Dance in Review

Thursday, 22 June 2017 23:42

Taylor Mac's HIR at Steppenwolf

Rehearsals are underway for Steppenwolf Theatre Company’s Chicago premiere production of Hir, a subversive comedy by celebrated playwright, actor, singer-songwriter and performance artist Taylor Mac. Directed by Steppenwolf Artistic Producer Hallie Gordon, the cast features ensemble members Francis Guinan (Arnold) and Amy Morton (Paige) with Em Grosland (Max) and Ty Olwin (Isaac). Previews begin June 29, 2017 and the show runs through August 20, 2017 in Steppenwolf’s Downstairs Theatre, 1650 N Halsted St. Opening night is Sunday, July 9. Tickets ($20 - $89) are available through Audience Services at 312-335-1650 or steppenwolf.org.
 
The classic dysfunctional family story has just crashed through into a wholly original place. Meet Paige, a wife and mother liberated from an oppressive and abusive marriage; Max, her newly out transgender child; and Isaac, Max’s PTSD-addled older brother, who discovers a brand new war zone when he comes home from Afghanistan. Hir’s crusade to shake up the patriarchy is disarmingly funny, absurd and surprising as it looks at an American family forced to build a new world out of the pieces of the old.   
 
“I started Hir in 1997, after seeing the Steppenwolf production of Sam Shepard’s Buried Child on Broadway.  Although the two plays are extremely different in style, tone, and theme, I was wildly inspired by Mr. Shepard’s play and his poetic inquiry into the broken and hidden parts of our culture. It’s thrilling to get to bring the play full circle round to Steppenwolf and to participate in the conversation about working class America that they and Mr. Shepard have been involved with for decades,” shares Taylor Mac.
 
Taylor Mac (who uses “judy”, lowercase sic, not as a name but as a gender pronoun) is a playwright, actor, singer-songwriter, performance artist, director and producer. Named “one of the most exciting theater artists of our time” by Time Out NY, judy is the author of 17 full-length plays and performance pieces including A 24-Decade History of Popular Music (Kennedy Prize in Drama), Hir (placed on the top ten theater of 2015 lists of The New York Times, New York Magazine and Time Out NY; published by North Western University Press and in American Theater Magazine), The Lily’s Revenge (Obie Award), The Walk Across America for Mother Earth (named One of the Best Plays of 2011 by The New York Times), The Young Ladies Of (Chicago’s Jeff Award nomination for Best Solo), Red Tide Blooming (Ethyl Eichelberger Award) and The Be(a)st of Taylor Mac (Edinburgh Festival’s Herald Angel Award).
 
Mac is the recipient of multiple awards including the Kennedy Prize, Doris Duke Performing Artist Award, a Guggenheim Award, the Herb Alpert Award in Theater, the Peter Zeisler Memorial Award, the Helen Merrill Playwriting Award and an Obie.  An alumnus of New Dramatists, judy is currently a New York Theater Workshop Usual Suspect and the Resident playwright at the Here Arts Center.
 
Hallie Gordon (Director) is currently the Artistic Director for Steppenwolf for Young Adults, where she has directed many productions for the program including the world premiere of Monster by Walter Dean Myers; George Orwell’s 1984 and Animal Farm; the world premiere of The Book Thief; To Kill a Mockingbird; and the world premiere of Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye. She has directed for Northlight Theatre and is an ensemble member for Rivendell Theatre where she directed the critically acclaimed Dry land and Eat Your Heart Out.
 
About the Cast & Creative Team
Ensemble member Francis Guinan has appeared in more than 30 shows, most recently John Steinbeck’s East of Eden last season. Amy Morton has been a Steppenwolf ensemble member since 1997 and received Tony nominations for her roles in Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and August: Osage County. Em Grosland makes his Steppenwolf debut in Hir and most recently appeared Off-Broadway in A Midsummer Night’s Dream with Masterworks Theatre Company. Ty Olwin is a graduate of the School at Steppenwolf and was previously in Steppenwolf for Young Adults’ productions of The Burials and Lord of the Flies. Olwin was featured in the 2016 film Personal Shopper starring Kristen Stewart.
 
The Hir production team includes Collette Pollard (scenic design), Jenny Mannis (costume design), Ann G. Wrightson (lighting design), Richard Woodbury (sound design and original music) and Gigi Buffington (company vocal coach). Other credits include Anna D. Shapiro (artistic producer), JC Clementz (casting director), Laura D. Glenn (stage manager) and Mary Hungerford (assistant stage manager).
 
Tickets & Production Info
Single tickets ($20-$89) available at 312-335-1650 or steppenwolf.org. Previews: $20 - $54 and Regular Run: $20 - $86. Prices subject to change. Rush Tickets: half-price rush tickets are available one hour before each show. Student Discounts: a limited number of $15 student tickets are available online. Limit 2 tickets per student; must present a valid student ID for each ticket; steppenwolf.org/students. Group Tickets: all groups of 10 or more receive a discounted rate for any performance throughout the season; steppenwolf.org/groups. Flex Card Memberships: Black Card memberships are for audiences interested in extreme flexibility with six tickets for use any time for any production. Black Card ticket credits are valid for one year with the option to add additional tickets as needed. Perks include easy and free exchanges, access to seats before the general public, savings on single ticket prices and bar and restaurant discounts for pre- and post-show socializing. Red Card memberships are available for theatergoers under 30.  To purchase a Card Membership, visit Audience Services at 1650 N Halsted St, call 312-335-1650 or visit steppenwolf.org.
 
Accessible performances includean American Sign Language interpretation on Sunday, July 30 at 7:30pm, Open Captioning on Saturday, August 12 at 3pm and a Touch Tour on Sunday, August 13 at 1:30pm. For more information, visit steppenwolf.org/access. Assistive listening devices and large-print programs are available for every performance. An induction loop is installed in the Downstairs Theatre and the 1700 Theatre.
 
