Showing posts with label Prop Thtr. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Prop Thtr. Show all posts

Thursday, October 26, 2023


ChiIL Live Shows On Our Radar 





Prop Thtr’s New Residency at Chicago Dramatists Launches with the Movement Play Nyra’s Dreams

Prop Thtr and SurTaal Dance are proud to announce the world premiere of Nyra’s Dreams, created and performed by Shalaka Kulkarni and directed by Stefan Brun, October 27 - November 19 at Chicago Dramatists, 1109 W. Chicago Ave. The co-production of Nyra’s Dreams incorporates contemporary dance and traditional Indian classical dance, media and varied characters to bring Nyra and her quest to life. Opening night is Friday, Oct. 27 at 8 p.m. The performance schedule is Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 3 p.m. with Industry Nights, to be announced. Tickets are suggested price of $20 or pay-what-you-can at I'll be there on opening night, so check back soon after for my full review.

A co-production of Prop Thtr and SurTaal Dance, Nyra’s Dance, a movement play incorporates multiple story-telling vessels to tell of Nyra, who walks between different worlds and connects within her fragmented mind to women who teach her about resilience, frailty and hope, helping her realize her real quest to find her way back home to Dyavaprthivi, that resides between heaven and earth.  Nyra is a character devised out of myths/mythological stories found in Indian culture and documented experiences about the Devadasi (temple dancer) system and its existence now.

Shalaka Kulkarni 

All photos by Rich Rankin

Nyra’s Dreams is another step in SurTaal Dance’s exploration of how to employ Indian classical dance vocabulary to celebrate female experience in nontraditional performances. This world premiere is the culmination of text, travel, collaboration, film, choreography and composition - of which an experimental 10-minute film, completed in April 2023, has premiered in Paris, Seoul and Assam. 

The production of Nyra’s Dreams is the inaugural presentation of Prop Thtr’s leadership team project. This project’s goal is to  find new forms and structures outside of traditional show business to generate, incubate, develop, produce and give continued life to new work in the performing arts.

ABOUT SHALAKA KULKARNI, creator and performer

Shalaka Kulkarni (she/her/hers) is an interdisciplinary dance artist. Trained in Indian Classical dances- Bharatanatyam and Kathak, she creates experiences that bridge the ancient and contemporary, uplifting marginalized voices. She is interested in creating and presenting a hybrid movement form that fuses techniques of Bharatnatyam and Kathak with other movement influences, text, film and technology. She has performed in India, US and Europe and is excited to present her first solo play with Stefan Brun and Prop Thtr in Chicago, her second hometown.  


Stefan Brun (he/him/his) is executive director of Prop Thtr. He co-founded the company with Scott Vehill in 1981 and has also directed plays and related performing art events and television in the United States and Germany.  He has continuously designed stage-lighting and been a performer on stage and film.  Together with Prop Thtr, from 1998 on, Brun took part in the founding and development of the National New Play Network, of which Prop Thtr is a charter core member. Serving as artistic director for most of Prop’s 15 year residency on Elston Avenue, he directed many productions including the long running Chicago hit, HIzzoner, written by and starring Neil Giuntoli. He currently leads Prop’s new “Leadership Team Pilot Program.” Married with Jenny Magnus, he is the father of Lena. Brun is devoted to mentoring and empowering those from whom we have not heard and new works for the stage. 


Prop Thtr creates and presents live and online experiences at the intersection of laboratory, education and community building. Prop Thtr believes that theater and theater education are not luxuries but tools for living. They attempt to open resources for others to use these tools.

Prop Thtr is focused on the development of new work, supporting theatre artists of all backgrounds and experience levels as well as Chicago theatre companies and is invested in Chicago stories told by Chicago communities with the support of our resources, knowledge, and talent.


SurTaal Dance is proud to offer an innovative and contemporary take on Indian classical dance. Their projects are dedicated to pushing creative boundaries and experimenting with new forms of expression. The performances showcase the unique beauty, versatility and grace of Indian dance vocabulary. SurTaal Dance invites you to experience the magic of SurTaal Dance and share in their passion for this beautiful art form.

