Willa is too old to live alone in her flat, and she has “accidents”. That’s why her well-meaning daughter brings her to a suburban London nursing home, “just to try it out”. Originally from Galway, Willa (convincingly played by Belinda Bremner) starts an unlikely friendship with a good-natured 24-year-old nursing home assistant Byron (very talented and highly animated Terry Bell). Byron, an illegal immigrant from South Africa, comes from extreme poverty and family tragedy, but, despite his hard life, he’s kind and funny, and the pair gets along oh so well, always laughing, telling each other stories and falling closer together. Meanwhile, Willa’s married daughter Catherine (Carolyn Kruse) has very little time for her mother; she’s busy carrying on an affair with a younger man. All in all, living at the nursing home wouldn’t be so bad if it wasn’t for the sadistic head nurse Sister Chang (Christine Bunuan). Sister Chang is a colorful character; she likes to “discipline” residents and doesn’t hesitate to go through their belongings to satisfy a sweet tooth.


The My Way Residential is a very charming play; it’ll make you laugh and it’ll make you cry too, but you will not be bored; far from it. The cast is fantastic, and writing wonderful. Not to mention the old-British-TV-show vibe to it that’s irresistible.


Directed by ensemble member Kevin Theis and written by Geraldine Aron, this tragi-comedy is a world premiere from Irish Theatre of Chicago that concludes its 2016-2017 Season. The My Way Residential is currently playing at The Den Theatre (Upstairs Main Stage) through June 25th. For more show information and to purchase tickets visit http://irishtheatreofchicago.org/.

Published in Theatre in Review

In its 22nd season, First Folio Theatre (Mayslake Peabody Estate, 31st St. & Rt. 83.) is delighted to present a chilling, humorous and thought-provoking 2017-2018 season, beginning with the World Premiere of THE MAN-BEAST, which previews October 4-6, opens October 7 and runs through November 5, 2017, followed by the Chicago premiere of WOMEN IN JEOPARDY, which previews in January 24-26, opens January 27 and runs through February 25, 2018. The charming and emotional MARY’S WEDDING previews March 28-30, opens March 31 and runs through April 29, 2018 and the World Premiere musical, based on the classic “The Taming of the Shrew”, SHREW’D, is the featured production for the Shakespeare Under the Stars summer series, previewing July 11-13, opens July 14 and runs through August 19, 2018.
 
A dangerously romantic werewolf tale based on real events, THE MAN-BEAST starts the season, directed by Hayley Rice. From the playwright who wrote The Gravedigger and Dr. Seward’s Dracula, comes the final installment of his classic horror trilogy, a werewolf tale straight out of history. In the 18th century French countryside, a mysterious wild-animal is ravaging the livestock and citizenry, leaving behind a trail of blood and death. When Louis XVI puts a bounty on the animal, the mystery and horror only deepen. No one has seen the perpetrator, but the citizens have seen the gory results of its savage attacks and suspect that it’s a Loup-Garou, the savage werewolf of French legend. THE MAN-BEAST is a must-see show crafted by Joseph Zettelmaier, who is described as having “a gift for creating easily digested but emotionally resonant portraits of essential truth,” by The Chicago Tribune and noted for how he “creates tantalizing stories,” by The Sun-Times News Group. THE MAN-BEAST previews October 4-6, opens October 7 and runs through November 5, 2017.
 
WOMEN IN JEOPARDY is the comedy that results when Thelma and Louise meets The First Wives Club. When your best friend is dating a serial killer, do you tell her if she seems happy? Divorcees Mary, Jo, and Liz are best friends, always looking out for each other. So when Mary and Jo begin to suspect that Liz’s new boyfriend is a serial killer, they begin an investigation to prove it to her and save her life. Things go from humorously tricky to hilariously complex when Liz’s daughter Amanda and her boyfriend Trenner get involved. WOMEN IN JEOPARDY is written by Wendy MacLeod, author of The House of Yes (Miramax Films starring Parker Posey), Schoolgirl Figure (World Premiere at The Goodman) and Things Being What They Are (Steppenwolf), and features Artistic Associates Lydia Berger Gray, Melanie Keller and Joe Foust, with Gail Rastorfer. Boston Stages calls WOMEN IN JEOPARDY “pitch-perfect… a comedy romp,” and according to The Boston Globe, “the laughs come fast and furious… modern, lively, and loads of fun!”The show will begin previews January 24-26, open January 27 and run through February 25, 2018.
 
MARY’S WEDDING is an epic, unforgettable story of love, hope, and survival. In honor of the 100th Anniversary of the end of World War I, First Folio presents a tale of the price that must be paid when innocence and youth collide on the eve of war. Written by Stephen Massicotte, the production will be directed by Melanie Keller and feature Artistic Associate Heather Chrisler. When Mary and Charlie fall in love one summer’s day, little do they know that they are already in the center of a collapsing, brutal world. Together they attempt to hide their love, galloping through the fields for a place and time where the tumultuous uncertainties of battle can’t find them. Variety says the show "weaves a theatrical spell of hope, regret and memory.” MARY’S WEDDING will begin to preview March 28-30, open March 31 and run through April 29, 2018.

