Showing posts with label SHAKESPEARE’S R & J. Show all posts
Showing posts with label SHAKESPEARE’S R & J. Show all posts

Monday, January 15, 2024

Cast and New Director Announced for PrideArts’ All-Female Production of SHAKESPEARE’S R & J February 26-March 24, 2024

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Amber Mandley to direct Joe Calarco’s reimagining of 



Full casting has been announced for PrideArts’ production of SHAKESPEARE’S R & J with an all-female cast. Though Joe Calarco’s reimagining of the Bard’s tragedy ROMEO AND JULIET was originally set within an exclusive boys’ prep school, it has sometimes been played with an all-female cast, including productions at London’s Globe Theatre and the Classic Stage Company in New York, directed by Calarco. It has additionally been performed with  mixed-gender casts by the Shakespeare Theatre Company in Washington, D.C., and the Reading Rep Theatre in the United Kingdom. PrideArts had previously announced the production with all-male casting, but the concept was changed to all-female when the previously announced director became unavailable and PrideArts Managing Director Amber Mandley assumed directorial responsibilities. The production will open to the press on Monday, February 26, 2024, at 7:30 pm, following previews from February 22-25, 2024, and play through March 24, 2024.

In SHAKESPEARE’S R & J, the young students secretly act out the play at night, eventually getting caught up in the passion and eroticism of the text. Originally produced off-Broadway in New York in 1999, where it won the Lucille Lortel Award, SHAKESPEARE’S R & J has been a favorite throughout the United States and the UK ever since. PrideArts’ staging will be the first fully staged professional production of the play in Chicago in 14 years.

Mandley’s cast will include Madelyn Strasma (Student #1), Luz Espinoza (Student #2), Hannah Eisendrath (Student #3), and Isabel Roden (Student #4). Understudies are Ava Pirie (u/s Student #1), Annemarie Andaleon (u/s Student #2), Elise Blanchard (u/s Student #3), and Fran Bixby (u/s Student #4). The production team will include Shawn Quinlan (Costume Design), Brett Baleskie (Scenic Design), Val Gardner (Sound Design), August Tiemeyer (Lighting Design), Cecilia Chen (Props Design), James Stone (Fight Choreographer), Grace Goodyear (Intimacy Director), Elijah McTiernan (Stage Manager), Elissa Wolf (Dramaturg and Co-Assistant Director), and Magdiel Carmona (Co-Assistant Director).

Top row L-R: Hannah Eisendrath, Luz Espinoza, Isabel Roden, Madelyn Strasma

Lower row L-R: Annemarie Andeleon, Fran Bixby, Elise Blanchard, Ava Pirie

THE NEW YORK TIMES called SHAKESPEARE’S R & J “Hot-blooded…Wrenching…[It] pulsates with an adolescent abandon and electricity of which Romeo himself might approve,” while THE WALL STREET JOURNAL said, “R&J is a gem, the most inventive reimagining of a classic in years.” London’s THE TELEGRAPH said “This is one of the most electrifying adaptations of Shakespeare I have ever seen. When it comes to originality, sexiness, and daring, it is right up there with WEST SIDE STORY.”

Performances will be at Pride Arts Center, 4139 N. Broadway, Chicago. Tickets $35 for regular performances, $25 for previews. Seniors and students receive a $5 discount off all performance prices. Tickets and more information are available shortly at

February 22 – March 24, 2024

Previews Thursday, February 22 through Saturday, February 24 at 7:30 pm and Sunday, February 25 at 3 pm

Press Opening Monday, February 26, 2024, at 7:30 pm

Regular run February 29-March 24, 2024

Curtain times Thursdays–Saturdays at 7:30 pm, Sundays at 3 pm, plus Industry Night Wednesday, March 20 @ 7:30 pm

Pride Arts Center, 4139 N. Broadway, Chicago

Tickets $35 for regular performances, $25 for previews. Seniors and students receive a $5 discount off all performance prices. Tickets and more information at


Four young female prep school students, tired of going through the usual drill of conjugating Latin and other tedious school routines, decide to vary their very governed lives. After school, one breaks out a copy of William Shakespeare’s ROMEO AND JULIET, and they all take turns reading the play aloud. The Bard’s words and the story itself are thrilling to the girls, and they become swept away, enmeshed in the emotion so much so that they break school rules in order to continue their readings. Perceptions and understanding are turned upside-down as the fun of play-acting turns serious, and the words and meanings begin to hit home and universal truths emerge.


