Haven Theatre Company announces We’re Gonna Die, the final production in its fourth season, written by Young Jean Lee and directed by Josh Sobel, at the company’s home, The Janet Bookspan Theatre at the Den Theatre,,1335 Milwaukee Ave., May 4 – June 4. Previews are Thursday, May 4 – Saturday, May 6 at 8 p.m. Opening night is Sunday, May 7 at 7 p.m. The regular performance schedule is Thursdays – Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 3 p.m. Previews are Pay-What-You-Can, and regular run tickets are $18. You may purchase tickets and get more information at www.haventheatrechicago.com.
A singer takes the stage, backed by her rock-band compatriots, to share Young Jean Lee’s life-affirming show about the one thing we all have in common: “we're gonna die.” Drawing from true stories of people's experiences with tragedy, despair and loneliness, this personal and rejuvenating play with live music reminds us that in our darkest, most isolated moments, we are not alone.
Cast for We’re Gonna Die includes: Isa Arciniegas (singers), Sarah Giovannetti (band), Jordan Harris (band), Elle Walker (band), Spencer Meeks (band) and Kamille Dawkins (singer u/s). The production team for We’re Gonna Die includes: Josh Sobel (director), Abhi Shrestha (assistant director), Julie Leghorn (stage manager), Krista Mickelson (production manager), Spencer Meeks (music director), Claire Chrzan (light designer), Izumi Inaba (costume designer), Mike Mroch (scenic designer), and Jon Martinez (choreographer).
ABOUT PLAYWRIGHT YOUNG JEAN LEE
Young Jean Lee has been called “hands down, the most adventurous downtown playwright of her generation” by The New York Times and “one of the best experimental playwrights in America” by Time Out New York. She has written and directed nine shows in New York with Young Jean Lee's Theater Company and toured her work to over thirty cities around the world. Her plays have been published by TCG (Songs of the Dragons Flying to Heaven and Other Plays, The Shipment and Lear) and by Samuel French (Three Plays by Young Jean Lee). She is currently under commission from Plan B/Paramount Pictures, Lincoln Center Theater, Playwrights Horizons and Oregon Shakespeare Festival. She is a member of New Dramatists and 13P, and has an MFA from Mac Wellman's playwriting program at Brooklyn College. She has received grants from the Foundation for Contemporary Arts, Creative Capital, NYFA, NEA, NYSCA, the Jerome Foundation, The Fox Samuels Foundation, the Greenwall Foundation, and the Rockefeller MAP Foundation. She is also the recipient of two OBIE Awards, the Festival Prize of the Zürcher Theater Spektakel, a 2010 Prize in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, a 2011 Guggenheim Fellowship, and a 2012 Doris Duke Artist Award.
ABOUT DIRECTOR JOSH SOBEL
Josh Sobel is artistic director of Haven Theatre Company, as well as a former ensemble member and literary manager with Strawdog Theatre Company. Recent directing credits include Bobbie Clearly at Steep Theatre, The Long Christmas Ride Home along with the world premieres of The Hunting of the Snark (also Chicago's "Night Out In The Parks" and the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in Scotland), Best Beloved: The Just So Stories and The Pied Piper at Strawdog Theatre, and Rosencrantz & Guildenstern are Dead at Metropolis Performing Arts Centre. Additional credits include work at Chicago Dramatists, A Red Orchid Theatre, Victory Gardens, LiveWire, Collaboraction's Sketchbook, WildClaw, The Ruckus, Tympanic Theatre, Polarity Ensemble Theatre, The Fine Print Theatre Company, the side project, The Greenhouse Theater Center, Abbie-Fest and New Leaf Theatre. From 2010 - 2013 he served as associate director of the National Theater Institute summer "Theatermakers" program at the Eugene O'Neill Theater Center. Sobel is the recipient of a Stage Directors and Choreographers (SDC) Observership on Hamlet at Writers' Theatre and is an associate member of SDC.
ABOUT HAVEN THEATRE COMPANY
Haven Theatre Company is one of Chicago's fastest rising companies. In 2015, Haven's sold-out run of Arlene Hutton's Last Train to Nibroc received a coveted four-star review from Chris Jones of the Chicago Tribune, who proclaimed the production "deserves to be the sleeper hit of the summer." Nibroc also received three Joseph Jefferson Award nominations (the company’s first Jeff-eligible production) and received the prize for Best Principal Actress in a Play. Also in 2015, Haven launched “The Director's Haven,” a unique initiative built to better support the career development and community visibility of directors at the very earliest stages of their professional journeys. Additionally, Haven has produced highly lauded productions of Idris Goodwin’s How We Got On, Deborah Bruce's The Distance (U.S. Premiere), Theresa Rebeck's Seminar (Chicago Premiere), Catherine Treischmann's Hot Georgia Sunday (Chicago Premiere), Stephen Belber's Don't Go Gentle (Chicago Premiere) and Hedwig and the Angry Inch.
After hosting over 10,000 wedding crashers since opening in September 2016, one of Chicago’s longest-running smash-hit shows, Tony n’ Tina’s Wedding, has announced new cast members joining the wedding party, including Concetta Rose as “Tina.” Rose has been a member of the Tony n’ Tina’s family for the past twelve years, both in New York City as well as on the National Tour. To celebrate, Chicago’s favorite soon-to-be-married couple, Tony Nunzio and Tina Vitale, are inviting the press to their wedding a second time on Sunday, May 7. Tony n’ Tina’s Wedding played an incredible 16 years during its original run in Chicago, and during that time entertained more than one million audience members of all ages.
“It’s back, and it’s a blast!” raves the Chicago Tribune. “A guaranteed good time” according to the Chicago Reader, this production of Tony n’ Tina’s Wedding is presented by the original New York producers, in conjunction with Chicago Theater Works, and directed by Paul Stroili, a cast member in the original Chicago production.