This summer, First Folio Theatre presents the musical SHREW’D: Shakespeare’s Bawdiest Comedy… with a Modern Twist, marking the theatre’s 22nd summer of presenting Shakespeare Under the Stars. Adapted by David Rice from one of Shakespeare’s hilarious “The Taming of the Shrew,” SHREW’D, directed by Johanna McKenzie Miller, turns Shakespeare’s comic battle of the sexes on its head. SHREW’D, set in 1930’s jazz-infused Chicago with lyrics by David Rice and music by Michael Keefe, offers a Kate who is Petruchio’s equal, and makes him happy to discover it. From the team that brought the 2013, double Jeff-Award winning hit musical Cymbeline: A Musical Folktale, SHREW’D will preview July 11-13, open July 14 and run through August 19, 2018.
 
All performances take place at the Mayslake Peabody Estate, located at 1717 W 31st St., off Rt. 83, in Oak Brook. First Folio is easy to get to from via the East-West Tollway (I-88) or the Stevenson Expressway (I-55). Free parking is available on the grounds. Preview tickets are $25. Regular priced tickets are $34 Wednesdays and Thursdays (seniors and students are $29), and $44 on Fridays through Sundays (seniors and students are $39). Three and four show subscriptions are available for $63-$115. During the summer show, a special pricing of $10 will also be offered for children age 14 and under who are accompanied by a parent. Season subscriptions and individual tickets go on sale on June 1, 2017 and may be purchased by calling the box office at 630.986.8067 or online at www.firstfolio.org.

 

Published in Upcoming Theatre

American Blues Theater, Chicago’s second oldest Equity Ensemble, under the continued leadership of Artistic Director Gwendolyn Whiteside, announces the 2017 Blue Ink Playwriting Festival.  The Blue Ink Festival will feature staged readings of four exceptional new plays held May 22 – 25, 2017 at Stage 773, 1225 W. Belmont or American Blues Theater, 4809 N. Ravenswood, in Chicago.
 
This year’s Blue Ink Playwriting Festival features staged readings of four new works, including Hype Man by Idris Goodwin, winner of the 2017 National Blue Ink Playwriting Award. The festival also includes readings of featured finalists Flying by Sheila Cowley, Mynx & Savage by Rebecca Gorman O’Neill, and This Thing of Ours by Caridad Svich.
 
The 2017 Blue Ink Playwriting Festival schedule and ticket information is as follows:
 
Monday, May 22 at 7pm
HYPE MAN (winner of the 2017 Blue Ink Award)
Written by Idris Goodwin
Directed by Jess McLeod
Featuring Walter Briggs, Rashaad Hall, and Kimberly Vaughn
Location: Stage 773, 1225 W Belmont, Chicago
Tickets: $10
Purchase tickets by calling (773) 654-3103 or online at americanbluestheater.com.
 
HYPE MAN is a story about a controversial police shooting inflaming tensions between an interracial hip hop trio. It is a rhythmically woven drama exploring race, representation, fame and friendship.  A post-reading discussion with playwright Idris Goodwin will follow the performance.
 
American Blues previously named Idris Goodwin the winner of the 2017 National Blue Ink Playwriting Award. Goodwin’s play, HYPE MAN, was selected from a pool 543 submissions. As part of the award, Goodwin receives a $1,000 cash prize and the opportunity to further develop his script with American Blues Theater.
 
Tuesday, May 23 at 7pm
FLYING (featured finalist)
Written by Sheila Cowley
Directed by Heather Meyers
Featuring Ian Paul Custer, Jazmin Corona, Lisa Herceg, John Mohrlein, and Patricia Patton
Location: American Blues Theater, 4809 N. Ravenswood, Chicago
Tickets: FREE (Limited Seating, RSVP Recommended)
Contact: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call (773) 654-3103.
 
Susan flew military planes in WWII, so men could go and fight. Now she’s been sent home to get back to normal, while the town waits for her local hero husband to come home.
 
Wednesday, May 24 at 7pm
MYNX & SAVAGE (featured finalist)
Written by Rebecca Gorman O’Neill
Directed by Elyse Dolan
Featuring Clara Byczkowski, Jennifer Cheung, Jesse Massaro, and Nelson Rodriguez
Location: American Blues Theater, 4809 N. Ravenswood, Chicago
Tickets: FREE (Limited Seating, RSVP Recommended)
Contact: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call (773) 654-3103.
 
MYNX & SAVAGE is a tri-level story of a comic book writer, the characters of his superhero story, and the creatures of his “serious” work. When corporate powers start pushing him to produce, he is torn between the comfort of fantasy and the necessary truth.
 
Thursday, May 25 at 7pm
THIS THING OF OURS (featured finalist)
Written by Caridad Svich
Directed by Isaac Gomez
Featuring Debbie Banos, Andrew Goetten, Rashaad Hall, Priya Mohanty, and Avi Roque
Location: American Blues Theater, 4809 N. Ravenswood, Chicago
Tickets: FREE (Limited Seating, RSVP Recommended)
Contact: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call (773) 654-3103.
 
