Theatre

American Blues Theater, under the continued leadership of Producing Artistic Director Gwendolyn Whiteside, announces the lineup for its 2017 – 2018 Season, “The Beat Goes On.” American Blues’ 32nd Season will include the World Premiere of Six Corners by Keith Huff, directed by Gary Griffin; the Chicago Premiere of Beauty’s Daughter by Dael Orlandersmith, directed by Ron OJ Parson; the 16th annual production of It’s a Wonderful Life: Live in Chicago! from Frank Capra’s film, directed by Gwendolyn Whiteside; and Buddy – the Buddy Holly Story by Alan Janes, directed by Lili-Anne Brown with musical direction by Ensemble member Michael Mahler. All performances in the 2017-2018 Season will take place at Stage 773, located at 1225 W Belmont Ave, Chicago.

 

“From the lyric beats of a poet, the heartbeat of a family man, the patrol beat of a Chicago cop, to the inimitable beat of Buddy Holly & the Crickets, we’re thrilled with the rich and varied stories offered for our audiences,” notes Producing Artistic Director Gwendolyn Whiteside. “We’re honored to have such extraordinary talent on the American Blues stage.”

 

The 2017-18 American Blues Theater Season up close:

 

The Chicago Premiere of

Beauty’s Daughter

by Dael Orlandersmith

directed by Ron OJ Parson

July 7 – August 5, 2017

Press Opening: July 13, 2017 at 7:30 p.m.

This Obie Award-winning play by Dael Orlandersmith depicts one woman’s journey through life’s obstacles in an East Harlem neighborhood. Artistic Affiliate Wandachristine takes on 6 different characters during the course of this solo play—some broken, some on the way down, but all memorable.

 

16th Anniversary Production of

It’s a Wonderful Life: Live in Chicago!

from Frank Capra’s film

directed by Producing Artistic Director Gwendolyn Whiteside

November 17 – December 30, 2017

Press Opening: November 19, 2017 at 2:30 p.m.

For 16 years, the American Blues Ensemble has treated Chicago audiences to a live 1940s radio broadcast of holiday favorite It’s a Wonderful Life. The incredible cast recreates the entire town of Bedford Falls with Foley sound effects, an original score and holiday carols. The Bedford Falls “residents” extend their hospitality after every performance when audiences are treated to milk and cookies served by the cast.

 

The World Premiere of

Six Corners

by Keith Huff

directed by Gary Griffin

February 16 – March 25, 2018

Press Opening: February 22, 2018 at 7:30 p.m.

Late one night, two burnt-out violent crimes unit detectives try their damnedest to close the puzzling murder of a CTA employee.  What should be a simple open-and-shut case, however, evolves into a horrifying mystery and unearths a legacy of violence stretching back years.

 

The Chicago Revival of

Buddy – the Buddy Holly Story

by Alan Janes

directed by Lili-Anne Brown

musical direction by Ensemble member Michael Mahler

April 27 – May 26, 2018

Press Opening: May 3, 2018 at 7:30 p.m.

Before the Beatles or the Rolling Stones ever played a note, rock & roll was forever changed by the bespectacled kid from Texas. BUDDY tells the true story of Buddy Holly through his short yet spectacular career and features the classic songs "That’ll be the Day", "Peggy Sue",  The Big Bopper’s  "Chantilly Lace", Ritchie Valens' "La Bamba" plus many more.

 

Additional 2017-2018 Programming

Ripped Festival: Edition 16

Spring 2018

Written and direction by various Chicago artists

 

Since 2009, American Blues Theater has produced 135 short plays in the RIPPED: the Living Newspaper series. Based on the 1930’s WPA era program that brought Orson Welles, Arthur Miller, Richard Wright and Clifford Odets into public attention, playwrights use inspiration ripped from today’s headlines to create stories performed live on stage.

