Showing posts with label Adrian Danzig. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Adrian Danzig. Show all posts

Tuesday, October 30, 2018


ChiIL Live Shows On Our Radar


(left) Lucky Plush artistic director Julia Rhoads with Adrian Danzig (left) in The Better Half in 2011


Lucky Plush Productions is thrilled to return to Steppenwolf’s LookOut series this fall for a three-week run of The Better Half.

Here at ChiIL Live Shows, we adore Lucky Plush. Their creative, story based approach to dance pushes the boundaries of the medium and is as playful and fun as it is powerful. We thoroughly enjoyed their inaugural Lookout Series piece, Rooming House, in Steppenwolf's 1700 Space, last fall and we're eager to catch The Better Half, a remount of one of their past favorites we have yet to see. Their pieces have a natural, organic feel that at times plays out as much like process as performance. Improv games, warm ups, and rehearsals are all likely to wend their way into Lucky Plush's finished works. The audience is often left feeling privy to a glimpse behind the scenes. They're favorites of ours and we can't wait to see what's next. Catch a sneak peek at their newest work in progress, Rink Life, twice during the run of The Better Half on Saturday, November 10 and 17 at 5 p.m.

Last year at this time, Lucky Plush premiered Rooming House in the company’s inaugural outing as part of Steppenwolf’s LookOut series, and went on to sell out its entire three-week run. Next, Rooming House will go on tour in the spring, culminating with the company’s Kennedy Center debut, May 2-4, 2019, as part of the Kennedy Center’s 2018-19 Ballet and Contemporary Dance Series.

One of the company’s most acclaimed works, The Better Half is a lively spin on the noir classic Gaslight that playfully captures the claustrophobia, escapist tendencies and resilience in domestic relationships, in a dance theater language full of surprising turns and contemporary resonance. The 2011 premiere was the first collaboration between now frequent creative collaborators Julia Rhoads, Lucky Plush founder and artistic director, and Leslie Danzig, formerly of 500 Clown.

Performances of The Better Life are November 2-17 at Steppenwolf’s 1700 Theatre, an 80-seat cabaret-style space connected to Steppenwolf’s own Front Bar: Coffee and Drinks, 1700 N. Halsted St., Chicago. Show times are Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. Press opening is Saturday, November 3 at 8 p.m. Industry nights are Monday, November 5 and 12 at 7:30 p.m.

Early bird tickets to The Better Life, on sale now, are $25 through October 3 only. Tickets to the November 2 preview are also $25. Regular tickets for the balance of the run are $40. Seniors 62+ and military tickets are $30. Industry Night tickets are $25. Student tickets are $15. Steppenwolf Red and Black Card holders may use their cards as per Steppenwolf policies. For tickets and information, visit or call
(312) 335-1650.

Rink Life

 Note: Twice during the run of The Better Half – on Saturday, November 10 and 17 at 5 p.m. – Lucky Plush will also present two work-in-progress showings of Rink Life, the company’s next world premiere, and recent recipient of a prestigious National Theater Project Award.

Rink Life

Rink Life is a unique dance theater piece that nods to the visual aesthetics and social dynamics of 1970’s roller rink culture. Both performances will be followed by a post-show discussion, giving audience members a unique peek into the developmental process. Tickets to Rink Life are $25. Or, take advantage of a discounted $60 ticket to a Saturday double feature of Rink Life at 5 p.m. and The Better Half at 8 p.m.

Lucky Plush Productions at the 1700 Theatre is presented as part of LookOut, Steppenwolf’s performance series that presents the work of artists and companies across genre and form, emerging artists and performance legends, quintessential Chicago companies and young aspiring ensembles, familiar Steppenwolf faces and new friends.

For more information, visit

More about The Better Half
 The Better Half (Promotional)
Watch Adrian Danzig and Julia Rhodes perform in The Better Half.

The Better Half (Promotional) from Lucky Plush Productions on Vimeo.