Visitor Information
Steppenwolf is located at 1650 N Halsted St near all forms of public transportation and is wheelchair accessible. The parking facility consists of both a covered garage ($11 cash or card) and an open-air lot, located just south of our theater at 1624 N Halsted. Valet parking service ($14 cash) is available directly in front of the main entrance at 1650 N Halsted St starting at 5pm on weeknights, 1pm on weekends and at 12 noon before Wednesday matinees. Street and lot parking are also available. For last minute questions and concerns, patrons can call the Steppenwolf Parking Hotline at (312) 335-1774.

Front Bar: Coffee and Drinks
Connected to the main lobby is Steppenwolf’s own Front Bar: Coffee and Drinks offers a warm, creative space to grab a drink, have a bite, or meet up with friends and collaborators, day or night. Open daily from 8am to midnight, Front Bar serves artisanal coffee and expresso is provided by La Colombe and has a new menu for this spring and summer with food prepared by Goddess and Grocer. The menu focuses on fresh, accessible fare, featuring grab-and-go salads and sandwiches for lunch and adding shareable small plates and desserts for evening and post show service. www.front-bar.com.

For additional information, visit steppenwolf.org, facebook.com/steppenwolftheatre, twitter.com/steppenwolfthtr and instagram.com/steppenwolfthtr.

 

Published in Upcoming Theatre


Steppenwolf’s LookOut Series is excited to announce a surprise summer performance of Standup Shakespeare: A Concert Reading with music by Ray Leslee, book by Kenneth Welsh and words by Shakespeare, of course. This event, which is a benefit concert reading for the theatre, showcases the extraordinary talent of Steppenwolf co-founder Jeff Perry alongside Broadway legends Norm Lewis and Alice Ripley. The show will be at 6:30pm in Steppenwolf’s Downstairs Theatre, 1650 N. Halsted St. Tickets ($79-99) go on sale Friday, June 23 at 11am through Audience Services at 312-335-1650 or steppenwolf.org.


Standup Shakespeare sets the timeless language of the Bard to the exciting rhythms of jazz, baroque, samba and gospel-rock original music. A fractured love story is performed by a modern-day Fool (Steppenwolf co-founder Jeff Perry) and Broadway legends Norm Lewis (The Phantom of the Opera, Les Misérables) and Alice Ripley (Next to Normal – Tony Award for Best Actress) in this concert reading. Accompanying the cast are Marshall Coid (Violin), Dave Dunaway (Bass), Ray Leslee (Piano) and Josh Plotner (Woodwinds).


Jeff Perry is a co-founder of Steppenwolf Theatre Company. He served as Steppenwolf Artistic Director from 1982 to 1985 and 1986 to 1987 and was integral to the founding of The School at Steppenwolf, where he continues to teach and direct. Jeff's many acting credits at Steppenwolf include August: Osage County (also Broadway and London), Balm in Gilead (also Off-Broadway), The Time of Your Life (also Seattle, San Francisco), Picasso at the Lapin Agile (World Premiere), The Grapes of Wrath (also Broadway and London), The Caretaker (also Broadway) and Streamers (also Kennedy Center). Jeff currently portrays Cyrus Beene on ABC’s Scandal and has also appeared in Nash BridgesThirtysomething and My So-Called Life.


Norm Lewis made history in May of 2014 as The Phantom of the Opera’s first African American Phantom on Broadway. He can currently be seen recurring in the new VH1 series, Daytime Divas with Vanessa Williams. His additional television credits include five PBS specials, Chicago Med, Gotham, The Blacklist, Blue Bloods, and Younger, as well as in his recurring role as Senator Edison Davis on the hit drama Scandal, alongside Jeff Perry.  Mr. Lewis received Tony, Drama Desk, Drama League, and Outer Critics Circle award nominations for his performance as Porgy in the Broadway production of The Gershwin’s Porgy & Bess. Other Broadway credits include Sondheim on SondheimThe Little Mermaid, Les Misérables, Chicago, Amour, The Wild Party, Side Show, Miss Saigon, and The Who’s Tommy. In London’s West End he has appeared as Javert in Les Misérables and Les Misérables: The 25th Anniversary Concert, which aired on PBS. On film Mr. Lewis has appeared in Winter’s Tale, Sex and the City 2, Confidences, Preaching to the Choir, and the upcoming film, Magnum Opus. Mr. Lewis’s solo debut album s called “This is The Life.” 


Alice Ripley received the 2009 Best Actress in a Musical Tony and Helen Hayes Awards for her work in the Pulitzer Prize-winning Next to Normal. She made her Broadway debut in the original cast of The Who’s Tommy, and went on to star in the original Broadway casts of Sunset Boulevard, Side Show (Tony and Drama Desk noms), James Joyce’s The Dead, and The Rocky Horror Show. She most recently played three roles in the Broadway musical, American Psycho. Ms. Ripley is also a songwriter, and she has produced three albums with her band, RIPLEY. She has starred in the feature films Muckland, SUGAR!, Bear With Us, The Way I Remember It and Isn’t It Delicious, and appeared on the small screen in Girlboss, Blue Bloods, 30 Rock, and Royal Pains


Tickets & Membership Info
Single tickets ($79-$99) go on sale Friday, June 23 at 11am at 312-335-1650 or steppenwolf.org. Student Rush Tickets: a limited number of $15 student tickets are available one hour before the show. Limit 2 tickets per student; must present a valid student ID for each ticket; steppenwolf.org/students. Flex Card Memberships: Anytime Black Card Members may purchase any ticket for one credit each, and Weekday Black Card Members may purchase balcony tickets only for one credit each. For more information about FlexCard Memberships, call  Audience Services at 312-335-1650 or visit steppenwolf.org.