 

Arts Education in Chicago Public Schools

The Lincoln Project

Conceived and Adapted by Producing Artistic Director Gwendolyn Whiteside from Artistic Affiliate James Still’s Pulitzer-nominated The Heavens Are Hung in Black

 

American Blues Theater’s innovative and adaptive program aligns with Illinois Learning Standards to engage 5th-10th graders about the life of Abraham Lincoln, specifically the events surrounding the Emancipation Proclamation.  Students watch scenes performed by professional actors, participate in discussions, and most importantly, write their own plays. Since the program’s launch in 2013, over 5,500 students have participated in the program.

 

Subscriptions

All main stage performances take place at Stage 773, 1225 W. Belmont Ave. The Blue Card – the most affording ticketing offer  the 2017-2018 season are available now at www.AmericanBluesTheater.com or by calling 773.654.3103.

 

About American Blues Theater

Winner of the American Theatre Wing’s prestigious 2016 National Theatre Company Award, American Blues Theater is a premier arts organization with an intimate environment that patrons, artists, and all Chicagoans call home.  American Blues Theater explores the American identity through the plays it produces and communities it serves.

 

The diverse and multi-generational artists have established the second-oldest professional Equity Ensemble theater in Chicago.  The 37-member Ensemble has 530+ combined years of collaboration on stage. As of 2016, the theater and artists received 186 Joseph Jefferson Awards and nominations that celebrate excellence in Chicago theater and over 31 Black Theatre Alliance Awards. The artists are honored with Pulitzer Prize nominations, Academy Awards, Golden Globe Awards, Emmy Awards and numerous other accolades.  

 

The American Blues Theater Ensemble includes all four Founders Ed Blatchford, Rick Cleveland, James Leaming, and William Payne with Dawn Bach, Matthew Brumlow, Manny Buckley, Kate Buddeke, Sarah Burnham, Dara Cameron, Casey Campbell, Darren Canady, Brian Claggett, Dennis Cockrum, Austin Cook, Laura Coover, Ian Paul Custer, Lauri Dahl, Joe Foust, Cheryl Graeff, Marty Higginbotham, Jaclyn Holsey, Lindsay Jones, Nambi E. Kelley, Kevin R. Kelly, Steve Key, Ed Kross, Warren Levon, Michael Mahler, Heather Meyers, John Mohrlein, Christopher J. Neville, Suzanne Petri, Carmen Roman, Editha Rosario, Sarah E. Ross, and Gwendolyn Whiteside.

 

American Blues Theater programs and activities are made possible, in part by funding by The MacArthur Funds for Arts & Culture at Prince, the Shubert Foundation, The Chicago Community Trust, SMART Growth Grant, Gaylord & Dorothy Donnelley Foundation, the Illinois Arts Council Agency, Anixter Foundation, Actors’ Equity Foundation, and the Chip Pringle Fund. ComEd is the Season Lighting Sponsor.

 

Published in Buzz Extra

Hell in a Handbag Productions is thrilled to kick-off 2017 with the announcement of its 15th season. Comments Artistic Director David Cerda, “We really want to thank our audiences for keeping us going for the past 15 years with their love and support, so we are doing a mix of new, old and most requested from our audience for our audience.” 

 

The 2017 season launches in the spring with the world premiere of VALLEY!, a rollicking unauthorized musical parody of the camp classic film and best-selling book Valley of the Dolls. Written by David Cerda, Handbag tells the tale through the lens and life of its legendary author, Jacqueline Susann. Expect lots of booze, pills and (gasp) pre-marital sex!