The Better Half premiered in 2011, was named to Newcity’s "Top 5 of Everything: Stage" and hailed “a piece of tremendous humor, humanity, and...smartness." Chicago Public Radio (WBEZ) included it in their Top 5 of "2011's Funniest Shows." The work was described as “skipping like a spinning stone across its surfaces like a perfect piece of pop art” by Time Out Chicago and “improvisational, funny...[with a] powerful climax” by the Chicago Tribune. The Boston Globe wrote “delicious humor and a dark, poignant undercurrent…both charming and memorably provocative." 

The 2018 return of The Better Half reunites Lucky Plush founder Julia Rhoads and Adrian Danzig, who originated their on stage roles in 2011, and is newly devised with the current Lucky Plush ensemble. Launching from the classic film Gaslight, layers of fiction and reality accumulate, revealing the elusive boundaries between performer and character, actual and scripted relationships, life versus borrowed plotlines. Ultimately a new narrative emerges, capturing the habitual patterns, escapist tendencies, and resilience in contemporary relationships through a complex mix of dance and theater languages.

The Better Half production team includes Heather Gilbert, lighting design, Mikhail Fiksel, composter/sound design, and John Boesche, video design.

The creation, presentation, and touring of the premiere version of The Better Half (2011-2014) was originally made possible through the support of many generous individuals, partners, and awards, including: National Dance Project, with support from New England Foundation for the Arts in cooperation with National Endowment for the Arts; National Performance Network Creation Fund, with commissioning partners Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago and Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center; Audience Architects’ New Stages for Dance, with leadership from Dance/USA and MetLife Foundation; Pamela Crutchfield; The Elizabeth F. Cheney Foundation; the Richard H. Driehaus Foundation; and Boeing.

More about Rink Life

Rink Life
In Rink Life, Lucky Plush brings its highly integrated brand of dance-theater into a communal space that nods to the visual aesthetics and social dynamics of 1970’s roller rink culture. Launching from a collision of plot points in several one-act plays, the script-turned-libretto is both spoken and sung by the ensemble and builds upon fragments of everyday aural input—passing conversations, intimate exchanges, distant whispers, pop song ear-worms. These source inspirations come together in the delightful and moving world of Rink Life, where people navigate relationships, self-expression and rejection in real-time.

Rink Life builds upon Cadence, a work that Lucky Plush artistic director Julia Rhoads created for Hubbard Street Dance Chicago in 2017 with music collaborator Bethany Clearfield (Grant Park Chorus, Chicago Symphony Chorus, and the band Outertown). A developmental performance of Rink Life was also part of Tab Show, a Lucky Plush performance last April at the Harris Theater for Music and Dance. The Chicago Tribune wrote “Rhoads is a master of comedic timing and physical humor; she expertly tugs at the idiosyncrasies of human nature and seamlessly blends dance, theater and music. Her best works easily place her on the short list of our city’s strongest and most successful choreographers.”

Concept, direction and choreography for Rink Life are by Julia Rhoads. Leslie Danzig joins as a collaborating director and production consultant. Bethany Clearfield is vocal arranger and vocal coach. Lighting design is by Heather Gilbert. Costume design is by Patrick Burns.

About Lucky Plush – Reinventing contemporary dance with humor and storytelling

About Lucky Plush Productions from Lucky Plush Productions on Vimeo.

About Lucky Plush Productions
Lucky Plush Productions ( is a Chicago-based dance theater company led by founder and artistic director Julia Rhoads. Lucky Plush is committed to provoking and supporting an immediacy of presence – a palpable liveness – shared by performers in real-time with audiences. A unique hybrid of high-level dance and theater, Lucky Plush’s work is well-known for its carefully crafted dramatic and rhythmic arcs, pushing its artists to move beyond the predictable by earning the exciting slippage between – and surprising coherence of – technical choreography, casual dialogue, and humor. Though rigorously composed, much of the company’s work feels like it is generated spontaneously.

