Showing posts with label extended. Show all posts
Showing posts with label extended. Show all posts

Thursday, January 26, 2023


ChiIL Live Shows On Our Radar 

Otherworld Theatre Company's

The Wandering Wyvern Inn Now Extended Due To Popular Demand

Guest Review 

by Dugan Kenaz-Mara

When traveling through the realm of Amelor, my party of five adventurers came across a cozy inn. Some invited there by old friends, some seeking answers, and others just looking to have a good time. Little did we know that in the span of 90 minutes, we would make decisions that could change the fate of the world…

Tales From The Wandering Wyvern Inn is a fun, immersive experience where you and your party get to gather information from the characters, find clues, solve puzzles, and decide on a path to follow to solve a mystery about a fantasy world. 

The show is a fun activity for everyone regardless of previous LARP (live action role play) experience. My party consisted of a good mix of people with a wide variety of experiences. A few of us have worked at Bristol Renaissance faire and had plenty of background in immersive theatre. Others are experts at TTRPGS but had never experienced them in person, and others still are not involved in theatre whatsoever. All of us had a fantastic time. 

The adventure starts with a quest board, listing the names of the NPCs you will encounter once the experience starts. The participants are given a brief insight into who the characters are and what they are like before choosing one of the quests to follow. This gives the participants an easy entrance into the world of the show and gives each one a sort of NPC companion to start off the show with. Nobody feels left out, and because everyone chooses which questline to follow, they often end up with an NPC who they feel like they can trust and identify with. One friend who was new to immersive experiences ended up getting to just hang out with one NPC who was just in the story to have fun and didn’t have to get wrapped up too tightly in the lore of the world. 

Anyone looking for a well-constructed world can find that here too. The Wandering Wyvern Inn’s characters have secrets, conflicting motivations, and lore about themselves and the world that the players get to discover through conversation. They also bring some of that character lore to the whole group after it’s revealed, heightening the tensions and helping nudge the story along naturally. With 5 players maximum and 5-6 NPCs, the world feels full without being too chaotic, and intimate without being overbearing. 

The set is very fun and quite immersive, including a bar where you can exchange fantasy coins for real drinks, shelves of magical trinkets, and additional spaces that get revealed as the story progresses. Some characters even grow and change as you progress their individual questlines! While it’s marketed as a hybrid LARP/escape room/immersive theatre experience, I would say that it skews more heavily into LARP than the other two. While there are still puzzles to solve it’s much more story driven than an escape room, and while it is completely immersive, the main focus is building relationships and interacting with characters rather than following a plot. 

On top of all of that, there are multiple storylines (some apparently covering more intense material than others), so players who enjoyed the experience can return to the world to solve new puzzles and interact with new characters, making each adventure unique. I would highly recommend this show to anyone who enjoys role-playing or audience-centered experiences. ★★★★ Four out of four stars. 

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

Audiences Embark on Ever-Changing Quests, 

Ensuring No Two Shows are the Same

Don't miss this! Shows are selling out fast. Get your tickets today. 

Otherworld Theatre Company has announced the extension of TALES OF THE WANDERING WYVERN INN: A One-Shot Immersive LARP, a hybrid Live Action Role Play (LARP), escape room, and immersive theatre that has enjoyed a sold-out run since opening December 9. The show, originally slated to close January 29, will now run through February 19, 2023 at their storefront at 3914 N. Clark St. 

TALES FROM THE WANDERING WYVERN INN: A One-Shot Immersive LARP is a 90-minute adventure set in the world of the popular multi-day CHRONICLES OF THE REALM LARP series. Rumors abound about the quaint Wyvern Inn, nestled quietly at the foothills of the Alden's Gate Mountains in Amelor. It is the first stop for many who make the pilgrimage up to Heightswatch. The tavern itself seems unassuming - without the smoke stack you might even miss the structure. However, at night, there is no mistaking the glow from a single orb that beckons travelers to its doors. As you approach, you see the famed Wyvern himself to greet you, holding his magical sphere and whispering through the winter wind that you should come inside for at least the night. 

Grab a quest off the wall, an adventure awaits! Be a mage outlaw, a Strykarrian assassin on the job, a Druid on a journey to find the life-saving antidote for your feverish friend, and more - the Quest Board changes daily so no two experiences are ever the same. Limited to five players, this intimate experience is a hybrid between LARP, escape room, and immersive theatre. Shows run Fridays at 8 p.m., Saturdays at 5:30 and 8 p.m., and Sundays at 2 p.m.; tickets are $65 and include a beverage (alcoholic and non-alcoholic options available). The next installment in the LARP series, CHRONICLES OF THE REALM: LEGIONS & LIAISONS, is a weekend-long event July 21 - 23, 2023, held in Monticello, Illinois.

TALES FROM THE WANDERING WYVERN INN features a cast of Non-Player Characters (NPCs), whose roles change show by show depending on that evening’s Quests. The cast includes Blake Hood, Ross Myers, Lilly Bolduc, Shaun Hayden, Sean Buckley, Kyra Young, Vhenan Strange, Ginny Weant, Jono Mammel, Jenna Kappers, Abbey Schnell, Alex Campbell, Chelsea Cox, and Sam Santos. Players are guided on their quests by these NPCs, with new storylines unfolding based on the players’ choices.



Otherworld Theatre Company (3914 N Clark St.) was founded in 2012 to bring a theatrical experience to the science fiction and fantasy genre. The Company’s work celebrates the depth of human imagination by engaging spectators in high quality storytelling. Otherworld Theatre Company stages original works in its pay-what-you-can Chicago, Illinois venue, presents virtual programming online, and produces immersive Live-Action Role Playing events through its partner company, Moonrise Games. For more information:

Tuesday, June 21, 2022

EXTENDED: Trap Door Theatre's Medea Material Extended by Popular Demand June 23-July 2, 2022

Get excited for 2 more weeks of Medea Material! 

Join us June 23-July 2 for our extension!

Medea Material

Written by: Heiner Müller Translated and Adapted by: Sarah Tolan-Mee Directed by: Max Truax

Music Composed by: Jonathan Guillen

Heiner Müller (Playwright) was one of the most important playwrights of the twentieth century European theater; he was also one of the most controversial and outspoken artists of his time. He was born in 1929 in Saxony, a state in eastern Germany and, apart from writing plays and directing shows, he was a journalist, critic, poet, and philosopher. He received many literary prizes including the Lessing Prize, Germany’s highest literary honor. Müller’s work emerged from the rubble of postwar Europe and its political and economic decay. The division of Germany, the Cold War, and the building of the Berlin Wall in 1961 were important events that contributed to his literary oeuvre. His theatrical models include the ancient Greek tragedians, Shakespeare, and Brecht, but he will be best remembered as the creator of the post-dramatic, non-linear, image-driven synthetic fragment intended to disintegrate the “fourth wall.” Müller’s themes concern human beings in a state of flux due to sociopolitical displacement and, like Brecht, he wanted his audience to ponder and, if necessary, to choose. His best-known plays are Cement (1972), The Hamletmachine (1977), The Mission (1979), Quartet (1981), Medea Material (1982) and Death Destruction Detroit II (1987). Müller died in 1995.

Medea Ensemble. Photo by J. Michael Griggs

Max Truax (he/him/his) has been a Resident Director at Trap Door since 2008. For Trap Door, he has directed many critically acclaimed productions, including No Matter How Hard We Try, The Balcony, They Are Dying Out, A Couple of Poor Polish-Speaking Romanians, and No Darkness Round My Stone. His production of A Couple of Poor Polish-Speaking Romanians went on to perform in both Poland and Romania. He also directed Trap Door's 2011 production of Heiner Muller's Hamletmachine, which he conceived as an opera in collaboration with composer Jonathan Guillen. Max served as Artistic Director for Oracle Productions from 2011 to 2016, where he directed No Beast So Fierce, The President, The Mother, Woyzeck, Ghost Sonata, and Termen Vox Machina. His production of The Mother received 7 Jeff Awards, including awards for “Best Production”, “Best Adaptation”, and “Best Ensemble”. In addition to Chicago, Max has directed for multiple stages in Los Angeles and at the Krannert Center at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. He studied visual art, performance art, and choreography at Oberlin College and he received his MFA in theater directing from California Institute of the Arts. Max currently serves as Artistic Director for Red Tape Theatre.