Tony n’ Tina’s Wedding is a hilariously interactive production that is guaranteed to make guests feel like they are truly friends and family of the bride and groom. The evening starts with the wedding at Resurrection Church, 3309 North Seminary Ave., and immediately following the ceremony, guests are invited to Vinnie Black’s Coliseum (Chicago Theater Works), 1113 W. Belmont Ave, for a flashback, high-energy 80’s reception.
The Tony n’ Tina’s Wedding cast stars a mix of new and familiar faces, including Mitchell Conti as “Anthony Angelo Nunzio Jr (Tony),” Concetta Rose as “Valentina Lynne Vitale (Tina),” Rob Johnson as “Barry Wheeler,” Jessica Rzucidlo as “Connie Macogni,” Rory Zacher as “Dominick Fabrizzi,” Robin M. Bousel as “Donna Marsala,” Serena Pomerantz as “Marina Gulino,” Andrew Mancini as “Joey Vitale,” Alisha Fabbi as “Sister Albert Maria aka Terry Vitale,” Tommy Taylor as “Tony Nunzio, Sr.,” Carrie Campana as “Madeline Monroe,” Billy Minshall as “Father Mark,” Jean Bonavita as “Michael Just,” Eustace Allen as “Sal Antonucci,” Brian Noonan as “Vinnie Black,” Micah Spayer as “Donny Dulce,” Jennifer Pompa as “Josephina Vitale,” Susan Gaspar as “Aunt Rose,” Laureen Siciliano as “Loretta Black,” Jack Gallagher as “Mikey Black,” Hillary Jiminez as “Nikki Black,” and Frank Ondorf as “Jimmy Black. Rounding out the cast in a variety of swing roles are Jack Gallagher and Alexis Allotta.
Tickets range from $75-$79 for the two-part event, which includes the ceremony and reception, featuring an Italian-style buffet dinner and dancing to 80’s hits. Tickets for premium seating closest to the stage and dance floor are $85. Additionally, for 2017, a new opportunity is available to sit in the VIP section with members of the family for $99 per ticket. Discounts are available for groups of 16 or more by visiting GroupTheaterTix.com or by calling 312.423.6612. Seating is limited so make your plans now. For more information or to purchase tickets visit http://tonylovestina.com/.
Devastation permeates the set and plot of the Northlight Theatre’s Midwest premiere of By the Water – a powerful and moving production, written by Sharyn Rothstein and directed by Cody Estle, about a Staten Island, New York, family dealing with the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.
Marty and Mary Murphy (Francis Guinan and Penny Slusher) fight to save in their storm-ravaged home and campaign to keep their neighborhood together even as their life-long neighbors and friends the Carters (Janet Ulrich Brooks and Patrick Clear) vow to leave and family secrets seep to the surface.
“In this play, natural disaster serves as a metaphor for the social and political change that forces generations to confront very real issues about their own lives – lives built on values that have become outmoded,” says Northlight Artistic Director BJ Jones. “Sharyn’s sharp sense of humor built on rich character development is sprinkled throughout, and the themes of justice and family values and loyalties emerge full-throated in her dialogue and her surprising plot.”
The Murphy’s are magnificently played by Guinan and Slusher, who give impressive performances imbuing the blue-collar couple with authenticity, humor and grit as they struggle to survive not only the brokenness of their community but the underlying betrayals within their family.
At the heart of this production is family and the idea that despite the mistakes and disloyalties as exemplified in the tattered relationship of brothers Sal Murphy (Jordan Brown) and Brian Murphy (Joel Reitsma), and the back-and-forth power struggle between Sal and his father Marty, that love and forgiveness can prevail and second chances are possible. Nowhere is this more evident than with Brian, who after a stint in jail, manages to find a second chance at love with Emily (played by Amanda Drinkall).
“[By the Water} is about confronting deep-seated personal problems in the face of a generational divide and finding a way to move forward,” Estle notes.
Rothstein developed the idea for the play after visiting Staten Island after Hurricane Sandy.
“Leaving behind a community, a lifetime of memories, seemed like an enormous leap of faith and an incredibly difficult decision, but the destruction was gut wrenching,” she says. “Yet, in front of one neat, clearly beloved house, a man who looked to be in his sixties was tending his lawn. With his whole neighborhood in ruins, with the majority of his neighbors already gone or figuring out how to leave, here was a man clearly standing firm. The image of him standing there amid so much loss was the genesis of my play.”
And that imagery is so indelibly visible in this production, which manages to peel back so many unexpected and complex layers while remaining thoroughly entertaining from its opening moments with the very effective sound effects to its poignant end. What makes this play so touching is not only the dynamic script and incredibly talented cast but the simple yet powerful stage design that evokes loss and pain as well a sense of home and place.
The creative team behind By the Water includes: Jeffrey D. Kmiec (scenic design), JR Lederie (lighting design), Rachel Laritz (costume design), Lindsay Jones (sound design) and Mara Filler (stage manager).
By the Water is playing at the Northlight Theatre in Skokie, Illinois, until April 23. Tickets are available at online at northlight.org.
It's not often you'll hear cool and the play 'Picnic' in the same sentence, but director Will Davis' new version at American Theater Company is just that. This is William Inge's 1953 Pulitzer Prize winner as you've never seen it before. For many, 'Picnic' triggers high school boredom flashbacks. When traditionally produced, this play can tend to be a little dry. Not the case here, with unique staging and deconstructed notions of gender, Davis brings Inge's work into our century.
William Inge was himself gay in a time period in which it was not acceptable. The theme of secret desire in 'Picnic' parallel Inge's own struggle with being other in a more straight-laced world. Though the Midwest has certainly changed since the 1950's, much of its close-mindedness still exists and that's what remains relevant about Inge's play.
This is Will Davis' first full season as artistic director of American Theater Company and this production is bound to get noticed. This version of 'Picnic' begins as almost performance art; a woman takes a seat at a piano and the cast enters in the shadows. In look and feel, this production couldn't be more different from the traditional staging. While jarring at first, the cast immediately finds its footing and makes Inge's dialogue come to life. Artful and visually stunning effects are peppered throughout, which make for a memorable experience.