Visitor Information
Steppenwolf is located at 1650 N Halsted St near all forms of public transportation and is wheelchair accessible. The parking facility consists of both a covered garage ($11 cash or card) and an open-air lot, located just south of our theater at 1624 N Halsted. Valet parking service ($14 cash) is available directly in front of the main entrance at 1650 N Halsted St starting at 5pm on weeknights, 1pm on weekends and at 12 noon before Wednesday matinees. Street and lot parking are also available. For last minute questions and concerns, patrons can call the Steppenwolf Parking Hotline at (312) 335-1774.


LookOut
LookOut is Steppenwolf’s performance series that presents the work of artists and companies across genre and form, emerging artists and performance legends, quintessential Chicago companies and young aspiring ensembles, familiar Steppenwolf faces and new friends. Tickets to all LookOut programming are available through Steppenwolf Audience Services. Prices vary for each show. The LookOut Series is presented year-round and announced on an ongoing basis. John Zinn, Greta Honold and Patrick Zakem are the producers for LookOut. For more information, visit steppenwolf.org/lookout.


Front Bar: Coffee and Drinks
Connected to the main lobby, Steppenwolf’s own Front Bar: Coffee and Drinks offers a warm, creative space to grab a drink, have a bite, or meet up with friends and collaborators, day or night. Open daily from 8am to midnight, Front Bar serves artisanal coffee and expresso is provided by La Colombe and has a new menu for this spring and summer with food prepared by Goddess and Grocer. The menu focuses on fresh, accessible fare, featuring grab-and-go salads and sandwiches for lunch and adding shareable small plates and desserts for evening and post show service. www.front-bar.com


Sponsor Information
Major support for Steppenwolf’s expanded 2016/17 programming is provided by the Lefkofsky Family Foundation, The Negaunee Foundation and the Zell Family Foundation. Major support for Steppenwolf’s New Play Development Initiative is provided by The Davee Foundation and the Zell Family Foundation.


United Airlines is the Corporate Presenting Sponsor of Hir. Chicago Community Trust is Production Sponsor of Hir. Community partners include Lurie Children’s Hospital and Chicago Women’s Health Center.


Steppenwolf Theatre Company is the nation’s premier ensemble theater. Formed by a collective of actors in 1976, the ensemble has grown to 49 members who represent a remarkable cross-section of actors, directors and playwrights. Thrilling and powerful productions from Balm in Gilead to August: Osage County—and accolades that include the National Medal of Arts and 12 Tony Awards—have made the theater legendary. Steppenwolf produces hundreds of performances and events annually in its three spaces: the 515-seat Downstairs Theatre, the 299-seat Upstairs Theatre and the 80-seat 1700 Theatre. Artistic programing includes a seven-play season; a two-play Steppenwolf for Young Adults season; Visiting Company engagements; and LookOut, a multi-genre performances series. Education initiatives include the nationally recognized work of Steppenwolf for Young Adults, which engages 15,000 participants annually from Chicago’s diverse communities; the esteemed School at Steppenwolf; and Professional Leadership Programs for arts administration training. While firmly grounded in the Chicago community, nearly 40 original Steppenwolf productions have enjoyed success both nationally and internationally, including Broadway, Off-Broadway, London, Sydney, Galway and Dublin. Anna D. Shapiro is the Artistic Director and David Schmitz is the Executive Director. Eric Lefkofsky is Chair of Steppenwolf’s Board of Trustees. For additional information, visit steppenwolf.org, facebook.com/steppenwolftheatre, twitter.com/steppenwolfthtr and instagram.com/steppenwolfthtr.

Published in Upcoming Theatre

The producers at Steppenwolf describe Pass Over as a “riff on Waiting for Godot” – and that’s true - except for this: Pass Over is not boring. In fact it is gripping and entertaining for every one of its 80 minutes of run time.

Written by Antoinette Nwandu and premiering under the direction of Danya Taymor, Pass Over is at once funny, alarming, sickening, and frightening. With shades of Master Harold & the Boys and Miss Margarita’s Way, it portrays two young inner city black men – Moses (Jon Michael Hill) and Kitch (Julian Parker)  hanging out under a street lamp, hoping to get off “the block.” To say these two give knock out performances is an understatement.

Like Groundhog Day, each morning they resume the wait, their hours punctuated periodically by gunfire, and the appearance of the menacing policeman Ossifer (Ryan Hallahan in a searing performance; he also plays the white-suited Mister) whose role is to dispel their hope, and keep them in their place.

Moses and Kitch are condemned, suggests Nwandu, to be “waiting for Godot” their whole lives. Unlike Beckett’s duo, Moses and Kitch are not abstract constructs, but real people. The warmth and mutual fealty of these two young men captures your heart through their amusing word games and youthful horseplay.

Nwandu also plumbs the depths of the emotional link between Moses and Kitch, and we bear witness to their bond. As in Beckett’s play, these characters form a suicide pact, but cannot do it.  

They survive, somehow, and hope returns repeatedly – even against all odds. But the two never escape, either, and Pass Over faces us with our contemporary social challenge. By making Moses and Kitch so accessible to us, by humanizing them, Nwandu brings a fresh immediacy to the lament, that Black Lives Matter.   

Pass Over is both timeless, and a powerful commentary on contemporary conditions. Into this piece, Nwandu has squeezed a book. Fully deconstructed, it could easily fill a college semester of study.

Part of the vaunted excellence of Beckett’s 1953 Waiting for Godot - an existentialist reverie on the seemingly endless insufferableness of life, and perhaps the meaningless of that suffering – is that the audience also experiences the ennui of that endless wait, in real time. Frankly it’s a bore.

Not so with Pass Over. It is fully realized in this production. I might quibble with the end of the play – it seemed heavy handed from a first viewing. But I am going to have to trust and respect the playwright's and director’s judgements, given the excellence of all that comes before. The performances by Hill and Parker in fact are so perfectly delivered, hopefully it is exactly what the playwright intended – because it is tremendous. It runs through July 9 at Steppenwolf Theatre.