Assistant Director and Choreography: Claire Bauman / Set Designer: J. Michael Griggs / Lighting Designer: Hannah Wein / Music Composer: Jonathan Guillen / Costume Designer: Rachel Sypniewski / Sound Designer: Danny Rockett / Make-up Designer: Zsofia Otvos / Graphic Designer: Michal Janicki / Stage Manager: Audrey Ney / Assistant Stage Manager: Shannon Rourke

Steven Schaeffer, Miguel Long, Keith Surney, and Emily Nichelson. Photo by J. Michael Griggs

Runs: Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays at 8PM, and Sundays at 7PM beginning May 15

Admission: $25, with 2 for 1 admission on Thursdays.

Where: Trap Door Theatre is located at 1655 W. Cortland St.

What: Resident Director Max Truax returns to Trap Door to direct another Heiner Müller piece, after his triumphant production of Hamletmachine, which “calculated chaos and mastered madness with purpose, conviction, theatrical artistry, and artistic integrity.”

Medea Material explores the story of Euripedes’ Medea and its surrounding mythology, and will engage Müller’s poetry and complex intersectionality in a dance theatre spectacle.

Alexis DawTyne and Miguel Long. Photo by J. Michael Griggs

“Under Max Truax’s able direction, this group of actors makes often complicated feelings utterly palpable. I don’t know how they did that and don’t want to ask, but I’m grateful to them for working their dark magic.” -Dmitry Samarov, Chicago Reader  

Featuring: Venice Averyheart, Alexis DawTyne, Catrina Evans, Miguel Long, Emily Lotspeich, Laura Nelson, Emily Nichelson, Steven Schaeffer, and Keith Surney.

Chicago and Trap Door COVID-19 Protocol:

To view the current Trap Door COVID-19 protocol, please visit:

This protocol is subject to change as the League of Chicago Theaters updates their recommendations for indoor theater performances.

Thursday, April 14, 2022

REVIEW: World Premiere of Spay Via Rivendell Theatre Ensemble Now Extended Through May 1, 2022

 ChiIL Live Shows On Our Radar

Rivendell Theatre Ensemble's 

World Premiere of


by Madison Fiedler

directed by Georgette Verdin

featuring RTE members Rae Gray, Artistic Director Tara Mallen

and Krystel McNeil with Spencer Huffman


Guest Review 

by Cath Hellmann

If you’re thinking, “Oh, I'd love to see a play about a drug addict who wreaks havoc on her family!” Yes, good times…Here is your chance! Even though it sounds like a Debbie Downer kind of evening, Rivendell’s new play called “SPAY” is actually an interesting, thought-provoking night at the theater with great acting. 

Krystel McNeil, Rae Gray
Photo credit for all: Michael Brosilow

The play occurs in 2019 in West Virginia. We see kindergarten teacher Harper (Krystel McNeil) in her house (an impressive set by Lindsay Mummert), who must come to the rescue of her addict half-sister Noah (Rae Gray) once again. Harper is always picking up the pieces left broken and scattered by Noah and her heroin problem; Harper even has custody of her young nephew, Benny, Noah’s child. Harper insists that Benny is a blessing and not a burden; Noah and her drug-dealing boyfriend, Jackson (Spencer Huffman, who is a very likable drug dealer!), are the real sources of aggravation and heartache for her.   

Rae Gray, Spencer Huffman

Noah’s latest overdose was a biggie---she almost died this time in front of a bunch of kids and traumatized the young children in the process. One hopes that maybe this incident will be the One that gets Noah back on track and sticking to her latest round of promises to truly clean up For Real for real this time. Harper insists that Noah has a disease. Noah admits,”I don’t know if I’d rather be a junkie or diseased.” 

Entering the tense scene is an out-of-towner claiming to arrive in order to “help” the struggling family. Aubrey, played by Artistic Director Tara Mallen, insists that her presence is to guide Noah into making better choices. Aubrey is actually from an organization called “Project Prevention” whose mission is to provide sterilization to addicts to prevent more children from being raised in unstable homes. (I assumed this was an invention by the playwright for drama, but it’s truly a Thing. I had to look it up. The group is based in North Carolina and really does offer cash to addicts for using long-term birth control or agreeing to undergo surgery to stop having babies. The website lists a case study of an addict who just had her 17th baby in 24 years!) 

Tara Mallen, Rae Gray

Playwright Madison Fiedler is a Northwestern graduate from North Carolina. She wrote the play to draw attention to the opioid epidemic happening in her native Appalachia. According to the program notes, there are 130 fatal opioid overdoses every day in the U.S. There were 96,700 deaths from overdoses this last year alone. Choosing to reopen the Rivendell Theater with this world premiere shows us the power of theater and sharing important, if uncomfortable, stories. You may not agree with the characters, but it’s sure to start a conversation. 

What happens to Noah, Harper, and ultimately, Benny won’t be revealed here. But this is a very satisfying play filled with strong performances, especially from the two sisters.

Catherine Hellmann: teacher, mom, theater lover 

Krystel McNeil

Rivendell Theatre Ensemble (RTE), Chicago’s only Equity theatre dedicated to producing new work with women at the core, presents the world premiere of SPAY by Madison Fiedler, directed by RTE member Hallie Gordon. SPAY runs March 12 - May 1, 2022 at Rivendell Theatre Ensemble, 5779 N. Ridge Avenue in Chicago. 

Williamson, West Virginia has been aptly nicknamed “Pilliamson” for as long as anyone can remember, certainly since the Attridge family’s been around. The now-grown sisters have taken very different paths in the wake of their mother’s overdose. As Harper raises her sister’s child vowing to tread new ground, Noah opts for the old ways and finds herself in all-too-familiar territory.

Penned by recent Northwestern graduate Madison Fiedler, SPAY is a provoking new drama about the effect of America's opioid epidemic in one small West Virginia town. SPAY is an unflinching look at addiction, Appalachia, and the families our system has failed.

Playwright Madison Fiedler comments, “I started this play because I’m from Appalachia, where the opioid epidemic has taken its highest tolls; specifically, I’m from North Carolina, where Project Prevention has made its dubious home. In a country where the opioid crisis has been declared a national public health emergency and every day brings another 130 fatal opioid overdoses, the idea that addicts shouldn’t be able to have children makes sense to a lot of people. In a comparison of addicts to dogs in need of spaying, I saw a microcosm of American society wanting to move a problem out of sight without fixing it; dehumanizing victims of a crisis to justify complacency. I wrote Spay to deanonymize the opioid epidemic and re-sensitize audiences to it in a way that no news headline can, by doing what live theatre does best: inviting a room full of people to empathize, humanize, and do something about it.”

Artistic Director Tara Mallen offers: "With SPAY, the story serves to humanize people who are suffering with opioid addiction. This is an epidemic that is literally sweeping across the country, and it's imperative that we recognize it, begin to understand it, and find a way to support people who are dealing with it."

The cast includes RTE members Rae Gray (Noah), Artistic Director Tara Mallen (Aubrey), and Krystel McNeil (Harper), with Spencer Jackson (Jackson).

The creative team is Lindsay Mummert (scenic design), Mike Mahlum (lighting design), Becca Duff (costume design), Rowan Doe (props design), Hannah Foerschler (sound design), Catherine Yu (dramaturg), Grant (dialect coach). The production manager is Erik Strebig and the stage manager is Deya Friedman.       

Rivendell’s Town Hall Series

During the run of each production, Rivendell hosts Town Hall Discussions after select Saturday matinees. These are an essential touchstone for our organization to extend the conversation from the stage to the community. Panelists help field questions, present observations, and participate in supporting a thoughtful, in-depth dialogue for all involved. Audience participants need not be present for the Saturday matinee and are welcome to join the conversation following the performance. 

