In Concert

In Akvavit Theatre Company's Hitler On The Roof, playwright Rhea Leman has devised the perfect post-mortem punishment for the man behind the Nazi propaganda machine. It’s spring of 1945, Berlin, infamous Fuhrerbunker; the war is all but lost, Hitler had just committed suicide, Dr. Joseph Goebbels and his wife have followed his lead, first having poisoned their six children. Everybody’s dead. But, wait: Dr. Gobbels’ ghost (played by Amy Gorelow) is still hanging around refusing to cross onto the next world. Seventy-two years had passed, it’s now 2017, yet, Dr. Goebbels believes that the war is still going on and that he’s got some important work to do.


I’d like to note that Strawdog Theatre is a very intimate space with just two double rows of seats on each side of the stage. The stage itself is made to look like a bunker (set design by Chad Eric Bergman), empty food cans strewn around, Edith Piaf’s “Non, je ne regrette rien” blasting in the background, and muffled old radio recordings of Hitler’s speeches occasionally chiming in (sound design by Nigel Harsch).


Ducking under the table each time a bomb goes off above the bunker, Dr. Goebbels keeps himself busy reciting Hitler’s and his own accomplishments and quotes, playing radio broadcasts to non-existent audiences, and boasting about his past, unable to let go and “move on”. Pacing around the bunker and reflecting on Germany’s past (“in 1931 Hitler turned dying country into a thriving country” and “created a new DNA, designed a new Germany”), he also analyzes propaganda’s manipulative power. As Minister of Propaganda and Peoples Enlightenment, Dr. Joseph Goebbels would know: he controlled arts, media, news and information in Germany from 1933 until his death in 1945.


Playwright Rhea Leman uses this original way to shine the light on the media and how it may be used as a tool to shape people’s perceptions and opinions, creating our reality. History is always there to remind us of our past and warn about the future. Born and raised in New York City, Rhea Leman moved to Denmark in 1981. She wrote Hitler On The Roof in 2011 in response to rise of Danish Nationalism. The original production of the play by the company Folketeatret toured Denmark for two years, winning the prestigious Reumert award for Best Leading Actress. Rhea Leman is the winner of multiple awards, including the Allen Prize award for “excellent dramatic writing”. Her writings focus on serious subjects which she presents in humorous ways, not unlike the current piece.


Mid-way through the play, Dr. Gobbels is joined in the bunker by the ghost of artist and filmmaker Leni Reifenstahl (Jay Torrence in drag), and the play picks up quite a bit. Together these two actors have such great chemistry on stage, and the gender role reversal of the two actors makes the premise of the play even more comical. Dressed like clowns, they dance (adorable!), flirt, and slap each other around (choreography by Susan Fay), all the while engaging in conversational battles to try and out-manipulate one another. But Leni Reifenstahl didn’t just drop in to chat; she’s there on a self-serving mission that, ultimately, doesn’t go as well as planned. Let’s just say the two “living dead” might just end up passing an eternity together, stuck in the bunker. Well done.


Hitler on the Roof is being performed at Strawdog Theatre (1802 W. Bernice Ave) through July 9th. For more information on this show or to purchase tickets, visit www.chicagonordic.org.

Published in Theatre in Review

Chicago’s Akvavit Theatre is pleased to present the U.S. premiere of Rhea Leman’s wild black comedy HITLER ON THE ROOF, a play for two clowns starring Amy Gorelow and Jay Torrence. Co-directed by Co-Artistic Director Kirstin Franklin* and Associate Amber Robinson*, HITLER ON THE ROOF will play a limited engagement June 21 – July 9, 2017 at the new Strawdog Theatre Company, 1802 W. Berenice in Chicago. Tickets are currently available at chicagonordic.org. The press opening is Thursday, June 22 at 7:30 pm.
 
This prescient 2011 Danish play finds the Nazi propagandist Dr. Joseph Goebbels (Amy Gorelow) and filmmaker Leni Riefenstahl (Jay Torrence) doomed to a perpetual afterlife in which to confront their pasts. Locked deep down inside the present day Führerbunker, the two engage in cunning feats of denial, manipulation and pure slapstick. 
 