Published in Theatre in Review

The Neo-Futurists are proud to announce, in addition to a new HVAC system at The Neo-Futurarium, a special pre-season showing of Ensemble Member Kirsten Riiber's Neo-Lab production Tangles and Plaques, Thursday, June 15 at 7:30 p.m. In addition, June offers presentations of the ongoing The Infinite Wrench at Steppenwolf’s Summer LookOut Series, Friday, June 2 and Saturday, June 3 at 7 p.m. and during Pride Week, June 22 - 25. All performances are at The Neo-Futurarium, 5153 N. Ashland Ave. (at Foster) in Andersonville, unless otherwise noted.
 
NEO-LAB Presents: Tangles & Plaques – The Final Workshop Presentation
Created by Kirsten Riiber
Directed by Jen Ellison
The Final Workshop Presentation
Thursday, June 15 at 7:30 p.m.
The Neo-Futurarium, 5153 N. Ashland Ave.
Tickets: $8
 
Tangles & Plaques attempts to demystify the experience of dementia in the language of theatre— offering a vivid, poignant, participatory experience that is unique to each audience and different every performance. Ensemble Member Kirsten Riiber and Memory Care Therapist Alex Schwaninger discuss and demonstrate the process of memory loss through interviews and personal narrative about the life and death of memories; how they persist, when they depart and the ways they distort over time. Neo-Lab is an original works residency that annually commissions one new play anchored by innovative approaches to creation and shares public readings and presentations of the work in progress. Tangles & Plagues is directed by Jen Ellison and features Kaitlyn Andrews, Ida Cuttler, Justin Deming, Mike Hamilton, Nick Hart and Kirsten Riiber and a reception, with libations from Metropolitan Brewery, before and after the performance.
 
THE INFINITE WRENCH, NOW IN AN OPEN RUN, ANNOUNCES STEPPENWOLF ACCESSIBLE PERFORMANCES and PRIDE WEEKEND’S 30 QUEER PLAYS IN 60 STRAIGHT MINUTES
 
The Infinite Wrench
Open Run – Fridays and Saturdays at 11:30 p.m. and Sundays at 7 p.m.
The Neo-Futurarium, 5153 N. Ashland Ave.
At-the-door cash tickets are $9 plus the roll of a six-sided die; online pre-sales are available for $20 with a cash rollback at neofuturists.org or 773.275.5255. 
 
The Infinite Wrench, The Neo-Futurists’ open run production, is a mechanism that unleashes a barrage of two-minute plays for a live audience. Each play offers something different—some are funny, others profound. Some are elegant, disgusting, topical, irrelevant, terrifying, or put to song. All of the plays are truthful and tackle the here-and-now, inspired by the lived experiences of the performers. The Infinite Wrench is The Neo-Futurists’ ongoing and ever-changing show, performed late-night every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday 50 weeks of the year, with special performances: 
 
Steppenwolf’s LookOut Series presents The Infinite Wrench
Accessible Performances Friday, June 2 and Saturday, June 3 at 7 p.m.
Steppenwolf’s 1700 Theatre, 1700 N Halsted St.
Accessible Performances Friday, June 2 and Saturday, June 3 at 7:00 p.m.
Tickets: $15 - available at steppenwolf.org and 312-335-1650.
 
Tickets are now on sale for The Neo-Futurists two performances of The Infinite Wrench featuring accessible services for people with disabilities. For people who are deaf or hard of hearing, the performance Friday, June 2 at 7 p.m. features Open Captioning and ASL interpretation; for people who are blind or have low vision, the performance Saturday, June 3 at 7 p.m. features Audio Description and a pre-performance Touch Tour at 5:30 p.m. The cast features Neo-Futurist ensemble members Dan Kerr-Hobert, Lily Mooney, Kurt Chiang, and Jeewon Kim as well as Neo-Futurist alums John Pierson and Lisa Buscani.
 
The 1700 Theatre is wheelchair accessible and is equipped with an induction hearing loop for people who use personal hearing devices that have a T-coil. Front Bar, directly in front of the 1700 Theatre, has a push-button entrance, wheelchair accessible seating and multi-stall all-gender restrooms.
 
The Infinite Wrench presents 30 Queer Plays in 60 Straight Minutes Announces YEPP as Beneficiary
Special Benefit Performance for Youth Empowerment Performance Project: Thursday, June 22 at 7:30 p.m.
Tickets: $25 with no cash rollback
Additional Pride-Themed Performances: Friday, June 23 and Saturday, June 24 at 11:30 p.m.
and Sunday, June 25 at 7 p.m.
At-the-door cash tickets are $9 plus the roll of a six-sided die; online pre-sales are available for $20 with a cash rollback at neofuturists.org or 773.275.5255
The Neo-Futurarium, 5153 N. Ashland Ave.
 
The Neo-Futurists present their annual Pride Weekend benefit: 30 Queer Plays in 60 Straight Minutes, a special edition of The Infinite Wrench that corrals the queerest plays into one show, slaying gender roles and celebrating deviance. The cast features Neo-Futurist ensemble members Trevor Dawkins, Jeewon Kim, Ida Cuttler, Tif Harrison, Lily Mooney, Kirsten Riiber, Malic White and Neo-Alum John Pierson.
 
All proceeds of the Thursday, June 22 performance will be donated to YEPP (the Youth Empowerment Performance Project), whose mission is to create a safe environment for LGBTQ youth experiencing homelessness to address their struggles and celebrate their strengths through the process of developing a theatrical performance piece.  Executive and Artistic Director Bonsai Bermudez states, “YEPP is honored by The Neo-Futurists and their support of the mission of YEPP and our providing services for LGBTQ youth experiencing homelessness during this year’s Pride season.”
 
