Gentle breezes, crickets chirping (or whatever that sound is they make), and comfortably warm summer nights. We're here. And knowing it won't last forever, Chicagoans certainly relish the summer months, making the most of each balmy evening. And, you know it’s July when Shakespeare comes alive under the stars at Mayslake Peabody Estate in Oakbrook. Continuing their long run of Shakespeare classics, A Winter’s Tale and A Midsummer Nights Dream taking stage over the past two years, First Folio brings to life As You Like It, the rustic comedy that follows young Rosalind as she escapes to the Forest of Arden to avoid her uncle’s wrath. Rosalind is joined by her cousin Celia and the two, like in all great stories, meet many intriguing characters along their journey. Then there's Orlando, who also seeks refuge in the forest after being persecuted by his older brother, Oliver. But our hero, Orlando, is in love – with Rosalind whom he had briefly met after impressing her during a bout of strength, out wrestling her uncle’s champion, loving her at first glance.

Rosalind, disguised as a boy and Celia, dressed as a poor woman continue to trek through the forest, while at the same time Orlando, traveling with his elderly servant Adam who insisted to travel at his master’s side, does the same while obsessively carving poems of love on seemingly any tree he can find. It is when the Orlando and Adam run into the good Duke Sr. (ousted from the kingdom by the nefarious Duke Frederick) as their desperation for food brings them to her doorstep, that they are warmly taken in and soon realize that they have stumbled onto a hidden community that lives in harmony. Jaques, who plays somewhat of a confidant/friend to Duke Sr., gives us some of Shakespeare’s most famous lines when the forest is referred to as a theatre playing out its own story.

“All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages. At first, the infant,
Mewling and puking in the nurse's arms.
Then the whining schoolboy, with his satchel
And shining morning face, creeping like snail
Unwillingly to school. And then the lover,
Sighing like furnace, with a woeful ballad
Made to his mistress' eyebrow. Then a soldier,
Full of strange oaths and bearded like the pard,
Jealous in honor, sudden and quick in quarrel,
Seeking the bubble reputation
Even in the cannon's mouth. And then the justice,
In fair round belly with good capon lined,
With eyes severe and beard of formal cut,
Full of wise saws and modern instances;
And so he plays his part. The sixth age shifts
Into the lean and slippered pantaloon,
With spectacles on nose and pouch on side;
His youthful hose, well saved, a world too wide
For his shrunk shank, and his big manly voice,
Turning again toward childish treble, pipes
And whistles in his sound. Last scene of all,
That ends this strange eventful history,
Is second childishness and mere oblivion,
Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.” 

As the play progresses, multiple relationships are revealed and created around Orlando’s search for his true love, Rosalind and, in the end, everything ties together just beautifully, as Shakespeare’s pen so often did.

The many performances in this humorous adventure are done with passion and zest. Nicholas Harizin as Orlando and Leslie Ann Sheppard as Rosalind lead the play’s talented cast with a fire-infused appetite, it’s outcome an honest, raw passion to which we can truly relate. The two as comfortable in their roles as I am in my favorite pajama pants. And it would be difficult to find an actor who does Shakespeare better than Kevin McKillip, whose seamless delivery as Jaques so effectively pulls out the humor in Shakespeare’s writing. Luke Daigle stands out as Orlando’s hate-filled brother, Oliver, while Belinda Bremner as Duke Sr. is nothing less than mesmerizing. The cast in its entirety is strong and one would be hard-pressed to find any shortcomings in any of the performances by its talented individuals. In the role of Amiens, Amanda Raquel Martinez even shows off her guitar and vocal skills in a handful of haunting numbers. Standing out as Hermia in last year’s A Midsummer Nights Dream, Sarah Wisterman returns this time as Phebe again impressing while Vahishta Vafadari is very funny as runaway cousin, Celia and Courtney Abbott shines as the highly energetic Touchstone.

Well directed by Skyler Schrempp, the play is yet another ode to the excitement of falling in love and the adventures that come with such a happening and the toils one will undertake in order to find his or her soulmate.

As You Like It comes highly recommended as one of this year’s best outdoor summer experiences.

Surrounded by trees and a beautiful landscape, As You Like It is being performed on the grounds of the Mayslake Peabody Estate in Oakbrook through August 20th. Guests are invited to bring chairs, blankets and picnic baskets. And just to add a final touch of comfort, bug spray is provided along with bug repellent candles. As You Like It has a running time of two hours and twenty-five minutes with one intermission. For tickets and/or more show information visit www.firstfolio.org. Enjoy!

Published in Theatre in Review

Kokandy Productions is pleased to present the Chicago premiere of Michael John LaChiusa's LITTLE FISH, directed by Producing Artistic Director Allison Hendrix with music direction by Kory Danielson and choreography by Kasey Alfonso, playing July 9 – August 20, 2017 at Theater Wit, 1229 W. Belmont Ave. in Chicago. Tickets for LITTLE FISH are currently available at www.kokandyproductions.com, by calling (773) 975-8150 or in person at the Theater Wit Box Office. 
 
LITTLE FISH features Curtis Bannister as John Paul, Kyrie Courter as Anne Frank, Adam Fane as Marco, Casey Hayes as Robert (August 1 – 20, 2017), Carl Herzog as Mr Bunder, Teressa LaGamba as Cinder, Nicole Laurenzi as Charlotte, Jeff Meyer as Robert (July 9 – 30, 2017) and Aja Wiltshire as Kathy. 
 