Since its founding in 2000, Lucky Plush has created 30 original dance-theater works. In addition to performing in Chicago, the company has presented in over 55 US cities from Maine to Hawaii, and its international partners span from New Zealand to Cuba. Commissioners include the Harris Theater for Music and Dance, Krannert Center at the University of Illinois, Flynn Center for the Performing Arts (VT), Links Hall Chicago, Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center (MD) and Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago. Lucky Plush has also collaborated with Lookingglass Theatre, Redmoon, Walkabout Theater and M5.

Lucky Plush Productions is the first and only dance company to receive the prestigious MacArthur Award for Creative and Effective Institutions, a recognition of the company’s exceptional creativity and impact. Other awards include creation, residency, and touring awards from National Endowment for the Arts, National Dance Project, and National Performance Network; exchange awards from the MacArthur Foundation International Connections Fund; a presentation award from MetLife Foundation; and an achievement award from the Lester and Hope Abelson Fund for the Performing Arts at The Chicago Community Trust.

Lucky Plush performances have been cited in many “Best of Year” performance round-ups including in the Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun-Times, Chicago Reader, Time Out Chicago, Chicago Public Radio and Boston Globe.

Lucky Plush Productions is a Harris Theater for Music and Dance resident company where its staff and sustainability initiatives are housed under the leadership of Managing Director Kim Goldman.


Julia Rhoads (founding artistic director) has created over 25 works with Lucky Plush Productions, several of which have toured extensively throughout the US and internationally. Additional choreography credits include Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, Steppenwolf Theatre, Lookingglass Theatre, Walkabout Theater, Redmoon, and River North Dance Chicago, among others. Rhoads is the recipient of an Alpert Award in Dance and her work with Lucky Plush is supported through fellowships/awards from National Dance Project, National Theater Project, National Endowment for the Arts, National Performance Network, Maggie Allesee National Center for Choreography, Illinois Arts Council, Chicago Dancemakers Forum, Jacob K. Javits Foundation. Under her leadership, Lucky Plush has received a MacArthur Award for Creative and Effective Institutions and a Fractured Atlas Arts Entrepreneurship Award. Rhoads is a former member of San Francisco Ballet and ensemble member of XSIGHT! Performance Group. She received her BA in History from Northwestern University, her MFA in Performance from the School of the Art Institute Chicago, and she has taught in the dance and theater programs of several Chicago-area colleges and universities. She is currently a part-time lecturer and dance advisor at the University of Chicago’s Department of Theater and Performance Studies.

Leslie Danzig is a collaborating director with Julia Rhoads/Lucky Plush Productions, where she co-created The Better Half, The Queue and Rooming House. For over a decade, Danzig was co-founder and resident director of the Chicago-based physical theater company 500 Clown, whose shows (Macbeth, Frankenstein, Christmas and Elephant Deal) performed in Chicago at venues including Steppenwolf Theatre Company and Lookingglass Theatre, and toured throughout the U.S. Other directing credits include Quest at The Actors Gymnasium; Wild Sound, composed by Wilco’s Glenn Kotche for Third Coast Percussion, with performances at MCA Chicago, Metropolitan Museum of Art (NYC), National Forum of Music (Wroclaw), and De Doelen (Rotterdam); Damon Kiely's The Revel with the House Theatre; Redmoon's The Elephant and the Whale with Chicago Children's Theater (with Frank Maugeri); Redmoon’s Hunchback at New Victory Theater (NYC); and Float with About Face Theater. Prior to turning to directing, she toured nationally and internationally as an actor with NYC’s Elevator Repair Service. Danzig is Assistant Professor of Practice in Theater and Performance Studies, University of Chicago. She received her BA from Brown University and PhD in Performance Studies from Northwestern University, and trained in physical theater at Écoles Jacques Lecoq and Philippe Gaulier. Recent projects include creating an original circus-theater production and stage directing Paddle to the Sea with Third Coast Percussion. 