Performances are impressive here. Davis' gender-blind casting forces you to focus not on what a performer looks like but rather how their performance makes you feel. In the role of transient stud Hal, is Molly Brennan. While it's apparent she is female, through costuming and attitude, Brennan delivers Hal with such sincerity, it brings to mind Mary Martin's Peter Pan. Malic White is striking in the role of Madge. White's petite and soft spoken Madge turns preconceived notions about feminine beauty on its head. Spinster school teacher Rosemary is played hilariously by Michael Turrentine whose physicality couldn’t be more spot on.
Classic plays should be analyzed in every time for their relevance. These plays can only stay part of the cannon if they connect to a modern audience. It's important for theater companies to take risks and make bold choices to usher these works into a new millennium. Will Davis' 'Picnic' hints at a fearless future for American Theater Company.
Through April 23 at American Theater Company. 1909 W Byron St. 773-409-4125
Artistic Director Robert Falls announces Goodman Theatre’s new 2017/2018 Season, which builds on the theater’s 40-year commitment to producing works that are representative of American society. In announcing the new season, Falls serves up a dynamic mix of works from culturally and aesthetically diverse playwrights—new plays and revisited classics that address the most significant issues facing the country today. The 2017/2018 Season, beginning in September 2017 and continuing through July 2018, includes plays on both of the Goodman’s stages: the 856-seat Albert Theatre and 350-seat flexible Owen Theatre. New this season, the Goodman introduces a variety of “Membership” options for its audiences; 5-play Albert packages start at $100. Call 312.443.3800 or visit GoodmanTheatre.org/Power. Individual tickets go on sale in early August. American Airlines is the Major Production Supporter, Exelon/ComEd is the Major Corporate Sponsor of Having Our Say, Mayer Brown is the Corporate Sponsor Partner for The Wolves and the Time Warner Foundation is the Lead Supporter of New Play Development.
“Heroic and hopeful, challenging and illuminating, Goodman Theatre’s 2017/2018 Season is a collection of plays that reflects the times in which we live—powerful works that hold up a mirror to who we are, what has brought us here and question where we will go in the future,” said Artistic Director Robert Falls. “These are plays that feel particularly relevant at this moment, as we face a darkly divided country and society. As a cultural institution devoted for four decades to the ideals of diversity and community, we must give voice to all ideas, all communities on our stages and in our engagement center programs—with a special eye to those who, because of their ethnicity, gender identification, sexual orientation, age or religious principles, might be marginalized or excluded altogether. The power of theater to unite, engage and inspire us is needed now more than ever.”
Continued Falls, “We open our Albert Theatre season with the Chicago premiere of one of the most thrilling and important recent revivals of a classic work, Arthur Miller’s A View from the Bridge, reimagined by director Ivo van Hove—a production that earned enormous acclaim on Broadway and in London’s West End. Miller writes about the marginalization of immigrant culture, and an America that may not be excluded from the tragedy of that. Next, I am excited to direct the world premiere of Blind Date by Rogelio Martinez, a fascinating backstage glimpse of one of history’s oddest couples—Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev—infused with sly humor and unexpected wisdom. Following Blind Date comes my new production of An Enemy of the People by Henrik Ibsen—a play that addresses corruption, greed and destruction of the environment, and is, sadly, as timely today as when it was written in 1882. In the spring, we’ll revive the warm, human and altogether wonderful Having Our Say by Emily Mann, directed by Chuck Smith, which follows two remarkable centenarians—Sadie and Bessie Delany, sisters and Civil Rights pioneers—and their struggles for equality. The season concludes with the world premiere of Support Group for Men by Ellen Fairey, directed by Kimberly Senior—an uproarious, topical comedy about middle-aged men in a changing world, where traditional notions of gender are increasingly passé. Ellen’s new play was an audience favorite in our 2016 New Stages Festival, and is a perfect match for the talents of our frequent collaborator Kimberly Senior.”
Continued Falls, “In the Owen Theatre, we begin with Yasmina’s Necklace by Rohina Malik, directed by Ann Filmer, a graceful, moving new play that invites audiences into the living rooms of Muslim families who themselves represent a collision of cultures and experiences—Latinx and Arab, immigrants and refugees—and celebrates our similarities. We are proud to produce this play, which we developed in the 2010 New Stages Festival and which enjoyed an extended world premiere production last year at 16th Street Theater, under Ann’s direction. Next is the Chicago premiere of The Wolves by Sarah DeLappe, directed by Vanessa Stalling—a thrilling new work fueled by the raw adolescence of a high school girls soccer team, whose off-Broadway premiere was counted among The New York Times’ ‘Best Theater of 2016.’ I’m excited for Vanessa, our former Goodman Maggio Fellow and one of the most exciting emerging directors in Chicago, to make her Goodman directing debut. We’ll conclude the Owen Theatre season with the epic Father Comes Home From the Wars (Parts 1, 2 & 3) by Suzan-Lori Parks, directed by Niegel Smith. It’s an honor to present the Chicago premiere of the brilliant and powerful new play by the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Topdog/Underdog and host Niegel, the artistic director of New York’s Flea Theater, in his Goodman debut.”
Falls continued, “In addition, we will present a springtime limited engagement of the complex and provocative new play, Until the Flood by Dael Orlandersmith, about the ways trauma manifests itself in a community—in this case, Ferguson, Missouri, following the fatal police shooting of Michael Brown, an unarmed African American teenager. Finally, we are proud to present the 14th annual New Stages Festival of new plays, which includes six new plays (three developmental productions in repertory + three staged readings, TBA), and celebrate the 40th anniversary of A Christmas Carol, directed by Henry Wishcamper and starring Larry Yando in his 10th turn as Ebenezer Scrooge.”