Thirty-something writer Charlotte decides to give up smoking and tries to compensate with swimming and jogging – but to no avail. With the help of her friends Kathy and Marco, she embarks on a modern-day odyssey to face the eclectic demons of her past. Loosely based on Deborah Eisenberg’s short stories Days and Flotsam, LITTLE FISH’s score is infused with Latin, jazz, rock, and what’s been described as "pure urban noise within Charlotte's mind."
 
LITTLE FISH premiered off-Broadway at the Second Stage Theatre in 2003.
 
"What I love the most about this musical is that it has these huge ideas attached to it – isolation versus connection… addiction… trauma… but they exist within a bright, fast-paced, hilariously wry musical comedy,” comments Director Allison Hendrix. “We see three friends in the midst of their ‘Saturn Returns,’ figuring out how to be better people, better friends and ultimately, better citizens of the world. These characters' journeys will feel familiar and close to home to our audiences." 
 
The production team for LITTLE FISH includes: Arnel Sancianco (scenic design), Kate Kamphausen (costume design), Alexander Ridgers (lighting design), Michael J. Patrick (sound design), Mealah Heidenreich (props design), Shawn Rodriguez (master electrician), Keegan Bradac (sound engineer), Lindsay Brown (production manager), Alan Weusthoff and Zach Schley (techinical directors), Emily Boyd (paint charge), Ethan Deppe (keyboard programmer), Kait Samuels (stage manager) and Alison McLeod (asst. stage manager). 
 
PRODUCTION DETAILS:
 
Title: LITTLE FISH
Book, Music & Lyrics: Michael John LaChiusa
Director: Producing Artistic Director Allison Hendrix
Music Director: Kory Danielson
Choreographer: Kasey Alfonso
Cast: Curtis Bannister (John Paul), Kyrie Courter (Anne Frank), Adam Fane (Marco), Casey Hayes (Robert, August 1 – 20, 2017), Carl Herzog (Mr Bunder), Teressa LaGamba (Cinder), Nicole Laurenzi (Charlotte), Jeff Meyer (Robert, July 9 – 30, 2017) and Aja Wiltshire (Kathy). 
 
Musicians: Korey Danielson (conductor/keyboard), Charlotte Rivard-Hoster (keyboard 2), Mike Matlock (reeds), Kyle McCullough (guitar), Jake Saleh (bass) and Scott Simon (percussion).
 
Location: Theater Wit, 1229 W. Belmont Ave. in Chicago
Dates: Previews: Sunday, July 9 at 7 pm, Monday, July 10 at 7 pm, Thursday, July 13 at 8 pm and Friday, July 14 at 8 pm
Regular run: Sunday, July 16 – Sunday, August 20, 2017
Curtain Times: Thursdays, Fridays & Saturdays at 8 pm; Sundays at 3 pm. Please note: there will be added 3 pm performances on Saturday, August 12 and Saturday, August 19.
Tickets: Previews $25. Regular run $33 - $38. Tickets are currently available at www.kokandyproductions.com, by calling (773) 975-8150 or in person at the Theater Wit Box Office.
 
For additional information, visit www.kokandyproductions.com.

 

Published in Upcoming Theatre

Greenhouse Theater Center is pleased to launch its 2017-18 season with Artistic Director Jacob Harvey and Elizabeth Margolius’ bold reimagining of Sophie Treadwell's most celebrated play, MACHINAL. Inspired by the surreal life and trial of famed murderess Ruth Snyder, MACHINAL will play August 11 – September 24, 2017 at The Greenhouse Theater Center (Upstairs Main Stage), 2257 N. Lincoln Ave. in Chicago. Single tickets and season subscription packages are currently available at greenhousetheater.org, in person at the box office or by calling (773) 404-7336. 
 
The cast of MACHINAL includes Heather Chrisler, Maddie DePorter, Sean Gallagher, Arti Ishak, Cody Proctor, Sarah Rachel Schol, Scott Shimizu, Carin Silkaitis, Paul Michael Thomson and Jonah Winston.
 
MACHINAL will be presented through an educational partnership with North Central College, allowing students to shadow professional actors as the production’s understudy cast. Students will be immersed in every facet of the production, serving not only as understudies but as assistant designers and assisting members of the production team, in a program that serves as an extension of classroom work and a springboard into the Chicago theatre community. The student understudy cast will have two guaranteed performances at the Greenhouse, one for a high school audience and one for the public.
 
One young woman must break out in this exhilarating reimagining of MACHINAL, the American classic inspired by the sensational, true story of murderess Ruth Snyder. Trapped in an unhappy marriage, the young woman finds a thrill in the arms of a flyby lover. But when reality returns, how far will her fight for freedom take her? And who will pay the ultimate price? How do you escape the machine?
 