Monday, September 12, 2016

REVIEW: Puppets With Panache Kick Off House Theatre's 15th Season

Chi, IL LIVE Shows On Our Radar:
A Puppet-Filled Portrait of a Prodigy in Peril


The House’s Anniversary Season Opener Tells the Graphic and Haunting Tale of the Creation of Legendary Puppets Punch and Judy

Sarah Cartwright (back) as Charlotte, L to R in masks: Carolyn Hoerdemann, Owais Ahmed, Will Casey, Joey Steakley; Johnny Arena as Punch (front)

All Production Photos by Michael Brosilow



**This production is recommended for ages 12 years old and older.**

The excitement was palpable at last night's opening of the world premiere of A Comedical Tragedy for Mister Punch. I brought the whole family and the teens and adults all loved it! This show is phenomenal kick off to The House Theatre's 15th season. 

Johnny Arena as Punch, masks by Jesse Mooney-Bullock 

We highly recommend A Comedical Tragedy for Mister Punch. It's not only wildly and wonderfully entertaining, but a compelling commentary on the value of street art and in fact, art's place in society. We love the character of Charlotte (Sarah Cartwright), the young orphan, and we're thrilled she's a bright and scrappy girl, when there's still such a lack of great role models who are young girls in major roles. Adrian Danzig is also brilliant as the gruff loner puppeteer, Pietro. Don't miss THIS!!

Sarah Cartwright as Charlotte

Adrian Danzig as Pietro, Sarah Cartwright as Charlotte

Sarah Cartwright as Charlotte


... and that's how it's done.

House Theatre has long been one of our top favorites on the Chicago scene, and they consistently bring stellar story telling to the table in creative ways. We're completely enamored with this script and the clever staging that brings the iconic Punch and Judy puppets to life as human sized players. This production at once explores the cathartic violence that characterizes the infamous Punch and Judy genre and shatters it, with a young girl who's ready to move the narrative beyond the wife beating, baby killing, bad boy schtick. Highly recommended!

Come one, come all. Come small, come tall. ‘Tis time, dear Punch. 
Dear Punch, ‘tis time.”

The House Theatre's attention to detail is stunning, from their programs, which are always works of art in themselves, to the set design and props. We adore the collectable postcards that turn into 3 different finger puppets. The House even thoughtfully provided baskets of scissors and tape so the audience could assemble theirs on the spot! 

Do note, this is not a children's show. Everyone has different levels of comfort with violence, so younger children could enjoy this production with parental guidance, but the storyline is truly aimed at teens and adults. 

Dangerously dark and decidedly violent, this production is best enjoyed by adults and teens. Read the Parents' Guide for content warnings. 

Chi, IL LIVE Shows On Our Radar:



Whenever The House Theatre announces a new show or a favorite remount I get all excited like a little kid at Christmas. Their season opener is no exception. They had me at the title. I mean really, The House Theatre prowess AND puppetry are two of our favorite things. And, extra bonus, Adrian Danzig, Chicago dad and one of our favorites for physical comedy, stars as Pietro the puppet master in this world premiere. We've known him since his son was in preschool with my 13 year old daughter and we've adored his work in 500 Clown, Go Dog Go with Chicago Children's Theatre, and so much more.

The House Theatre of Chicago is proud to announce its 2016 – 2017 season opening production, the world premiere of Kara Davidson’s A Comedical Tragedy for Mister Punch. Influenced by the long history of puppets, Punch and Judy, and directed by Shade Murray, the production runs September 2 – October 23 at the Chopin Theatre’s Upstairs Theater, 1543 W. Division St.

Sarah Cartwright as Charlotte, Joey Steakley as Joey the Clown, with hand puppet by Jesse Mooney-Bullock 

RUN DATES: September 2-October 23, 2016
TIMES: Thursdays - Saturdays at 8pm, Sundays at 7pm (no shows 9/15 and 9/22)
PRICES: $15 - $35

Regular run tickets range from $30-35. $15 same-day tickets for students and industry professionals are available for all dates, seats permitting. For more information and to purchase tickets, please visit or call 773.769.3832. 