Rae Gray


Madison Fiedler (Playwright) Madison Fiedler is a Brooklyn-based, Asheville-raised playwright. Plays include Spay (2020 Kilroys List, 2022 world premiere at Rivendell Theatre Ensemble, 2021 Princess Grace Playwriting Fellowship runner-up, 2019 National Showcase of New Plays, Florida Repertory Theatre’s 2020 PlayLab, 2021 FAU Theatre Lab, 2018-2019 BoHo Theatre commission), Screech Owl (2021 finalist: Playwrights Realm Writing Fellowship, Leah Ryan Fund for Emerging Women Writers), If God Came a Callin (Barter Theatre Appalachian Festival of Plays & Playwrights), The Incubators (semi-finalist: Athena Project Plays in Process), and I Talk to the Flowers (Skidmore College, University of Kentucky). She is a National New Play Network Affiliated Artist and is represented by A3 Artists Agency. BA: Northwestern University (2019).

Georgette Verdin (Director) is a Cuban-American director and arts educator. Since 2015, she's served as the Managing Artistic Director of Interrobang Theatre Project, an award-winning storefront theater known for its gutsy productions that tackle socially-relevant topics. Select directing credits include This Wide Night by Chloë Moss (Shattered Globe Theatre/Interrobang Theatre Project), Tribes by Nina Raine (Western Michigan University), the U.S. Premiere of Out of Love by Elinor Cook, Grace and Recent Tragic Events by Craig Wright, as well as the 2013 & 2016 Yale Drama Series winners, Still by Jen Silverman and Utility by Emily Schwend (Interrobang Theatre Project). Georgette has also worked with Goodman Theatre, Lookingglass Theatre, Facility Theatre, and Chicago Dramatists, among others. Georgette holds a Bachelor of Arts in Theatre Performance from McNeese State University in Lake Charles, LA and a Master in Directing from the Chicago College of Performing Arts at Roosevelt University. She's a 2021 recipient of a 3Arts Make-A-Wave grant and an associate member of Stage Directors and Choreographers Society. For more, visit

Rae Gray (Noah) is a Rivendell Theatre Ensemble member, and last appeared on the RTE stage in Crooked. She recently wrapped season one of Amazon Prime’s reboot series A League of Their Own, and is currently working as a series regular on a Nick Jr. animated show. Other Chicago theater credits include: Graveyard Shift, The Little Foxes, A Christmas Carol (Goodman); Domesticated, Slowgirl, The Book Thief, Wedding Band (Steppenwolf); King Charles III (Chicago Shakespeare); The North China Lover (Lookingglass); Circle Mirror Transformation (Victory Gardens); The Real Thing (Writers); Sunday in the Park with George (Ravinia); Inherit the Wind (Northlight); The Crucible, Cry of Players (TimeLine); Oliver, State Fair (Marriott); Meet Me in St. Louis (Drury Lane). Broadway: The Real Thing (Roundabout). International: The Beacon (Druid/Gate Theatre, IRL). Regional: Queens (La Jolla Playhouse); Slowgirl (Geffen Playhouse). TV: Fear the Walking Dead, Grace and Frankie, For the People, Sea Oak, Boardwalk Empire, Shameless, The Resident, Bull, Adventure Time, Chicago Fire, PD and Med. Film: Slice, I Do…Until I Don’t, Mona Lisa and the Blood Moon, The Robbery (Sundance Selection), Dismissed, Invitation to a Murder. Rae graduated with honors from the University of Chicago.

Tara Mallen (Aubrey / RTE Artistic Director) is an actor, director, and the Producing Artistic Director at Rivendell Theatre Ensemble. She was a 2017 3Arts William Franklin Grisham Awardee and the 2014 Volunteers of America Silver Star Awardee. Most recently Mallen was seen onstage in the title role in the world premiere of Kate Tarker’s Laura and The Sea. Before that she starred in The Cake for which she won the 2018 Jeff Award for Performer in a Principal Role. In 2016, she performed in the world premiere production of Lynn Nottage’s Sweat at Arena Stage. Prior to that she was in Rivendell’s Jeff-nominated world premiere productions of Look, we are breathing and Rasheeda Speaking. Tara appeared in Steppenwolf’s How Long Will I Cry: Stories of Youth Violence written by Chicago Journalist Miles Harvey. She was part of the ensemble in Rivendell’s world premiere, Jeff nominated production of The Walls and played Jolene Palmer (inspired by the true-life story of Aileen Wuornos) in Rivendell’s award winning production of Self Defense, or the Death of Some Salesmen—both productions part of Steppenwolf’s Visiting Theater Initiative.

For Rivendell, Tara has produced and acted in over 25 productions. She received a Joseph Jefferson Award for Supporting Actress in WRENS as part of that production’s Jeff-winning ensemble. She was nominated the following year for Actress in a Principal Role for her work in My Simple City. Her screen credits include Steven Soderbergh’s film Contagion, Boss (Starz), the pilot of Chicago Fire (NBC), the pilot of Doubt (CBS/Sony Pictures), Chicago P.D. and Sense8 (Netflix) directed by Lana and Andy Wachowski. With Rivendell, Tara conceived and directed the world premiere of WOMEN AT WAR, directed the Jeff nominated Midwest premieres of The Electric Baby, 26 Miles (co-production with Teatro Vista); Fighting Words; Psalms of a Questionable Nature; the co-production of Elliot, a Soldier’s Fugue with Stageworks/Hudson in Hudson, NY; and the brief and brilliant Shady Meadows by Lisa Dillman as part of the 2007 Chicago Humanities Festival.

Krystel McNeil (Harper) is excited to be working on Spay at Rivendell Theatre Ensemble (Laura and the Sea and The Cake, Women at War), where she is an ensemble member. Other credits include: Gem of The Ocean, Objects in The Mirror, and Carlyle (Goodman Theatre); In The Next Room or The Vibrator Play; Spill (Timeline Theatre Company); The Compass (Steppenwolf Theatre Company), Bootycandy (Windy City Playhouse). Tours include Defamation The Play (Canamac Productions).

Film and television credits include Chiraq (Amazon Films); Gossamer; The Chi (Showtime); Chicago P.D. (NBC) Next (Fox) Soundtrack (Netflix), Proven Innocent (FOX).

Spencer Huffman (Jackson) is a playwright, actor, and director based in Chicago. He is thrilled to be making his Chicago acting debut with Rivendell Theatre Ensemble. As a playwright, his work includes: Evil Perfect, The Baseball Gods, When We Were Little, Shine Down On Us, The Swamp Play, Like Some Deep Booming, The Vastness of the North, and If Only We Were Ghosts. His plays have earned recognition from theatres and festivals across the U.S., including The National Playwrights Conference, American Stage’s 21st Century Voices New Play Festival, Landing Theatre Co. New American Voices Festival, and Southwest Theatre Production’s Rising Artists Playwriting Competition, among others. His plays have received productions and staged readings from Bramble Theatre Co. (Chicago), The Landing Theatre Co. (Houston, TX), Broken Bell Reads (Chicago), Three Cat Productions (Chicago), and Relative Theatrics (Laramie, WY). He has been a writing fellow at Millay Arts, The Marble House Project, and the Kerouac Project of Orlando. Spencer graduated from the School at Steppenwolf in 2019 and is an ensemble member and literary manager at Bramble Theatre Company. BA: Kenyon College.

Krystel McNeil, Rae Gray


Previews: March 12 – March 19, 2022

Saturday, March 12 at 8pm

Sunday, March 13 at 3pm

Thursday, March 17 at 8pm

Friday, March 18 at 8pm

Saturday, March 19 at 8pm


Regular run: March 23 – April 17, 2022

Wednesdays at 8pm (April 6 and 13 only)

Thursdays-Saturdays at 8pm (except no Saturday 8pm performances on April 9 and 16, 2022)

Saturdays 4pm

Sundays at 3pm (April 3 and 17 only)


Jeffs/VIP opening: March 20, 2022 at 6pm

Press opening: March 23, 2022 at 7pm

Mama’s Night: April 8 at 8pm

Post-show Town Halls: April 9 and April 16, 2022 at 4pm



Previews: $25 General Admission

$5 Student, Educators, Military/Veterans, Industry (Limited quantity, first-come, first-served)

$15 Seniors and Neighbors


Regular run: $35 General Admission

$15 Student, Educators, Military/Veterans, Industry (Limited quantity, first-come, first-served)

$25 Seniors and Neighbors

$45 Sponsor Admission (to help us pay artists fair wages by covering the full cost of a seat at the performance)

$90 Angel Admission (1 Basic Admission, plus helping to cover discounted or free tickets to people who need them)

RIV Pass: $95 (see the production plays as often as desired)

Box Office:     (773) 334-7728 or

Parking and Transportation: Free parking is available in the Senn High School parking lot (located a block and a half from the theatre behind the school off Thorndale Avenue). There is limited paid and free street parking in the area. The theatre is easily accessible via the Clark (#22) or Broadway (#36) bus, and is a short walk from the Bryn Mawr Red Line el station.