About the Productions and Events in Goodman Theatre’s 2017/2018 Season
New this season, the Goodman introduces a variety of “Membership” options for its audiences; call 312.443.3800 or visit GoodmanTheatre.org/Power to join or learn more. Individual tickets go on sale beginning in August. Plays, artists and dates are subject to change.
2017/2018 SUBSCRIPTION SEASON
The Young Vic Production of Arthur Miller’s View from the Bridge
Directed by Ivo van Hove
September 9 – October 15, 2017 in the Albert Theatre
A Chicago Debut
Visionary Belgian director Ivo van Hove injects a raw, pulsating energy into Arthur Miller’s 1955 classic—“powerhouse theater that will leave you breathless!” (The Hollywood Reporter)—recipient of 2016 Tony Awards for Best Revival of a Play and Best Director. Direct from sold-out runs on Broadway and the West End comes the Chicago debut of van Hove’s “magnetic, electrifying, astonishingly bold” (London Evening Standard), “radically reimagined” (The Washington Post) revival of Miller’s famed drama. Brooklyn longshoreman Eddie Carbone welcomes his immigrant cousins to America. But when one of them falls for Eddie’s young niece, his jealous mistrust exposes an unspeakable secret—one that drives him to commit the ultimate betrayal.
By Rohina Malik
Directed by Ann Filmer
October 20 – November 19, 2017 in the Owen Theatre
The refugee experience is illuminated by this “sweet and hopeful story” (Chicago Tribune) about love and renewal in the face of past devastation. Challenged by his Iraqi roots, Abdul Samee has obscured his Muslim identity in favor of assimilation—he’s changed his name to Sam, and even tells his co-workers that he’s Italian.
But his attitudes change when he meets Yasmina, a refugee from his father’s homeland whose own experiences have hardened her to the possibilities of love. As a tentative relationship between the two blossoms into something more, each begins to find hope in the future, buoyed by the power of family, connection and the embracing of their shared culture.
By Rogelio Martinez
Directed by Robert Falls
January 20 – February 25, 2018 in the Albert Theatre
A World Premiere
Blind Date is a backstage glimpse of one of the 20th century’s landmark historical events. In an era before Twitter and eHarmony, two of history’s oddest couples seek to thaw the seemingly intractable relationship between the United States and Soviet Russia. Despite their advisors’ efforts to keep them on track, Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev eschew conventional protocols to discuss pop culture and old movies—while their wives mirror their husbands’ negotiations in a passive-aggressive tango over tea and fashion choices. A compelling and edgy comic journey through the intricacies of statesmanship.
By Sarah DeLappe
Directed by Vanessa Stalling
February 9 – March 11, 2018 in the Owen Theatre
A Chicago Premiere
The Wolves is an unconventional exploration of the pitfalls of friendship and coming maturity, as seen through the struggles of a girls’ athletic team. In this “incandescent portrait of an indoor soccer team” (The New York Times), nine teenage girls stretch, train, and argue about everything from the meaningful to the mundane as they try to make sense of the world from the relative safety of their suburban patch of AstroTurf. Infused with the raw jagged energy of adolescence, The Wolves offers a refreshingly complex depiction of girls navigating friendships, growing up, confronting the future—and trying to score a few goals.
An Enemy of the People
By Henrik Ibsen
Directed by Robert Falls
March 10 – April 15, 2018 in the Albert Theatre
Ibsen’s masterwork, “a play so necessary, so exhilarating to experience” (The Village Voice), finds renewed immediacy in a daring new production from Artistic Director Robert Falls. The contamination of a resort town’s water supply sets the stage for a battle involving the town’s respected mayor, Peter Stockmann, and his brother Thomas, a respected doctor. As the brothers become locked in a combative struggle between political wisdom and personal ethics, the economic fate of the community—and the unity of the town’s residents—hangs in the balance.
Having Our Say: The Delany Sisters’ First 100 Years
By Emily Mann
Adapted from the book by Sarah L. Delany and A. Elizabeth Delany, with Amy Hill Hearth
Directed by Chuck Smith
May 5 – June 10, 2018 in the Albert Theatre
Celebrate the story of a century as lived by “two strong, vibrant women dispensing joy and wisdom” (Chicago Tribune) in this funny and heartfelt family drama. The Delany sisters, Sadie and Bessie, remain best friends and roommates even as they pass their centennial birthdays. As they prepare a meal in honor of their late father, a former slave, they reminisce about the joys and challenges of their lives: coming to maturity in the Jim Crow South, experiencing the Harlem Renaissance and rising to unimagined professional prominence. Having Our Say showcases the sisters’ unique, indomitable spirits as they fondly recall meeting beloved historical figures and denounce prejudices that infect the country.
Father Comes Home From the Wars (Parts 1, 2 & 3)
By Suzan-Lori Parks
Directed by Niegel Smith
May 25 – June 24, 2018 in the Owen Theatre
A Chicago Premiere
Pulitzer Prize winner Suzan-Lori Parks’ “blazingly original” (The Washington Post) Civil War epic serves up “an American story as much about our present as it is about our past” (The Los Angeles Times). Hero, a Texas slave, faces a simple yet monumental choice: join his master in the Confederate army to win his freedom—or remain enslaved at the plantation. As he debates leaving his lover for what may be another empty promise, Hero must take charge of his life, even when much remains beyond his control. Filled with music, wit and poetic wisdom, the Pulitzer Prize finalist play Father Comes Home from the Wars challenges its audience to navigate their own moral compass in a country that both unites and divides.
Support Group for Men
By Ellen Fairey
Directed by Kimberly Senior
June 23 – July 29, 2018 in the Albert Theatre
A World Premiere
A hilarious exploration of what happens when society’s new normal doesn’t seem so normal to everyone. Thursday night in Wrigleyville is “Guys’ Night” for a group of longtime pals. Instead of letting off steam over baseball they’ve formed a support group–with its “No Ladies” policy strictly enforced–in which they can vent about dashed romances, stalled careers and other middle-age maladies. But when an unexpected visitor crashes their party, the guys’ traditional notions of masculinity are exploded. This topical, Chicago-flavored comedy gleefully dissects the ever-changing role of gender in today’s culture—and proves that understanding is sometimes found in the least likely of places.
