join forces with music director Beckie Menzie on piano as they pay tribute to Judy Garland and Liza Minnelli and their similarities with men, addiction, money and their audience.


Kelly Tansor

Thursday, Aug. 19 at 8 p.m.

$10 cover with a two-drink minimum on the night of the performance.

Kelly Tansor is a singer-songwriter and pianist from Chicago. She will be performing covers from artists such as Billy Joel, Regina Spektor, Olivia Rodrigo and more.


David Edelfelt in Broadway Baritones: The Men, The Music, The Magic at Davenport's Piano Bar & Cabaret

Friday, Aug. 20 and Saturday, Aug. 21 at 8 p.m. and Sunday, Aug. 22 at 8 p.m.

Tickets are $25 with a two-drink minimum on the night of the performance.

The best of 100 years of songs from leading men of the Great White Way by an artist the Chicago Tribune calls “A consummate song interpreter [who] probably sounds great singing the weather forecast… one of Chicago's best." 


The Piano Bar has a variety of performances and performers each week. The Piano Bar is open to the public and does not require advanced ticket purchase.


August performances in the Piano Bar include: 

Thursdays 8 - 11 p.m.

Kieran McCabe & Friends

August 5, 12 and 26


Mark & Anne Burnell

August 19

Fridays 8:30 - 11:30 p.m.

Dan Stetzel & Guest 

August 6 


Jenny Farney & Dave Bugher

August 13 and 20


Julia Merchant 

August 27

Saturdays 9 p.m. - 12 a.m. with a $5 cover

Dan Stetzel & Guest 

August 7


Blendernitz  Experience

Andrew Blenderman & Daryl Nitz 

August 14


Daryl Nitz & Ester Hana

August 21 and 28

 

Sundays 8 - 11 p.m.

Sunday Night Social Lounge

Hosted by Micky York 

Every Sunday


DAVENPORT’S PIANO BAR & CABARET HEALTH & SAFETY PROCEDURES

Davenport’s prioritizes the health and safety of its patrons, staff and performers. Following current local, state and government protocols, Davenport’s asks that non-vaccinated persons wear a mask when attending performances and vaccinated individuals may choose to not wear masks.

 

ABOUT DAVENPORT’S PIANO BAR & CABARET

Davenport's Piano Bar and Cabaret is Chicago's premier location for enjoying music in an intimate setting. With two performance spaces, visitors may enjoy performances by national and local talent. The cabaret room has performances most nights showcasing a variety of types of music. The piano bar provides music from an accomplished roster of musicians and a talented serving staff that can both make a drink and sing you a Broadway-caliber song.


Thursday, August 5, 2021

ART BEAT: The Art of BANKSY Opening in Chicago's River North August 14, 2021

 

The Art of Banksy will feature more than 80 works by the elusive street artist including many of his most recognizable images such as “Flower Thrower,” “Rude Copper” and “Girl with Balloon.” 

Here at ChiIL Mama we dig Banksy's stealth street art. Although it's an unauthorized exhibition, in true BANKSY fashion, this exhibit has gone through date and location changes, but we're excited to say, this illusive art opening is now slated for the second week of August. I'll be out for the press opening August 13th so check back soon for my full review.

The Art of Banksy, the largest touring exhibition of authentic Banksy artworks in the world, has announced the Chicago exhibition will be held on the 4th floor of 360 N. State St: a 45,000-square-foot space that was the home of other public exhibits. The public opening will be Saturday, Aug. 14.



Situated in the heart of River North adjacent to the Marina Towers, 360 N. State St. is quickly developing a reputation as an exhibition space. The modern venue’s tall, overarching ceilings provide ample room to showcase Banksy’s work in all its glory. Guests also have the opportunity to enjoy the space’s outdoor balcony and a VIP/Private reception room on the 3rd floor. The venue stands in a bustling, energetic region of River North, amongst esteemed restaurants, hotels, music venues and more, just steps away from the Chicago Riverwalk. With on-site parking available, 360 N. State St. is easily accessible via numerous L and bus lines, including the nearby Grand Avenue CTA Red Line stop. 

Banksy’s works are seen on city walls, bridges and streets throughout the world, but The Art of Banksy offers a rare chance to see a multitude of works in one location.

