Firebrand Theatre, the first musical theatre company committed to employing and empowering women by expanding opportunities on and off the stage, is pleased to announce casting for its inaugural production, the Chicago premiere of LIZZIE, the rock musical based on the true-life story of accused axe-murderess Lizzie Borden. LIZZIE will play November 11 – December 17, 2017 at The Den Theatre's Bookspan Theatre, 1333 N. Milwaukee Ave. in Chicago’s Wicker Park neighborhood. Single tickets for LIZZIE are currently on sale at firebrandtheatre.org. Season subscriptions (including 9 TO 5 THE MUSICAL) are currently available. The press opening is Tuesday, November 14 at 7:30 pm.
 
LIZZIE will feature Liz Chidester as Lizzie, Leah Davis as Bridget, Jacquelyne Jones as Alice and Camille Robinson as Emma. The late night cast/understudies, who will appear in four 11 pm performances, include Kyrie Anderson as Lizzie, Becca Brown as Emma, Amanda Horvath as Bridget and Elle Walker as Alice.
 
Directed by Victoria Bussert with music direction by Julia A. Miller and Andra Velis Simon and choreography by Janet Louer, LIZZIE features music by Steven Cheslik-deMeyer and Alan Stevens Hewitt, lyrics by Steven Cheslik-deMeyer and Tim Maner, book by Tim Maner, additional music by Tim Maner, additional lyrics by Alan Stevens Hewitt, based on an original concept by Steven Cheslik-deMeyer and Tim Maner with orchestrations by Alan Stevens Hewitt. 
 
"Lizzie Borden took an axe, gave her mother forty whacks. When she saw what she had done, gave her father forty-one." So goes the nursery rhyme describing the crime of the century that took the nation by storm when Lizzie Borden murdered her parents with an axe in 1892. Or did she? LIZZIE is a musical that reimagines that bloody legend with four women fronting a female rock band. LIZZIE is American mythology set to a blistering rock score with rage, sex, betrayal and bloody murder. 
 
"We thought casting Lizzie would be extremely difficult since the skillsets needed are so specific and challenging – yet it turned out to be the easiest casting I've ever done because Chicago is overflowing with talented women,” comments Founder and Artistic Director Harmony France. “It became immediately clear that one cast was not enough. Our regular Lizzie cast is going to blow you away, but our understudies are so incredible that we decided to add four special late-night performances so audiences can also enjoy their talents. Looking to the future, Firebrand will strive to empower both women and men, but for Lizzie we wanted to come out of the gate and flood the stage, the band and backstage with women in a way that hasn't been done before. There isn't a better show to do that with than Lizzie."
 
The production team for LIZZIE includes: Eleanor Kahn (scenic design), Charlotte M. Yetman (costume design), Maya Michele Fein (lighting design), Victoria Deiorio (sound design), Jeff Herrmann (props design) and Danielle Stack (production manager).
 
PRODUCTION DETAILS:
 
Title: LIZZIE
Music: Steven Cheslik-deMeyer and Alan Stevens Hewitt
Lyrics: Steven Cheslik-deMeyer and Tim Maner
Book: Tim Maner
Additional Music: Tim Maner
Additional Lyrics: Alan Stevens Hewitt
Based on an original concept by: Steven Cheslik-deMeyer and Tim Maner
Orchestrations: Alan Stevens Hewitt
Director: Victoria Bussert
Music Directors: Julia A. Miller and Andra Velis Simon
Choreography: Janet Louer
 
Cast: Liz Chidester (Lizzie), Leah Davis (Bridget), Jacquelyne Jones (Alice) and Camille Robinson (Emma).
Late Night Cast/Understudies: Kyrie Anderson (Lizzie), Becca Brown (Emma), Amanda Horvath,  (Bridget) and Elle Walker (Alice).
 