ADDITIONAL PLAYS AND EVENTS
New Stages Festival
Six New Plays (Three Developmental Productions + Three Staged Readings) TBA
September 20 – October 8, 2017 (“Industry Weekend” is October 6-8) in the Owen Theatre
The 14th annual New Stages festival of new plays includes three developmental productions in repertory and three staged readings. Three productions in the 2016/2017 Season emerged from New Stages, including The Magic Play, Objects in the Mirror and King of the Yees. Founded in 2004, the New Stages Festival is a celebration of innovative new plays designed to give playwrights an opportunity to take risks and experiment. New Stages offers Chicago theatergoers a first look at dozens of plays, many of which have gone on to become successful full productions—including Noah Haidle’s Smokefall and Lynn Nottage’s Pulitzer Prize-winning Ruined.
Until the Flood
By Dael Orlandersmith
Directed by Neel Keller
April 27 – May 13, 2018 in the Owen Theatre
A Limited Engagement Chicago Premiere
The 2014 fatal police shooting of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown brought international attention to the town of Ferguson, Missouri, and the festering history of race relations in America. Based on dozens of interviews with Ferguson residents, award-winning playwright, performer and Goodman Artistic Associate Dael Orlandersmith brings to life a riveting exploration of the tragedy and its aftermath, from the perspective of such disparate participants as a middle-aged black teacher, an elderly barbershop owner, and a white policeman. The result: a richly complex mosaic of a community—and a country—in trauma.
A Christmas Carol (40th annual production)
Adapted by Tom Creamer, directed by Henry Wishcamper
November 18 – December 31, 2017 in the Albert Theatre
Acclaimed Chicago actor Larry Yando returns for his 10th season at Goodman Theatre as Ebenezer Scrooge in A Christmas Carol, directed for the fifth year by Artistic Associate Henry Wishcamper. Nearly 1.5 million theatergoers have attended “the crown jewel of the holiday season” (Daily Herald) since the Goodman established it as an annual offering in 1978—a time when only a handful of US theaters mounted the production. Dickens’ holiday classic is the iconic tale of greedy businessman Ebenezer Scrooge, whose sizable bank account is only matched by his disdain for the holidays. One Christmas Eve, Scrooge is visited by four ghosts who take him on a spectacular adventure through his past, present and future, helping him rediscover the joys of life, love and friendship. Former cast members include stage and screen notables Jessie Mueller, Joe Minoso, Del Close, Harry J. Lennix, Felicia P. Fields, Raul Esparza, Sally Murphy and Frank Galati.
About Goodman Theatre
America’s “Best Regional Theatre” (Time magazine) and “Chicago’s flagship resident stage” (Chicago Tribune), Goodman Theatre is a not-for-profit organization distinguished by the quality and scope of its artistic programming and civic engagement. Founded in 1925, the Goodman is led by Robert Falls—“Chicago’s most essential director” (Chicago Tribune), who marked 30 years as Artistic Director in the 2016/2017 Season—and Executive Director Roche Schulfer, who is celebrated for his vision and leadership over nearly four decades. Dedicated to new plays, reimagined classics and large-scale musical theater works, Goodman Theatre artists and productions have earned hundreds of awards for artistic excellence, including: two Pulitzer Prizes, 22 Tony Awards, nearly 160 Jeff Awards and more. Over the past three decades, audiences have experienced more than 150 world or American premieres, 30 major musical productions, as well as nationally and internationally celebrated productions of classic works (including Falls’ productions of Death of a Salesman, Long Day’s Journey into Night, King Lear and The Iceman Cometh, many in collaboration with actor Brian Dennehy). In addition, the Goodman is the first theater in the world to produce all 10 plays in August Wilson’s “American Century Cycle.” For nearly four decades, the annual holiday tradition of A Christmas Carol has created a new generation of theatergoers.
The 2016 opening of the Alice Rapoport Center for Education and Engagement (“the Alice”) launched the next phase in the Goodman’s decades-long commitment as an arts and community organization dedicated to educating Chicago youth and promoting lifelong learning. Programs are offered year-round and free of charge. Eighty-five percent of the Goodman’s youth program participants come from underserved communities.
Goodman Theatre was founded by William O. Goodman and his family in honor of their son Kenneth, an important figure in Chicago’s cultural renaissance in the early 1900s. The Goodman family’s legacy lives on through the continued work and dedication of Kenneth’s family, including Albert Ivar Goodman, who with his late mother, Edith-Marie Appleton, contributed the necessary funds for the creation of the new Goodman center in 2000.
Today, Goodman Theatre leadership includes the distinguished members of the Artistic Collective: Brian Dennehy, Rebecca Gilman, Henry Godinez, Dael Orlandersmith, Steve Scott, Chuck Smith, Regina Taylor, Henry Wishcamper and Mary Zimmerman. Joan E. Clifford is Chair of Goodman Theatre’s Board of Trustees, Cynthia K. Scholl is Women’s Board President and Justin A. Kulovsek is President of the Scenemakers Board for young professionals.
Visit the Goodman virtually at GoodmanTheatre.org—including OnStage+ for insider information—and on Twitter (@GoodmanTheatre), Facebook and Instagram.
After a 146-year run, Ringling Bros. Circus, is finally bringing down its curtain for what has been tabbed as “The Greatest Show on Earth”. That’s right. With final shows in May of 2017, one of the world’s most popular events will come to a close after nearly a century and a half of entertaining families from all walks of life.
Kenneth Feld, chairman and CEO of Feld Entertainment recently told the Chicago Tribune regarding Ringling Bros. closing, “There isn’t any one thing. This has been a very difficult decision for me and my family.”