In true Banksy style, The Art of Banksy is not authorized or curated in collaboration with the artist, but rather sourced from private collections allowing the public to see works that would otherwise stay hidden in private homes or warehouses. Banksy, whose identity is the art world’s biggest secret, is an enigmatic artist and world-recognized activist. His graffiti-influenced stencil technique, often combined with anti-establishment slogans, is immediately recognizable and never fails to generate immediate attention.

Seen by 750,000 people worldwide, The Art of Banksy has already generated excitement in Melbourne, Tel Aviv, Auckland and Toronto with rave reviews from critics all around the world. Harper’s Bazaar advised “This isn’t one to miss,” Marie Claire proclaimed it “A must see!” while TimeOut Toronto described The Art of Banksy as “a welcome reminder of the explosive impact of the artist’s works, and of the powerful potential of street art.” 

Ticket prices start at $39.99 ($29.99 for children 16 or younger), with timed, flexible and VIP ticket options available. Tickets are on sale for viewings from Aug. 14 through Oct. 31, 2021. Ticket buyers will be contacted to be notified of the venue change. Individuals who have purchased tickets for a date before Aug. 14, will also be contacted to reschedule their tickets.  For more information about The Art of Banksy, visit banksyexhibit.com. Follow the exhibition on social media at @BanksyExhibit on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter. Please consult the website for updated information on COVID- 19 protocols.


 About Starvox Exhibits

 Starvox Exhibits is a new division of Starvox Entertainment. Starvox Entertainment, founded in 2005 by Corey Ross, has ranked on Profit Magazine’s list of Canada’s top growth companies for four years running - the only live Entertainment Company ever to be on the list. Starvox produces unique live theatre properties, including: the hugely successful “Wow Variety Spectacular,” currently in residence at Caesars Entertainment’s Rio Casino, the record-breaking “Evil Dead: The Musical,” successful touring West-End hit Harry Potter parody “Potted Potter: The Unauthorized Harry Experience,” “Trey Parker’s Cannibal! The Musical” and  many others. Starvox Exhibits is also one of the founding producers of Immersive Van Gogh, the original immersive experience now on view in cities across North America. 


About [ collectiv presents ] 

[ collectiv presents ] is a full-service event promotion and production company focused on bringing unique and memorable concert experiences to fans and artist camps alike.

Founded by Chris Den Uijl, Lucas King, and Michael Berg, [ collectiv presents ] has decades of experience in talent buying and event promotion and production across multiple genres, and in multiple cities and states throughout North America.


Friday, July 23, 2021

REVIEW: SHAKESPEARE’S THE TEMPEST VIA OAK PARK FESTIVAL THEATRE Now Playing Through AUG. 21

ChiIL Live Shows On Our Radar: 

 OAK PARK FESTIVAL THEATRE RETURNS TO AUSTIN GARDENS WITH LIVE IN-PERSON PERFORMANCES OF  SHAKESPEARE’S MAGICAL “THE TEMPEST” 

Now Playing Through AUG. 21  


Act I, Scene I from OPFT's The Tempest. All Production Photos by Bryan Wakefield

Last night my son and I made the short drive from Chicago to Oak Park, to catch The Tempest. It took under a half an hour to reach this urban/suburban village, just west of the city limits, but it was like entering another world. Street parking was fairly easy to find, sidewalks were trash-free, and Austin Gardens park was lush and lovely. 

As the stage lights rose and the sun set, it was glorious to be back in an audience again. Groups of friends broke out wine, beer, fruit and cheese, and even set up actual low tables, like a mini-Ravinia. Though drinking is usually verboten in OP parks, adult beverages are fine an hour before and after Oak Park Festival Theatre shows. There are close bathrooms on site and the grounds open a half hour before curtain so audience members can stake out a spot. Chairs are available to rent for $5 or patrons can bring their own blankets or seating. Overall, it was a fun, well run theatrical experience in a gorgeous location, and we're eager to return for future shows. 

Early on, the chorus of cicadas nearly drowned out the dialogue, but as the darkness deepened, they subsided to a low hum and swooping bats contributed an arial ballet to the ambiance. The Tempest begins with a raging sea storm, then enters into a lot of convoluted exposition, prompting more than a few audience members to pull up the virtual program's plot summary during the 15 minute intermission. Hang in there. After a slow build, the second act is stronger and quite funny. Also, if you're new to The Tempest or easily confused, read the synopsis before the show.