Nyra’s Dreams is supported by a federal award to the City of Chicago by the United States Treasury Department, the City of Chicago’s Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE), the Illinois Arts Council, a state agency and High Concept Labs, See Chicago Dance, TAPS Chicago Performance Lab at the University of Chicago and audiences’ donations.

Thursday, March 24, 2022

Pay What You Can: Rhinoceros Theater Festival April 1 – May 7, 2022 at Jimmy Beans Coffee & Pride Arts Center

ChiIL Live Shows On Our Radar:

Fest Alert 

The Curious Theatre Branch, in association with Pride Arts Center and Jimmy Beans Cabaret, Prop Thtr and Labyrinth Arts, is pleased to present A Hint of Rhino: Rhinoceros Theater Festival 2022, playing April 1 – May 7, 2022. Shows will run Thursdays – Sundays at Jimmy Beans Coffee (2553 W. Fullerton Ave, second floor) in Logan Square and the Broadway Theater at Pride Arts Center (4139 N Broadway Ave) in Uptown.

Curious and friends present a pared-down, curated series of events including music, spoken word, new plays, drag and variety events. Programming on Sunday, May 1 at Pride Arts Center will include a special celebration of Matt Rieger, longtime Managing Director for Curious, who died suddenly in October 2021, and whose final play, Jimmy and the Nickels, will run Sunday afternoons and Thursday evenings at Pride Arts. Rhino Fest returns this year following a hiatus in 2021, in which festival producers awaited the return of safer gatherings in public spaces rather than shifting to a virtual format. This Rhino Fest represents the result of invitation and collaboration among small groups of Chicago artists, making inquisitive and expansive events for the current moment.

Tickets to all events are $20 or pay-what-you-can. 

Proof of vaccination will be required at the door, and audience members and crew will remain masked inside venues. Cash and credit cards accepted at the door. Tickets are currently available through Eventbrite. Further additional information and updates, visit


The full Rhino Fest 2022 line-up includes:

 A Hint of a Rhino Party

Saturday March 26 at 7 pm, Broadway Theater at Pride Arts

An opening night party to mosey back to Rhino. An evening of food and drinks, presentations, some previews of shows to come, a film or two, some jokes and lots and lots of mingling.  


John & Paul: Strictly Platonic

Fridays at 8 pm, April 1 – 29, Broadway Theater at Pride Arts Center

Chicago sketch comedy veterans John Klingle and Paul Brennan bring their anarchic humor back to the stage in a raucous celebration of dysfunctional friendship. Watch John and Paul juggle the roles of emasculated fathers, naive prison guards and problematic method actors, all while struggling to keep their corporate sponsorships. Special guests include drag artist Tara Bitchup, songstress Zoë Pike\ and stand-up comic Katie Zane.


New Speculative Fiction

Friday, April 1 at 7 pm, Jimmy Beans Coffee

Sharon Houk, Andy Sullivan, and Tanner Vaughan Halversen read new work.


Labyrinth Hour Cabaret

Saturdays at 8 pm, April 2 – 30, Broadway Theater at Pride Arts Center

A musical and variety adventure featuring bands, musical guests and variety acts.

April 2 & 23: The Improper Behavior Jump Blues Band featuring Miss Sharon and Keith Fort.

April 9 & 16: Drag Show with Narcisca and Slussy Vanity. Further guest artists to be announced. Produced and directed by Diane Hamm with Labyrinth Arts and Performance Collective.


The Chicago Beast Women

Saturdays at 10 pm, April 2 – 30, Broadway Theater at Pride Arts Center

Chicago’s longest-running showcase for veteran and premiering female artists comes to Pride!  An inspiring line-up of solo and collaborative artists showcasing new and urgent work. Jillian Erickson, Michelle Power, Cristina McCrystal, Alley Cat and many, many more beloved Chicago performers.