An act of violence struck our city. This has happened before. We say we will put our lives back together. Years will go by. We will grow apart, come together, have children, and some of us, will wonder how to keep going, as we turn to myths and seek lessons there. In our theaters of memory, in our songs of transcendence, perhaps we will find peace.
 
About American Blues Theater
Winner of the American Theatre Wing’s prestigious 2016 National Theatre Company Award, American Blues Theater is a premier arts organization with an intimate environment that patrons, artists, and all Chicagoans call home.  American Blues Theater explores the American identity through the plays it produces and communities it serves.
 
The diverse and multi-generational artists have established the second-oldest professional Equity Ensemble theater in Chicago.  The 37-member Ensemble has 530+ combined years of collaboration on stage. As of 2016, the theater and artists received 186 Joseph Jefferson Awards and nominations that celebrate excellence in Chicago theater and over 31 Black Theatre Alliance Awards. The artists are honored with Pulitzer Prize nominations, Academy Awards, Golden Globe Awards, Emmy Awards and numerous other accolades.  
 
The American Blues Theater Ensemble includes all four Founders Ed Blatchford, Rick Cleveland, James Leaming, and William Payne with Dawn Bach, Matthew Brumlow, Manny Buckley, Kate Buddeke, Sarah Burnham, Dara Cameron, Casey Campbell, Darren Canady, Brian Claggett, Dennis Cockrum, Austin Cook, Laura Coover, Ian Paul Custer, Lauri Dahl, Joe Foust, Cheryl Graeff, Marty Higginbotham, Jaclyn Holsey, Lindsay Jones, Nambi E. Kelley, Kevin R. Kelly, Steve Key, Ed Kross, Warren Levon, Michael Mahler, Heather Meyers, John Mohrlein, Christopher J. Neville, Suzanne Petri, Carmen Roman, Editha Rosario, Sarah E. Ross, and Gwendolyn Whiteside.

 

Published in Upcoming Theatre

Objects in the Mirror, an outstanding play having its premier at Goodman Theatre, will soon have you wanting to know more about its author, Charles Smith, a Chicago playwright.  

Starring Daniel Kyri as Shedrick Yarkpai, this play springs from the true story of the real life Yarkpai, a refugee who fled Liberia in the aftermath of its first Civil War, struggling for 12 years across hostile terrain and through refugee camps in Guinea and Cote d’Ivoire.

Excellent performances and a creative set and lighting make this a show not to miss, especially for the wonderful writing of Charles Smith. Breon Arzell plays cousin Zaza Workolo; Ryan Kitley is Rob Mosher; and Lily Mojekwu as Shedrick’s mother Luopu Workolo is just spectacular – she steals all her scenes.

The real life Shedrick Yarkpai eventually made his way to Adelaide, Australia, and as fate would have it became an actor. And so, playwright Smith met him and heard his tale while staging another of his plays there - Free Man of Color (it won a 2004 Jeff Award and has been staged widely, including the Goodman).

Shedrick Yarkpai’s passage through the wilderness alone would be a worthy story, bringing our attention to the privation in Liberia wrought by years of civil chaos. But this play would not succeed as it does, unless it can hold our attention and keep us in our seats. 

And here Smith’s skillful craft shines through, along with director Chuck Smith and the creative team, who have turned the years-long odyssey of the protagonists, Shedrick and his uncle John Workolo (Allen Gilmore is terrific) – they ate grass, lived in the bush, both life and limbs, literally, endangered by violent, machete wielding warriors – and condensed it into an engaging trek, showing geography, educating us on the history, but all in an entertaining way, unlikely as this may seem.

Objects in the Mirror is so much more than a topical recount of Liberian suffering and struggle. Smith also puts before us the psychological and emotional toll on all refugees who must give up so much of their culture, and themselves, in resettling. Among the things so striking about Smith’s play is how he holds our interest in Shedrick’s odyssey. But he subordinates it to a more charged dramatic concern: the personal compromises refugees must make in escaping, and losses that can never be reclaimed.

In a way that only theater can, we engage and experience the personal emotional stress. And while we know of the trauma, what Smith conveys is the suffering from loss of identity, and of dreams. Shedrick has adopted a false identity to make it through border crossings – but he regrets the loss of his name.

Shedrick is a dreamer. He is also a storyteller, as is Smith, and the characters he has created. "Through storytelling, the play ascends to a powerful examination of truth and falsity, and the powers of persuasion. All good stories tell a strand of the truth," says Uncle John.

Once in Adelaide, Yarkpai finds work with a supportive Australian government agent – but Shedrick’s uncle John is fearful it will blow their cover. The debate through several scenes in which different characters tell their version of the parts of Shedrick's story is the stuff of great theater. 

The creative team includes Riccardo Hernandez (set design), Mike Tutaj (projection design), John Culbert (lighting design), Birgit Rattenborg Wise (costume design), Ray Nardelli (sound design). Briana J. Fahey is the production stage manager.

Objects in the Mirror runs through June 4 at the Goodman Theatre. It is highly recommended.