About Rivendell Theatre Ensemble

Founded in 1994, Rivendell Theatre Ensemble advances the lives of women through theatre. Rivendell cultivates the talents of women artists—writers, actors, directors, designers and technicians—by seeking out innovative plays that explore unique female experiences and producing them in an intimate salon environment.

Rivendell fills an important role in the Chicago region as the only Equity theatre dedicated to producing artistically challenging and original plays created by and about women. After years of being an itinerant company, Rivendell moved into its own theater space in 2011 in Edgewater. The company is focused on becoming an integral community partner and serving as a catalyst to engage audiences in a discussion of local social issues.

For more information about Rivendell Theater Ensemble, visit Follow Rivendell on Facebook at, on Twitter @RivendellThtr, and on Instagram at @rivendelltheatre.

COVID Safety

All visitors to Rivendell Theatre must provide proof of COVID-19 vaccination and face masks are required at all times. Please be prepared to show a physical or digital copy of your vaccine card along with your photo ID. Thank you!

Anti-Racism statement

Rivendell Theatre Ensemble is in alignment with the accountability efforts being led by We See You White American Theatre. Read our pledge Here.

Rivendell Theatre Ensemble is supported by generous grants from: Paul M. Angell Family Foundation; The MacArthur Funds for Culture, Equity and the Arts at The Richard H. Driehaus Foundation; The Elizabeth Morse Charitable Trust; Shubert Foundation; Illinois Arts Council Agency; The Alphawood Foundation; The Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation; Sarah and the 2 C Dogs; A.L. Luria and Jennie Luria Foundation; SIF Fund at The Chicago Community Trust; The Saints Volunteers for the Performing Arts; Arts Midwest; City of Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs & Special Events; National Endowment for the Arts; The Elizabeth F. Cheney Foundation

Rae Gray, Krystel McNeil

Wednesday, February 23, 2022

EXTENDED: Porchlight Music Theatre's Acclaimed Blues in the Night Now Playing March 20, 2022






Now Extended Through March 20, 2022

 Felicia P. Fields* All Photos by Anthony Robert La Penna


By Bonnie Kenaz-Mara

Every time I see a Porchlight Music Theatre I am stunned by the incredible performers we have here in Chicago. I'm convinced the second city is second to none when it comes to powerhouse vocals, snazzy choreography, and sheer talent. Blues in the night brings an award winning cast together for a sultry, stunning production that's truly a treat. The top notch musicians play on stage and are a joy to see in action, as are the actors. The stage chemistry is palpable and this show is sure to warm your winter weary heart. Highly recommended. Don't miss this!

Bonnie is a Chicago based writer, theater critic, photographer, videographer, actress, artist and Mama. She owns two websites where she publishes frequently: (adult) & (family friendly). 

Donica Lynn* 

Terrell Armstrong+ in BLUES IN THE NIGHT from Porchlight Music Theatre, Feb. 9 - March 20 at The Ruth Page Center for the Arts. Photo by Anthony Robert La Penna

(L to R) Evan Tyrone Martin+ and Clare Kennedy* in BLUES IN THE NIGHT from Porchlight Music Theatre, Feb. 9 - March 20 at The Ruth Page Center for the Arts. Photo by Anthony Robert La Penna
Blues in the Night featuring Tony-Nominated Actor Felicia P. Fields*, Jeff Award-Winner Donica Lynn*, Jeff Award-Nominated Evan Tyrone Martin+, Clare Kennedy* and Terrell Armstrong+

 Pronoun Key: + (he/him/his); * (she/her/hers); ^ (they, them, theirs). = (any with respect)

New dates for Porchlight Music Theatre productions:

Blues in the Night

Conceived by Sheldon Epps

Directed and Choreographed by Kenny Ingram+

Music Directed by David Fiorello+

Associate Music Director and Conductor Maulty Jewell IV+

Assistant Choreographer Ariel Dorsey*

NEW DATES: February 9 - March 20

The Blues is one of America’s original art forms and Chicago was the home to some of the greatest Blues performers ever. Set in a history-filled hotel on Chicago’s south side one fateful night in the late 1930s, this Tony Award-nominated celebration interweaves the stories of three women who share their highs and lows of romance through the iconic songs of Bessie Smith, Duke Ellington, Johnny Mercer, Harold Arlen, Alberta Hunter, Jimmy Cox, Ida Cox and others.

Ticket Price: $25 – $74


Terrell Armstrong+


The Blues in the Night cast includes Felicia P. Fields* ("The Lady from the Road”) in her Porchlight Mainstage debut;  Donica Lynn* ("The Woman of the World") last seen by Porchlight audiences in her Jeff-Award nominated role in Duke Ellington’s Sophisticated Ladies,  Clare Kennedy* ("The Girl with a Date”) a follow up to her performance in Porchlight’s New Faces Sing Broadway 1961;  Evan Tyrone Martin+ ("The Man in the Saloon) last seen in Porchlight’s Jeff Award-winning  Dreamgirls and Terrell Armstrong+ ("The Dancing Man”) last seen in Porchlight’s  A Chorus Line.

Blues in the Night’s production team includes: Kenny Ingram+, (director & choreographer); David Fiorello+, (music director);  Ariel M Dorsey*, (assistant choreographer) and Maulty Jewell IV+ (associate music director/conductor), Alden Vasquez+ (production stage manager); Ruben Echoles+ (costume and wig designer), Brandon Wardell+ (lighting designer), Eric Backus+ (sound designer), Angela Weber Miller* (scenic designer), Caitlin McCarthy* (properties designer), Matthew Chase+ (audio engineer), Rachel West* (lighting supervisor), Jennifer Aparicio* (production manager), Henry Wilkinson+ (technical director), Rashaad A. Bond+, (producing artistic associate); Alex Rhyan+, (production and operations director) and Michael Weber+, (artistic director).

Information about Porchlight Music Theatre’s COVID-19 Guidelines a its events may be found at:

ABOUT KENNY INGRAM +, director and choreographer

Kenny Ingram last directed and choreographed Triple Threat, a play that moves and sings starring James T. Lane ahh The Zeiders American Dream Theatre in Virginia Beach. He received the White Nights Film Festival Diploma for his direction and choreography for Chicago Performing Theatrical production of The Moment in Russia. Ingram directed and choreographed for Chicago Shakespeare’s first summer musical Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat at Navy Pier. He choreographed The New York Times Critics Pick re -mount of Emojiland, Off Broadway at The Duke on 42nd, and Till, The Musical based on the story of Emmett Till Off Broadway at Signature Theatre for the New York Musical Festival. Ingram won outstanding Choreography for his moves in Emojiland in 2018 at NYMF. Although he lives in Harlem, he is excited to return home to Chicago where he began his career at Lou Conte Dance Studio on Scholarship, taught jazz dance here at The Ruth Page Center and choreographed at many Chicago Legendary Theatre’s including Goodman, Steppenwolf, Court Theatre, Organic Theatre, Hasted Street Theatre and now to cap it off Porchlight. 

ABOUT DAVID FIORELLO+, music director

David Fiorello is a music director, performer, director, composer and arranger who’s no stranger to Porchlight. He has served as music director for Porchlight’s Gypsy, Porchlight Revisits Do Re Mi, Porchlight Revisits Woman of the Year, several seasons of the New Faces Sing Broadway series, as well as several Chicago Sings and ICONS GALA benefits. He also appeared onstage as Joe in Porchlight's mainstage production of Merrily We Roll Along. David currently serves as founder and artistic director of The Beautiful City Project, a theatre company committed to raising funds for local Chicago charities and nonprofits, using some of the city’s finest musical theatre talents. He’s music directed national and international tours, including John Doyle’s re-imagining of Sweeney Todd. He also served as music director for the Off-Broadway hit Danny & Sylvia: The Danny Kaye Musical. His orchestrations and arrangements have been heard across the nation, and on several albums. He’s taught and directed/music directed as part of the International Lyric Academy in Italy and is adjunct faculty at Columbia College Chicago. An in-demand vocal coach, Fiorello Studios has also provided unique cabaret programming featuring the music of The Indigo Girls, Jason Mraz, Kelly Clarkson, Eva Cassidy, Sara Bareilles and Colbie Caillat. 