Matt Gall as Caliban

The drunken comic relief trio is a hoot! (Matt Gall as Caliban, Savanna Rae as Trinculo, and Orion Seth Lay-Sleeper as Stephano). Kevin Theis' Prospero is pure magic, with a little help from sound and lighting. We enjoyed Deanalis Resto's badass, androgynous outcast, Miranda, immensely. Bernell Lassai (Ariel/Ceres) is also a standout. 

After the show we spoke with Chloe Bassett, member of the Oak Park Festival Theatre Summer Intern Cohort, who is also on cast with my son at Bristol Renaissance Faire. She's wearing many hats, since the OPFT interns build the set, understudy characters (Trinculo in her case), and help crew the productions. We were particularly impressed when she told us, in life imitating art fashion, that they were initially constructing the ship set during the tornado warnings earlier this month, before The Tempest build got called for the dicey weather. Now that's dedication to craft!

L-R Kevin Theis as Prospero, Deanalis Russo as Miranda. 

If you're covid cautious, high risk, or uneasily easing back into post quarantine crowds, do note that masks were rare and chairs much closer than six feet apart. That said, it is an outdoor event and we felt at ease, even though our beach chair pod of two was definitely not an island in a six foot sea. This fest has been staging professional Shakespeare shows since 1975, so we're thrilled a little thing like a global pandemic hasn't sunk this ship or dampened their spirits. In fact, this scrappy band of castaways on a trash island, are some of the first in the region to get back on stage. Have you been missing your live theatre fix for the past sixteen months? Don't miss this. 


ChiIL Mama's Chi, IL Picks List for Family Friendly Theatre Fun

**Magical creatures abound on a spectacular stage set providing entertainment for the whole family to enjoy, and children 12 and under are Free. **

"THE TEMPEST"

by William Shakespeare
directed by Barbara Zahora

  

L-R Kevin Theis as Prospero, Bernell Lassai as Ariel

Oak Park Festival Theatre (OPFT) triumphantly returns to its Austin Gardens outdoor performance space this summer to present 21 in-person performances of William Shakespeare’s “The Tempest.” OPFT Artistic Director Barbara Zahora* directs Shakespeare's final masterpiece of shipwreck, romance and magic. Performances run through Aug. 21. Show times on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays begin at 8 p.m.; Sunday performances start at 7 p.m. Tickets are on sale now at oakparkfestival.com

What do hurricanes, magic, mayhem, love, revenge, and monsters all have in common? They're facets of “The Tempest’s” fast-moving plot which leaves audiences breathless and cheering for more of its wry comedy. The play also explores nuanced concepts of colonialism, power struggles, and redemption. 

As one of the few Chicago-area outdoor theatrical companies, OPFT and the cast and crew of “The Tempest” are thrilled to return to in-person performances. The organization has been working for more than a year to visualize and create a spectacular event for summer 2021 that also provides safety for all its participants.  

Artistic Director Barbara Zahora says, “Even though we chose this play long before coronavirus and the murder of George Floyd changed our world so significantly, its themes of exile, injustice, the struggle for power, self-discovery and healing are all particularly resonant after the last year. As people start to come out of their homes and find a new normal post-pandemic, we hope this will be particularly meaningful for those seeing it for the first time.”  

L-R Deanalis Russo as Miranda, Jeannie Affelder as Antonia, Kevin Theis as Prospero


The cast for “The Tempest” includes Jeannie Affelder (Antonia), OPFT artistic associate Belinda Bremner (Gonzalo), Dakotah Brown (Master of Ship/Francisco/Juno), Tony Buzzuto (Sebastian), Noelle Klyce (Alonsa), Bernell Lassai (Ariel/Ceres), Orion Seth Lay-Sleeper (Stephano), OPFT artistic associates Matt Gall* (Caliban) and Savanna Rae (Trinculo), Deanalis Resto (Miranda), OPFT artistic associate Kevin Theis* (Prospero), Emma Sipora Tyler (Boatswain/Adrian/Iris) and Austyn Williamson (Ferdinand).  