Far away are the days when the circus would come to town and people would line the streets to watch the animals and performers enroute to the big top. But has circus excitement really fallen to the wayside?
Several factors were included in closing the Ringling Bros. show including high operating costs and lengthy encounters with animal rights groups. And though a change in public taste is also blamed for the demise of the circus, it’s easy to argue against that. Live circus acts draw an excitement level like no other as proven by the success of Las Vegas Cirque Du Soliel’s Zarkana, a show that brings back classic feats such as death-defying aerial, trapeze, juggling and high-wire stunts.
Others also realized the value in circus entertainment. Simon Painter, Tim Lawson and MagicSpace Entertainment have resurrected three-ring enthusiasm by putting their resources together to produce Circus 1903 – The Golden Age of Circus. The team has an established track record with the world’s biggest magic show, The Illusionists, and War Horse under their belts already, the latter of which had won awards for its puppeteer work.
Set in a grand circus tent at the turn of the 20th century, the show is narrated by the Ring Master, who introduces one breathtaking act after another, starting off with a team of acrobatics who propel each other high into the air by jumping on opposite ends of a large teeter totter. The higher they are launched, the more impressive their flips and twists. Other acts include a beautiful contortionist (Senayet Asefa Amare), an aerialist (Elena Gatilova), an amazing bicycle balancing routine by “The Cycling Cyclone” (Florian Blummel) and one of the best juggling performances you’ll ever see by Francois Borie, otherwise known as “The Great Gaston”.
The second act opens with possibly the most impressive of the show’s acts as sixth generation circus performers Alejandro and Ricardo Rossi, more simply known as The Rossi Brothers, pulling off a “foot juggling” act to perfection that was perfected by Fratelli Rossi back in the early 20th century. As one brother juggles the other into the air who is being flipped at rapid speeds, we get a taste of the athleticism, precision and balance involved in an act than can only be described as “jaw-dropping”.
Circus 1903 also contains a good amount of humor with The Ringmaster (David Williamson) often interacting with the crowd and creating plenty of very funny moments as he brings children to the stage as volunteers. Williamson, a renowned magician who has appeared on numerous top-rated prime-time network specials, gives the show its needed continuity, entertaining between acts, adding suspense and drawing several laughs from the audience each time he appears.
Another highlight in the show is the use of puppeteers to create and bring to life both a full-grown elephant along with its playful baby. Taking place in 1903, I feared for a moment that this could turn into the sad story of Topsy, the circus elephant that was put down by electrocution that same year. Thankfully, the show did not go into that direction.
A daring high wire act featuring The Lopez Family brings the show to its grand finale, bicycle balancing along with stunning acrobatics tackled high above the stage from one end to the other.
The circus is not dead, people. In fact, it’s an absolute blast. And this this circus holds no controversy when it comes to animal cruelty. With several amazing acts, Circus 1903 does a fantastic job at recreating the era with its costume and set design and is the perfect way to introduce new fans to the grandiose of big top entertainment.
Recommended for adventure seekers of all ages.
Circus 1903 – The Golden Age of Circus is currently touring nationally and will is being performed at Oriental Theatre through March 26th. For more info on this magnificent show, click here.
The Chicago premiere of a Tom Stoppard play is one of the most hotly anticipated events of this season. We’re never short for great Stoppard productions in this town, but The Hard Problem was Stoppard’s first new play in nine years when it debuted in 2015, and since Court Theatre’s Charlie Newell can be trusted to mount a strong production, the author is undoubtedly the main draw. Some of his best-known plays, such as the recently produced Travesties and Arcadia, were extremely complicated, sprawling works which required the audience to have a sizable pre-existing knowledge of artistic movements and the interplay between culture and technology, but The Hard Problem, as the title states, zeroes in on a single issue which, depending on which side of it you fall on, might not really seem to be a problem at all. Whether the mind is a function of the brain or has an ethereal quality is not something Stoppard attempts to answer definitively, but the degree to which this play interests you will largely depend on your investment in the debate.
Chaon Cross owns the part of Hilary, the only fully three-dimensional character in the play. A young psychologist whose path in life has had some unexpected hiccups, Hilary is dependent on Spike (Jürgen Hooper), an evolutionary biologist, to help her fake the mathematical credentials she needs to get a job with the Krohl Institute, a research lab dedicated to solving the mind-body problem. She doesn’t even particularly want to work there, but it was the only place she applied to and heard back from. Spike is an utterly noxious, self-justifying proponent of evolutionary psychology, but it seems to be more than just a need to be perceived as good at data processing which causes Hilary to keep inviting him into her bed. Anyway, it turns out that Leo (Brian McCaskill), the man running the part of the Krohl Institute Hilary’s interested in, shares her preference for psychology over neurology, and she gets the job on her own merits.
The Krohl Institute was created by Jerry Krohl (Nathan Hosner), a billionaire hedge fund manager, to help him gain an edge over other traders. Krohl himself doesn’t really care whether the brain is a meat computer or a conduit for the sublime; he just wants to eliminate uncertainty in practical matters. Early on, we meet Amal (Owais Ahmed), a mathematician who holds the position that the soul is flesh and whom Krohl later punishes for publicly predicting the 2008 crash instead of keeping it close to the vest. Amal’s growing disillusion with humans’ capacity for rational thought is driven largely by what he sees happening in the stock market, but he’s reluctant to fall into line with Hilary’s belief that this leaves us with no alternatives but belief in some kind of divinity.
The plot concerns Hilary’s struggle with a job that was never a good fit for her while her entire field appears to be in jeopardy. But Stoppard’s interest seems to be in how nobody really wants to acknowledge the true implications of their belief system, whatever that happens to be. Hilary is a less forceful arguer than Spike, but Newell’s centering of her on stage almost throughout the show and Cross’s commitment to her full range of emotions prevent us from dismissing her. Stoppard has also made her opponents repulsive Thersites-like characters, while Hilary’s on-stage ally is the kind-hearted, idealistic Bo (Emjoy Gavino). John Culbert’s scenic design doesn’t give them very many hiding places, which is perhaps why they resort to vicious verbal, and eventually, physical confrontations to make their points.