Evan Tyrone Martin+ 


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


Porchlight Music Theatre is the award-winning center for music theatre in Chicago. Through live performance, youth education and community outreach we impact thousands of lives each season, bringing the magic of musicals to our theatre home at the Ruth Page Center for the Arts in the Gold Coast and to neighborhoods across the city. Porchlight has built a national reputation for boldly reimagining classic musicals, supporting new works and young performers, and showcasing Chicago’s most notable music theatre artists, all through the intimate and powerful theatrical lens of the “Chicago Style.” 

Now in its 27th season, Porchlight's quarter-century production history includes more than 70 mainstage works with 15 Chicago premieres and five world premieres. Porchlight’s commitment to the past, present and future of music theatre led the company to develop the Porchlight Revisits and New Faces Sing Broadway program series, both quickly becoming audience favorites. 

Porchlight's education and outreach programs serve schools, youth of all ages and skill levels and community organizations, most notably the ongoing collaboration with Chicago Youth Centers. Porchlight annually awards dozens of full scholarships and hundreds of free tickets to ensure accessibility and real engagement with this uniquely American art form. 

The company’s many honors include 178 Joseph Jefferson Award (Jeff) nominations and 45 Jeff awards, as well as 33 Black Theatre Alliance (BTA) nominations and 12 BTA awards. In 2019, Porchlight graduated to the Large Theatre tier of the Equity Jeff Awards, and was honored with eight nominations in both technical and artistic categories and won three awards in its inaugural year in this tier, most notably Best Ensemble for Duke Ellington’s Sophisticated Ladies. 

Through the global pandemic, Porchlight emerged as one of Chicago’s leaders in virtual programming, quickly launching a host of free offerings like Sondheim @ 90 Roundtables, Movie Musical Mondays, Porchlight by Request: Command Performances and WPMT: Classic Musicals from the Golden Age of Radio. For the 2020-2021 season, Porchlight’s fall schedule included all-new ticketed virtual programs including Broadway by the Decade, New Faces Sing Broadway 1987, Chicago Sings Rock & Roll Broadway, New Faces Sing Broadway 1961 and the return of The Ruffians’ Burning Bluebeard as well as collaborations with Hershey Felder and L.A. Theatre Works. Porchlight recently launched its first summer performance schedule in 2021 that included a sold-out performance of New Faces Sing Broadway 1979 at the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts in Skokie, the premiere of its outdoor music series Broadway in your Backyard, performed throughout Chicagoland this summer and special appearances at Sundays on State and Navy Pier’s Chicago Live Again. 

Award-winning Porchlight Music Theatre announces the cast for Blues in the Night, conceived by Sheldon Epps+, with the music of Bessie Smith, Johnny Mercer, Harold Arlen, Vernon Duke, Gordon Jenkins, Alberta Hunter and others., January 15, 2022 - February 27, 2022 at The Ruth Page Center for the Arts, 1016 N. Dearborn St. The first mainstage production of 2022 is directed and choreographed by Kenny Ingram+, music directed by David Fiorello+, assistant choreographed by Ariel M. Dorsey and associate music director and conductor Maulty Jewell IV+.  Blues in The Night’s previews are Saturday, Jan, 15 at 3 p.m., Sunday, Jan. 16  at 2 and 6:30 p.m., Wednesday, Jan. 19  at 7 p.m. and Thursday, Jan. 20 at 1:30 p.m. with the press opening Thursday, Jan. 20, 2022 at 7 p.m. The regular run performance schedule is Thursdays at 7:00 p.m., Fridays at 8 p.m., Saturdays at 3:00 and 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. with  weekday matinees Thursday,  Jan. 27 and Feb. 3 at 1:30 p.m. Single tickets are $25 - $74 and subscriptions to the entire 2021 - 2022 season are available at or by calling the Porchlight Music Theatre box office, 773.777.9884. (Please note: complete performance schedule is available at the end of this release.) 

Porchlight Music Theatre is partially supported by generous contributions from  Actors’ Equity Foundation; Allstate; Michael Best & Friedrich LLP; Chapman | Spingola, LLP; Abe and Ida Cooper Foundation; Gen Ops Plus; Elegant Event Lighting; Glimpse Vision; James P. and Brenda S. Grusecki Family Foundation; Hearty Boys; A.L. and Jennie L. Luria Foundation; The MacArthur Fund for Culture, Equity and the Arts at Prince; the Pritzker Traubert Foundation; Ryan and Spaeth, Inc.; Daniel and Genevieve Ratner Foundation; The Saints and Dr. Scholl Foundation.

The season program is partially supported by a grant from the Illinois Arts Council Agency, a state agency, and by a CityArts Grant from the City of Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs & Special Events. 

Porchlight Music Theatre wishes to thank members of the Matching Gift Corporate Program including Abbvie; Allstate; Lloyd A. Fry Foundation; Peoples Gas; Pepsico; Polk Bros Foundation and The Saints. 

From L.A. to Amsterdam to Berlin, a young musician chases youthful dreams and spiritual clarity against a shifting backdrop of locales and acquaintances as he rebels against his conservative upbringing. This hit rock musical, loaded with soulful lyrics and passion, debuted to critical acclaim on Broadway in 2008, winning both the Tony and Drama Desk Awards and went on to be a critically acclaimed motion picture filmed by Spike Lee+ in 2009. The New York Times said about its Broadway debut, “Call it a rock concert with a story to tell … Or call it a sprawling work of performance art … I’ll just call it wonderful.”

All performances take place at The Ruth Page Center for the Arts at 1016 N. Dearborn Street. 

Updated performance schedule:


Thursday, Feb. 24 at 7 p.m.

Friday, Feb. 25 at 8 p.m. 

Saturday, Feb. 26 at 3 p.m.

Sunday, Feb. 27 at  2 p.m.


Thursday, March 3 at  7 p.m.

Friday, March 4 at  8 p.m.

Saturday, March 5 at 3 p.m. (Open Caption Performance)

Sunday, March 6 at  2 p.m.


Thursday, March 10 at 7p.m.

Friday, March 11 at 8 p.m.

Saturday, March 12 at 3 p.m. (Open Caption Performance)

Sunday, March 13 at 2 p.m.


Thursday, March 17 at 7p.m.

Friday, March 18 at 8 p.m.

Saturday, March 19 at 3 p.m. 

Sunday, March 20 at 2 p.m.

Ticket Price: $25 – 74


(L to R) Clare Kennedy* and Terrell Armstrong+ in BLUES IN THE NIGHT from Porchlight Music Theatre, Feb. 9 - March 20 at The Ruth Page Center for the Arts. Photo by Anthony Robert La Penna

Monday, October 25, 2021

Goodman Theatre's Fannie Extended Through November 21, 2021 Due to Popular Demand

ChiIL Live Shows on our radar



Yesterday, the Goodman closed one production (American Mariachi by Jose Cruz González, which “went clean”/sold-out its final weekend) and tonight opens and extends another (Fannie, The Music and Life of Fannie Lou Hamer)—both directed by Resident Artistic Associate Henry Godinez—and tomorrow, begins rehearsals for the 44th annual A Christmas Carol, directed by Jessica Thebus. I'll be out for the opening night of Fannie tonight and can't wait to catch the incomparable E. Faye Butler on stage once again. It's always a treat to hear her sing, and I'm eager to see her take on the character of the legendary Fannie Lou Hamer. Check back soon for my full review. 