 

For Halloween, Handbag definitely offers up a treat with the world premiere of BEWILDERED, a musical parody of the classic TV sitcom Bewitched, with book by Ron Weaver, lyrics and music by Ron Weaver and Aaron Benham and directed by Brigitte Ditmars. The spellbinding throwback is told from the point of view of Gladys Kravitz, the poor, misunderstood neighbor who keeps seeing crazy things at the home of Samantha Stephens, a beautiful witch, and her ‘ordinary family.’ Gladys’ husband Abner has had enough and is about to take drastic measures. Can Gladys prove her visions are real without destroying the Stephens family – or is she doomed to a life of pills and institutions? BEWILDERED will feature ensemble members Caitlin Jackson as Gladys Kravitz, Ed Jones as Uncle Arthur and David Cerda as Endora.

 

Finally, Handbag celebrates the holidays by bringing back its most popular show ever, RUDOLPH THE RED-HOSED REINDEER 2017 by David Cerda and directed by AJ Wright. A parody of the 1967 Rankin Bass television special, Rudolph has become a subversive Chicago classic that celebrates the MISFITS of the world. Chicago’s favorite transvestite reindeer celebrates his 21st anniversary this year – and Cerda always adjusts the show to fit the current social climate. 

 

In addition to its mainstage shows, Handbag is also pleased to present THE GOLDEN GIRLS – THE LOST EPISODES. Join Dorothy, Rose, Blanche and Sophia on the lanai at Mary’s Attic this summer for some episodes that didn’t quite make it on the air. Plus, Handbag’s very own celebrity Rip Nelson’s long lost talk show has finally surfaced in Rip Nelson, AFTER DARK. The original tapes were thought to be destroyed in a grease fire at Dom Deluise’s annual legendary Hawaiian themed Labor Day pig roast – but now they’ve been restored for Handbag audiences to enjoy late night at Stage 773

 

Handbag’s 15th Anniversary Season will be staged at Mary’s Attic (5400 N. Clark St., Chicago) and Stage 773 (1225 W. Belmont Ave., Chicago). Season subscriptions and single tickets are currently available at www.handbagproductions.org. 

 

Hell in a Handbag Productions’ 15th Anniversary Season includes:

 

April 27 – June 10, 2017

VALLEY! – World Premiere!

An Unauthorized Musical Parody 

By David Cerda

at Mary’s Attic, 5400 N. Clark St., Chicago

 

Handbag presents a musical parody of the cult camp classic Valley of the Dolls like only they could. Join aspiring model/actress Ann Wells Fargo, the talented and self-destructive Needy Mascara, and the beautiful but doomed Jennifer South for an evening of fame, fashion, sex and dolls…so many dolls…

 

June 6 – July 12, 2017

THE GOLDEN GIRLS – THE LOST EPISODES

By David Cerda, Directed by Shade Murray

at Mary’s Attic, 5400 N. Clark St., Chicago

 

Handbag’s way of thanking you for being a friend this summer! Enjoy lost, never-before-seen episodes of The Golden Girls featuring Dorothy, Rose, Blanche, Sophia and all of the siblings, daughters, sons, and rare diseases that were mentioned once, but never again. There will be Golden Girls trivia and costume contests to help fully embrace the Miami experience. 

 

September 27 – November 11, 2017

BEWILDERED – World Premiere!

Book by Ron Weaver, Music and Lyrics by Ron Weaver and Aaron Benham

Directed by Brigitte Ditmars

Featuring ensemble members David Cerda (Endora), Caitlin Jackson (Gladys Kravitz) and Ed Jones (Uncle Arthur)

at Stage 773, 1225 W. Belmont Ave., Chicago

 

A reimagining of the beloved ‘60s and ‘70s television sitcom Bewitched, as seen through the eyes of Gladys Kravitz, Samantha Stephens’ iconic nosy neighbor. Poor Gladys knows what she sees next door is real, but can she prove it in time to save herself from being committed? Gladys finally gets her due in this fun and magical musical parody.

 

October 14, 2017 – November 11, 2017 

RIP, AFTER DARK

By David Cerda

Featuring ensemble member Ed Jones

at Stage 773, 1225 W. Belmont Ave., Chicago

 

Ed Jones returns as Handbag’s favorite faux D-list celebrity – and this time he’s a late, late night talk show host with a bevy of C-list celebrities. Come see Rip Nelson in his little known talk show with some of the most intriguing mix of actors, singers and comedians of the time. Relive the smoke-filled gabfests of long ago with your favorite long lost entertainers in an intimate setting.