Location: The Den Theatre's Bookspan Theatre, 1333 N. Milwaukee Ave.
Dates: Previews: Saturday, November 11 at 8 pm and Sunday, November 12 at 3 pm
Regular run: Thursday, November 16 – Sunday, December 17, 2017
Curtain Times: Thursdays, Fridays & Saturdays at 8 pm; Sundays at 3 pm. Please note: there will not be a performance on Thursday, November 23 (Thanksgiving Day).
Late Night Performances (featuring understudies): Friday, December 1 at 11 pm, Saturday, December 2 at 11 pm, Friday, December 8 at 11 pm and Saturday, December 9 at 11 pm
Open Captioned Performances (by Molly Brennan): Sunday, November 26 at 3 pm and Sunday, 
December 3 at 3 pm
Tickets: Previews $25. Regular run $45. Late night shows $30. Students $20. Tickets are currently available at firebrandtheatre.org.

 

Published in Upcoming Theatre

The CHICAGO ONE-MINUTE PLAY FESTIVAL (#1MPF) returns to The Den Theatre for its seventh year – this time exploring America and Chicago in 2017 in the wake of the Presidential election. The marathon evening of one-minute plays by more than 60 of Chicago’s established and emerging playwrights and directors is presented two nights only, Tuesday, February 21 and Wednesday, February 22, 2017 at The Den Theatre, 1333 N. Milwaukee Ave. in Chicago’s Wicker Park neighborhood. Tickets, priced at $18, are currently available at brownpapertickets.com.

 

The 2017 CHICAGO ONE-MINUTE PLAY FESTIVAL: America Is…. will feature brand new one-minute plays by Axel Arth, Andrew Bailes, Manny Buckley, Rachel Claff, Whitney LaMora Currier, EJC Calvert, Dan Caffrey, MT Cozzola, Randall Colbrun, Lonnie Carter, Spenser Davis, Bilal Dardai, Reginald Edmond, Kimberly D. Furganson, Genevra Gallo-Bayaites, Addison Heimann, Nick Hart, Skye Robinson Hillis, Kate Healy, Reeny Hofrichter, Scott Hermes, Jeewon Kim, David Kodeski, Genevieve Locksley, Jenni Lamb, Patrick McLean, Arlene Malinowski, Mark Mason, Jonathan Mastro, Laura Nessler, Coya Paz, Kristi Parker-Barnhart, Tania Richard, Tanise Robnett, Elaine Romero, Cassandra Rose, Jennifer Rumberger, Edgar Sanchez, Jessy Lauren Smith, Jenny Seidelman, Sheridan Singleton, Jon Steinhagen, Steve Spencer, Tiffani Swalley, Leean Kim Torske, Robert Tenges, Eileen Tull, Aaron Weissman, Tony Werner, Adam Webster, Larissa Zageris and Joe Zarrow.

 

Directors include Wardell Clark, Spenser Davis, Rose Freeman, Jess Hutchinson, Charlie McGrath, Andrew Peters, Samuel Roberson, Alyssa Vera Ramos, Lee Stark, Lexi Saunders, Anna Trachtman and Jacob Watson

 

“We are thrilled to celebrate seven years of #1MPF in Chicago and we are proud to see our programing and the reach of our work diversifying – between the festival of women-identified artists, The Every 28 Hours Plays and the traditional 1MPF work that we are using to investigate what America and Chicago in 2017 post-election America looks like, comments Artists Director Dominic D’Andrea. “The opportunity to gather the community of artists, activists and citizens and focus on ways that we might begin to design the world we want to live in is a beautiful and necessary action. I'm proud of the community, our partners at the Den and the stunning nuance of the work we've generated together.” 

 

EVENT DETAILS

 

Title: CHICAGO ONE-MINUTE PLAY FESTIVAL: America Is…

Dates: Tuesday, February 21 and Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Times: 8 pm

Tickets: $18. Tickets are currently available at brownpapertickets.com.