Published in Theatre in Review

Stage 773 Director of Theatre Management Jill Valentine and co-producer Liz McArthur are thrilled to announce the highly anticipated lineup for the 6th Annual Chicago Women’s Funny Festival, taking place June 15 through June 18 at the comedy hub of Chicago, Stage 773, 1225 W. Belmont. The Chicago Women’s Funny Festival, the largest of its kind in the nation, features a melting pot of comedic genres, including everything from ‘highbrow musical improv’ to ‘relatable stand-up’ to ‘character driven sketch’. Blending long term veterans with fresh newcomers, the fest packs over 80 shows into four funny-filled days. Stage 773 has made it easier than ever to discover new groups to love, allowing patrons to filter through art forms, a rating and keywords to find their own taste in comedy. The full schedule and searchable calendar for the 6th Annual Chicago Women’s Funny Festival can be viewed at www.stage773.com/WomensFestCalendar
 
“We are extremely excited to be celebrating the sixth year of the festival and to host some of the best women in comedy in the nation,” said Valentine. “Having women from all different comedic art forms come together and celebrate under one roof in Chicago is something that is very special to us and the community.”
 
Featuring both fresh and familiar faces, highlights for 2017 include the return of comedy powerhouse Kristen Toomey, who has packed the lineup with some of Chicago’s best talent for a series of stand-up showcases, Her Story Theater, which made its mark on the scene by creating original plays based on Chicago lives that reflect national concerns, Matt Damon Improv, comprised of all women of color “slaying improv comedy,” and Strip Joker, featuring a hilarious roster of stand-up comics who are willing to bare it all in the spirit of totally vulnerable, inclusive, and uncensored comedy. Stand-up favorites include the debut of Montreal-based D.J. Mausner, who at 22 years old she is already an award winning stand-up, sketch, and improv master, LA-based Jen Murray and winner of the IO West Comedy Festival's "Best Comedian" Award in 2015, and transgender standup comedian Dina Nina Martinez, who the Late Late Show’s James Corden hails as “…very funny.”
 
Additional highlights include the return of Katie Rich with former SC Mainstage/Consultant for Onion News Network, Holly Laurent, in their improv duo Joan and Ro; Chicago Sketchfest veteran groups Off Off Broadzway, The Cupid Players and Rehner and Nixon; Improv veterans Susan Messing and Rachel Mason in The Boys; Comedic dance troupe Matter Dance and much more.
 
Chicago Women’s Funny Festival was founded in 2012 when producers Jill Valentine and Liz McArthur wanted to build a comedy festival where women could come together and celebrate all art forms of comedy under one roof. The first festival boasted 66 shows and 400 performers in five days. Women’s Fest also hosted events throughout the week where women from across the country could network with each other and more importantly, celebrate one another’s work. The response from comediennes and audience members was overwhelmingly positive – which is why the festival is coming back for a sixth year.
 
Jill Valentine is a Chicago Southside native who has been the Executive Director of the Chicago Sketch Comedy Festival (also the largest of its kind in the nation) since the festival’s inception in 2000. She is also a founder of Stage 773, as well as the Director of Theatre Management. Jill performs in several popular and critically acclaimed groups in Chicago, including The Cupid Players, Off Off Broadzway and Feminine Gentleman who have performed all over the country.
 
Liz McArthur hails from St. Louis and has worked with The Chicago Sketch Comedy Festival since 2005. McArthur can be seen with groups such as Off Off Broadzway, OneTwoThree Comedy, and Feminine Gentlemen. McArthur is also part of the hit zombie comedy Musical of the Living Dead.
 
All performances will take place at Chicago’s home for the city’s most innovative, creative and passionate off-Loop performing artists, Stage 773, located at 1225 W. Belmont. Stage 773 is a non-profit Chicago company that produces The Cupid Players, Bri-Ko, The Chicago Sketch Comedy Festival, education and program opportunities, as well as offering subsidized theater rental space to the hundreds of Chicago’s itinerant off-Loop companies and performers.
 
The 6th Annual Chicago Women’s Funny Festival runs June 15 – June 18, 2016. Performances are Thursday, June 15th at 8 - 10 p.m., Friday, June 16th at 8 - 11 p.m., Saturday, June 17th at 4:30 - 11 p.m., and Sunday, June 18th at 2 - 7 p.m.  Tickets go on sale Monday, May 15th. Individual ticket prices are $15, and festival passes are available for $37.50 (Thursday), $47.50 (Friday), $57.50 (Sunday) or $100 for an all festival pass (Thursday – Sunday). Sunday three show flex passes are available for $33.  All tickets and festival passes may be purchased at www.Stage773.com, by phone at 773.327.5252, and in person at the Stage 773 box office. 
 
ABOUT STAGE 773

Stage 773 is a vibrant anchor of the Belmont Theatre District and home to Chicago’s finest off-Loop talent. As a performance and tenant venue, our four stages provide entertainment for everyone: comedy, theatre, dance, musicals and more. We are a not-for- profit, connecting and catalyzing the theater community, while showcasing established artists and incubating up-and- coming talent.