“Our team is thrilled to bring this intimate exploration of one woman's choice between captivity and freedom to our Chicago audience,” commented Artistic Director Jacob Harvey. “As we put the show together,” added Movement Director Elizabeth Margolius, “I am thrilled to bring this cast's diverse perspectives into focus to illuminate the world of Machinal – a world from our past that still speaks to the struggles facing all of us, especially women.”
The production team for MACHINAL to date includes: Nick Thornton (associate director/movement coordinator), Eleanor Kahn (scenic/props design), Eric Watkins (lighting design), Jeffrey Levin (sound design), Christina Leinicke (costume design), Adrian Shelton (dramaturg), Darek Lane (stage manager), Ron Rude (production manager) and Stephen Kossak (asst. stage manager).
PRODUCTION DETAILS:
 
Title: MACHINAL
Playwright: Sophie Treadwell
Director: Jacob Harvey
Movement Director: Elizabeth Margolius
Cast: Heather Chrisler (Young Woman), Maddie DePorter (Track 7), Sean Gallagher (Track 6, Husband), Arti Ishak (Track 5, Telephone Girl), Cody Proctor (Lover), Sarah Rachel Schol (Track 4), Scott Shimizu (Track 8), Carin Silkaitis (Track 3, Mother), Paul Michael Thomson (Track 2) and Jonah Winston (Track 1).
 
Location The Greenhouse Theater Center (Upstairs Main Stage) 2257 N. Lincoln Ave, Chicago
Dates: Previews: Friday, August 11 at 7:30 pm, Saturday, August 12 at 7:30 pm and Sunday, August 13 at 7:30 pm
Regular run: Friday, August 18 – Sunday, September 24, 2017
Curtain times: Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 pm; Sundays at 2:30 pm. Please note: there will not be a performance on Thursday, August 17.
Tickets: Preview: $20. Regular run: $35. Students: $15. Tickets are currently at greenhousetheater.org, in person at the box office or by calling (773) 404-7336. Season subscription packages are also available.

 

Published in Upcoming Theatre

Following a sold-out engagement at Steppenwolf’s 1700 Theatre this spring, actor and magician Brett Schneider’s hit one-man show COMMUNION: An Evening of Magic, returns to Chicago for three performances only August 4 – 6, 2017 at The Den Theatre’s Bookspan Theatre, 1333 N. Milwaukee Ave. in Chicago. Tickets, priced at $20, are currently available at thedentheatre.com.
 
Have you ever wished you could know what someone else is thinking? What if you could? COMMUNION: An Evening of Magic is a 70-minute performance that explores magic as a proxy for human connection, and a celebration of our desire to better understand one another. Highly interactive and unconventional, COMMUNION blends world-class magic, sleight of hand and psychological suggestion with live participation from the audience. No two performances are alike.  For additional information, visit brettschneidermagic.com
 
Schneider’s previous work has received critical praise from across the U.S.:
 
“Schneider is captivating... his rapport is winning, his routines are confident, and 
he’s great at generating anticipation... you’ll need to see this.” 
–The Washington Post
 
“The show dips its toes into the realm of actual magic... some quite elaborate onstage magic from 
designer Brett Schneider involving disappearances, levitations and the like.”
--The Chicago Tribune
 
“…a highly intelligent and vulnerable actor and a first-rate magician.” 
–Time Out Chicago
 
“A magnificent central performance... [Brett Schneider] has a casually charismatic stage presence that blends the inner power of a Robert Mitchum 
with the sex appeal of a James Dean... Schneider’s ability to communicate and make intimate contact with the audience is its own kind of magic.”
–The Hollywood Reporter
 
“Handsome professional magician ‘Great’ (Brett Schneider) dazzles crowdswith his amazing card tricks… 
Schneider is a charismatic and appealing performer, impressive as both an actor and a magician.”
 –LA Weekly
 
PRODUCTION DETAILS:
 
Title: COMMUNION: An Evening of Magic
Written and performed by: Brett Schneider
 
Location: The Den Theatre’s Bookspan Theatre, 1333 N. Milwaukee Ave., Chicago
Dates: Friday, August 4 – Sunday, August 6, 2017
Curtain times: Friday and Saturday at 8 pm; Sunday at 7 pm
Tickets: $20. Tickets are currently available at thedentheatre.com.
 
About Brett Schneider

Brett Schneider is an actor, magician and illusion designer. Brett has been performing magic professionally for over 20 years and is a member of the world-famous Magic Castle in Hollywood, California. His work has received numerous awards and citations and he was a finalist in World Magic Seminar. Recently, Brett starred in and created the illusions for the Goodman Theatre’s hit production of The Magic Play. In addition to magic performance, Brett also works as a magic consultant for theatre, television and film. His theatrical work has been twice nominated for a Jeff Award and has appeared in venues such as The Goodman Theatre, Lookingglass Theatre, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and The Roundabout Theatre in New York. His work has also been incorporated into TV shows, music videos, short films and features. For additional information, visit brettschneidermagic.com.
 
About The Den Theatre

Artistic Director Ryan Martin opened The Den in 2010 with a single theatre space. Seven years later, The Den boasts five intimate and unique theatres on two floors ranging from 50 – 200 seats, as well as two additional spaces primarily used for classes and rehearsals. The Den is also equipped with two bars enveloped by a never-ending field of lounge space for audiences and like-minded culture hounds to drink, talk, read, watch, think, listen and live. The Den is home to five resident theatre companies including First Floor Theater, Haven Theatre Company, Griffin Theatre, Irish Theatre of Chicago, and The New Colony. Hundreds of other companies from Chicago and beyond have also called The Den home, utilizing its theatres, studio space and easily convertible cabaret space to accommodate a stream of programming, including plays, musicals, film screenings, classical and jazz performances, dance, improv and stand-up, seminars and speaking engagements. For additional information, visit www.thedentheatre.com.

 

Published in Upcoming Theatre

Cirque du Soleil is thrilled to venture into uncharted territory with its brand new creation, Cirque du Soleil Crystal, exploring the artistic attributes of ice for the very first time. Specifically created for arenas, the state-of-the-art production will create a fresh innovative experience, pushing the boundaries once again by combining outstanding skating and sliding, remarkable aesthetics and acrobatic feats that defy the imagination.
 