Written during an alarming rise of Danish Nationalism in 2011, this play is a timely reminder of the consequences of selling lies as truth and propaganda as art. A favorite of audiences and critics alike, HITLER ON THE ROOF’s original production toured Denmark for two years with the company Folketeatret, winning the prestigious Reumert award for Best Leading Actress. The English language version is scheduled to tour Europe in 2017.
 
Talkback with Playwright Rhea Leman

Akvavit will host a talkback with playwright Rhea Leman following the performance on Friday, June 23 at 7:30 pm.
 
The production team for HITLER ON THE ROOF includes: Chad Eric Bergman* (set design), Piper Hubbell Robinson (costume design), Emma Deane (lighting design), Nigel Harsch* (sound designer), Letitia Guillaud (properties design), Madelyn Loehr (production manager), Mark Litwicki* (technical director), Bernadette Hagen (technician) and Margaret Bystrek (stage manager).
 
PRODUCTION DETAILS:
 
Title: HITLER ON THE ROOF
Playwright: Rhea Leman
Directors: Co-Artistic Director Kirstin Franklin* and Associate Amber Robinson*
Cast: Amy Gorelow (Dr. Joseph Goebbels) and Jay Torrence (Leni Reifenstahl).
 
Location: Strawdog Theatre Company,1802 W. Berenice, Chicago
Dates: Preview: Wednesday, June 21 a 7:30 pm
Regular run: Friday, June 23 – Sunday, July 9, 2017
Curtain Times: Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 pm; Sundays at 4 pm. 
Tickets: Previews: $10. Regular Run: $25. Students/seniors/industry $15. Tickets are currently available at chicagonordic.org.
 

*Denotes Akvavit Theatre company members.

Published in Upcoming Theatre

Chicago’s Akvavit Theatre is pleased to announce casting for the U.S. premiere of Rhea Leman’s wild black comedy HITLER ON THE ROOF, a play for two clowns starring Amy Gorelow and Jay Torrence. Co-directed by Co-Artistic Director Kirstin Franklin* and Associate Amber Robinson*, HITLER ON THE ROOF will play a limited engagement June 21 – July 9, 2017 at the new Strawdog Theatre Company, 1802 W. Berenice in Chicago. Tickets will be available Friday, May 5 at www.chicagonordic.org. The press opening is Thursday, June 22 at 7:30 pm.

 

This prescient 2011 Danish play finds the Nazi propagandist Dr. Joseph Goebbels (Amy Gorelow) and filmmaker Leni Riefenstahl (Jay Torrence) doomed to a perpetual afterlife in which to confront their pasts. Locked deep down inside the present day Führerbunker, the two engage in cunning feats of denial, manipulation and pure slapstick. 

 

Written during an alarming rise of Danish Nationalism in 2011, this play is a timely reminder of the consequences of selling lies as truth and propaganda as art. A favorite of audiences and critics alike, HITLER ON THE ROOF’s original production toured Denmark for two years with the company Folketeatret, winning the prestigious Reumert award for Best Leading Actress. The English language version is scheduled to tour Europe in 2017.

 

The production team for HITLER ON THE ROOF includes: Chad Eric Bergman* (set design), Piper Hubbell Robinson (costume design), Emma Deane (lighting design), Nigel Harsch* (sound designer), Letitia Guillaud (properties design), Madelyn Loehr (production manager), Mark Litwicki* (technical director), Bernadette Hagen (technician) and Margaret Bystrek (stage manager).

 

PRODUCTION DETAILS:

 

Title: HITLER ON THE ROOF

Playwright: Rhea Leman

Directors: Co-Artistic Director Kirstin Franklin* and Associate Amber Robinson*

Cast: Amy Gorelow (Dr. Joseph Goebbels) and Jay Torrence (Leni Reifenstahl).

 

Location: Strawdog Theatre Company,1802 W. Berenice, Chicago

Dates: Preview: Wednesday, June 21 a 7:30 pm

Regular run: Friday, June 23 – Sunday, July 9, 2017

Curtain Times: Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 pm; Sundays at 4 pm. 

Tickets: Previews: $10. Regular Run: $25. Students/seniors/industry $15. Tickets will be available Friday, May 5 at www.chicagonordic.org.

 

*Denotes Akvavit Theatre company members.