 

About THE ONE-MINUTE PLAY FESTIVAL

 

THE ONE-MINUTE PLAY FESTIVAL (#1MPF) is America’s largest and longest running grass roots theatre company, founded by Producing Artistic Director, Dominic D’Andrea . #1MPF is a social barometer project, which investigates the zeitgeist of different communities through dialogue, consensus building and a performance of 50-100 short moments generated by each community. #1MPF works in partnership with theatres and/or social organizations sharing playwright, educational or community-specific missions across the country. The aim is to create locally sourced playwright-focused community events, with the goal of promoting the spirit of radical inclusion. #1MPF represents playwrights of different age, gender, race, cultures, and points of career. The work attempts to reflect the theatrical landscape of local artistic communities by creating a dialogue between the collective conscious and the individual voice.

 

In each city, #1MPF works with partnering organizations to identify programs or initiatives in each community to support with the proceeds from ticket sales. The goal is to find ways give directly back to the artists in each community. Supported programs have ranged from educational programming, youth poetry projects, theatre program in prisons, playwright residencies and memberships, playwrights salaried commissions, community access projects, arts workshops and other social and artistic initiatives.

 

Annual partnerships have been created with theaters in over 20 cities including: New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Trenton, Atlanta, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., Baltimore, Boston, Miami, Minneapolis, New York, Seattle, Dallas, Austin, Indianapolis, Anchorage, Honolulu, St. Louis and more, with partnering institutions including Primary Stages, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, New Georges at New York City Center, Z-Space, A.C.T., Trinity Rep, Victory Gardens Theater, Cornerstone Theatre Company, The Playwrights Foundation, Boston Playwrights Theatre, Actor’s Express, InterAct Theatre, Mixed Blood, Walking Shadow Theatre, Passage Theatre, Phoenix Theatre, Kitchen Dog Theatre, Salvage Vanguard & ScriptWorks,  ACT Seattle, Perseverance Theatre, Round House Theatre, Honolulu Theatre For Youth and others.   

 

Notable #1MPF contributors have included: David Henry Hwang, Lynn Nottage, Neil LaBute, Tina Howe, Donald Margulies, Nilaja Sun, Tarell Alvin McCraney, Robert Schenkkan, Lydia Diamond, Phillip Kan Gotanda, Kristoffer Diaz, Rajiv Joseph, Samuel D. Hunter, Karen Hartman, Robert Askins, Colman Domingo, José Rivera, Craig Lucas, Mike Daisey, Greg Kotis, Michael John Garcés and over to 1400 celebrated, emerging, and midcareer playwrights.  For more information visit: www.oneminuteplayfestival.com

 

Published in Buzz Extra

When I think of Green Day’s American Idiot, the thought of the majority of our population blindly falling in line with the agenda of media conglomerates comes to mind. It's true. America’s youth (and not so youthful) is influenced by suggestive ad campaigns, TV and film brainwashing and so forth – thus, potentially becoming the “American Idiot”. Of course if you look even deeper (and it’s hardly a secret at this point) you’ll see that media is greatly controlled by corporations, which in turn largely influences the government and vice versa, so in fact Green Day’s album American Idiot suggests the average American is literally a sculpted product of the corporate world while choices and freedoms are merely an illusion to those who do not know better.  

Though I expected the production of “American Idiot” to even enhance the album’s overall theme a little more directly, it still made its point well. “American Idiot”, currently playing at The Den Theatre in Wicker Park, is the story of three youths that go in the wrong direction after unconscious exposure to selective, and purposely directed, life-long media blitzing – which is entertaining in itself, but as the show progresses it becomes more about rectifying wrongs, if possible. In short, three fed up friends take separate paths, all of which seem exciting at times, only to reunite as learned individuals at the end after their paths are simultaneously met with a longing for better lives on their own terms. It is also the story of succumbing to temptation, wrong choices, consequences and perseverance.  

Luke Linsteadt stars as “Johnny”, whom the story revolves around, and while exuding a tremendous amount of energy, he also lets loose a singing voice that works very well for the role. Linsteadt’s character is complex as it can be fun. “Johnny’s” friends “Will” and “Tunny” are played by Steven Perkins and Jay W. Cullen, both roles requiring their share of lead vocals. Perkins and Cullen both have their shining moments as does Krystal Worrell who is well cast as “Whatshername”, Johnny’s girlfriend who joins him in his journey of sex and drugs until they part after realizing their relationship is mutually damaging. The ensemble is fun and lively to the point we undoubtedly know each one of them are really enjoying their roles.      