“We are excited to create a unique entertainment experience on ice for all spectators to enjoy. It's a wonderful opportunity for Cirque du Soleil as ice provides us with an entirely new field of play which also comes with a set of creative challenges. Our goal is to continuously surprise audiences by showcasing all the incredible possibilities on ice,” explained Yasmine Khalil, Executive Producer of Crystal.
 
Crystal will follow a young woman who shatters through reality to reach a surreal world filled with possibility. Beneath the surface, she pursues the life that has been glistening within. Sometimes, we must first leave solid ground to find our true footing.
 
Cirque du Soleil invites the audience to discover Crystal – A Breakthrough Ice Experience – and find out what it means to skate on the edge of reality.
 
Performance Schedule & Ticket Information
Cirque du Soleil Crystal will be presented at the Sears Centre Arena, 5333 Prairie Stone Parkway, Hoffman Estates, IL in six performances only, November 16-19, 2017. Performances take place Thursday - Friday, November 16-17, at 7:30pm; Saturday, November 18, at 3:30 & 7:30pm; and Sunday, November 19, at 1 & 5pm.
 
Tickets for Cirque du Soleil Crystal start at $30.00 and go on sale Wednesday, June 21, at 10am by phone at 888-SEARSTIX (732-7784) or online by visiting www.searscentre.com.
 
Sponsor
Forsythe Technology is the Official Sponsor of Crystal in the United States
 
Cirque du Soleil
Crystal is Cirque du Soleil’s 42nd original production since 1984. The company has brought wonder and delight to more than 180 million spectators in more than 450 cities on six continents. Cirque du Soleil has over 4,000 employees, including 1,300 performing artists from 50 different countries.
For more information about Cirque du Soleil, visit www.cirquedusoleil.com.
More information about Crystal by Cirque du Soleil can be found at cirquedusoleil.com/crystal, and on  Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.

 

Published in Upcoming Theatre

If you haven't seen the film version of “The Bridges of Madison County” starring Meryl Streep and Clint Eastwood, do not fear - the musical adaptation for the stage is full of beautiful songs and choreography that make this production a whole different animal than the 1995 movie and 1992 novel it was based. 

The story is simple, and universal. What to do when your life has not turned out the way you dreamed and true love steps in to give you another chance? Will you take a chance on Love? 

In "Bridges" we meet Francesca, an Italian war bride who married the first, kind GI she met after the war and came to America leaving everything familiar behind her to start a new life. While her husband and children are away at the state fair in Indianapolis for the weekend, fate brings true love knocking right on her front door in the form of a handsome and single National Geographic photographer, Robert Kincaid, who is on assignment in the area photographing the seven beautiful bridges of Madison County. 

After directions, that turns into a guided tour of the seventh bridge, followed by a few drinks and the sharing of deep personal stories, this compatible coupling quickly heats up into a life changing affair.

Francesca Johnson, played by the beautiful Kathy Voytko, reminds me a lot of a young Patti Lupone. Voytko, who has appeared in numerous Broadway productions, has a strong and lovely voice with a lovely Italian accent and very expressive face which reflects her growing attraction to Kincaid with every glance or bat of her large brown eyes. 

Kincaid, played by actor Nathaniel Stampley, comes alive on stage with a masculine warmth and grounded sensuality which make both Francesca and the audience feel she is infinitely safe within his embrace. We quickly realize that this is no one night stand nor even a chance encounter but all of destiny itself intervening to make these two lives powerfully intersect, if only for the weekend. 

Stampley and Voytco's passionate and unexpected love affair is well-supported with some comic relief by the actors who play her husband, kids and friends. Bart Shatto plays Bud while Brooke MacDougal plays the couple's young daughter Carolyn and Tanner Hake is their teen aged son Michael. Francesca's' supportive best friend, her closest neighbor out in farm country, is wonderfully played by Wydetta Carter. Carter also has a great Jazz voice and sings a very funny song about her envy of the magical love affair unfolding just across the fields from her perch in the front window of her country home. 

Jeffrey D. Kmiec's set design is very open, changing rapidly from the bridge location back to the kitchen and gives one the feeling that the ageless beauty of the bridges of Madison County represent a type of true love that is only found in dreams come true and that the small house in which Francesca and her family live is actually more of an astral 18 year-long "rest stop" -  that the travel loving and exotic Francesca is fundamentally out of place here.

I loved the song, "Before and After You" passionately and exquisitely sung by both Voytko and Stampley. The song perfectly describes how true love changes one's life and perceptions completely, making one realize in an instant just how much has been missing from their lives before they met and also how much their future lives will be forever indelibly stamped by the experience of this miraculous encounter and gift from fate. 

During their brief, but instantaneous, courtship over Francesca's kitchen table, Robert Kincaid, who is a devout loner and world traveler, tells her he feels disconnected from the world. In a flashback type setting, his ex-wife Marian, who is a hippy folk singer played by actress Emily Berman sings a very lovely song behind the flirting couple about her relationship with Kincaid and we see a whole other, liberal free loving side to the somber Kincaid character. The romantic, open-minded, artsy side of Kincaid has long since disappeared from his own consciousness as he jets sets around the globe never stopping for that "glass of iced tea or night cap of brandy" that will open the door to a new relationship thereby sidestepping over and over the vulnerability that a new relationship will inevitably bring. 