Zahora (director/Oak Park Festival Theatre Artistic Director) joined the OPFT staff as interim artistic director in 2018, and at the beginning of 2019 became the permanent artistic director for the company.  Barbara directed OPFT’s 2019’s “Elizabeth Rex” as well as their acclaimed 2017 production of “Macbeth.” Other Chicago directing credits include “Hollow/Wave” (Silk Road Rising); “Shrewish” (Artemisia Theatre); “Candida,” “Hay Fever,” “Misalliance” and “Private Lives” (ShawChicago); and several productions with The Shakespeare Project of Chicago, where she served as associate artistic director for eight years. Her favorite acting credits at OPFT include Penny in “You Can’t Take It With You” and Maggie in “Dancing at Lughnasa.” Additional acting credits include American Players Theatre, Writers’ Theatre, Chicago Shakespeare Theater,Goodman Theatre, Northlight Theatre, Lookingglass Theatre, and Shakespeare Project of Chicago. TV and film credits include “Chicago Fire” and “Operator.” Zahora is currently the co-head of Acting at Roosevelt University’s Chicago College for the Performing Arts (CCPA). 

The rest of the design team includes Ryan Fox (Scenic Design), Rachel Sypniewski (Costume Design), Liz Cooper (Lighting Design), and George Zahora (Sound Design/Original Music). Original vocal music and musical direction is by Jennifer Mitchell, intimacy and violence design is by Mark Lancaster, and movement direction is by Erica Bittner. Our stage manager is Wallace Craig. 

* Denotes Member of Actors Equity Association 


L-R Noelle Klyce as Alonsa, Belinda Bremner as Gonzalo


The real story starts after the storm ends

Prospero, the rightful Duke of Milan, was exiled from his dukedom 12 years earlier as part of a power struggle with Prospero’s sister, Antonia. Now hungry for revenge, Prospero creates a storm with his sorcery to shipwreck his enemies and bring those who have wronged him to bear.

Will those that committed injustice be held to account? Grace, forgiveness, and love ultimately provide redemption in this funny and touching tale.


SUMMARY

Prospero, hungry for revenge, conjures a storm to torment his malevolent sister, Antonia. Prospero uses this moment to tell Miranda, his daughter, that Antonia deposed him from dukedom over a decade ago. With the assistance of Gonzalo, Prospero had set out to sea on a boat with Miranda. They landed on a magical land where he enslaved Caliban, the only native islander. He then saved a spirit named Ariel from imprisonment.

The storm that he casts forces all crew members to land on the magical island. King of Naples’ son, Ferdinand, who was presumed dead, landed in a different part of the island. He finds Miranda and instantly falls in love. Meanwhile, Caliban, Trinculo, and Stephano attempt to murder Prospero. All while, Antonia manipulates Sebastian to kill his brother, Alonsa – King of Naples.

 Tickets 

Oak Park Festival Theatre presents William Shakespeare’s “The Tempest” through Aug. 21 at Austin Gardens, 167 Forest Ave, Oak Park, Ill. All performances begin at 8 p.m. except Sundays, which begin at 7 p.m. Seating begins one hour prior to showtime. Patrons can bring their own seating/blankets, and lawn chairs are available to rent for $5. 

Tickets are $35 (Seniors: $25; Students $15; Children 12 and under Free). Seating is general admission. Tickets are on sale now. For tickets or more information visit oakparkfestival.com.  

Covid guidelines will be updated with guidance from the CDC, the Village of Oak Park, and the Actors’ Equity Association. Street and garage parking is available adjacent to the park on Forest Ave and Marion St. In the event of inclement weather, OPFT has partnered with shelter areas surrounding Austin Gardens. For more information visit oakparkfestival.com.   


About Oak Park Festival Theatre 

Oak Park Festival Theatre is Oak Park’s premiere Equity theater, and the oldest professional outdoor classical theatre in the Midwest. Since 1975, Oak Park Festival Theatre has produced more than 100 plays for thousands of theater-lovers, and is best known for summer outdoor shows performed under a canopy of stars in the idyllic Austin Gardens park. It is the mission of OPFT to explore our shared humanity by telling stories that stand the test of time. By looking to our past and re-imagining the familiar, OPFT endeavors to hold a mirror up to the times in which we live, bringing us all a little closer. 

Oak Park Festival Theatre is a 501(c) 3 nonprofit, charitable organization. Donations are tax deductible to the full extent of the law. 

Oak Park Festival Theatre is supported by the Gaylord & Dorothy Donnelley Foundation, the Paul M. Angell Family Foundation, the Park District of Oak Park, The Oak Park Area Arts Council, and many generous donors. Additionally, we are partially supported by a grant from the Illinois Arts Council, a state agency and the National Endowment for the Arts. Special thanks to our local partners the Wednesday Journal, the Oak Park-River Forest Community Foundation, and the Oak Park River Forest Chamber of Commerce. 



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