Five performances have been added to the schedule of the powerful and electric Fannie (The Music and Life of Fannie Lou Hamer) by Cheryl L. West, now through November 21—new performance dates appear below. This immersive call-to-action is West’s original play from which she adapted the abridged version—Fannie Lou Hamer, Speak On It!, which toured Chicago parks in September/October 2020. Fannie (The Music and Life of Fannie Lou Hamer) appears through November 21 (opening night is tonight at 7pm); tickets (starting at $15) are now on sale at or by calling 312.443.3800. This Goodman co-commission with Seattle Repertory Theatre previously appeared as part of the 2019 New Stages Festival.  The Goodman is grateful for the support of PNC, Arts in Community Sponsor; Abbott Fund, Corporate Sponsor Partner; and Allstate, Youth Arts Sponsor.

Health and safety note: Proof of full vaccination with an FDA-authorized vaccine is required for all guests 12+ and a recent negative test must be presented for children under 12. Patrons must wear face coverings at all times while inside Goodman Theatre. Visit for more information.


Thursday, November 18 (7:30pm)

Friday, November 19 (8pm)

Saturday, November 20 (2pm & 8pm)

Sunday, November 21 (2pm)

The “utterly unstoppable” (Chicago Tribune) E. Faye Butler expands her performance as American civil rights freedom fighter Fannie Lou Hamer, hailed in theaters across the country as “magnetic” (Washington Post), “powerhouse” (Sarasota Herald-Tribune), “moving and memorable” (Oregon’s Times-Standard). Three musicians—Deonté Brantley, Morgan E. and Felton Offard (during performances between October 25-31) and Michael Ross (during performances between November 3-21)—join Butler on stage to breathe new life into more than 10 iconic spirituals, including “We Shall Not Be Moved,” “I’m on My Way to Freedom” and “I Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me ‘Round.”

Fannie Lou Hamer, who would become known for her political activism and continuous efforts for civil rights, was 44 years old before she discovered that she had the right to vote. It took her three attempts to pass Mississippi’s voter registration test, which was designed to disenfranchise people of color and those with few educational opportunities. Ms. Hamer spent the rest of her life as a fierce advocate of civil and voting rights, surviving extreme violence to help found the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party and the National Women’s Political Caucus.

For tickets and more information check out Goodman Theatre's Page here.


Fannie (The Music and Life of Fannie Lou Hamer)

By Cheryl L. West

Directed by Henry Godinez

Originally co-commissioned and developed by Goodman Theatre and Seattle Repertory Theatre, with additional development by Oregon Shakespeare Festival.


Fannie Lou Hamer…………..E. Faye Butler

Fannie Lou Hamer Understudy….Melody A. Betts


Drumset/Percussion/Vocals….Deonté Brantley

Piano/Organ/Auxiliary Keyboards/Vocals…..Morgan E.

Acoustic/Guitar/Electric Guitar/Harmonica/Vocals Alternate…..Buddy Fambro

Acoustic/Guitar/Electric Guitar/Harmonica/Vocals (during performances between October 15-31)…..Felton Offard

Acoustic Guitar/Electric Guitar/Harmonica/Vocals (during performances between November 3-21)…..Michael Ross

Piano/Organ/Auxiliary Keyboards/Vocals Alternate…..Dominique Johnson

Drumset/Percussion/Vocals Alternate…..Linard Stroud

The creative team includes Colette Pollard (Set Design), Michael Alan Stein (Costume Design), Jason Lynch (Lighting Design), Victoria Deiorio (Sound Design), Rasean Davonte Johnson (Projection Design) and Mr. Bernard (Wig Design). Music Direction and Arrangements are by Felton Offard, dramaturgy is by Christine Sumption and casting is by Lauren Port, CSA. Kaitlin Kitzmiller is the Production Stage Manager.


Touch Tour* and Audio-Described Performance: Saturday, November 7 | 12:30pm Touch Tour and 2pm performance – The action/text is audibly enhanced for patrons via headset.

*Touch tours for the 2012/2022 season will not have access to the stage due to current health and safety protocols, but will feature alternate pre-show sensory introductions.

ASL-Interpreted Performance: Saturday, November 13 at 2pm – Professional ASL interpreter signs the action/text as played.

Open-Captioned Performance: Sunday, November 14 at 2pm – An LED sign presents dialogue in sync with the performance.

Visit Goodman for more information about Goodman Theatre’s accessibility efforts. 


Chicago’s theater since 1925, Goodman Theatre is a not-for-profit arts and community organization in the heart of the Loop, distinguished by the excellence and scope of its artistic programming and community engagement.

Led by Artistic Director Robert Falls and Executive Director Roche Schulfer, the theater’s artistic priorities include new play development (more than 150 world or American premieres), large scale musical theater works and reimagined classics. Artists and productions have earned two Pulitzer Prizes, 22 Tony Awards and more than 160 Jeff Awards, among other accolades. The Goodman is the first theater in the world to produce all 10 plays in August Wilson’s “American Century Cycle.” It’s longtime annual holiday tradition A Christmas Carol, now in its fifth decade, has created a new generation of theatergoers in Chicago. The Goodman also frequently serves as a production and program partner with national and international companies and Chicago’s Off-Loop theaters.

Using the tools of the theatrical profession, the Goodman’s Education and Engagement programs aim to develop generations of citizens who understand the cultures and stories of diverse voices. The Goodman’s Alice Rapoport Center for Education and Engagement is the home to these programs, which are offered free of charge for Chicago youth—85% of whom come from underserved communities—schools and life-long learners.

As a cultural and community organization invested in quality, diversity and community, Goodman Theatre is committed to using the art of theater for a better Chicago. Goodman Theatre’s Action Plan for Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, Anti-Racism and Access (IDEAA) was born out of the belief that progress means action, which includes building on the decades-long commitment to using art, assets and resources to contribute to a more just, equitable and anti-racist society.

Goodman Theatre was founded by William O. Goodman and his family in honor of their son Kenneth, an important figure in Chicago’s cultural renaissance in the early 1900s. The Goodman family’s legacy lives on through the continued work and dedication of Kenneth’s family, including Albert Ivar Goodman, who with his late mother, Edith-Marie Appleton, contributed the necessary funds for the creation of the new Goodman center in 2000.

Today, Goodman Theatre leadership also includes the distinguished members of the Artistic Collective: Rebecca Gilman, Dael Orlandersmith, Henry Godinez, Steve Scott, Kimberly Senior, Chuck Smith, Regina Taylor, Henry Wishcamper and Mary Zimmerman. Jeff Hesse is Chairman of Goodman Theatre’s Board of Trustees, Fran Del Boca is Women’s Board President and Megan McCarthy Hayes is President of the Scenemakers Board for young professionals.

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

REVIEW: Bug at Steppenwolf Now Extended Through March 15, 2020

ChiIL Live Shows on our radar
By Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award-Winning 
Ensemble Member Tracy Letts
Directed by Tony Award Winner David Cromer 

NOW EXTENDED Through March 15, 2020

A Luridly Funny Tale of Love, Paranoia and Government Conspiracy Makes Its Steppenwolf Debut

Ensemble member Carrie Coon in Bug. Photo by Michael Brosilow.

by Bonnie Kenaz-Mara

Tracy Letts' Bug at Steppenwolf is a PTSD and crack fueled, descent into paranoia and self mutilation. This visceral production is guaranteed to evoke strong emotions. Bug begins on a hopeful note of friendship and support, but quickly spirals into collective hallucinations and self harm, rife with external enemies real and imagined. Sure, this shared reality is a strong bond and even a love of sorts, yet a twisted and destructive one. It's a testament to Tracy Letts' macabre imagination as storyteller, that this harrowing world exists on stage.

Pictured (L to R) ensemble members Carrie Coon (Agnes White) 
and Namir Smallwood (Peter Evans). All Photos by Michael Brosilow.

I can't fathom the energy and consummate skill it takes to become Agnes White (Carrie Coon) and Peter Evans (Namir Smallwood) night after night, for the run of this show. The supporting cast is strong and the principal characters are compelling. With an impressive array of award winners as cast and creatives, Steppenwolf's powerhouse production is a must see.