Vernon Tonges

Saturday, April 2 at 7 pm, Jimmy Beans Coffee

Known to many as Spoo Willoughby, Vernon Tonges is a low-profile performing songwriter and singer known for his crippling introversion and disastrous inability to adequately self-promote. Many of his shows occur unannounced in random parking lots where his audience mainly consists of drivers idling in the drive-through line awaiting takeout chicken. Surplus thigh meat comprises his chief compensation. The world remains a tough nut to crack.


The Crooked Mouth and Special Guests

Saturday, April 2 at 9 pm and Saturday, May 7 at 9 pm, Jimmy Beans Coffee

A Chicago-based music group including Jenny Magnus, Beau O'Reilly, T-Roy Martin, Vicki Walden and Heather Riordan with ample harmonies and lyrics to sink one's teeth into. Rock/pop/alt-country/vaudeville, if you must have a genre.

April 2: Special guest Izzy Yellen. "Izzy yellin'? No, he's making ambient folk."

May 7: Special guests Michael Amandes and Mac Modean


Writers Aloud

Sunday, April 3 at 3 pm, Broadway Theater at Pride Arts Center

For over three years, from in-person to online and now both live and streaming – this unassuming monthly forum organized by Donna Dunlap, Karen Fort and Cordis Heard for those who write and have seldom if ever spoken their own written words – a core Prop Thtr tradition. Two hours with three to five readers.


Jimmy and the Nickels

Sundays: April 3 at 5 pm, April 24 & May 1 at 3 pm. Note: the May 1 show will be followed by a celebration of Matt Rieger, Broadway Theater at Pride Arts Center

Thursdays: April 7, 14, 21, 28 at 8 pm, Broadway Theater at Pride Arts Center

A follow up to 2020’s lauded My Dinner with Joe, this chamber comedy, the last work of the beloved and abruptly departed Curious playwright and Managing Director Matt Rieger, features Mike McKune, Don Schroeder, Nick Leininger and Paul Brennan, and is directed by Stefan Brün with Charlotte Lastra.



Friday, April 8 & 22, Saturday April 9 & 23 at 7pm, Jimmy Beans Coffee

A new monologue from Chicago poet and fringe theater mainstay Barrie Cole.


Cafe Neckbeard To Go

Fridays: April 8, 15, 22, 29 and May 6 at 9 pm, Jimmy Beans Coffee

Saturdays: April 9, 16, 23, 30 at 9 pm, Jimmy Beans Coffee

PR Representative and Procurement Specialist Chris Bower will theatrically update the world on the ongoing saga of the most experimental and explosive and explosively experimental cash-only fine dining celiac-intolerant temporarily to-go cafe in The Historic Logan Square Neighborhood (THLSN): Chef Anton "*" Anis's Cafe Neckbeard! Featuring Chris Bower and Steak Richardson.


The Problem With Flowers

Sundays: April 10, 17, 24 at 5 pm, Broadway Theater at Pride Arts Center

Thursdays: April 14, 21, 28 at 7 pm, Broadway Theater at Pride Arts Center

Roberto Del Rio’s solo work playfully examines the loves and miseries, the delights and betrayals in an emotional day off. From dawn until dusk we’ll hear those struggles, triumphs, fears and desires that only manifest when we’re by ourselves.


Deconstructing Desolation Row

Friday, April 15 and Saturday, April 16 at 7 pm, Jimmy Beans Coffee

Four writers respond to Bob Dylan's 1965 ballad from Highway 61 Revisited in song and lecture. Performances by Jayita Bhattacharya, Frank Bonacci, Michaela Chan and Bill Ferguson.


Time in a Teacup

Friday, April 29 and Saturday, April 30 at 7 pm, Jimmy Beans Coffee

New work by Jay Sebastian. Musings on time, memory, and baloney sandwiches through stories, original songs and 8mm movies.


The Anchovy's Song, The Pelican's Apocalypse

Friday, May 6 at 7 pm, Jimmy Beans Coffee

Jeff "Hollywood" Dorchen weaves together songs, obvious lies (elaborate and simple) and poems.