If Stoppard’s goal was to show how the debate over the hard problem spills out of sealed realms such as universities and think tanks to strike at peoples’ deepest vulnerabilities, the flatness of the other characters prevents him from quite getting there. However, he does a good enough job of illustrating his point for us to understand it. A great many people love Stoppard and Court Theatre simply for having these conversations, with no expectation the problem will be resolved. Pointing out how divorced from real life rationalism and rationalizations are is enough to make a fruitful evening, and getting to experience it being put so eloquently by fine actors is a bonus.
The Hard Problem plays at Court Theatre through April 9, with performances on Wednesdays and Thursdays at 7:30 pm, Fridays at 8:00 pm, Saturdays at 3:00 pm and 8:00 pm, and Sundays at 2:30 pm and 7:30 pm. Running time is one hour and forty minutes with no intermission. Tickets are $48–68; to order, call 773-753-4472 or visit CourtTheatre.org. For more information, see TheatreinChicago.com.
Hubbard Street Dance Chicago delivered a powerful evening of dance, on the opening night of its Season 39 Springs Series at the Harris Theater for Music and Dance.
The evening began with Lucas Crandall’s Imprint, a stark and physically compelling piece featuring the full company: Jacqueline Burnett, Alicia Delgadillo, Alice Klock, Emilie Leriche, Adrienne Lipson, Ana Lopez, and Jessica Tong as well as Jesse Bechard, Michael Gross, Elliot Hammans, Jason Hortin, Florian Lochner, David Schultz, and Kevin J. Shannon.
The amazing choreography was inspired in part by stampedes, according to Crandall. The dance was accompanied by live, improvised percussion from Hubbard Street Dancer David Schultz, whose pounding beat gave a rhythm to the chaotic scenes as dancers convulsed in groups, then separated, ran, fell, paused and then stepped over the fallen. The first half of the work evoked an almost futuristic and robotic feel, while the second half was more simple and bare, primitive and untamed, also exposing how crowds build, move and panic.
Choreographed by Nacho Duato, the second piece, Violoncello, from his evening length work, Multiplicity. Forms of Silence and Emptiness, is a two-act tribute to composer Johann Sebastian Bach, performed to Bach’s Suite No. 1 in G major. Captivatingly executed by Ana Lopez and Florian Lochner, Violoncello was a vision of exquisite movement showing the interplay – push and pull - between instrument and composer.
Earthy, muted yet evoking the passion of struggle, the next dance Jardí Tancat (Catalonian for “Closed Garden), also created by Duato, is based on a collection of ancient Spanish folk songs recorded by vocalist María del Mar Bonet. Hauntingly, three couples: Jacqueline Burnett, Michael Gross, Alicia Delgadillo, Kevin J. Shannon, Jessica Tong, and Jesse Bechard, show the movements of sowing, planting, and threshing, of the barren Catalonian land. Laced throughout the very moving piece is a spirit of perseverance and hope despite the hardships.
Completing the evening’s lineup was Solo Echo by Crystal Pite. It is stunning from its opening moments as glimmering lights filter down on a solo figure who is eventually joined by other dancers in very familial and interconnected movements. Dancers for Solo Echo included: Jesse Bechard, Jacqueline Burnett, Alicia Delgadillo, Michael Gross, Jason Hortin, Emilie Leriche, and Florian Lochner.
It “presents a man reckoning with himself at the end of his life,” explains Pite. “The character is echoed — copied, reiterated, by seven different dancers. He is portrayed through both male and female bodies, and through various physiques and strengths. Each performer is a distinct and nuanced version of the character, and the connections between them evoke a man coming to terms with himself.”
Hubbard Street Dance’s Season 39 is off to a very commanding start with an impressive body of work in its Spring Series. Part of a three-part program, additional series performances include: DANC(E)VOLVE: New Works Festival May 11–14, 2017 at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago and Summer Series, June 8–11, 2017 at the Harris Theater.
Season 39 three-series subscriptions are available online at hubbardstreetdance.com/subscribe.
The hip-hop Broadway in Chicago sensation Hamilton, which, has spawned a secondary market in pricey theater tickets, has also delivered a pair of spin-offs. Shamilton, an improv riff at the Apollo, and now, notably, Spamilton, a send up of the original musical about the founding fathers of the U.S.
Is it funny if you haven’t seen the original? The short answer is yes – because following the opening sets based on Hamilton, the show quickly turns its sites on other long-time Broadway shows like Cats and Phantom of the Opera, warhorses like Camelot, and shows of more recent vintage like Wicked and Book of Mormon.
The creative force behind the show is Gerard Alessandrini, the originator of the 1982 "Forbidden Broadway," which was similar in format, and has been rewritten and updated more than a dozen times. It has played around the world, including Chicago - I’ve seen two different versions here.
For all practical purposes, Spamilton is the newest Forbidden Broadway, and on some levels it exceeds the earlier ones in appeal.
The key to the storyline is Broadway’s perpetual and desperate struggle to save itself, and to create a new vision of the big musical show. Show business has been mired in novelties like Book of Mormon and the puppet-based Avenue Q; overproduced extravaganza with no memorable songs, like Spiderman; or Sondheim light operetta that those outside the cognoscenti may find hard to sit through.
Alessandrini picks up this scent of desperation, and seizes on Broadway producers struggles with wickedly funny original song and dance numbers that sample or mash-up the originals. Clinging to revivals of Rogers & Hammerstein or Leonard Bernstein; turning over theaters to somewhat vapid Disney productions like Aladdin and Newsies, these producers become fodder for fun in Spamilton.
The show parodies this desperation with another extreme: combining previously successful shows.