 

Artist Biographies

 

Rhea Leman (Playwright) was born and raised in New York City where she studied dance and theater before moving to Denmark in 1981. There, she formed and directed her theater company, Teater Tango until 1998. Since then, she has been working as an independent playwright, screenwriter as well as theater, radio and TV director. Her most recent awards include; The Rosenbergs, chosen as best opera of 2015 by CphCulture, in 2014 the Danish Committee for the Performing Arts awarded her for her direction of Tomas Lagermand’s play, The Story Behind the Wall and in 2013 she received the Allen Prize from the Danish Screen and Stage writers Guild for “excellent dramatic writing.” The Reumert Committee nominated Leman for best playwright of 2013 for her play about the global financial crisis, Gorilla. In 2003, for a four-year period, Leman was appointed by the Danish Cultural Minister as the chairwoman of The Danish Theater Council and as a member of The Danish Arts Council. In 2009, Leman formed Dramafronten, a platform for new play development and presentation and since then she has worked as artistic director towards promoting and producing new Danish plays in new ways and new places. Her own dramatic writings concentrate on very serious subjects presented in humoristic ways. 

 

Kirstin Franklin (Co-Director) has collaborated with many theaters across the country including: The Guthrie, Actors Theatre of Louisville, Asolo Rep, Pangea World Theatre, NY Fringe, Northlight, Urbanite and Raven Theatre, among others. Joining Akvavit in 2011, Kirstin's credits with the company include: Red and Green, Kokkola, Autumn Dream, Mishap!, Blue Planet and Nothing of Me, along with many staged readings. In her spare time Kirstin teaches theatre and acting at various colleges across Chicago. Originally from Colorado, Kirstin holds a BA from St. Olaf College and an MFA in acting from the FSU Asolo/Conservatory.

 

Amber Robinson (Co-Director) is a director, actor and devisor, and a member of TUTA Theatre in addition to Akvavit. Most recently, Amber performed in New York at Roundabout and The Signature Theater with Emma Stanton's award-winning play No Candy. In Chicago, Amber has worked with many storefront companies including Strange Tree, Forks & Hope, Strawdog, Collaboraction, Redmoon and Emerald City, as well as directing several projects for Grey Ghost Theatre, of which she is a co-founder. Amber is a graduate of Illinois Wesleyan University and the Moscow Art Theatre's American Studio.

 

Amy Gorelow’s (Dr. Joseph Goebbels) favorite roles include Ranevskaya (The Cherry Orchard), Margherita (Low Pay? Don’t Pay), Bottom (Midsummer), Peg (Crashing With Flamingos), Witch 2 (Macbeth), Lydia (All My Sons), Katherine of Aragon (Six Dead Queens), Dottore (Lust, Lies, and Marriage), Tragedian/Gertrude (Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead), Norma (Norma and the Maniac) and Masha (The Seagull). The theatres where she has worked include Metropolis, the Towle, Eclectic, Filament, Teatro Luna, Bailiwick and Piccolo, where she is a member. She has been a pirate clown at Navy Pier, and her bass-playing may be heard in several productions and podcasts. www.amygorelow.com.

 

Jay Torrence (Leni Reifenstahl) is a writer/performer/director and a founding member of The Ruffians. His playwriting and performance credits include Ivywild, Burning Bluebeard and Roustabout: The Great Circus Train Wreck (Awarded the John W. Schmid After Dark Award for Outstanding New Work and the After Dark Award for Outstanding Production). Jay has had the privilege to perform with 500 Clown, The Hypocrites, Redmoon, Theater Oobleck and The Neo-Futurists. where he was an ensemble member for twelve years and the former Artistic Director. He was a recipient of an Orgie Award for artistic direction and was named one of the “Top 50 Players in Chicago Theatre” by Newcity. He has an MFA in Creative Writing from The University of British Columbia and studied under master clown Philippe Gaulier. 

 

About Akvavit Theatre

 

Akvavit Theatre is haunted by Nordic visions: deep forests and ice-blue seas, the patience of the glacier, the sudden fury of the volcano, the arctic light and silence. Seeking the universal through the voices of contemporary Nordic playwrights, Akvavit Theatre is a kind of homecoming, a connecting back to the lands whose people and cultures have for generations been a part of the great prairies of North America that we call home. And like our namesake beverage, Akvavit brings a “strong spirit” to the work that we produce. Skål, Skál, Kippis! For additional information, visit www.chicagonordic.org

 

Published in Upcoming Theatre

 

 

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