Sheila Donohue and Friends

Saturday, May 7 at 7 pm, Jimmy Beans Coffee

Performance poet and four-time National Poetry Slam Champion Sheila Donohue returns to Rhino Fest for an evening of new and archival work, with special guests.

Venue Note: Broadway Theater at Pride Arts Center is a first-floor space and is wheelchair accessible, with two accessible bathrooms. Jimmy Beans Cabaret is up one flight of stairs and is not easily accessible for wheelchair users.


About Rhino Fest

The event that became the Rhinoceros Theater Festival began in 1988 as an offshoot of the Bucktown Arts Fest, and in its first year featured just two days of performances, including work by Jenny Magnus and Beau O'Reilly. When the event's founder moved away from Chicago in 1990, he asked a ragtag group of local artists (including Beau O'Reilly and Theatre of the Reconstruction’s Scott Turner) to keep the festival going, and the Rhino Fest was born. The Curious Theatre Branch went on to produce the Rhino across many neighborhoods and venues over the years, with events variously taking place in Wicker Park/Bucktown, Rogers Park, Andersonville and Avondale; at spaces including the Lunar Cabaret and Full Moon Café, the Neo-Futurarium, the Society for New Things, The Garage, The Firehouse, Remains Theatre and Prop Thtr. In the mid-2000s, Rhino Fest settled at Prop Thtr in Avondale as its long-term base, and Prop and Curious co-produced the festival among a shifting group of curators for many years. Following the closure of Prop's Elston Ave. space in 2020, and a year off during the height of the pandemic, Rhino Fest is once more becoming itinerant, this year producing shows at The Broadway at Pride Arts Center in Uptown and Jimmy Beans Coffee in Logan Square.

Sunday, February 10, 2019

OPENING: World Premiere of 2 UNFORTUNATE 2 TRAVEL at Prop Thrt March 8 – April 15, 2019

ChiIL Live Shows on our radar

Prop Thtr Presents the World Premiere of
A new devised adaptation of
Thomas Nashe’s The Unfortunate Traveller
Adapated and Directed by Zach Weinberg
Devised by The Ensemble
March 8 – April 15, 2019

I'll be ChiILin' at the press opening of Prop Thtr's world premiere of 2 UNFORTUNATE 2 TRAVEL on March 11th, so check back shortly after for my full review.

Prop Thtr is pleased to continue its 2018-19 season with the world premiere of 2 UNFORTUNATE 2 TRAVEL, a late-night, cabaret-style evening of multi-disciplinary live performances and a biting look at privilege and the things we take for granted. This new devised adaptation of Thomas Nashe’s novella The Unfortunate Traveller is adapted and directed by Zach Weinberg and devised by The Ensemble. 2 UNFORTUNATE 2 TRAVEL will play March 8 – April 15, 2019 at 3502 N. Elston Ave. (near Kedzie and Addison) in Chicago’s Avondale neighborhood. Tickets are currently available at

The 2 UNFORTUNATE 2 TRAVEL Ensemble cast includes Zoë DePreta, Callie Harlow, Jourdan Lewanda, Isa Ramos, Joseph Ramski, Schanora Wimpie and Taylor Wisham.

It’s a tough time right now. You deserve a vacation. Jack Wilton, self-appointed ally and recent returnee from travelling the world wants to give you one. He has transformed his recent vacation into a variety show depicting his adventures in a range of spectacular and crowd-pleasing styles, with everything from shadow puppetry to a live game show. He’s created a safe space where you can sit back, drink a free beer and enjoy an hour free from any political discussion. Over the course of the evening, the cracks begin to show in Jack’s stories, his conduct and the fabric of reality itself as the performing ensemble of five women work to bring Jack’s stories to life and struggle within both a play and a society that profits off of their silence.

Comments adapter/director Zach Weinberg, “This piece is an attempt by a cadre of young artists to have it all; to dive into a deeply collaborative process and create something at once personal and political, entertaining and troubling, engaging and alienating, challenging the established social order and revealing the futility in fighting it, rigidly structured and terrifyingly loose. In an era where we have been forced into political obsession and are desperate both to constantly fight for our rights and find some relief from the onslaught of bad news, I'm driven to create a piece of art that captures and exploits that duality.”