An urban-like, graffiti-stained stage is background for the story, creating a simple, but sensible set. Intense dance numbers and rocking music pave the road for this quick-moving, never-boring production. Another refreshing facet of this production is seeing it removed from its usually big budget, large venue, Broadway-esque state - to which it becomes almost commercialized. Rather, The Hypocrites presentation of “American Idiot” at The Den Theatre is a much more intimate experience with a much more organic feel and genuineness that cannot be always be found in massive productions. Outside of a few vocal and instrument sound levels that could use a bit of adjusting, this is a show that really comes alive and reaches its audience in the way that it was probably originally envisioned.

What made the show even more enjoyable was the band playing in full view and the arsenal of Green Day songs played in their musical-ized versions. Different than most bands, musicians are interchangeable depending on the song and scene - a very entertaining aspect of this version as in “Who’s going to play drums on the next song?” Green Day songs in the show included, “Know Your Enemy”, “Boulevard of Broken Dreams”, “Jesus of Suburbia”, “Wake Me Up When September Ends”, “When It’s Time” and “American Idiot”. Musically, the show was a gratifying journey in itself. Kudos all around to a great production team and cast.

 

“American Idiot” is a 2010 Tony Award nominated Best Musical and 2010 Grammy Winner for Best Musical Show Album. This is a show that certainly has its share of energy, music and youth. Playing through October 25th at The Den Theatre, this is a show most should appreciate, Green Day fan or not. For tickets and/or more show information, visit www.the-hypocrites.com.

Published in Theatre Reviews
Wednesday, 01 July 2015 00:00

"American Smoothie" More Sour Than Sweet

Underscore Theatre Company proudly presents the second annual Chicago Musical Theatre Festival, featuring 13 world-premiere musicals by local artists. These musicals showcase Chicago’s emerging musical theatre artists. Chicago is home to musical theatre creators, giving the artists a safety net to fall back into when they make risky decisions and experiment with the performing arts. There was a disclaimer in the program. It stated that if theatregoers were to see a musical, it may not be any good. After all, musicals are risky business and very challenging.

Brian is an IT technician at the corporate headquarters of American Smoothie. He feels like his coworkers do not appreciate him and all the work he does for them. Poor Brian arrives to work every morning with demands such as, “Help me open this document!” or “Fix my computer!” He looks forward to speaking with Brie, his coworker, because he has eyes for her. Speaking to Brie is easier said than done and there are too many obstacles in the way. First, Brian’s inability to make a situation light and not-awkward, and second, Chad. Chad is Brian’s worst nightmare. Chad has loads of personality, always bright, and is a charitable human. Everyone at work has a large personality. Brian’s boss, Jerry, is very eccentric. Coworker, Samantha, has a bird fetish. Coal, Brian’s roommate and best friend, is a dedicated puppet game show host. Throw all these characters together in a play, things are bound to go wrong.

That was the shortest summary I could muster, skipping all the ridiculous details, without straying too far. This script went in so many directions, I could barely keep up. Although it was very creative and somewhat comical, the holes in the plot and the weak presence on stage was more apparent. It seems as if the cast missed out on bonding experiences and went straight into rehearsing. It made for rigid and timid presences on stage.  

However, some characters are worth noting. Brian (Brian Elliot) and Samantha (Cami Rene Philgreen) possess very strong voices. Chad (Jonathan Wilson) and Jerry (Michael Palmenderi) provide comic relief from a very confusing script. The ideas were great, but they didn’t blend and left me very confused.