 

Published in Upcoming Theatre

Steppenwolf Theatre Company Artistic Director Anna D. Shapiro announced today the addition of Glenn Davis to the world-renowned ensemble. A critically acclaimed actor, Davis recently appeared in Steppenwolf’s production of The Christians by Lucas Hnath as Pastor Joshua in what the Chicago Tribune called “a blistering performance.” Additional Steppenwolf productions include The Brother/Sister Plays, Head of Passes (both directed by ensemble member Tina Landau and written by ensemble member Tarell Alvin McCraney), as well as A Lesson Before Dying.

Currently, Glenn Davis is developing several film and television projects with his production company, 4th and Long Productions, whose partners include fellow ensemble members Tarell Alvin McCraney and Jon Michael Hill, among others. Next season he will appear in Steppenwolf’s production of You Got Older.

“Glenn is a bright, talented and committed artist, whose ongoing relationships with so many members of our company make him a perfect addition. He has been an integral part of the Steppenwolf family for many years—we have seen him grow and thrive here and we are all thrilled to finally make it official,” says Artistic Director Anna D. Shapiro.

On joining the ensemble Glenn Davis shares, “I grew up in Chicago. I took my first acting class with Austin Pendleton at The School at Steppenwolf. He was the first to tell me I was talented and convinced me that I could do this for a living. I remember being invited by Terry Kinney to sit in on rehearsals for One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and watching Gary Sinise, Amy Morton, K. Todd Freeman and the entire cast ‘going for broke’. I saw these actors working in a way that was very unique. They were working on one instinct, ‘get to the truth by any means’. I wanted to work in that way. I see it as my responsibility as an artist to get to the truth by any means.”

“It is an honor to be a member of this extraordinary group of artists. My start was here at Steppenwolf and I have considered it my unofficial residence for many years. It brings me great joy to now truly call it home,” adds Davis.

In addition to his frequent work at Steppenwolf and other Chicago area theatres, Glenn Davis starred in the Broadway production of Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo opposite Robin Williams (also Kirk Douglas Theatre, Mark Taper Forum). His Off-Broadway credits include Wig Out! (Vineyard Theatre, directed by Tina Landau). Other regional credits include Caligula, Polaroid Stories, Vassa Zheleznova (Williamstown Theatre Festival); Wig Out! (Sundance Institute, Theatre Lab). International credits include Edward II, The Winter’s Tale and As You Like It (The Stratford Festival) as well as Othello at The Shakespeare Company. He’s also known for his television appearances in 24, The Unit, Jericho, and The Good Wife. He received his BFA from The Theatre School at DePaul University (formerly the Goodman School of Drama) and was the first African-American to graduate from the Birmingham Conservatory for Classical Theatre at The Stratford Festival.

Formed by a collective of actors in 1976, the Steppenwolf ensemble has grown to 49 members who represent the best in American Theatre. Since 2015, Audrey Francis, Sandra Marquez, Caroline Neff and Namir Smallwood have also been welcomed into the ensemble.

Steppenwolf ensemble members include: Joan Allen, Kevin Anderson, Alana Arenas, Randall Arney, Kate Arrington, Ian Barford, Robert Breuler, Gary Cole, Glenn Davis, Kathryn Erbe, Audrey Francis, K. Todd Freeman, Frank Galati, Francis Guinan, Moira Harris, Jon Michael Hill, Tim Hopper, Tom Irwin, Ora Jones, Terry Kinney, Tina Landau, Martha Lavey, Tracy Letts, John Mahoney, John Malkovich, Sandra Marquez, Mariann Mayberry, Tarell Alvin McCraney, James Vincent Meredith, Laurie Metcalf, Amy Morton, Sally Murphy, Caroline Neff, Bruce Norris, Austin Pendleton, Jeff Perry, William Petersen, Yasen Peyankov, Martha Plimpton, Rondi Reed, Molly Regan, Anna D. Shapiro, Eric Simonson, Gary Sinise, Namir Smallwood, Lois Smith, Rick Snyder, Jim True-Frost and Alan Wilder.

Steppenwolf Theatre Company is the nation’s premier ensemble theater. Formed by a collective of actors in 1976, the ensemble has grown to 49 members who represent a remarkable cross-section of actors, directors and playwrights. Thrilling and powerful productions from Balm in Gilead to August: Osage County—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 Look Out, 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. Steppenwolf’s own Front Bar: Coffee and Drinks serves coffee, cocktails with food provided by Goddess & Grocer. 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. For additional information, visit steppenwolf.org, facebook.com/steppenwolftheatre, twitter.com/steppenwolfthtr and instagram.com/steppenwolfthtr. 

 

Published in BCS Spotlight

A new play inspired by the real life biker club, The Sirens of NYC (the biker gang that leads the Pride Parade in NYC each year), “The Valkyries: Badasses on Bikes” is a touching story concerning queer and trans characters forming their own biker club. “The Valkyries: Badasses on Bikes” performs Wednesdays at 8pm, through June 28, 2017, at Gorilla Tango Theatre (1919 N. Milwaukee Avenue, Chicago IL 60647). Please visit www.gorillatango.com or call 773-598-4549 for tickets and information.
Smith has written a story about the family we choose, the family we don’t, and the development of an unlikely philanthropy for this motorcycle club that is able to unite them all together.