Artistic Director Olivia Lilley adds, “As the next show in my first season as Prop Artistic Director, I am so proud to introduce the cerebral and whimsical theatrical imagination of director/deviser Zach Weinberg and his devising ensemble. 2 Unfortunate 2 Travel promises to take us down a rabbit hole of the burning questions of our times, to entertain and to provoke hours of discussion afterwards.”

Cast: Zoë DePreta, Callie Harlow, Jourdan Lewanda, Isa Ramos, Joseph Ramski, Schanora Wimpie and Taylor Wisham.

Location: Prop Thtr, 3502 N. Elston Ave., Chicago
Dates: Previews: Friday, March 8 at 9 pm and Saturday, March 9 at 9 pm

Regular Run: Friday, March 15 – Monday, April 15, 2019
Curtain Times: Mondays at 8 pm, Fridays and Saturdays at 9 pm
Tickets: Previews: Pay-what-you-can. Regular run: $20. Industry, Student, group discounts available. Tickets are currently available at

About the Playwright/Director

Zach Weinberg is a Chicago-based theater director, adaptor and administrator. He is interested in the creation of new, non-traditional works and finding the perfect medium for the message. Zach is a company member and grant writer at Red Tape Theatre, and a graduate of Oberlin College. Selected theatrical work includes serving as a Directing Apprentice with the late Redmoon Theatre, participating in the 2016 Director's Haven at Haven Theatre and premiering two original adaptations at Curious Theatre Branch's Rhinofest: Love in a Maze ('17) and MAY DAY ('18).

About The Prop Thtr
Prop Thtr strives to redefine what theatre is for the 21st century. Prop Thtr produces and incubates new work, which includes new plays, devised work, director-driven re-imaginings of classics, adaptations, and other alternative forms. Prop Thtr works with makers of all ages, races, gender identities, abilities, and backgrounds. In the spirit of Chicago storefront theatre, Prop Thtr is committed to ongoing relationships with individuals and organizations that create work in diverse and inclusive spaces. We break open how we make, what we are making, and who is making.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

OPENING: world premiere of NEVERLAND, Via Prop Theatre

ChiIL Live Shows On Our Radar:

World Premiere!
Prop Thtr Launches 2018–19 Season with 
A Riff on J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan
Written and Directed by Olivia Lilley
Devised by The Ensemble
October 26 – November 25, 2018

PHOTO CREDIT: (left to right) Steph Vondell as Wendy, Gaby Labotka as Peter Pan and Kate Black-Spence as Hook in a publicity image for Prop Thtr’s production of NEVERLAND. Photo by Matthew Gregory Hollis.

Prop Theater has long been a neighborhood favorite of ours, in our Avondale home base. My kids went to summer camp in that space, run by Brain Surgeon Theatre, and my son returned as a junior counselor. I've also enjoyed catching many shows there by Prop Theatre, Beast Women, Rhinocerous Fest and more. Here at ChiIL Mama and ChiIL Live Shows, we're eager to catch Prop Thtr's season opener, the world premiere of Neverland, directed by Prop’s new artistic director, Olivia Lilley, and devised by the ensemble.

Next up will be “Behold, A Pale Horse” (March 8-April 7), devised from Peter S. Beagle’s “The Last Unicorn.” Gina Marie Hayes will direct the immersive journey following the world’s last unicorn.

Closing out the season will be “2 Unfortunate 2 Travel” (March 15-April 6), Zach Weinberg’s cabaret-style adaptation of Thomas Nashe’s “The Unfortunate Traveller.”