Amber Mandley (Director) most recently directed during Rhinofest in Chicago. Other directing experiences include Violet Fest, Clock Productions, school productions for CICS-Bucktown, City Lit Adaptation Festival, Abbie Hoffman Festival, Milwaukee Avenue Arts Festival, On the Spot Theatre Company, and Hass Ben Productions.  Amber is the Managing Director for PrideArts.  She will be directing WELLS AND WELLES for Lucid Theatre in summer 2024.  Amber believes in a collaborative process of directing and finding the heart of a piece with the cast.

Jay Españo (PrideArts Artistic Director). Born in Manila, The Philippines, he joined the prestigious Tanghalang Pilipino’s Actors Company in 1998, where he trained with acclaimed Filipino director Nonon Padilla. He acted in several commercials, television series and films. Notably, he was a regular cast member of Koko KwikKwak - a spin-off of Batibot (Philippine SESAME STREET). He toured The Philippines with that show’s mascots, performing for kids throughout the country. In 2000, Jay was one of many Filipino actors who were cast in the Action Theater Singapore’s hit musical CHANG AND ENG, which toured Asia for several years.

Since moving to the Chicago area, Jay has worked with storefront theater companies such as Silk Road Rising, Prologue, Ghostlight, Halcyon, City Lit, and PrideArts. Most recently, he directed the musical GAY CARD for PrideArts, and City Lit Theater’s world premiere musical AZTEC HUMAN SACRIFICE. He has played the role of the King in Rodgers and Hammerstein’s THE KING AND I with various theater companies in the US and in Canada.

JOE CALARCO (Writer). Joe Calarco’s published work, in addition to SHAKESPEARE’S R&J (Lucille Lortel Award), includes WALTER CRONKITE IS DEAD (included in “The Best Stage Monologues of 2013”); IN THE ABSENCE OF SPRING (inaugural production of Second Stage’s Uptown Series and included in “The Best Stage Scenes of 2004”); his short plays JUST A LITTLE SNIFFLE and PARTING GIFTS; and two collections of his plays for teens, SIGNATURE IN THE SCHOOLS, Volumes 1 & 2, which include the plays MY VACATION IN PARIS, SALAT, CIVIL WARS, AFTERSHOCK, SHAKESPEARE, WILL, IMAGE IS EVERYTHING, REVOLUTION, HERO WORSHIP, and VENI, VIDI, VICI.



PrideArts tells queer stories on a variety of platforms, including both live and virtual performances. Since its founding in 2010, PrideArts has had several chapters, including operating as an itinerant theater for their first six seasons, and as the developer and primary tenant in the Pride Arts Center from 2016 to the present.

The company produces full seasons of plays and musicals, as well as events including cabaret, and more. The company has earned 39 Jeff Awards and nominations, and six nominations in the 2019 ALTA Awards from the Alliance of Latinx Theater Artists of Chicago. Programming has reflected the diversity of queer communities by including work made by and illuminating the experiences of women, gay men, transgender people, and BIPOC.

PrideArts is supported by Illinois Arts Council, a State Agency; City of Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE), Alphawood Foundation, MacArthur Foundation, Arts Work Fund, Driehaus Foundation, The Saints.

PrideArts is a member of Buena Park Neighborhood Association, Uptown United, Northalsted Merchants Association, League of Chicago Theaters, Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce of Illinois, Lakeview East Merchants Association.

For more information and to donate, visit or call 1.773 857 0222.

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