I highly recommend this beautifully cast and performed production of the stage musical. The relationships are very well played and the audience is allowed to see how the lover's interactions with each other bring to life all of the best aspects of their personalities, important living aspects and hopeful expectations of freedom and genuine loving excitement that have been long buried by the monotonous work and family demands of daily life. We also sit on pins and needles as the play brings its leading characters to an incredibly tough choice.

Voytco and Stampley's performances in the lead roles are deeply drawn, rich and compelling. Their chemistry feels real and palpable and their expansive individual artistry as singer/actors draws you in and makes the audience really care what choices they make and how their decisions will impact their mind-opening love affair, which is obviously a gift from heaven. 

“The Bridges of Madison County” is being performed at Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire through August 13th. For tickets and more show information visit www.marriotttheatre.com.

 

Published in Theatre in Review

Louis Prima Jr. and The Witnesses are packed with energy and are – just pure fun. At no point during the show do they let you forget that they are entertainers. For two solid hours, their upbeat show played hits going back to a different time. Every moment was absolutely enchanting.

The City Winery is an upscale restaurant/concert venue with a superb wait-staff. Their food, wine and, decorated tables made a perfect atmosphere for Louis Prima Jr. and The Witnesses. A well-dressed crowd entered the establishment after using valet parking, ate edible creations that were out of this world, and sipped on delicious wines just prior to the show. Candle lit tables, glass bottles of water and cloth napkins set the scene for one of the best shows on Earth.

For approximately five decades Louis Prima Sr. entertained crowds with his musical show in a positive and comedic way. Performers have been covering his music and style since the 1930’s. Benny Goodman, David Lee Roth, and Brian Setzer are among the most popular names to do versions of the great Louis Prima’s work. His son, Louis Prima Jr., is now paying homage to the music his father wrote and other work from different artists.

The Witnesses came out and started to prepare the audience for an incredible band leader, Louis Prima Jr. The horns were pumping and out walked the man in his striped suit who immediately started to sing the opening number “Jump, Jive an’ Wail.” The music was right on the money with every beat, note, and song performed.

A favorite song for so many people was “Just a Gigolo (I ain’t got nobody)”. The song was performed so well that it was just like the original recording. The Keely Smith role for the evening was covered by the extremely talented Leslie Spencer. Her voice was just as powerful as Keely’s was and she nailed every note with perfection during the concert. The mixtures of the male and female voices were done in the same vein as the original artist to whom this show was patterned after.

Louis took time to speak to the audience like they were friends. He made eye contact with anyone and everyone who was close enough to the stage. He mentioned that recently his son had been sick and was in and out of the hospital a lot over a year and a half. He continued to explain that, “The only thing that held it together was playing with his band and performing on stage for such wonderful people. The people in the band are very important to me.” Without their personal relationships, he would not have been able to go on.

The time during the show was held together by A.D. Adams on drums and Johnathan Frias on bass. These two kept the time so well and paved the road of songs for all the other stand-alone musicians on the stage. On guitar was Ryan McKay with a nice hollow body electric and blended well with the keyboard player Gregg Fox. Their high notes were in sync all night with the sax player Marco Palos and Ted Schumacher on trumpet. Another bottom end performer was the baritone sax player William Pattinson who hit notes that you felt deep down in your soul. Phillip Clevinger was the trombone player and together they all made up an incredible band.

All of them displayed incredible showmanship as they didn’t just come out and play their instruments of choice. They played and moved around without stopping. They aren’t just musicians; they are entertainers.

When “Angelina” began, almost every concertgoer in the place was singing with joy. “Oh, mama zooma zooma baccala” was being belted out at every table during the song about the waitress at the pizzeria.

The comedic number, “Banana Split For My Baby” was a definite highlight during the show. Louis warned everyone that he can never remember all the words of the storytelling song that put a smile on so many faces. He started to fumble the words, but regained himself immediately and laughed. No one seemed to care as he went on with grace describing all he wanted his baby to have.

The Witnesses talent is not just within the instruments they play. They all sing well and proved it throughout the night. Louis took a seat behind the drums and A.D. Admas came out to the front of the stage and they started in with the Chicago song, “25 or 6 to 4.” The horn section played every piece with accuracy. The band also continued to belt out the songs “Evil Ways”, “Proud Mary”, and “Your Mama Don’t Dance”. The entire band was like a jukebox for the evening playing one hit song after another.

Toward the end of the show Louis marched out into the audience with his band members following him in a single file line. They slapped hands, did high fives, and showed everyone how down to earth they really are. They finally made it back to the stage and unfortunately the show was over.

Louis Prima Jr. and The Witnesses laid out such an awesome evening that no one in the entire venue could have been disappointed. The vibe itself expressed from the music and the band’s personality created an overall feeling of warmth. No band could ever leave an audience in a happier mood. The entire evening was just a joy and an honor to see. As people waited in the streets for the valet parking attendants to bring back their vehicles, one man made a comment about the show. “I’m so stoked! I can’t wait to see him again.” Everyone nodded in agreement. It was just a tremendous evening at The City Winery.

 

Published in In Concert

Collaboraction, Chicago's social issue-driven contemporary theater, announced today its line-up of 24 world premiere short pieces for PEACEBOOK, a free, collaborative city-wide festival of theater, dance, music, visual art and spoken word, all focused on cultivating peace in Chicago.