 

November 25 – December 30, 2017

RUDOLPH THE RED-HOSED REINDEER 2017

at Mary’s Attic, 5400 N. Clark St., Chicago

 

Chicago’s favorite cross-dressing reindeer is back and he’s 21 years old! Hell in a Handbag closes its season with its most popular show ever. RUDOLPH THE RED-HOSED REINDEER, a parody of the classic children’s television special had its first reading in 1996 and has evolved into one of Chicago’s best anti-holiday, holiday shows. Join Rudolph and all of his misfit friends as they struggle with fitting in and being ‘normal’ in an increasingly abnormal world. 

 

About Hell in a Handbag Productions

 

Hell in a Handbag is dedicated to the preservation, exploration, and celebration of works ingrained in the realm of popular culture via theatrical productions through parody, music and homage. Handbag is a 501(c)(3) Not for Profit.

 

Published in Buzz Extra

“Circumference of a Squirrel” by John Walch finishes out The Greenhouse Theater’s inaugural Solo Celebration. This one-character play festival featured only single narrative storytelling. It’s not often you see a one-person fiction play, and while some may cringe at the concept, these short works explored highly relevant themes. 

 

Will Allen stars as Chester. He begins the play telling the audience about a squirrel he saw trying to carry a bagel. Chester is in the present, and by the speech pattern adopted by Allen, we can presume something is a little off. Walch’s script seamlessly flows between Chester’s childhood memories, his relationship with his father and the divorce he’s just been through. He grapples with the knowledge that his father was an ardent anti-semite. It colors the dark, and funny memories of his father paying him in Lifesavers to kill squirrels. 

 

Allen toggles between several characters and memories in the hour-long run time. Each character has a unique, but sincere voice and there’s an almost manic quality with which Allen can articulate them all. His performance only deepens from beginning to end, leading to a bittersweet conclusion. 

 

Directed by Jacob Harvey, “Circumference of a Squirrel” is a well-stylized, and at times abstract look at the ways in which we love. It asks of its audience, whether unfounded racism is forgivable even in the ones we are supposed to love. 

 

Through February 12 at The Greenhouse Theater Center. 2257 N Lincoln Ave. 

 

 

Published in Theatre in Review

I was a "psychonaut librarian” as a child without even knowing it. My grandparents’ house was only two blocks from the beautifully built, stunning Coral Gables Library in South Miami, Florida.

 

I spent all my spare time there, drinking in the smell of library books and wisdom. Each new book I read seemed to open a new world for me. First, they were fantasy worlds, like The Phantom Tollbooth, later I began to read more and more about psychology and self-help, each time hoping that the book in my hands would offer an insight into having the happy, successful dreamy life I imagined lay ahead.  Yes, I was a shy, gentle book nerd, and I felt often that reading was the answer to all my problems. 

 

Sean Kelly's "Psychonaut Librarians", now in a world premiere with The New Colony is a funny, delightful poetically phrased tale about a mother and daughter and their fellow book worm friends discovering magical worlds at the library. 

 

Librarian Hester, played with both warmth and biting wit by David Cerda (Artistic Director of the hugely popular campy Hell in a Handbag Productions), is trying to save her daughter Jane (Christine Mayland Perkins) from giving up on her dreams and into society's constant fear creating machine. Hester a single mother to Jane, greets her with the single revealing question about her ex, "How is Daddy? Still suffocatingly small-minded?".

 

Hester has developed a potion that allows her to go all the way into the fantasy world of reading into a place she calls "Anyverse" where anything can happen and dreams do not die without a fight. 