Prop Thtr is pleased launch its 2018-19 season with the world premiere of NEVERLAND, a new devised riff on J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan, written and directed by the Prop’s new Artistic Director Olivia Lilley and devised by the Ensemble. This riff on the Peter Pan Myth chronicles the final days of Peter’s reign in Neverland, as seen from three wildly different perspectives: Peter’s, Wendy’s and Hook’s. NEVERLAND will play October 26 – November 25, 2018 at 3502 N. Elston Ave. (near Kedzie and Addison) in Chicago’s Avondale neighborhood. Tickets go on sale Monday, October 1, 2018 at

NEVERLAND will feature Kate Black-Spence as Hook, Gaby Labotka as Peter Pan, Steph Vondell as Wendy, Rory Jobst as Smee and Mary Iris Loncto as Tinker Bell with Tyler Brockington, Bernadette Carter, Dylan Fahoome, Mateo Hernandez, Carolyn Waldee, Sissy Anne Quaranta, and Electra Tremulis as The Lost. Understudies: Jenn Geiger and Isa Ramos.

NEVERLAND chronicles the final days of Peter Pan’s reign in Neverland as seen from three wildly different perspectives: Peter’s, Wendy’s, and Hook’s. The journey from childhood to adulthood has never been so treacherous than in this “Peter Pan” in the era of Trump’s America. 

Comments Director and Prop Artistic Director Olivia Lilley, “Peter Pan, as a source material, is riddled with the attitudes and values of the society out of which it was born: turn of the century England. In this new riff on the classic, we’ve created an original story that feels vital and tackles the struggles we’re in the midst of grappling to rebuild our own society today. This play is built out of the ashes of now.” 

The production team for NEVERLAND includes: Nina D’Angier (scenic design, props design) Diane Hamm (costume design), David Goodman-Edberg (lighting design), Ele Matelan (foley design, props), Catherine Miller (casting director), Tanuja Jagernauth (dramaturg), Madeline Moeller (assistant director), Marlana May Carlson (production stage manager) and Carolyn Waldee (rehearsal stage manager).


Written and directed by: Artistic Director Olivia Lilley
A riff on: J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan
Devised by: The Ensemble
Cast: Kate Black-Spence as Hook, Gaby Labotka as Peter Pan, Steph Vondell as Wendy, Rory Jobst as Smee and Mary Iris Loncto as Tinker Bell with Tyler Brockington, Bernadette Carter, Dylan Fahoome, Mateo Hernandez, Carolyn Waldee, Sissy Anne Quaranta, and Electra Tremulis as The Lost. 

Understudies: Jenn Geiger (Peter) and Isa Ramos (Hook). 

Location: Prop Thtr, 3502 N. Elston Ave., Chicago 
Dates: Previews: Friday October 26 at 8 pm, Saturday October 27 at 8 pm and Sunday October 28 at 3 pm

Regular Run: Thursday November 1 – Sunday, November 25, 2018. 
Curtain Times: Thursdays, Friday and Saturdays at 8 pm, Sundays at 3 pm. Please note:  there will not be a performance on Thursday November 22 (Thanksgiving).

Tickets: Previews: $10. Regular run: $20. Industry $15. Student, group discounts available. Tickets on sale at

About the Director
Olivia Lilley (Writer/Director) is a Chicago based writer and director of theatre and performance. Her work runs the gamut from irreverent takes on classic texts (Faust: Save me or I’ll die, The Portrait of Dorian Gray) to dance theatre biographies (In Sarah’s Shadow, I Saw The Best Minds of My Generation) to new plays that tackle contemporary intersectional issues (Mary Shelley Sees The Future, Expectations for little mixed girls). Olivia is the founding Artistic Director of The Runaways Lab Theatre (Voted Best New Theatre Company in the Chicago Reader’s “Best Of 2014”). She is the Creative Director of Pop Magic Productions, the Artistic Director of The Prop Thtr and an Artistic Associate with Pivot Arts. Olivia received her BFA in Directing from Carnegie Mellon School of Drama. 

About The Prop Thtr
Since beginning in 1981, Prop Thtr has aimed to create, inspire and assist in the creation of new plays and other time-based works of art. Working closely with established artists as well as emerging, Prop has played a vital role in Chicago’s cultural scene. We incubate, develop and produce new work and emerging artists for the Performing Arts. Prop Thtr is a founding Core member of the National New Play Network. 

Google Analytics