The Chicago Musical Theatre Festival will be presented June 30 - July 19, 2015 at The Den Theatre, 1333 N. Milwaukee Ave. in Chicago’s Wicker Park neighborhood. Tickets are available at www.cmtf.org

Published in Theatre Reviews

In Irish Theatre of Chicago’s newest production “The White Road”, performed at The Den Theatre in Wicker Park, we get exactly what we are hoping for – an intense adventure that pits man against nature at its most vicious form. Based on the true heroics of Irish-born polar explorer Ernest Shackleton, “The White Road” tells the story of yet another incredible undertaking where all hope lies solely in one’s will to survive.

Setting sail from South Georgia on December 5th, 1914, Shackleton’s Trans-Antarctica expedition triumphantly leaves shore aboard The Endurance with a crew of twenty-eight with the intent on crossing the Antarctica continent from one coast to the other by way of the South Pole. Hopes are high and excitement is in the air as the crew embarks on a journey never before accomplished.  

Said Shackleton beforehand, "After the conquest of the South Pole by [Roald] Amundsen who, by a narrow margin of days only, was in advance of the British Expedition under [Robert Falcon] Scott, there remained but one great main object of Antarctic journeying - the crossing of the South Polar continent from sea to sea". 

As history tells, it was a plight that was never meant to be.

Upon approaching Antarctica they are met with pack ice that surrounds their sea vessel threatening to sink it. Completely alone and hundreds of miles away from any form of civilization, this is where one of the greatest tales of survival begins.  

In the two-hour-plus play, we meet a variety of characters that make up this memorable crew – and we like them all. From a nature photographer who keeps the camera rolling at all costs to life and limb, to an enthusiastic stowaway boy starved for adventure, to a whaler/banjo-plucker who lifts the men's spirits with song, we don’t just see a nameless crew, instead we really get to know a unique and diverse lot of individuals. Piven ensemble member Paul Dunckel’s performance of the fearless expedition leader makes Shackleton highly likeable, as the wise and self-sacrificing explorer. Dunckel leads this talented cast with the constitution and perseverance one would associate with an expedition leader, whereas he can convincingly make the tough decisions whilst his loyal troops still rally behind him.

Along with Dunckel, Irish Theatre Company ensemble members Kevin Theis and Matthew Isler are accompanied by Nicholas Bailey, Steve Herson, Neal Starbird, Michael McKeogh, Joseph Stearns, Stephen Walker and Gage Wallace, comprising this fine cast that generates a whirlwind of strong performances.   

Making this play even more entertaining is the way the set is used to put us aboard The Endurance smack dab in the middle of the frozen, glacier-filled waters. Sound effects are strategically used in tandem with projections to successfully create storm effects while creative choreography takes us on a deadly hike through icy mountains.

This is one of those true incredible adventure stories that are long forgotten by most that, thanks to storytellers like The Irish Theatre of Chicago, we now get to experience and share in the surprisingly unbelievable depth of human spirit brought on by fantastic circumstances.

I should note that though this is a wonderful story taken from the pages of early 20th century history, if you are thinking of bring a young adult, be aware that there is a scene containing as a crew member streaks across the deck of the ship. 

Fittingly directed by ensemble member Robert Kauzlaric and written by Karen Tarjan, the world premiere run of “The White Road” is being performed at The Den Theatre through June 13th. For tickets and/or more information visit www.irishtheatreofchicago.org

Published in Theatre Reviews

As Samuel Beckett once stated, "Nothing is funnier than unhappiness, I grant you that. ... Yes, yes, it's the most comical thing in the world. And we laugh, we laugh, with a will, in the beginning. But it's always the same thing. Yes, it's like the funny story we have heard too often, we still find it funny, but we don't laugh anymore.” Unhappiness and the complete surrender to misery is found aplenty in Beckett’s Endgame now being performed at The Den Theatre and though humor can be found in the dialogue and in the mundane actions of its characters, we can’t help being overwhelmed by the story’s hopelessness.    