 

Hester shares the potion with her grown daughter one night and while in the Anyverse Jane meets a lover named Dewey, played with much joy by Matt Farabee, a handsome Christ-like figure of love and innocence.  

 

In each other's arms Jane finds true love. They dance and fly through the Anyverse on a beautifully lit, ever changing, yet intimate, stage. Dewey tells Jane the ultimate romantic verse, "{In Jane) I found what I did not even know I was looking for and in finding her, I found myself," Jane stares into his loving, smiling face and states that this meeting is one of the "perfect moments” that she will add to her sadly short list of perfect moments. 

 

But of course, as in "real" life, the enjoyment of freedom of life and love in the Anyverse is threatened by an evil force called The Sandman played with the proper amount of military, know it all, fear inducing power by Jack McCabe.

 

The Sandman has the ability to literally suck the soul out of each human by drawing out their worst fears and causing them to act on them instead of holding fast to positive thinking. 

 

Despite their obviously great and perfect matching Dewey flip flops helplessly from loving adoration to murderous hatred for Jane in an instant and begins to strangle Jane each time The Sandman makes him insecure about her love by sending him negative subconscious suggestions. 

 

Jane's mother Hester sees this pattern of abuse and danger to her daughter and makes the ultimate sacrifice by chasing the Sandman away with the promise that she will not ALLOW her daughter to awaken from the dreary, fear filled thought patterns of everyday earth "reality" into the Anyverse ...ever again. 

 

When Jane is awakened from the Anyverse by her mother and is forced to part with Dewey, Jane becomes bitter about life and retreats from taking chances, creativity, or really falling in love and trying new things to follow the strict societal mores dictated by The Sandman about choosing work and security above joyous spontaneity.

 

Sadly, this division leads Jane to become estranged from her own loving, creative mother and the library itself, a symbol of the power of imagination - for 20 years.

 

Jane is inexplicably drawn to the library on the eve of her mother's retirement, where Hester’s fellow Psychonaut Librarians have arranged a "potion" party to enter the Anyverse all together. 

 

Hester's fellow librarians, the stiff-necked Emmerick (Michael Peters) and hopeful, brainy free spirit, Rosemary (Morgan McNaught) and the library's "security guy" (Carlos Olmedo), who also ends up drinking the spiked punch, are all played with excellent comic timing, and their scenes are some of the funniest and most clever dialogue in the show. 

 

This hopeful, desperate for magic crew of psychonauts enter the Anyverse together and immediately each is tested by the dreams, or rather nightmares, of their own worst fears of failure.

 

There are puppets used to represent the fearful dreams and perfected in a clever bit where the puppets are used to represent the characters’ abilities to walk through walls or make themselves small enough to escape a demon dream through a crack in a solid wall. Hester makes a great sacrifice to help rescue them all. 

 

The great thing is that each character, no matter how weak their "punches or kicks' may be, are forced to physically take a stand and fight! Each character must really wrestle and fight to defeat their bad dreams and thought patterns. 

 

In the end, Jane returns to the library without her lover Dewey - but with a newfound belief in the power of magic, and the existence of magic itself. Magic that is ALIVE right there alongside her in the library of life - and the reality of alternate positive realms, exciting realities beyond her own. 

 

Director Krissy Vanderwarker does the best she can on a limited budget to create a romantic pacing and lovely, magical choreography for Jane and Dewey that transitions well into the more comical present day or fantasy scenes. 

 

Kelly's script has gone thru many cuts over the years but is approaching a more perfect balance between what is both a supernatural love story and an "Universal" love story that boldly, yet sensitively, declares the existence of an alternate reality based entirely on love. 

 

The line, "I found what I did not even know I was looking for!  And in finding her, I found myself" kept haunting me after the show ended, as did several of the poetic speeches delivered by Jane to Dewey while sharing flowing descriptions of the deliciousness of their loving, soaring, literally "flying" in each other's arms new love... in words. These scenes were very well written and sometimes seemed like they belonged in an entirely different show. 