We are thrilled to be producing The Valkyries: Badasses on Bikes as part of Gorilla Tango’s “Gorilla Tango Originals” Series. GT Originals aims to support the voices of artists with untold stories, and to connect like-minded artists who share similar passions in storytelling. The Chicago stage has been so welcoming to the LGBTQ+ stories that need to be told.  The cast and crew feature some of Chicago’s greatest queer artists including North Rory Howard, a trans male actor playing his first trans male role. “I’ve played cisgender characters for years, and I’m sure I will continue to do so,” Howards says. “But to bring this story to life, to help people see a glimpse of my own history and struggles through this medium that I love so much, it’s an incredible feeling. I love, too, that this is not a play about being transgender, but rather an ensemble piece in which the trans character and his struggle are supported and balanced by other people without being overshadowed, which is honestly how the issue should be handled in our everyday lives. We need light, and the Valkyries help shine it.”


"The Valkyries: Badasses on Bikes" will play through Pride month in Chicago, so bring a group to celebrate any Wednesday in May and June at 8pm!


Katy Johnson (Skylight Music Theatre) returns from Gorilla Tango’s "The Blood Line: A CTA Horror Story" as, Deena, the president of the club. North Rory Howard (Black Box Studios) makes his Gorilla Tango debut as Quinn, the trans male partner of Club President, Deena. Also in the cast are Chicago and beyond improv star, Nate Curlott, as Jake and Chris, Elodie Senetra (Milwaukee Chamber Theatre) as Evie, Cat McKay (Royal Academy of Dramatic Art) as Bella, Kate Souza (Hawaii Shakespeare Festival) as Kelly, and Chicago new comer Marie Tredway as Marie.

 
The production is directed by Magdalene Spanuello. Scenic/Lighting design by Mark Bracken, Choreography by Kati Schwaber, Costume/Tattoo design by Austin Winter, and stage managed by Teresa McCarthy.

Published in Upcoming Theatre

Rehearsals are underway for Fernanda Coppel’s “King Liz,” Windy City Playhouse’s second show of the 2017 season, playing May 24 through July 16. Under the direction of Chuck Smith, the “fierce and compelling” (The New York Times) production stars Lanise Shelley as Liz Rico, a powerful NBA sports agent vying for a promotion to head her entire company. When Freddie Luna (played by Eric Gerard), a young, talented rookie, comes under her wing, Liz faces the biggest challenge of her career: trust her gut with the new player, or risk everything she’s built for herself. The cast of “King Liz” also features Philip Edward Van Lear as Coach Jones, Jackie Alamillo as Gabby Fuentes, Caron Buinis as Barbara Flowers and Frank Nall as Mr. Candy.

Performances for “King Liz” begin May 24 and run through July 16. Press Nights for the production are Wednesday, May 31 at 7:30 p.m. and Thursday, June 1 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets ($15-$55) are on sale now and can be purchased at the Windy City Playhouse Box Office online or by calling the Box Office at (773) 891-8985.

“I was very drawn to the major themes in this production, especially focusing on Liz as an independent, self-reliant woman of color in a male-dominated field. It's not often that you get to see such a strong female character on stage, who owes no one anything,” said Windy City Playhouse Artistic Director Amy Rubenstein. “We’ve curated programming featuring the talented artists in the production to help our audiences connect with the material on a deeper level, while embracing the casual, fun atmosphere the Playhouse is known for.”

In conjunction with “King Liz,” Windy City Playhouse’s Talkback series offers patrons an intimate Q&A experience with an array of artists to learn more about the creative process behind each production. The series begins with “King Liz” playwright Fernanda Coppel, who will lead the discussion behind her inspiration for the play on Saturday, May 27 immediately following the 8 p.m. performance.   

Also new, the Playhouse begins the weekly post-performance Nightcap series, inviting patrons to grab a drink at the bar and partake in an intimate discussion around “King Liz” with a member of the cast or creative team. To kick off the series, cast member Caron Buinis will lead the discussion on Wednesday, June 7 and Philip Edward Van Lear will lead the discussion on Wednesday, June 14. The series takes place every Wednesday at 9:30 p.m. through the duration of the run. For the complete schedule of special events at the Playhouse, visit WindyCityPlayhouse.com/King-Liz.

No experience at the Playhouse is complete without a trip to their signature bar, and “King Liz” is no different. The production-specific cocktails, available throughout the run, include:
·         Operation: Pump Up - Pimm’s, Sprite, Muddled Cucumber, Lemon
·         Very Cocky Chick - Amaretto, Luxardo Cherry Liquor, Sprite, Sweet and Sour, Grenadine
·         Dynamic Dunker - Bourbon, Ginger Liqueur, Hard Cider, Lime
·         Diamond in the Rough - Mezcal, Simple Syrup, Lime, Ginger Beer
·         Summer in a Glass (The Playhouse’s Signature Sangria) - Rosé, Vodka, Lemon, Strawberries, Sprite

“Wine Wednesdays” are returning to the Playhouse for “King Liz,” which includes $10 off all bottles of wine at the bar. For the complete beer, wine and cocktail menu, click here.