Actor David Dastmalchian (Twin Peaks), Sandra Delgado (La Havana Madrid), GQ (Q Brothers), Kevin Coval (Louder Than a Bomb), noted director Mignon McPherson Stewart, Sir Taylor (Example Setters) and Bril Barrett (Making a Difference Dance) are among the artists and activists creating fresh new works in support of Chicago's peace movement. 

Each piece is seven minutes or less, and range from solos to large collaborations. 

In sum, the 24 "chapters" that comprise PEACEBOOK unite more than 200 artists, from household names to neighborhood peace activists, all intent on creating real connections with Chicagoans in communities around the city.
 
PEACEBOOK launches with a one-day, marathon premiere of all 24 chapters on Saturday, August 26, 2017 in the Goodman's 350-seat flexible Owen Theatre, 170 N. Dearborn St., Chicago. Show times are 3 p.m. (PEACEBOOK Englewood), 5:30 p.m. (PEACEBOOK Hermosa) and 8 p.m. (PEACEBOOK Austin). 

All three programs are presented free of charge. Free ticket reservations, with an option to donate what you can, will launch Wednesday, July 19 at 10 a.m. To reserve tickets and for more information, visit collaboraction.org/peacebook2017, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call Collaboraction, (312) 226-9633.
 
Following their Goodman debuts, the 24 acts will be divided into three programs of eight works that will tour to these south, west and north side neighborhoods next fall as part of the Chicago Park District's Nights Out in the Parks program:
 
PEACEBOOK Englewood
Hamilton Park, 513 W. 72nd St.
Thursday and Friday, October 5 and 6 at 7 p.m.
Saturday, October 7   Dome of Dance competition at 3 p.m., community meal and peace panel at 4 p.m., show at 5 p.m.
 
PEACEBOOK Hermosa
Kelvyn Park, 4438 W. Wrightwood Ave.
Thursday and Friday, October 19 and 20 at 7 p.m.
Saturday, October 21   Dome of Dance competition at 3 p.m., community meal and peace panel at 4 p.m., show at 5 p.m.
 
PEACEBOOK Austin
La Follette Park, 1333 N. Laramie Ave.
Thursday and Friday, November 2 and 3 at 7 p.m.
Saturday, November 4  Dome of Dance competition at 3 p.m., community meal and peace panel at 4 p.m., show at 5 p.m. 

Park performances are free. Each night features a different musical guest. Before every Saturday show is a free community meal and peace fair with panels, workshops and community organizations from a diverse array of Chicago peacemakers.
 
"In these times of rising homicides and racial tension in Chicago, we believe in the power of theater to incite empathy, knowledge, dialogue and change around peace in Chicago," said Collaboraction Artistic Director Anthony Moseley. "With over 200 artists from all throughout the city and partnerships with the Goodman Theatre and the Chicago Park District, we are establishing PEACEBOOK as a place for our city to come together around this most critical social issue with our future at stake." 
 
For PEACEBOOK updates, visit collaboraction.org, follow the company on Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, YouTube or Instagram, or call the Collaboraction box office, (312) 226-9633.

More about the plays

The following 24 prayers for peace were selected from over 100 submissions of theater, dance and spoken word works, all envisioning a more peaceful Chicago:

PEACEBOOK Englewood (Hamilton Park):
 
Dandelions
by Marsha Estell, directed by Mignon McPherson Stewart
A heartfelt story about loss and how violence and peace are not always mutually exclusive.
 
Example Setters
by The Example Setters
A spoken word piece by teens who want to set the Example in the city of Chicago.
 
#Hashtag Who's Next The Musical
written and directed by Frederick Alphonso
A song that invites us to join/live the justice revolution through facing our constructed narratives around crime.
 
Hoods
by Kaye Winks, directed by Schoen Smith
The Chicago family, made up of different neighborhoods in the city, sits down for a group art therapy session to talk out their long-established communication problems.
 
June-Dastmalchian Collaboration (working title)
devised by David Dastmalchian and Aisha June
LA film, TV, and stage actor, David Dastmalchian (The Dark Knight, Ant Man, Twin Peaks) returns to Chicago to team up with Collaboraction Teen Peacemaker ensemble member, Aisha June, to write and perform in a devised work about peace in Chicago.
 
Obama, the Musical
by Yuri Basho Lane, directed by Elizabeth Lovelady
A beat-box musical examining Barack Obama in three stages of his life.
 
Triumphs, Burdens, and Laughs
choreographed by Elysia Banks
South Side native, Elysia Banks, choreographed this dance piece to highlight the resilience of South Side communities and pay homage to their grit and fortitude.
 
What Do You See?
by Brian Keys, directed by Kristina Valada-Viars
Keys' solo show examines the confrontation between a black man and society that takes us to the core of our prejudices.

 
PEACEBOOK Hermosa (Kelvyn Park):
 

Barbarism
by Jason Grote, directed by Iris Sowalt
A woman with PTSD and apocalyptic survivor's guilt takes audiences on an exploration of the gilded cages in her mind as she reveals the fragility of the human spirit.
 
Conflict
devised by the Collaboraction Teen Peacemaker Ensemble, directed by Luis Crespo
The Collaboraction Teen Peacemaker Ensemble grapples with the real cost of hate in Chicago and its future.
 
Eckhart Park Echoes
by Nancy Garcia Loza, directed by Juan Castaneda
A peaceful protest by way of storytelling. Garcia Loza's solo show offers a snapshot of her aunt's life as it unfolded on a Chicago block for forty years in West Town.
 