ABOUT THE NEO-FUTURISTS
The Neo-Futurists are a collective of writer-director-performers creating theater that is fusion of sport, poetry and living-newspaper. Originating nearly 10,000 plays within the newly launched The Infinite Wrench, 28 years of Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind, and over 65 full-length productions within their immediate, non-illusory aesthetic, The Neo-Futurists have grown to become one of the most highly regarded experimental theater companies in the United States. From humble beginnings as the first late-night theater production in Chicago, they launched what became Chicago’s longest running show and today sustain multifaceted programs such as Neo-Access, The Kitchen (a micro-festival on art and performance), Prime Time, Neo-Lab and The Infinite Wrench, the ongoing late night show running 50 weekends every year. For more information visit www.neofuturists.org.
 
# # #
 
The Neo-Futurists are partially supported by grants from Alphawood Foundation Chicago, Bloomberg Philanthropies, The Network for Ensemble Theaters, The Illinois Arts Council Agency, The Chicago Community Foundation, a CityArts Grant from the City of Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs & Special Events, The Field Foundation of Illinois, The Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation, The MacArthur Fund for Arts and Culture at The Richard H. Driehaus Foundation, and The National Endowment for the Arts.

 

Published in Upcoming Theatre

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Steppenwolf Theatre Company is the nation’s premier ensemble theater. Formed by a collective of actors in 1976, the ensemble has grown to 49 members who represent a remarkable cross-section of actors, directors and playwrights. Thrilling and powerful productions from Balm in Gilead to August: Osage County—and accolades that include the National Medal of Arts and 12 Tony Awards—have made the theater legendary. Steppenwolf produces hundreds of performances and events annually in its three spaces: the 515-seat Downstairs Theatre, the 299-seat Upstairs Theatre and the 80-seat 1700 Theatre. Artistic programming includes a seven-play Season; a two-play Steppenwolf for Young Adults season; Visiting Company engagements; and Look Out, a multi-genre performances series. Education initiatives include the nationally recognized work of Steppenwolf for Young Adults, which engages 15,000 participants annually from Chicago’s diverse communities; the esteemed School at Steppenwolf; and Professional Leadership Programs for arts administration training. Steppenwolf’s own Front Bar: Coffee and Drinks serves coffee, cocktails with food provided by Goddess & Grocer. While firmly grounded in the Chicago community, nearly 40 original Steppenwolf productions have enjoyed success both nationally and internationally, including Broadway, Off-Broadway, London, Sydney, Galway and Dublin. Anna D. Shapiro is the Artistic Director and David Schmitz is the Executive Director. Eric Lefkofsky is Chair of Steppenwolf’s Board of Trustees. For additional information, visit steppenwolf.org, facebook.com/steppenwolftheatre, twitter.com/steppenwolfthtr and instagram.com/steppenwolfthtr. 

 

Published in BCS Spotlight

Due to extreme box office demand, Teatro Vista has added seats, more shows and a one-week extension for La Havana Madrid, Sandra Delgado's world premiere, live theater experience that reimagines the long-gone Caribbean nightclub that drew throngs of newly-arrived Latinos to Chicago's north side in the 1960's.  

 

Originally running through May 21, La Havana Madrid will now play through May 28 at Steppenwolf's 1700 Theatre, 1700 N. Halsted, Chicago.

Following its extended run at Steppenwolf's 1700 Theatre, La Havana Madrid will be presented at The Miracle Center, 2311 N. Pulaski Rd. in Chicago's Logan Square neighborhood, June 2-11, 2017 through the company's new program TEATRO VISTA, TEATRO VECINO (Spanish for "neighbor).

 

New seats for performances through May 28 go on sale Monday, April 24 at 11 a.m. Tickets are $15-$50. For tickets and information, visit Steppenwolf.org, teatrovista.org or call (312) 335-1650.

 

The updated performance schedule is:

 

Friday and Saturday, April 21 and 22 at 8 p.m.

 

Sunday, April 23 at 4 p.m.

 

Thursday through Saturday, April 27-29 at 8 p.m.

 

Sunday, April 30 at 4 p.m.

 

Wednesday* through Saturday, May 3-6 at 8 p.m.

 

Sunday, May 7 at 4 p.m.

 

Wednesday through Friday, May 10-12 at 8 p.m.

 

No show Saturday, May 13

 

Sunday, May 14 at 4 p.m.

 

Wednesday though Saturday, May 17-20 at 8 p.m.

 

Sunday, May 21 at 4 p.m.

 

Thursday and Friday, May 25 and 26 at 8 p.m.

 

Saturday, May 27 at 3:30 p.m. and 8 p.m.

 

Sunday, May 28 at 4 p.m.

 

*Note: On Wednesday, May 3, the role of La Havana Madrid will be played by Michelle J. Rodriguez, singer, songwriter and band leader of MICHA.

 

 

About La Havana Madrid

 

Step back in time to 1960's Chicago and into La Havana Madrid, the long-gone Caribbean nightclub that drew throngs of newly-arrived Latinos to the city's north side. A vibrant musical venue, La Havana Madrid became a cultural hub for these new Chicagoans. Inspired by real life stories of those who flocked to the club to celebrate and remember, this intimate recreation of the lively 1960's music club features live music and immerses you in the pulsing sounds of that decade from the mambo to the new sound of salsa.

                                               

La Havana Madrid is directed by Teatro Vista ensemble member Cheryl Lynn Bruce, who will be honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award from the League of Chicago Theatres on May 22.

 

In addition to conceiving and writing the play, Sandra Delgado also plays the title role of La Havana Madrid, a mystical woman who conjures vibrant songs and true stories that bring life back to the fabled North side nightclub. 