The performance schedule for “King Liz” is as follows: Wednesdays and Thursdays at 7:30 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m., and Sundays at 3 p.m. For a detailed performance schedule visit WindyCityPlayhouse.com/King-Liz. Tickets for “King Liz” are on sale now and range from $15-$55—with discounts available for seniors and students—and can be purchased by calling 773-891-8985 or visiting WindyCityPlayhouse.com.

The creative team for “King Liz” includes Courtney O’Neill (Scenic Design), Elsa Hiltner (Costume Design), Jared Gooding (Lighting Design), Thomas Dixon (Sound Design) and Devon Green (Properties Design). Donald E. Claxon is the Production Stage Manager. The understudies for the production are Brianna Buckley, Joe Chazaray, David Goodloe, Will Casey, Marisol Doblado and Teri Schnaubelt.

About Windy City Playhouse
Windy City Playhouse, Chicago's most sophisticated not-for-profit Equity theater, aims to expand beyond the traditional theatergoing experience by offering audience members a night of high-quality entertainment with a full-service bar, in a lounge-like atmosphere. Windy City Playhouse premiered in March of 2015, with the inaugural production “End Days.” Lauded by audiences and critics alike, Windy City Playhouse promises to rock Chicago's theater scene.

The season continues at Windy City Playhouse with Gina Gionfriddo’s dark comedy, “Becky Shaw” directed by Jeff Award-winner Scott Weinstein. Performances begin September 21.

For more information, visit WindyCityPlayhouse.com and follow on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. 

Published in Upcoming Theatre

It’s been quite some time since “Chicago” has actually been performed in Chicago (or thereabouts), but after a ten-year road in obtaining the show’s rights, Drury Lane Theatre in Oakbrook brings home the popular musical created in 1975 – and we are glad they did. With music by John Kander, lyrics by Fred Webb and a book by both Webb and super choreographer Bob Fosse, the musical “Chicago” is based on a 1926 play of the same name. Inspired by actual criminals and crimes reported by reporter Maurine Dallas Watkins, the story revolves around the notion of the “celebrity criminal” while mocking the Chicago justice system that was in place in the 1920’s, an era where it was also widely suspected that an attractive women could not be convicted of a heinous crime, like say, the murder of her lover or husband. 

In “Chicago” the story starts off with a “bang” when Roxie Hart (Kelly Felthous) shoots dead her lover on the side. She is quickly arrested and held in Cook County Jail while awaiting trial for murder. In an age when the press sensationalized homicides committed by women (good ol' media), the public quickly buys into the hype making an instant celebrity out of Roxie, and as starved for stardom as the former dancer has always been, she thrives on the new-found attention. In the “pen” Roxie meets several colorful characters, but none as tough as Velma Kelly (Alena Watters), a socialite divorcee and former cabaret singer who is currently the talk of Chicago for the high-profile murder she committed. Velma barely gives Roxie the time of day, instead giving her the cold shoulder. But when Roxie’s popularity soars as the “new story” and Velma’s diminishes, it’s Velma who wants to partner with Roxie for a song and dance nightclub act, this time receiving the cold shoulder from the new celebrity. 

Roxie’s only way to avoid a sentence of death by hanging is to hire the flashy, fast-talking lawyer, Billy Flynn (Guy Lockard) for five thousand dollars. Well beyond what the couple can afford, Roxie’s doting, naive and “invisible” husband Amos (Justin Brill) scrapes up what he can and promises Flynn to pay the rest when he can. From there, Flynn turns the case into a dog and pony show, equating the trial as a “three-ring circus”.  

Watters stuns on several occasions as sassy Velma Kelly, winning the audience over almost immediately after a dazzling performance of the musical’s opening number “All That Jazz”. Possessing just the right dose of sexy attitude, Kelly impresses both vocally and in her dancing, her performance nothing short of riveting. As notable as Watters’ portrayal of Velma Kelly, Felthous also knocks the ball out of the park as Roxie Hart, pairing perfectly with her fellow caged dame and giving the show a rock ‘em sock ‘em one-two punch. Felthous convinces as one stricken by delusions of grandeur, confusing the popularity of her murder case as celebrity fame, putting forth an overall display of well-tuned comedic timing to go along with her own vocal prowess and dance ability. As fun to watch as the two are, Watters and Felthous really bring it home in their physically-charged routine “Nowadays”. 

He’s charming, good-looking and possesses a silver tongue that can sway even the toughest juries. Well-cast, singer/songwriter Guy Lockard brightly shines as the smooth defense attorney, Billy Flynn, and gives the show yet another boost, particularly in his courtroom maneuvering melody “Razzle Dazzle”. Justin Brill also contributes nicely in his funny depiction of Amos Hart, a man who is considered so undistinguishable by others he aptly refers to himself as “Mister Cellophane” in one of the show’s most humorous numbers. E. Faye Butler’s strong interpretation of Matron Mama Morton is pivotal, Butler crushing it in the number “When You’re Good to Mama”, a jailhouse tutorial for newly imprisoned Roxie Hart. A talented ensemble also brings another strength to the production in their many alluring dance numbers, perhaps most markedly in “Cell Block Tango”, a sultry ode to the woman prisoner during the revolutionary Jazz age.  