Finding a Loving Motherland
devised by Sami Hussain Ismat
A satirical tragi-comedy about a refugee escaping Syria only to encounter ridiculous bureaucratic and racial discrimination, fear of white supremacy in Trump's America, and crime in his new neighborhood.
 
A People's History of the Block
by Kevin Coval
Coval, of Louder Than a Bomb, explores peace through the words of real Chicagoans he met while touring with his newest poetry book, "A People's History of Chicago."
 
Recipe for Peace
devised by Dionne Hawkins
Tune into this cooking show where the host prepares the ingredients to create peace, by the artistic director of the Austin Town Hall Theatre Company.
Rangel-Delgado Collaboration (working title)
adapted and directed by Sandra Delgado, from the writings of Sammy Rangel
Acclaimed Chicago actress Sandra Delgado collaborates with peace activist and TED Talk standout Sammy Rangel, author of "Fourbears: Myths of Forgiveness," to tell his inspirational story of hope and redemption.
 
We'll Be Doing This Together
by Ann Kreitman
This non-traditional, interactive theater piece asks the audience to create gentle and joyful connections between strangers.

 
PEACEBOOK Austin (La Follette Park):

17 to (New) Life
devised by GQ and Tyrone Taylor
GQ of the Q Brothers and Tyrone Taylor co-create and perform this ritual of healing based on Taylor's real life events, including murder, incarceration, freedom and search for transformation.
 
Some Thoughts On Race and Racism In Chicago From Some People Who Aren't Sure What To Do And Who Sat Down And Talked About It
by Sarah Illiatovitch-Goldman, directed by Josh Sobel
This piece of verbatim theatre talks about race through white eyes, using words from a collection of interviews that shed light on how we see ourselves and each other as a community.
 
Dear Masculinity
by Eneale Pickett, directed by Rain Wilson
This play, by a west side native, is a collection of letters written by men to their masculinity.
 
EmpoWOMENt
devised by Bril Barrett
A team of female dancers proved tap-dance can be an effective form of protest and a powerful catalyst for change in this work choreographed by the acclaimed founder of M.A.D.D. (Making a Difference Dancing).
 
High and Dry
by Greg Hardigan, directed by Genevieve Fowler
A man has a chance encounter with a woman on the street and must confront his role in creating peace in Chicago.
 
The High Priestess
devised by Dr. Laura Biagi
Inspired by the two cards of the major Arcana of the Tarot, this performance art piece revolves around the power to give social meaning to sounds and the concept of failing and undoing by meditating on four alphabets: Sanskrit, Arabic, Hebrew and Latin.
 
The Making of an Example Setter
by Sir Taylor, directed by Anthony Moseley
Collaboraction Artistic Director Anthony Moseley teams up with the leader of The Example Setters, former Jesse White Tumbler and member of the U.S. Olympics team, Sir Taylor, to tell a new story of healing in Chicago. 
 
Quiet Time
by Erica Mann Ramis, directed by Nat Swift
A woman's thoughts are played out on stage as she meditates in an effort to navigate the maze of her grief after the loss of her husband. 

About Collaboraction

Collaboraction (collaboraction.org) collaborates with artists, community activists, and citizens from throughout the city to create original theatrical experiences that push artistic boundaries and explore critical social issues with a diverse community of Chicagoans. Collaboraction has worked with over 3,000 artists to bring more than 60 productions and events to upwards of 250,000 audience members.

Production highlights include Collaboraction's acclaimed series of Crime Scene productions responding to Chicago's current crime epidemic, 15 years of the SKETCHBOOK Festival, Sarah Moeller's Forgotten Future: The Education Project in 2014, 2010's Chicago premiere of 1001 by Jason Grote, 2008's world premiere of Jon by George Saunders and directed by Seth Bockley, and 2007's The Intelligent Design of Jenny Chow: an instant message with excitable music by Rolin Jones.
Collaboraction, based on the third floor of Wicker Park's historic Flat Iron Arts Building with three theatre spaces, is led by Artistic Director Anthony Moseley and a dedicated staff and board of directors. Collaboraction is supported by Bloomberg Philanthropies, The Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation, Richard H. Driehaus Foundation via the MacArthur Foundation, and the Wicker Park & Bucktown SSA #33 Chamber of Commerce. This program is partially supported by a grant from the Illinois Arts Council Agency.

For tickets and information, visit collaboraction.org or call (312) 226-9633. 

Published in Upcoming Theatre

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 the appointment of Kimberly Lawson as Managing Director. 
 
Comments Artistic Director Harmony France, “Kimberly has vast administrative experience from her time at Victory Gardens and Lookingglass Theatres. She believes strongly in our mission of employing and empowering women and for standing up for inclusion and diversity in theatre. Not to mention she is an inspiring artist herself. I think she is a perfect fit for Firebrand Theatre and look forward to what we will be able to achieve together.”
 
About Kimberly Lawson
 
Kimberly Lawson is thrilled to be joining the team of Firebrand Theatre. Originally from St. Louis, MO, Kimberly has worked with over 20 theaters in the Chicago area as a theater administrator and performer. Currently the Manager of Audience Services of Lookingglass Theatre, she previously held the position of Director of Audience and Venue Services at Victory Gardens Theater. As performer, she was most recently seen in Andre DeShields' Confessions of a P.I.M.P at Victory Gardens Theater. Kimberly is also an active cabaret singer, and is a member of Chicago Cabaret Professionals. Her latest show, WOZ, was nominated for a BroadwayWorld Chicago award after playing sold out performances at Davenport's Piano Bar, Victory Gardens and Stage 773. She will be returning to the Davenport's stage in August with her latest show, She Plays the Violin.
 