 

Chicago comedian and producer Mike Oquendo portrays Tony Quintana, the one-time owner of La Havana Madrid and host of the 1960s Chicago radio show "Tony's Latin A-Go-Go." 

 

Legendary Colombian-American musician Roberto "Carpacho" Marin, joined by his band of 30 years, Carpacho y Su Super Combo, perform live at every show. In fact, Carpacho's own story is one of the play's inspiring true vignettes. With Delgado as lead singer, Carpacho y Su Super Combo chronicles the history of Caribbean Latino music, live, from mambo to the birth of salsa. 

 

Rounding out the cast as Cuban, Colombian, Caribbean and Puerto Rican patrons, staff and musicians who all met, danced, loved and lost at La Havana Madrid are Teatro Vista ensemble members Cruz Gonzalez-Cadel, Tommy Rivera-Vega and Marvin Quijada, and, in their Teatro Vista debuts, Donovan Diaz, Phoebe González and Krystal Ortiz.

The design team that has crafted an intimate, immersive recreation of a lively 1960s music club - complete with cabaret seating, a bar, a dance floor and a small stage for the live band - are Ashley Woods (set), Elsa Hiltner (costumes),Heather Sparling (lights), Misha Fiksel (sound), Liviu Pasare (projections and video design) and William Carlos Angulo (choreography).

 

Following its run at Steppenwolf, Teatro Vista will present La Havana Madrid at The Miracle Center, 2311 N. Pulaski Rd., in Chicago's Logan Square neighborhood. Performances are June 2-4 and June 9-11: Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m.; Sunday at 4 p.m. All tickets are $20. For tickets and information, visit teatrovista.org.

The Chicago Latino Theater Alliance is Production Sponsor of La Havana Madrid. Delgado received support from The Chicago Community Trust, a 2015 Joyce Award and a 3Arts 3AP Project Grant to support the development of La Havana Madrid. She developed the script as a member of the 2015-16 Playwright's Unit at Goodman Theatre. The Miracle Center residency is funded by The Chicago Community Trust and is part of Teatro Vista's new program TEATRO VISTA, TEATRO VECINO (Spanish for "neighbor).

               

 

Some history about La Havana Madrid

In the late 1950's and throughout the 1960's, Latinos from Caribbean countries such as Puerto Rico and Cuba settled all along Chicago's lakefront, from North Avenue to Devon.

Although from different countries, music brought them together. Their shared rhythms -  African rhythms - became the guaguanco, the mambo and the merengue. Now in the United States, these rhythms merged with traditional big band sounds and eventually became salsa. 

On the North side of Chicago, a handful of Latino music clubs opened up: Coco Loco on Lincoln Avenue, The Mirror Lounge on North Avenue and La Havana Madrid on Belmont and Sheffield, in the second floor space now occupied by Milio's Hair Studio. While the history of La Havana Madrid may be fuzzy, what is known is Cubans opened it in the early 1960's and the club became a busy melting pot for newly arrived Latinos in Chicago. It's believed La Havana Madrid closed in the mid-1970's.

 

 

About Teatro Vista

 

Teatro Vista (teatrovista.org) produces, develops and commissions plays that explore the wealth and variety of the human experience from a Latinx perspective. The company provides work and professional advancement opportunities for Latinx theatre artists, with special emphasis on the company's ensemble members, and seeks to enhance the curricular goals of Chicago students through theatre. 

 

Teatro Vista was recently celebrated as one of "Chicago's Cultural Leaders" by the Arts & Business Council of Chicago and received the League of Chicago Theatre's Artistic Leadership Award.                                                                        

Teatro Vista's primary focus is producing new works by Latinx theatre artists and presenting classic plays featuring artists of color. Its artistic vision is shaped by the company's ensemble members, a group of multi-generational, multi-ethnic and multi-disciplinary artists. They inform Teatro Vista's artistic aesthetic by devising original works as well as by selecting plays with themes that are engaging and relevant to Chicago's diverse population.

 

Teatro Vista founded in 1990 by Edward Torres and Henry Godinez. As Teatro Vista's first Artistic Director, Godinez guided the company during the formative years. He helped stage successful productions and establish vital relationships with other theatre companies and artists. When Godinez stepped down, Torres was appointed Artistic Director. Under Torres' direction, Teatro Vista used the stage to engage, connect and challenge audience members using the company's mission as his guide. In 2012, Torres moved to New York and the Board of Directors promoted longtime Associate Artistic Director Ricardo Gutiérrez to the position of Executive Artistic Director.  

 

In 2017, Sylvia Hevia joined Teatro Vista as Managing and Development Director. Previously, Hevia was Director of Marketing and Development of the International Latino Cultural Center and had her own multicultural event production company dedicated to bringing Latinx cultural events, performances and recording artists to Chicago.

 

Teatro Vista ensemble includes Charín Álvarez, Max Arciniega, Desmín Borges, Cheryl Lynn Bruce, Ramón Camín, Ivonne Coll, Laura Dahl, Sandra Delgado, Liza Fernández, Khanisha Foster, Isaac Gomez, Cruz Gonzalez-Cadel, Ricardo Gutiérrez, Erik Juárez, Jon Lyon, Sandra Márquez, Eddie Martinez, J. Salomé Martinez Jr., Joe Minoso, Ayssette Muñoz, Christina Nieves, Marvin Quijada, Tommy Rivera-Vega, Gabriel Ruíz, Nate Santana, Cecilia Suarez and co-founder Edward Torres. 

 

Teatro Vista's Board of Directors includes Ezequiel "Zeek" Agosto, President; Rodrigo García and Rosanna Márquez, Vice Presidents; Joan Pantsios, Secretary; Tom Vega-Byrnes, Treasurer; and Bhuvana Badrinathan, José Antonio Cruz, Edgar Delgado, Ricardo Gutiérrez, Yolanda Hardy and Kareem Mohamednur.