 

The character of Dewey, with his shoulder length dirty blonde hair, casual hoody, sandals and all-encompassing smile is best interpreted as a Christ figure, a non-sexual person, a teacher and guru of unconditional love living forever in the Anyverse. Dewey was not supposed to become a human man whose sexual partnership in the "real" world or like a Prince in a fairy tale whose marriage to Jane would effortlessly make her life into an adventure or positivity and magic. 

 

The playwright makes it clear to the end that the daily decision to hold tightly to and fight for her own dreams is up to Jane herself, which is as it should be.

 

Before the show began, the artistic director came out and mentioned how MANY scripts they have been receiving as of late, eluding to the election of Trump (The Sandman himself?), from new writers and how EAGER artists now are to have their words HEARD.

 

I highly recommend this funny, romantic, hopeful show for audiences of any age. “Psychonaut Librarians” would also make a valuable children's theater piece.

 

"Your soul is not living inside your body; your body is living inside your soul.” 

 

For heart weary adult Democrats like myself who are literally praying for a magical happy ending to what appears to be a complete takeover of millions of American minds by the evil Sandman, “Psychonaut Librarians” offered me a wonderful evening of hope, encouragement and rainbow lit entertainment. 

 

New Colony’s “Psychonaut Librarians” is playing at Den Theatre through February 12th. For more show information of to purchase tickets, click here

 

Published in Theatre in Review

Forum Productions is pleased to present the world premiere one-man show JESUS THE JEW As Told By His Brother James, written by William Spatz, directed by Will Rogers and featuring Steven Strafford. A modern drama interwoven with the biblical tale of Jesus of Nazareth and his brother James, JESUS THE JEW will play February 17 – March 26, 2017 at Greenhouse Theater Center (Downstairs Mainstage), 2257 N. Lincoln Ave. in Chicago. Tickets are currently available at greenhousetheater.org, in person at the box office or by calling (773) 404-7336. 

 

Jeremy, a biblical history professor, faced with crippling fear and guilt, is mourning the tragic loss of his brother. Struggling to make sense of the present, he reaches into the ancient past to find answers – and imagines himself as James.

 

James is given a choice: renounce his brother or be killed. The problem: his brother is Jesus of Nazareth and James is the leader of all of Jesus’ followers for 30 years since the resurrection. Based on a wealth of research, JESUS THE JEW takes us back to the birth of Christianity and the transformation of Judaism, with two Jewish brothers and their four siblings growing up in Nazareth. Through memory and storytelling, James reveals his insights into Mary of Magdala, his archrival Apostle Paul and his misunderstood brother, as he faces the ultimate decision and his greatest test of faith.

James’ faith could lead to his death. Jeremy’s faith could save his life.

The production team includes: Milo Blue (scenic design), Hailey Rakowiecki (costume design), David Trudeau (lighting design), Alex Kleiner  (sound design), Ron Rude (production manager) and Sarah Knoke (stage manager). 

PRODUCTION DETAILS:

 

Title: JESUS THE JEW As Told By His Brother James

Playwright: William Spatz

Director: Will Rogers

Featuring: Steven Strafford 

 

Location The Greenhouse Theater Center (Downstairs Mainstage), 2257 N. Lincoln Ave, Chicago

Dates: Previews: Friday, February 17 at 7:30 pm, Saturday, February 18 at 2:30 pm & 7:30 pm, Sunday, February 19 at 2:30 pm and Wednesday, February 16 at 7:30 pm

Press Performance: Wednesday, February 22 at 7:30 pm

Regular run: Thursday, February 23 – Sunday, March 26, 2017

Curtain times: Wednesday at 7:30 pm, Thursday at 7:30 pm, Fridays at 7:30 pm, Saturdays at 2:30 pm & 7:30 pm, Sundays at 2:30 pm

Tickets: Previews: $20. Regular run: $30 - $35. Tickets are currently available at greenhousetheater.org, in person at the box office or by calling (773) 404-7336.