Firebrand Theatre’s inaugural season begins this fall with the Chicago premiere of LIZZIE, a rock musical based on the true-life story of accused axe-murderess Lizzie Borden, playing November 11 – December 17, 2017. The season concludes next spring with the musical comedy 9 TO 5 THE MUSICAL, based on the hit movie of the same name about three working women fighting for equality in a sexist workplace, playing April 7 – May 20, 2018. Both productions will be presented at The Den Theatre's Bookspan Theatre, 1333 N. Milwaukee Ave. in Chicago. For tickets and additional information, visit firebrandtheatre.org.
 
Mission Statement
 
FIREBRAND THEATRE is a musical theatre company committed to employing and empowering women by expanding their opportunities on and off the stage. Firebrand is a 501(c)(3) Equity theatre.
 
Company members: Artistic Director: Harmony France, Managing Director: Kimberly Lawson, Advisory Board: Lili-Anne Brown, Brenda Didier, Kate Garassino, Emjoy Gavino, Amber Mak, Danni Smith, Company Members: Kasey Alfonso, Sydney Charles, Adelina Feldman-Schultz, Amanda Horvath, Jon Martinez, Eric Martin, Amelia Jo Parrish and Andra Velis-Simon.

 

Published in Upcoming Theatre

Chicago Loop Alliance (CLA) launches its second ACTIVATE event of the year with Wasteland: Dispose and Discover on Wednesday, July 26 from 5-10 p.m. at the Chicago Theatre Alley (enter on Benton Place at State St). Guests who RSVP in advance at loopchicago.com/activate will receive a complimentary drink ticket for beer, wine, or cocktail at the event.
 
The 2017 ACTIVATE series invites the public to explore the pulse of daily life that the alley embodies. Art and programming will focus on a different aspect of alley life for each event. Wasteland explores the alley as the space where we dispose of unwanted stuff – and discover discarded objects that continue to hold value. Through a series of interactive art installations using discarded objects and trash receptacles as the primary materials, the event highlights the story of our trash and the alley’s role as garbage hotspot. 
 
The identity of the practical, hardworking alley is inextricably linked to trash. Chicagoans, who each throw out about one ton of garbage per year, make frequent trips to the alley dumpster. But, as the old adage goes, “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.” Picture an alley picker’s excitement to find an old footstool lounging by the trash can. Imagine a scrapper stacking old pipes and a rusty stove in his retrofitted pickup. Curators Duncan Bindbeutel and Desmond Naranjo have created an array of activities and installations that highlight the alley’s main function: a wasteland for the discarded.

Flametube, a kinetic sculpture designed by Joshua T. Gilbert made of repurposed materials (such as recycled cell phone chargers and salvaged car components) that shoots flames in response to musical input.

Mystery Cans from artist Kelly Wyatt, whose contents will mystify patrons as new and mysterious forms emerge from not-so-ordinary trash and recycling cans throughout the night.

Propagation, a robotic flower made of reclaimed materials and cutting-edge 3D printed components, programmed to move, grow, and respond to the audience from industrial designer Steven Krejcik and software developer Paul Kirby.

On Garbage Pond, a large functional fountain sculpted by Devon Bonstein made from items found in Chicago alleys.
 
The Portal, a monumental structure overlaid with an illuminated scene of alley activities returns to amplify the ACTIVATE experience. By their very nature, alleys are voids – the space between buildings. The Portal provides a sense of arrival and puts the alleyway in play with the streetscape. Designed by PORT Urbanism, the structure will display a photo montage comprised of contemporary and historic images to support each theme, inspiring passersby to give an alley a second glance and wonder about its history.
 
The remaining 2017 ACTIVATE events on August 24 and September 28 will explore the alley as a channel pulsating with power lines and a hideaway where we can cavort and misbehave away from the eyes of the street. Dates are subject to change. Specific location and event details will be posted two weeks prior at loopchicago.com/activate.
 
Over the past three seasons, ACTIVATE has generated nearly $1.7 million in estimated economic impact to Loop businesses, with nearly $1 million in 2016 alone. More than 47,000 people have attended ACTIVATE over the course of the series. “Linger Longer” is a program of exclusive offers and promotions to drive traffic to CLA business members before and after each event.   
 
ACTIVATE sponsors include: School of the Art Institute of Chicago as presenting sponsor; PNC Bank, Lagunitas Brewing Company, Little Things, and CH Distillery as title sponsors; Vitacoco and RX Bar as event sponsors; and TimeOut Chicago as media sponsor.
 
About Chicago Loop Alliance
Chicago Loop Alliance (CLA), the sole service provider for Special Service Area 1-2015, creates, manages, and promotes high-performing urban experiences, attracting people and investment to the Loop. For more information, please visit www.LoopChicago.com.
 
About ACTIVATE
ACTIVATE is a series of pop-up arts programs that encourage visitors to see the Loop anew. ACTIVATE transforms alleys and other urban locations into creative exhibition spaces that bring artists and the public together for an evening of exploration, interaction, and celebration of the arts. Chicago Loop Alliance launched the initiative in 2014.

 

Published in Upcoming Theatre
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