 

Teatro Vista is supported by The Joyce Foundation, Alphawood Foundation, Paul M. Angell Family Foundation, The MacArthur Fund for Arts & Culture at the Richard H. Driehaus Foundation, Bloomberg Philanthropies, the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events of the City of Chicago, The Shubert Foundation, TheGaylord and Dorothy Donnelly Foundation and The Saints.

 

Purple Group and Cumberland Irving are Teatro Vista's Headline Season Sponsors. Teatro Vista is a Victory Gardens Resident Theater.

 

Published in Upcoming Theatre

Maybe we can chalk it up to a mid-life crisis…or, maybe, Wheeler is just a self-loathing man who’d just assume sabotage his own happiness rather opting to wallow in self-pity. In Steppenwolf’s Linda Vista, a new play debut by Tracy Letts and directed by Dexter Bullard, we get a very funny, and highly realistic, account of a man who has seemingly given up on life and love.

Wheeler (Ian Bradford) has moved from a cot in his wife’s garage to his own apartment in the Linda Vista apartment complex. With a soured marriage and an estranged relationship with his son coming to an end, Wheeler has the opportunity to start fresh, but that’s much more difficult than it sounds – at least it is for him. As we get to know Wheeler, a former Sun-Times photographer with promise who now holds onto a routine job as a camera repairman, we see someone who has been riddled with repercussions that have stemmed from a series of poor choices. Wheeler resents his soon-to-be-ex-wife for having him leave his Chicago life for California to be closer to her family. He resents his son for - well, just getting in the way of his life. He resents happy people. Hell, he resents Radiohead. But Wheeler has accepted his current situation – a cynical alcoholic that shoots down other people’s hopes and dreams, believing he is a “piece of shit” who “doesn’t deserve to be happy”. 

Wheeler’s best friend Paul (Tim Hopper) and his wife Margaret (Sally Murphy), friends from their college days, haven’t given up on him. They want to find him a partner who can bring out the old Wheeler who once had dreams and ambitions himself. When Paul and Margaret set Wheeler up with a friend of theirs, Jules (Cora Vander Broek), who is bright and bouncy, Wheeler reluctantly accepts and, as you can probably imagine, he has a few skeptical things to say after finding out she is a life coach. This, of course, threatens a man who wants a simple, joyless existence. Complicating matters for Wheeler, he takes in Minnie (Kahyun Kim), a twenty-four-year old rockabilly enthusiast recently kicked out of her own apartment in the same complex by her abusive boyfriend. 

The play is very truthful. It is about regret, wrecked opportunities and the consequences of unfortunate decisions. It is about letting oneself spin out of control, essentially giving up, and the struggle to choose happiness - a challenge when becoming so distant. But is also about hope and the chance to change for the better. In Wheeler, we are given a lovable “asshole” that we must root for. 

Ian Barford is tremendous as Wheeler. Barford quickly draws in the audience, grabs them and never lets go. Convincing, humorous and often decidedly heartfelt, Barford captures the essence of his self-deprecating character so well, we can’t help but think of a few “Wheeler’s” we know ourselves. Tim Hopper does fine work and is believable as Wheeler’s tolerable, but supportive, best friend as does Sally Murphy, both nicely adding to the play’s humor (I’ll just say karaoke bar scene). 

While Kahyun Kim is brassy and nails the too-cool-for-school attitude as Minnie, Cora Vander Broek is sparkles as Jules, perfectly pairing with Barford as his counterpart in a true positive/negative kind of relationship. We are also taken to the camera shop where Wheeler plugs away all day fixing one camera after another under the supervision of his crass boss Michael (Troy West), who is just waiting for a sexual harassment lawsuit to be filed against him as he repeatedly gawks and spews inappropriate comments at his clerk, Anita (Caroline Neff).

A revolving set takes us inside Wheeler’s California apartment, his workplace and to a bar. He lives simply, and that’s all he wants, DVDs of Stanley Kubrick littering his media stand and a refrigerator most likely only filled with a couple six-packs and a box of Arm & Hammer.   

Linda Vista is a well-acted ride into Wheeler’s uncertainties on turning fifty with the realization that his best years have long since passed. It is a play equipped with a stellar cast, a very funny script that is also genuine and even moving at times and direction that is so precise we can easily identify with each of Letts’ characters. 

Very highly recommended. 

Linda Vista is being performed at Steppenwolf Theatre through May 21st. For tickets and/or more show information visit www.steppenwolf.org

*Note – This play does contain full frontal nudity and sexual simulation. 

*Extended through May 28th 

Published in Theatre in Review
Monday, 20 February 2017 11:46

Review: Steppenwolf Theatre's "Monster"

“What do you see when you look at me?”

 

That was the final line of Steve Harmon (Daniel Kyri) from the stage adaptation of the best-selling book Monster

 

Monster is an award-winning novel by Walter Dean Myers and has been adapted by Aaron Carter. The show tells the story of African American teenager Steve Harmon, an aspiring filmmaker, who is on trial for felony murder. 

 

The show takes the inner monologue of Steve as he deals with being on trial for a murder that he says he was not part of. Since Steve is an aspiring filmmaker he tells the story as if it were lifted from a script that he is writing, using terms like “Close on”, “Cut To”, and “Fade In.” The show itself tries to tackle the issues of race, the public perception of race, masculinity, as well as the justice system itself. 

 

“While the play does deal with the criminal justice system and notions of guilt and innocence, to me, the most active thing about the book is examining how people perceive young black men,” says adapter Aaron Carter. 

 

The idea might be there, but the execution of the idea seems to fall short. Yes, African American men are incarcerated at a much higher rate than any other race. Currently, according to the NAACP, African Americans constitute nearly 1 million of the 2.3 million incarcerated population. However, this play does not represent those kind of staggering statistics. The major scenes in the show take place in court, in jail, and in Steve’s home. The show focuses more on the idea of masculinity and what it is like to be a “man” in today’s society.