A perfect example comes around 10 minutes in, as the Spamilton players switch gears and time periods to present The Lion King & I. Anna the English Governess in hoop skirts dons a Julie Traymor head set in a duet with a squawking animal character. Let’s say I chortled heartily.
The show runs at a mad-cap pace, and even if you don’t get all the references, it’s still funny. A scene of an axe wielding gentleman clad just in Fruit of the Looms is a send up of American Psycho (I think, after Googling). It was funny even though I didn’t know exactly what the reference was.
Wicked and Book of Mormon – once the pricey ‘it’ shows, now discounting tickets like any other production – get nailed pointedly, having yielded star status to Hamilton. Scenes are punctuated by a running gag: homeless ladies in rags begging for Hamilton tickets – understood to be based on true stories of famous stars desperate for seating.
A Barbra Streisand impersonation finds the aging diving singing in signature reverb, advising that when Hamilton is filmed, she wants to play a role in “The Film When It Happens.” Likewise, J-Lo and Gloria Estefan walk-on, each hoping to tap the mojo of Hamilton. Liza Minnelli appears, but runs the other direction - and asks that rap be banned on Broadway, so they can “bring back the tunes.”
The show reveals broader awareness in a number, Straight is Back, which laments the loss of gay show tunes and glitter, as productions like Hamilton skew to more manly styles.
You can get a taste of Spamilton from the original New York cast album, just released. But it pales compared to the experience of seeing this cast of amazing dancers and singers, and their great comedic timing: Donterrio Johnson, Michelle Lauto, Eric Andrew Lewis, Yando Lopez, David Robbins, and guest diva Christine Pedi (she's the Streisand character among others), with musical direction by Adam LaSalle.
While Hamilton’s original star Lin-Manuel Miranda love “laughed my brains out!" when he saw the show, during last Sunday’s production the Chicago cast of Hamilton was in the audience – and they had a blast.
Gerry McIntyre did the choreography; Dustin Cross gets Costume Design; , Fred Barton (Musical Director), and Richard Danley and Fred Barton (Musical Arrangements). "Spamilton" is produced in Chicago by John Freedson, David Zippel, Gerard Alessandrini, Margaret Cotter and Liberty Theatricals, in association with JAM Theatricals. Chuckie Benson and Arielle Richardson are the understudies the production.
As the logistical and technical teams work on completing the Odysseo Village at Soldier Field South Lot for the highly-anticipated Midwest debut of Odysseo by Cavalia on April 1, its 65 magnificent horses have arrived in Chicago and are enjoying a relaxing 14-day stay at a nearby farm.
Following sold-out performances in Vancouver, BC, the four-legged stars flew into Chicago O’Hare International airport aboard a charted 747 aircraft equipped with air stalls. They were then transported to a lavish and spacious farm in Bristol, Wisconsin, in specially equipped trailers alongside Odysseo’s equine specialists. The Odysseo herd, consisting of nine breeds including Appaloosa, Arabian, Quarter Horse, Holsteiner, Lusitano, Paint Horse, Percheron Hanoverian Cross, Selle Français and Spanish Purebred (P.R.E.), is under the care of a 20-person team.
At their Wisconsin retreat, expansive paddocks welcome the four-legged stars of Odysseo where they are able to play, bathe in the sun or roll in the snow. This interlude between shows is part of Cavalia’s horse care and training philosophy, which is based on understanding the needs, preferences, and emotions of the animals, and on mutual respect, kindness, patience, and trust.
The world’s largest touring show, Odysseo is a show unlike any other on the planet, an immersive theatrical experience in which horses are front and center. Imagined by Normand Latourelle - creator of Cavalia and renowned for combining different forms of artistic expression and reinventing the scenic space - Odysseo is a veritable revolution in live performance that makes hearts race. Audiences of all ages will be transported on an epic journey to some of nature’s greatest wonders by this breathtaking production that features the 65 horses plus 48 talented riders, acrobats, aerialists, dancers and musicians.
TICKETS – Adult tickets are priced from $34.50 to $144.50 (no service charge). Special pricing and packages also available for groups, children (2-12), juniors (13-17) and seniors (65+). For an extra special outing, the Rendez-Vous VIP package offers the best seats in the house, full meal buffet dining before the show, open bar, desserts during intermission and an exclusive visit to the stables after the show. This unique VIP experience takes place in a tent alongside the White Big Top. The Rendez-Vous VIP package prices range from $144.50 to $269.50 (no service charge).
Odysseo will be performed at Soldier Field's South Lot April 1-April 23 Photo by Jak Wonderly
ABOUT CAVALIA INC. - Cavalia Inc. is an entertainment company that specializes in the creation, production and touring of innovative shows. Founded by Normand Latourelle, the company reimagines the equestrian and theatrical arts. With its headquarters in Montreal, Cavalia Inc. is an integral part of Canada’s cultural heritage, and the largest Canadian-owned cultural enterprise. Its expertise in high technology, multimedia and special effects creates magical, unique, never-before-seen experiences. Its first show, Cavalia, has been seen by more than 4 million people across North America, Europe, Australia, the Middle East and Asia since its 2003 debut. Odysseo, the company’s second show, has toured to rave reviews and public acclaim since its 2011 premiere. Follow Cavalia’s latest developments at www.twitter.com/cavalia or www.facebook.com/cavalia. #OdysseoCHI
WHAT: Odysseo by Cavalia
WHEN: Shows begin April 1
Official Opening Night Premiere – Tuesday, April 4
Matinee and evening performances scheduled through April 23
WHERE: Under the White Big Top at Soldier Field South Lot
South Lot, 1410 Museum Campus Drive, Chicago
**Entrance at parking gates on East 18th Drive**
TICKETS: Available at www.cavalia.comand by calling 1-866-999-8111
Adult tickets are priced from $34.50 to $269.50 (no service charge)
Special pricing & packages available for groups, children (2-12), juniors (13-17) and seniors (65+).