 

About The Artists

 

William (Bill) Spatz (Playwright) is a playwright, philanthropist and real estate developer in Chicago. As president of the board for the Greenhouse Theater Center, Bill has overseen the remodeling and expansion of the Greenhouse, which has for over 40 years served as an artistic home for Chicago theater companies, including the Body Politic, Victory Gardens and Remy Bumppo. Bill is the President of the Bill and Wendy Spatz Charitable Foundation. When not producing theater, Bill spends his time engrossed in historical research, traveling with his wife Wendy and supporting Chicago theater companies.

 

Will Rogers (Director) is a creative producer and director who focuses on the development of interdisciplinary work. Most recently, Will’s work centers on the collision of culinary and performing arts as Artistic Director of Plateful Company. With Plateful collaborators Alex Kliner and Sarah Beth Tanner, Will has developed the dinner party musical A Place Called Plenty, the musical cooking show Biscuit Broads and several other in-home events. Will worked as Associate Producer for Chicago’s Victory Gardens Theater for seven years, during which time he also served as Casting Director as well as curator of the alternative programming series, Fresh Squeezed. As a director, his work has been seen at Ragdale, Victory Gardens, Hell in a Handbag Productions, Chicago Dramatists, 16th Street Theater, Pavement Group, Savage Vanguard Theater (Austin) and the Dublin Gay Theatre Festival, among others. Will has been on the faculty of Perry-Mansfield Performing Arts Camp in Steamboat  Springs, Colorado and is the creator of Mixtape, a showcase of new musical theater. He is an alum of the Lincoln Center Directors Lab and a graduate of Savannah College of Art and Design. Will is excited to return to the Ragdale High School Intensive for a second year.  

 

Steven Strafford (Performer) was most recently seen as Chick Clark in Wonderful Town at The Goodman last fall. He has toured in Spamalot, Peter Pan, Cinderella and Grease. In Chicago, he was also seen as Jesus and Stephen Hawking in End Days. He has performed regionally at Sacramento Music Circus, Cape Playhouse, Portland Stage Company, Cardinal Stage and many others. His one man show, Methtacular! was nominated for a Jeff Award in 2014. It has had productions here in Chicago, NYC, Maine, California and most recently a two-night stint at Steppenwolf’s 1700 Theatre. His new play, Small Jokes About Monsters, is in development and production around the country. 

 

Forum Productions (Producer) has produced or co-produced 17 plays since its founding in 2014. Previous productions include the highly-acclaimed Churchill (Producer: Chicago, 2014; Producer: Off-Broadway, 2015) and the Greenhouse Theater Center's much-lauded Solo Celebration! Series (Producer), which concludes in February of 2017. In 2017 and 2018, Forum productions will be producing a series of solo performances in Florida, as well as continuing to produce in Chicago.

 

Published in Buzz Extra

Chicago, IL–Lookingglass Theatre Company announces casting for the final two shows of its 2016-2017 season, including the U.S. Premiere of Beyond Caring, written and directed by Beyond Caring in association with Dark Harbor Stories, a company led by Ensemble Member David Schwimmer and Tom Hodges, as well as the remount of the Jeff Award-winning Moby Dick, adapted from the novel by Herman Melvilleand directed by Ensemble Member David Catlin. Single tickets for Beyond Caring and Moby Dick will go on sale on Tuesday, January 17 at Noon and may be purchased through the box office at (312) 337-0665 or lookingglasstheatre.org.

 

The cast of the U.S. Premiere of Beyond Caring includes Ensemble Member J. Nicole Brooks (Becky), Edwin Lee Gibson (Phil), Wendy Mateo (Susan), Caren Blackmore (Grace) and Keith Gallagher (Ian).