  

This new staging of “Chicago” is colorful and richer than ever thanks to an artistic creative team that includes Kevin Depinet (Scenic Design), Sully Ratke (Costume Design), Lee Fiskness (Lighting Design), Ray Nardelli (Sound Design), Cassy Schillo (Properties Design), Claire Moores (Wig Design) along with Production Stage Manager Larry Baker. 

“Chicago” is an energy-driven musical that is sexy, fun and truly memorable. Filled with a slew outstanding performances, inventive choreography and a set list that is justly contagious, Drury Lane’s “Chicago” is a can’t miss thrill ride. 

The Roaring Twenties are back...in high style. 

“Chicago” is currently being performed at Drury Lane Theatre in Oakbrook through June 18th. For tickets and/or more show information, click here. 

 

Published in Theatre in Review
Friday, 28 April 2017 17:06

Pat Martino - Zen-Like Precision

I had the great fortune of seeing a true living Legend of Jazz Thursday night at Chicago’s Jazz Showcase and was able to speak to him before the first set. Pat Martino is one amazing man. He is also one of the nicest people you could ever meet. I sat and asked him a somewhat unrehearsed collection of questions. I did know a bit about him so the questions were not exactly random.

 

One of the first things we talked about was his approach to taking words and turning them into melodies. Martino explains there are twenty-six letters in the alphabet, seven notes in the major scale. That’s three groups of seven and one of five. You repeat the notes after you get to the seventh degree of the scale. Any word can become a melody. This tells you right away that you are not dealing with a traditional thinker here.

 

A word that popped up more than once in the conversation was precision. This is the way he seems to approach all aspects of life, not just music. Another key word was awareness. Awareness is a highly-overlooked concept for most people. Musicians who are tuned into what they are playing and the people they are playing with are going to end up on another level entirely. I consider Pat’s thinking to be extremely Zen in nature. “All there is, is now” was my favorite quote of his. It is very eye opening, really. The idea that the past and future do not truly exist is a reality most of us cannot accept. There is so much truth in that statement.

 

Another thing that struck me was how he talked about not being obsessed with music. That is another strong statement. This at first might seem a bit too casual for a musician to accept. How can a serious musician follow this? It is easy to get so caught up in your music that the rest of your life suffers. The rest of your life should be incorporated into your music. Balance is key to everything, another Zen like concept.

 

Now, let’s talk about the music. Pat currently plays in an organ trio. For those of you unfamiliar, that is organ, guitar and drums. There is no bass player. The organist handles the bass role most of the time. I personally love this type of trio. I am a huge fan of the Hammond B-3, an instrument that gives off one amazing sound - truly hard to duplicate. Pat Bianchi was the man behind the keyboard. He was Martino’s perfect compliment. He traded solos with Pat and provided superb accompaniment. 

 

Carmine Intorre completed the trio on drums. Jazz drummers are amazing creatures. The way they think of rhythm is off the hook. Rhythm is probably the most overlooked piece of the musical puzzle. Nothing grooves without the groove. I have heard the quote that a live band is only as good as the drummer. Intorre kept it going without a bass to lock in with, great job.

 

Pat’s own playing was flawless. I don’t remember hearing a bad note. His solos were highly creative. The rhythm of his phrasing brings back that word precision. Here is a guy pushing seventy-three-years-old that can out play people in the prime of their life. Actually, he may still be in the prime of his life. This guy is using strings on his guitar that most guitar players could not use. I am talking some heavy strings, even for Jazz players. I think a lot of it is due to how the man approaches life. Most people his age are shot, just not much left. He seems to really value a healthy lifestyle. I think being, as he described it, “mostly vegetarian” helps a lot. A lot of artists sacrifice their own health in pursuit if their art. Your body and mind are truly your instrument, not your guitar. The Zen concept again comes to mind.

 

Jazz can seem to be a bit self indulgent at times, all the soloing and all. What it really is a conversation between musicians. That is not always easy to see. However, when musicians are of this caliber, it is. I’m sure a lot of people who go to see a guy like Martino go to see an amazing guitarist. I can count myself on that list but after talking to Pat, I felt like I understood the scene a whole lot more. He talked about how the scene was back in the hey day. It was a community, not just the musicians. Jazz is a very social environment. In some ways, it is musician’s music. The fans are certainly another element. It is an environment for thinking people. An outsider might consider this a snobbish line of thinking. What it really is, is an escape. Jazz is a way of diving into a pool of joy. A lot of intelligent people find it difficult to exist in the world. They need a place to escape. Jazz clubs were at one time filled with people like this. I find it kind of sad in a lot of ways that there really is a very small Jazz scene left. That to me tells you a lot about our society today. 

 

I don’t want to end this on a downer. What I will say is don’t be afraid to think. Think outside the box. My conversation with Pat Martino was a bit of an epiphany to me. It’s okay to think and have your own ideas. You can live your life with a level of precision. This can be a pattern in your life, your music. Incorporating your life into your music is as important as bringing music into your life. I saw an amazing guitar player Thursday night, but I also met an amazing person. Thank You, Mr. Martino.

 

Published in BCS Spotlight
Page 1 of 10

 

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