Pictured (L to R) ensemble member Namir Smallwood (Peter Evans), Jennifer Engstrom (R.C.) and ensemble member Carrie Coon (Agnes White)

It makes my skin crawl to think of having to live in that head space. And speaking of skin... this production bares it all, with full frontal male and female nudity, for a physical and mental vulnerability seldom asked of actors. Don't expect titilation, though. BUG is a searing indictment on a society that fails its most vulnerable, where skin isn't sexy, but an infested lair to be destroyed. 

Pictured (L to R) ensemble member Carrie Coon (Agnes White) 
and Steve Key (Jerry Goss)

We are given a woman with an abusive ex husband who has tried to murder her, freshly out of prison and back in her life against her will. Add to this her grief, desperation, and inability to find her missing son, abducted at age 6 from a grocery store, and Agnes is ripe for addiction and recruitment to Peter's delusions. Peter is a soldier, back from the Gulf War, and possibly damaged irreparably mentally and physically by combat followed by years in a military hospital psych ward, and a childhood as a home schooled preacher's son. Steppenwolf further adds the storyline of another layer of trauma, due to systemic, societal racism, by not casting a white man as Peter. 

Pictured ensemble member Namir Smallwood (Peter Evans) 

Spiraling into Peter and Agnes' world is not easy, but vitally important. By the climax, BUG brings the audience beyond fear and derision, to empathy and understanding. Through the dual meanings of "bug", this desperate couple battles an infestation of inner demons in the shape of insects, as well as invasive government tracking through transmitting bugs. 

(L to R) Steve Key (Jerry Goss) and ensemble member Namir Smallwood (Peter Evans) 
Their alternate reality makes perfect sense in so many ways, and that makes society's failure to save them from self destruction at once even more disastrous and inevitable. This type of hell on earth does exist for all too many, and we need to do better for those who get stuck there, and those who descend into their world with an outstretched hand, and sometimes fatal consequences. With our current politicians bent on dismantling protections for women and safety nets, while amping up the military, this storyline is more vital than ever. I've talked to people who hated BUG and those who've raved about it. Either way, Tracy Letts is a master at world building, and that's a win in my book. Highly recommended. 

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

They’re Everywhere…  

Due to popular demand, Steppenwolf Theatre Company’s production of Bug, the skin-crawling, mind-bending cult classic by Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award-winning ensemble member Tracy Letts, is extending one week and will now close on March 15, 2020. 

Directed by Tony Award winner David Cromer, the cast of this highly anticipated Steppenwolf debut features ensemble members Randall Arney (Dr. Sweet), Carrie Coon (Agnes White) and Namir Smallwood (Peter Evans) along with Chicago favorites Jennifer Engstrom (R.C.) and Steve Key (Jerry Goss). 

Pictured ensemble member Carrie Coon (Agnes White)   

In a seedy Oklahoma motel room, a lonely waitress begins an unexpected love affair with a young drifter. And then they see the first bugs...Tracy Letts’s mind-bending cult classic — a luridly funny tale of love, paranoia, and government conspiracy — roars back to Chicago for its Steppenwolf debut.

Bug will now run through March 15, 2020 in the Downstairs Theatre (1650 N. Halsted St). Single tickets ($20 - $125) are available through Audience Services at 312-335-1650 or

 Pictured (L to R) ensemble member Carrie Coon (Agnes White) and ensemble member Namir Smallwood (Peter Evans)

Tracy Letts shares, “Bug explores folie à deux, a psychological term that means the madness of two—it’s when one person literally catches another person’s psychosis, which also seemed to me kind of like love…It’s a love story. Bug has primarily been done in really small spaces, normally in theaters of 100 seats or fewer, so to see it in our theater with the caliber of our actors and David Cromer directing…I can’t wait.”

Cast bios

Randall Arney (Dr. Sweet) has been a member of the Steppenwolf ensemble since 1984 and was the Artistic Director from 1987 to 1995. He was last on the Steppenwolf stage in The Seafarer in 2009. He directed last season’s acclaimed revival of True West and the 2013 production of Slowgirl, among others. Broadway transfers under his leadership as Steppenwolf Artistic Director included The Rise and Fall of Little Voice, The Song of Jacob Zulu (six Tony Award nominations) and The Grapes of Wrath (1990 Tony Award, Best Play). Arney recently served as the artistic director of the Geffen Playhouse in Los Angeles (1999 - 2017). He has an M.F.A. degree in Acting from Illinois State University.

Carrie Coon (Agnes White) joined the Steppenwolf ensemble in 2019, and was last seen at Steppenwolf in the world premiere of Tracy Letts’s Mary Page Marlowe. Other Steppenwolf credits include Tracy Letts’s adaptation of Three Sisters, The March and Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? as “Honey,” a role that led to a Tony nomination and a Theatre World Award. She won a Critics’ Choice Television Award for her performance in HBO’s The Leftovers and a TCA Award for Individual Achievement in Drama for her performances in HBO’s The Leftovers and FX’s Fargo. For her performance in Amy Herzog’s world premiere Mary Jane, she garnered a 2018 Lucille Lortel Award, an Obie Award and a Drama Desk Award nomination. Current film projects include The Nest with Jude Law and Ghostbusters (Summer 2020).

Namir Smallwood (Peter Evans) joined the Steppenwolf ensemble in March 2017, where he has been seen in True West, Aziza Barnes’ BLKS, Steppenwolf for Young Adults’ Monster, Christina Anderson’s Man In Love and The Hot L Baltimore. Other Chicago credits include The Lost Boys of Sudan (Victory Gardens Theater); the world premiere of Philip Dawkins’ Charm (Northlight Theatre); The Grapes of Wrath (Gift Theatre) and East Texas Hot Links (Writers’ Theatre). Regional credits include Marin Theatre Company, Pillsbury House Theatre, Ten Thousand Things and Guthrie Theater. New York credits include Lincoln Center Theater’s productions of Pipeline by Dominique Morisseau and Pass Over by Antoinette Nwandu. Television credits include Chicago Fire and Betrayal.

Jennifer Engstrom (R.C.) was recently on stage at Steppenwolf in Lindiwe. Additional Chicago credits include One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, The North Plan, Small Mouth Sounds, Simpatico, The Mutilated, Fatboy, 3C (A Red Orchid); Sweet Bird of Youth (Goodman); A Streetcar Named Desire, Death of a Streetcar Named Virginia Woolf (Writer’s); Sky Girls (Northlight); and Hot L Baltimore (Mary-Arrchie). Regional credits include Simpatico (McCarter Theatre); Angels in America (Kansas City Rep); and A Streetcar Named Desire (Williamstown Theatre Fest). In New York, she curated and performed in Excuse My Dust, a Dorothy Parker Portfolio. Film and TV credits include SLICE, Swing Shift and Chicago Fire.

Steve Key (Jerry Goss) was in the National Tour of Steppenwolf’s August: Osage County, and in previous Steppenwolf productions of One Arm, The Libertine, As I Lay Dying. His Broadway credits include SWEAT and Off Broadway The Effect (Barrow Street Theatre) and Blue Surge (The Public Theatre). Additional Chicago credits include Feathers & Teeth, Vigils, Zoo Story and Blue Surge (Goodman); Grace, Better Late (Northlight Theatre); Rest, Circle Mirror Transformation (Victory Gardens); Brothers Karamazov (Lookingglass); The Unseen (A Red Orchid), among others. TV credits include Boss, Chicago Fire, Elementary, Chicago Code, Mob Doctor and on film, Public Enemies, 1,000 Acres, Blackmail.

Playwright and Director Bios

Tracy Letts is a multifaceted award-winning actor and playwright. He is the author of The Minutes (Pulitzer finalist), Linda Vista, Mary Page Marlowe, The Scavenger’s Daughter, Superior Donuts, August: Osage County (Pulitzer Prize, Tony Award for Best Play), Man from Nebraska (Pulitzer finalist), Bug, and Killer Joe. He also wrote the screenplays for the films The Woman in the Window, August: Osage County, Bug, and Killer Joe. He won the 2013 Tony Award for Best Leading Actor in a Play for his performance as George in the Tony Award-winning revival of Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, which premiered at Chicago’s Steppenwolf Theatre. He joined the Steppenwolf ensemble in 2002, where he has appeared in American Buffalo, Betrayal, The Pillowman, The Pain and the Itch, The Dresser, Homebody/Kabul, The Dazzle, Glengarry Glen Ross, Three Days of Rain, many others. Other productions include The Realistic Joneses (Broadway) and Orson’s Shadow (Barrow Street Theatre, NY). Film appearances include Little Women, Ford v Ferrari, The Post, Lady Bird, The Lovers, Indignation, Christine, The Big Short, Imperium, Wiener-Dog, Guinevere. Steppenwolf production of his Letts’s play Linda Vista recently completed a successful run at Broadway’s Hayes Theater and was a New York Times Critic’s Pick. Steppenwolf’s production of Letts’s play The Minutes begins performances on Broadway at the Cort Theatre on February 25, 2020 with Letts in the cast.