RUN TIME: 2 hours, 15 minutes with one intermission

Charlotte, a young orphan, has made a home for herself thieving on the streets of London. She soon falls into employment as the assistant to an eccentric Italian puppeteer, Pietro. A master of the violent Punch and Judy puppet show, Pietro becomes a reluctant mentor to Charlotte. She is inspired and charmed by his bold, cheeky, and witty creations. The two become an efficient pair under Pietro's gruff and focused attention. As their partnership flourishes, Charlotte's vivid imagination calls the puppets to life to conjure her own versions of the classic tales. But Pietro may not let his protégé cut the strings easily. Reality blurs as live actors, hand puppets, shadow puppetry and marionettes share the stage to illustrate a dark reality of imperfect adults, corrupt authority, class discrepancy, and violence.

Will Casey as the Officer, Echaka Agba as Polly 

Davidson’s A Comedical Tragedy for Mister Punch takes audiences back to the arrival of the Punch and Judy show in 18th-century England, before it became a popular seaside and country fair entertainment staple. The production features puppet creations from Jesse Mooney-Bullock, designer of the puppets for The House’s The Hammer Trinity. Today, many Punch and Judy shows are censored, removing Punch's cruel and murderous nature, opting for themes that are more palatable for youthful ears. But Mister Punch can't escape his peppered past. Why do we cheer for this scoundrel? How does Mister Punch, a character who has been depicted as a merciless hero-villain for over two hundred years, get away with abuse and murder? Perhaps something meaningful lies underneath Mister Punch's colorful yet ruthless exterior. 

The cast includes: Adrian Danzig, “Pietro;’ Johnny Arena*, “Punch;” Sarah Cartwright, “Charlotte;” Will Casey, “Officer” and others; Joey Steakley*, “Joey” and others; Carolyn Hoerdemann, “Judy” and others; Echaka Agba, “Polly” and others; Michael E Smith*, “Crocodile” and others and Owais Ahmed, “Flirt” and others. Understudies include: Ben Hertel, Joseph “Joey” Galizia, Vahishta Vafadari, Carlos Almedo and Gillian Butcher.
*House Company Member

Adrian Danzig as Pietro, Echaka Agba as Polly

The design team includes: Lee Keenan*, scenic designer; Izumi Inaba, costume designer; Mike Durst, lighting designer; Kevin O’Donnell*, sound designer; John Fournier, composer; Jesse Mooney-Bullock, puppet designer; David Woolley, choreographer; Jon Beal, assistant choreographer; Adam Goldstein, dialect coach; Brian DesGranges*, stage manager; and Eleanor Kahn, props master.

Kara Davidson has been working with the House as an actor since 2013, but is excited to be stepping into the role of playwright this season! Two of her original full-length scripts were previously produced in the Twin Cities with Dovetail Theatre Company (of which she was a co-founder), and she is thrilled that Mister Punch will be making its world premiere on a Chicago stage. Previous (and current) productions with The House include Death and Harry Houdini (2013 and current), The Hammer Trinity, and Rose and the Rime. Around Chicago, Kara has also worked with Lookingglass, Chicago Shakespeare, and Manual Cinema, among others, and she regularly writes and performs for The Plagiarists "Salon" series. She holds degrees in Theatre Performance and French from the University of Nebraska.

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

The first record of the puppet, that eventually grew to be the infamous Punch, was made by Samuel Pepys in the late 17th century. He wrote his observations on the Italian puppet show playing in London’s Covent Garden in his journal. At the time Punch, short for Punchinello, was a puppet on strings but eventually, along with his wife Judy, evolved after nearly a hundred years to become glove puppets dressed in a jester-like fashion.

Adrian Danzig as Pietro, Sarah Cartwright as Charlotte
Pietro instructs Charlotte to keep an eye out for the Officer during the show.

Puppeteers favored street performances at first, where the title of “Punch and Judy” was born, but eventually found their way to the seaside to perform to those on vacation. Today, various iterations of the show with roots in Commedia dell’ Arte, clown and slapstick comedy can still be found at the seaside, street festivals and carnivals around the world.