 

Steve tries to act tough in front of other gang members from the neighborhood, but behind closed doors Steve speaks about how he wants no part of that life. The only part I took away from the show, in terms of race relations, was that if you hire a white lawyer to be your attorney, it looks better for your character. 

 

Aside from the adaptation issues this is still an important show to see. The reason being is that this show demonstrates how one decision can alter your path for the rest of your life. Steve is sixteen-years-old and if he is convicted he faces a prison sentence of twenty-five-years to life. This play can serve as important message for today’s youth. There will be connections made simply because the performances by the cast are what bring it all together. 

 

Mr. Kyri brings Steve to life as he battles with what he wants and what he needs, creating for the audience a legitimate hope and fear. The rest of the cast take on various roles throughout the show proving their range as actors. Kenn E. Head is able to go from worried father in one scene and instantly transform into hardened criminal in the very next scene. Alana Arenas shines as a hardened assistant district attorney and also as Steve’s well-to-do mother. 

 

Overall, this play speaks to many themes, but just not the one we thought it might choose. With excellent performances from a dynamic cast, Monster is worth seeing. The overall message may be muddled, and that is the hard part about this adaptation. There is a fine line to walk and only so much can be said in such a short amount of time. There are great pieces out there that continue the discussion of race, but this is not one of them unfortunately. 

 

Monster is being performed at Steppenwolf Theatre through March 9th as its latest presentation for Young Adult. For tickets and/or more information, click here

 

Published in Theatre in Review
Thursday, 16 February 2017 21:39

Review: Straight White Men at Steppenwolf

With a title like "Straight White Men" there's a lot to unpack. Asian American playwright Young Jean Lee directs her 2014 play at The Steppenwolf. "Straight White Men" ran Off-Broadway at the Public Theater to critical acclaim. It helped establish the career of up-and-comer Young Jean Lee. This production is a Midwestern debut. 

 

The Steppenwolf's production is well cast. "Straight White Men" tells the story of a family of three brothers assembling with their aging father for Christmas. Hence the title. Madison Dirks plays the oldest brother Jake with a commanding intensity that serves to propel Lee's script. So much of Lee's play relies on an almost impossible sense of chemistry between the brothers. Ryan Hallahan plays youngest brother Drew with a contrasting sincerity that puts Brian Slaten (Matt) in the center of the 90-minute play. Ensemble member Alan Wilder as the dad is maybe the only one whose performance is not in on Lee's comic pattern. 

 

"Straight White Men" does touch on many issues regarding race, gender and class in America. That said, perhaps not enough to warrant such a heavy title. There is a lot of humor and physical comedy between the brother characters, but so often the content of the dialogue doesn't reach further than the three walls of the set. The conclusion of the play is thought provoking and addresses the issue of socioeconomic privilege. 

 

The problem with titling a play "Straight White Men" is that it raises the stakes for the playwright to deliver a work that makes a bold statement. Lee certainly does make a bold statement, it just may not live up to the title. Lee's script takes a while getting to the center of the matter. It's really a play about depression. In that regard, Lee really says something about the way student loans and societal expectations are stunting an entire generation. "Straight White Men" is a play to see as it will warrant a thoughtful post show discussion. 

 

Through March 19 at Steppenwolf Theatre. 1650 N Halsted St. 312-335-1650 www.Steppenwolf.org

*Update - Extended through March 26th

 

Published in Theatre in Review

A tragedy is unfolding at Steppenwolf Theatre, a good thing for audiences, less so for the denizens of Lucas Hnath’s The Christians. In this show, with powerful performances by Glenn Davis, Shannon Cochran, Tom Irwin and Robert Brueler, the show stopper is Jacqueline Williams’ marvelous turn in the role of Congregant - she is a revelation.

Pastor Paul (Tom Irwin) is operating a mega- church, one that has grown exponentially from fundamentalist storefront to a building so big it has a coffee shop, retail store, and a parking lot you could get lost in. Exponential expansion incurred debt, which the board of directors, led by Elder Jay (Robert Breuler) has struggled to discharge.

The play opens amid a mega-church service rendered so faithfully - huge backlit cross, melodious music, passionately performed; a serious scripture read - that a number of audience members joined in the prayers. Pastor Paul then delivers the sermon that sows chaos: the church, he says, is at a turning point – it is now debt free; but something else has gone awry. He no longer believes in that pillar of dualist theology, hell fire. Irwin’s discursive recount of this radical change in heart is delivered with a hint of irony, and at a pace faster than a real sermon – reminding us we are not in church, but in a theater.

In due time, the congregation starts to come apart at the seams. Associate Pastor (Glenn Davis) challenges this heresy, and is released of his duties. Elder Jay counsels Pastor Paul, in an eldering, indirect monolog, advising him of the folly of turning out his very popular associate preacher.

Then Congregant (Jacqueline Williams) arises during worship, and reads a letter of her reflections, begun in a self-effacing and unassuming manner, then swelling to emotional poignance, even majesty, as she picks apart Pastor Paul for forsaking the congregation’s need for faith, accusing him of a lack of sincerity in waiting until the after the mortgage was paid off.

The wind-down of the drama finds Pastor Paul again challenged by his Associate Pastor. Glenn Davis’ performance of a combative theological and emotional challenge rivaled that of Williams. And finally, Pastor’s Wife Elizabeth (Shannon Cochran) takes Pastor Paul on her own terms, struggling with the compromises he has inflicted on his family. And asserting she does not share his belief.    

These performances all on their own justify a trip to Steppenwolf Theatre, and the writing of this play. Directed obviously so well by K. Todd Freeman, The Christians runs through January 29, 2017, and is highly recommended. 

Published in Theatre in Review
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