David Cromer is a director and actor originally from Chicago, currently based in New York. As a director, his New York credits include The Sound Inside, which is currently running on Broadway; The Band’s Visit (2018 Tony Award for Best Direction of a Musical, Ethel Barrymore Theatre); the Broadway revivals of Brighton Beach Memoirs and The House of Blue Leaves; The Treasurer (Playwrights Horizons); Man from Nebraska (Second Stage Theatre); The Effect, Orson’s Shadow and Tribes (Barrow Street Theatre); Women or Nothing (Atlantic Theater Company); Really Really (MCC Theater); When the Rain Stops Falling and Nikolai and the Others (Lincoln Center Theater); and Adding Machine (Minetta Lane Theatre). Other directing credits include Next to Normal (Writers Theatre); Come Back, Little Sheba (Huntington Theatre Company); The Sound Inside (Williamstown Theatre Festival); and Our Town in London, Chicago, Los Angeles, Boston and Kansas City. As an actor, he recently appeared on Broadway as Howard Fine in the 2018 production of The Waverly Gallery. Prior to that, he appeared on Broadway as Karl Lindner in the 2014 revival of A Raisin in the Sun, and Off-Broadway as the Stage Manager in Our Town, which he also directed, at the Barrow Street Theatre. He appeared in the HBO series “The Newsroom,” the Showtime series “Billions,” and in the motion picture The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected). Cromer has received a Tony Award, Drama Desk Award, three Obie Awards, three Lucille Lortel Awards, a Joe A. Callaway Award, four Jeff Awards, and in 2010 was made a MacArthur Foundation Fellow.

The Bug creative team includes Takeshi Kata (Scenic Design); Sarah Laux (Costume Design); Heather Gilbert (Lighting Design); Josh Schmidt (Sound Design); Matt Hawkins (Fight Choreographer); Tonia Sina (Intimacy Choreographer); Sydney Charles (Dramaturg); Gigi Buffington (Company Voice, Text & Dialect Coach); Hallie Gordon (Artistic Producer); Tom Pearl (Director of Production); JC Clementz, CSA (Casting Director); Christine D. Freeburg (Production Stage Manager); and Jaclynn Joslin (Assistant Stage Manager). 

Ticket and Production Info

Dates: Through March 15, 2020
Regular Run: February 6 - March 15, 2020

Ticket prices
Previews: $20 – $98, Regular Run: $20 – $125. Prices subject to change.
20 for $20: A limited number of $20 tickets are available for subscription shows on the day of the performance at 11am (Mon – Sat) and 1pm (Sun), by phone only at 312-335-1650. Limit 2 per person.

Rush Tickets: Half-price rush tickets are available one hour before each show.
Student Discounts: Limited $15 student tickets are available online with code STUDENT15. Limit 2 tickets. Must present a valid student ID for each ticket. Learn more at

Group Tickets: All groups of 10 or more receive a discounted rate for any performance.

Teen Arts Pass: Steppenwolf is a partner of the Teen Arts Pass (TAP) initiative, which allows teens ages 13 to 19 to attend any Steppenwolf performance for $5. Teens can register for free to TAP at

Classic Memberships starting as low as $100 guarantee seats, offer early access to special events, invitations to behind-the-scenes events and special discounts at the theatre and in the neighborhood. Five and six play membership packages are now available; discounted packages for students and teachers and accessible packages are also offered.

Flexible Membership options include the Black Card, which starts as low as $180. With a Black Card, you receive six ticket credits to use whenever and however you want for an entire year. Use all six tickets before that year is up? Reload your card to keep those experiences coming.

Under 30? Join Steppenwolf RED Card for just $100 and enjoy the same six flexible tickets (that’s less than $17 a credit and almost 80% off single ticket prices). Black and RED cardholders receive exclusive discounts, special perks and insider access. For more information, visit

Committed to making the Steppenwolf experience accessible to everyone, performances featuring American Sign Language Interpretation, Open Captioning and Audio Description are offered during the run of each play. Assistive listening devices and large-print programs are available for every performance and the Downstairs and 1700 Theatres are each equipped with an induction hearing loop. All theaters feature wheelchair accessible seating and restrooms, and Front Bar features a push-button entrance, all-gender restrooms and accessible counter and table spaces.

Accessible performances:
American Sign Language Interpretation: Sunday, February 16 at 7:30pm
Open Captioning: Thursday, February 13 at 7:30pm and Saturday, March 7 at 3pm
Audio Description and Touch Tour: Sunday, March 1 at 3pm (1:30pm touch tour; 3pm curtain)

Visitor information
Steppenwolf is located at 1650 N Halsted St near all forms of public transportation, bike racks and Divvy bike stands. The parking facility ($15 or $17, cash or card) is located just south of our theater at 1624 N Halsted. Valet parking service ($15 cash) is available directly in front of the main entrance starting at 5pm on weeknights, 1pm on weekends and at 12noon before Wednesday matinees. Limited street and lot parking are also available. For last minute questions and concerns, patrons can call the Steppenwolf Parking Hotline at 312.335.1774.

Sponsor information
United Airlines is the Official and Exclusive Airline of Steppenwolf.

Front Bar: Coffee and Drinks
Connected to the main lobby is Steppenwolf’s own Front Bar: Coffee and Drinks, offering an inviting space to grab a drink, have a bite, or meet up with friends and collaborators, day or night. Open Tuesdays – Sundays, Front Bar serves locally roasted coffee and espresso by Passion House Coffee Roasters and features food by The Goddess and Grocer. The menu focuses on fresh, accessible fare, featuring grab-and-go salads and sandwiches for lunch and adding shareable small plates and desserts for evening and post show service.

Steppenwolf Theatre Company
Steppenwolf Theatre Company is the nation’s premier ensemble theater. Formed by a collective of actors in 1976, the ensemble members represent a remarkable cross-section of actors, directors and playwrights. Thrilling and powerful productions from Balm in Gilead and August: Osage County to MS. BLAKK FOR PRESIDENT—and accolades that include the National Medal of Arts and 12 Tony Awards—have made the theater legendary. Steppenwolf produces hundreds of performances and events annually in its three spaces: the 515-seat Downstairs Theatre, the 299-seat Upstairs Theatre and the 80-seat 1700 Theatre. Artistic programming includes a seven-play season; a two-play Steppenwolf for Young Adults season; Visiting Company engagements; and LookOut, a multi-genre performances series. Education initiatives include the nationally recognized work of Steppenwolf for Young Adults, which engages 15,000 participants annually from Chicago’s diverse communities; the esteemed School at Steppenwolf; and Professional Leadership Programs for arts administration training. While firmly grounded in the Chicago community, nearly 40 original Steppenwolf productions have enjoyed success both nationally and internationally, including Broadway, Off-Broadway, London, Sydney, Galway and Dublin. Anna D. Shapiro is the Artistic Director and David Schmitz is the Executive Director. Eric Lefkofsky is Chair of Steppenwolf’s Board of Trustees.

Steppenwolf's mission
Steppenwolf strives to create thrilling, courageous and provocative art in a thoughtful and inclusive environment. We succeed when we disrupt your routine with experiences that spark curiosity, empathy and joy. We invite you to join our ensemble as we navigate, together, our complex world.

Pictured ensemble member Carrie Coon (Agnes White) in Steppenwolf’s production of Bug by ensemble member Tracy Letts, directed by David Cromer in the DownstairsTheatre, 1650 N Halsted St. January 23 – March 8, 2020. Tickets are available at 312-335-1650 and Photo by Michael Brosilow.

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