The set is almost too good – the interior of a nightmarish, dilapidated house complete with a water-stained ceiling, worn, dirt-filled walls that are peeling, boarded up windows and bottles of urine lined up in the rear of the living room. The characters are as dilapidated and bizarre as the house. It is a dwelling of utter neglect – something you might imagine that has gone terribly wrong in the B.J. Gigglesnort hotel or perhaps a home you might expect the family from Texas Chainsaw massacre to live in. Director Halena Kays explains, “Our design team is full of long-time collaborators who will create an absurdist landscape that will involve and heighten the audience’s experience with this classic.” Not only is the set visually lush in itself but the theatre is decorated with hanging lighted picture boxes, a seating area that closer resembles a birthday party and carnival-like assortments scattered throughout the floor.

This one act, four character tragicomedy stars Kurt Ehrmann as the aging “Hamm” who is blind and cannot use his legs. He is bound to a makeshift wheelchair comprised of a beat up sitting chair atop a wooden cart with wheels that he obsessively insists be placed in the center of the room. He whistles for his caregiver “Clov” (Brian Shaw) to whom he barks one order after another and in his despair of existence is always asking if it is time for his next painkiller. “Clov” too is broken down, a creature of compulsive routine. When asked by “Hamm”, who recognizes the verbal abuse he so often dishes out, why he doesn’t leave, “Clov’s” response is simply “Where would I go?” It’s hopelessness at its best.

Ehrmann skillfully rips into one soliloquy after the next with rampant passion and we laugh at his anguish yet are haunted by his words at the same time. “Hamm” often speaks with his parents who appear from two garbage cans while “Clov” uses a kaleidoscope to check the on goings by the sea through a small, exposed portion of window that he can only access by hobbling awkwardly up his stepladder. In all, we see a frightening story of two decrepit men who have completely lost touch with anything normal about life who are trapped with each other and feed on pain and bleakness. And, in true Beckett fashion, we somehow find humor in that.

The Hypocrites production of Endgame is playing at The Den Theatre in Wicker Park through April 4th. For tickets and/or more information visit www.the-hypocrites.com.

*Photo - (left to right) Kurt Ehrmann, Brian Shaw and Donna McGough in The Hypocrites production of ENDGAME by Samuel Beckett, directed by Halena Kays.  Photo by Evan Hanover.

  

Published in Theatre Reviews
Tuesday, 15 July 2014 19:00

One Flea Spare at Den Theatre

Four strangers are quarantined together as the Black Plague sweeps through London. They must struggle through personal and social prejudices as they try to survive being cooped up together for weeks. Fear of contamination and imminent death from the agonizing plague, hope of escape, and sexual strain haunts their daily confinement. Will the fittest survive not only the plague, but each other?

Director Jeffrey Clark Stokes has brought a team of newcomers and old hands returning to the stage to create his directorial debut. The highlight of the cast is Caroline Phillips, the young actress playing Morse, a strange girl who sneaks into the boarded-up house and has a profound effect on the wealthy owners’ lives. Her belief in each moment is governed with a direct simplicity and a strong voice, bringing bewitching contrasts of innocence and depravity to this ravaged setting.

A fresh look at a small space, the audience is in effect taken into the quarantined room and has the chance to experience the ghastly confinement through all-around, staggered seating, bringing actors and audience close together. Stripping away any semblance of presentation, a tension-filled realism is achieved as these family-like relationships tauten and wind around themselves.

A brilliant score by DePaul student David Samba ushers us into this hellish house utilizing murmuring winds, groans and repetitive dripping and tapping. The score emphasizes Wallace’s poetic wordplay and grotesque imagery, which startles, horrifies, and repulses even as it invites a closer look into the physical agonies of life in the Black Plague era.

Ghost Light Productions’ One Flea Spare runs July 13-25 at 7:30pm at The Den Theatre, 1333 N. Milwaukee Ave, in Chicago’s Wicker Park neighborhood. The show runs 2:10 with a 10 minute intermission. Tickets are available at www.brownpapertickets.com.

Twitter@birunjibaby

Published in Theatre Reviews

 

10 Years! Fave Issue Covers

 

Register

Latest Articles