Charlotte, a young orphan, has made a life for herself thieving on the streets of London. She wiggles her way into employment for an eccentric Italian puppeteer, Pietro, collecting coins from his crowds and watching out for the law. They quickly become an efficient pair under Pietro's gruff and focused attention. As their partnership flourishes, so does Charlotte’s vivid imagination. Soon, the violent Punch and Judy puppets jump to life as she conjures up her own spins on the classic tales. But Pietro may not want his protégé pulling the strings.

Our "merry little play" reveals the dark underbelly of 18th century London as Charlotte’s reality blurs with the frantic world of Punch and Judy. Filled with live actors, hand puppets, shadow puppetry, and marionettes, the story uncovers the dangers lurking in an unjust world. 
Show Dates:
Sep 2 2016 to Oct 23 2016
Chopin Theatre, 1543 W Division St, Chicago



The Magic Parlour is one of our top favorites of all times, and nothing short of astonishing. Dennis Watkins is out of the dunk tank and into the parlour! Death and Harry Houdini (with its nerve wracking water torture chamber trick) has finished another acclaimed run, but you can still catch the star, prolific prestidigitator, Dennis Watkins, in his snazzy solo show at the iconic Palmer House Hilton in downtown Chicago. I caught The Magic Parlour back when the show was playing in the shabby chic basement of the Chopin Theatre. Several years back they moved to fancier digs, and this intimate show has grown in popularity. We took the whole family last year and even the jaded teens adored it. Dennis is the real deal, and a joy to see in action. Prepare to be mystified. Oh SO highly recommended. ChiIL Mama's Chi, IL Picks List. 

Performances begin again September 2 with more performances this year than ever before!

TIMES: Friday nights at 7:30 and 9:30pm, Saturdays at 4:30, 7:30 and 9:30pm
PRICE: $79
AGES: Recommended for ages 12 and up!
RUN TIME: The show runs about 75 minutes. 

An intimate evening of classic magic with Houdini himself, in the historic Palmer House Hilton Hotel. Award-winning, third-generation magician Dennis Watkins delivers an evening of sophisticated tom-foolery in one of the Windy City's most unique entertainment experiences. Dennis Watkins. Experience the premier magic show in Chicago, featuring mystifying feats of prestidigitation, sleight of hand, mentalism, and more. The Magic Parlour is replete with mind-blowing magic and mind reading in an intimate suite at the historic Palmer House Hilton Hotel.

Guests convene at Potter's on the lobby level and will be escorted to the private performance venue. 

"A SOPHISTICATED NIGHT-CAP. You’ll be mightily impressed! " 
-Chris Jones, Chicago Tribune

“A perfect evening of illusion and laughter… The Magic Parlour TRANSFORMED a roomful of tired adults into WIDE-EYED, WIDE AWAKE innocents. And that in itself is Watkins’ most impressive trick." 
-Chicago Theater Beat

“This late-night magic show is exactly what it should be: funny, lively, intimate, and UTTERLY BAFFLING.” 
-The Chicago Reader

Check out our Yelp reviews for more glowing recommendations from mystified patrons

Show Dates:
Sep 2 2016 to Jul 1 2017
Location: The Palmer House Hilton Hotel

17 East Monroe Street, Chicago IL 60603

The House is Chicago's premier home for intimate, original works of epic story and stagecraft. Founded and led by Artistic Director Nathan Allen and driven by an interdisciplinary ensemble of Chicago’s next generation of great storytellers, The House aims to become a laboratory and platform for the evolution of the American theatre as an inclusive and popular art form.

The House was founded in 2001 by a group of friends to explore connections between Community and Storytelling through a unique theatrical experience. Since becoming eligible in 2004, The House has been nominated for 60 Joseph Jefferson Awards (21 wins), became the
first recipient of Broadway in Chicago’s Emerging Theater Award in 2007, and was awarded a 2014 National Theatre Company Grant by the American Theatre Wing, founder of the Tony Awards. Now in its 14th year of original work, The House continues its mission to unite Chicago in the spirit of Community through amazing feats of Storytelling.

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