 

The creative team for Beyond Caring includes Ensemble Member Daniel Ostling (scenic and lighting design), Ensemble Member Mara Blumenfeld (costume design), Josh Anio Grigg (sound design and composition) and Amanda Herman (props design). Tess Golden is the Production Stage Manager.

 

The cast of Moby Dick includes Ensemble Members Kareem Bandealy, Anthony Fleming III and Raymond Fox who return to reprise their roles as Starbuck, Queequeg and Stubb from the critically-acclaimed 2015 production. Also returning to the production is Artistic Associate Kasey Foster (Fate 2), along with Jamie Abelson (Ishmael) and Micah Figueroa (Cabaco). Joining the cast are Kelley Abell (Fate 3), Cordelia Dewdney (Fate 1) and Nathan Hosner (Ahab).

 

The creative team for Moby Dick includes Courtney O'Neill (scenic design), Sully Ratke (costume design), William C. Kirkman (lighting design), Artistic Associate Rick Sims (sound design), Isaac Schoepp (rigging design), Amanda Herrmann (props design) and Artistic Associate Sylvia Hernandez-Distasi (choreography).

 

About Beyond Caring and Moby Dick:

The U.S. Premiere of

Beyond Caring

March 22–May 7, 2017

Press opening:  Saturday, April 1 at 7:30 pm

Written and Directed by Alexander Zeldin

In Association with Dark Harbor Stories

Featuring Ensemble Member J. Nicole Brooks (Becky), Edwin Lee Gibson (Phil), Wendy Mateo (Susan), Caren Blackmore (Grace) and Keith Gallagher (Ian).

 

Unseen. Unheard. Unknown.

 

At the margins of society, on the knife-edge of survival, they work for low wages, in harsh conditions. No safety net. No insurance or protections. No guarantee of work tomorrow.

 

This critically-acclaimed piece, most recently produced at the UK’s National Theatre and re-imagined for Chicago by writer/director Alexander Zeldin, is a gritty portrait of those who cling precariously to the bottom rung of the ladder. Full of life, humor, and tenderness, it sheds light on America’s shadow economy and shines an unflinching spotlight on the incendiary intersection of race and class.

 

Beyond Caring will be produced in association with Dark Harbor Stories. Dark Harbor Stories is a company led by David Schwimmer and Tom Hodges dedicated to producing original stories with a social conscience in theatre, television and film. Lookingglass Ensemble Member David Schwimmer brought this project to Lookingglass, and is working closely with writer/director Alexander Zeldin on the production, and collaborating with Lookingglass to develop the necessary attention and funds for this exciting project.

 

ALEXANDER ZELDIN (Writer/Director)is a writer and director for theatre. He trained on the Jerwood Young Directors course at The Old Vic and has taken part in residencies at the Egyptian Centre for Culture and Art and at Studio Emad Eddin in Cairo. His critically-acclaimed play, Beyond Caring, which examined the effects of zero hours contracts had its World Premiere at The Yard Theatre in Hackney in 2014, before transferring to the Temporary Theatre at the National Theatre in London in 2015. In 2015, Alex was the recipient of The Quercus Trust Award and was appointed as Associate Director at The Birmingham Repertory Theatre. Beyond Caring toured the UK in 2016 and his new play LOVE just opened at the National Theatre in London.

CAREN BLACKMORE (Grace) is making her Lookingglass debut with Beyond Caring. She was last seen in Court Theatre's production of Electra. Her Chicago theatre credits include: a one woman show, The MLK Project: The Fight For Civil Rights (Writers Theatre), Spill (TimeLine Theatre), Jitney! (Court Theatre), The Joe Tex Story (Black Ensemble Theater), and she has also worked with Pegasus Players, Stockyards Theatre Project, Theater Wit, The Loop Players, Congo Square Theatre Company, eta Creative Arts Foundation and MPAACT. Caren has attended New Freedom Theatre in Philadelphia and is a graduate of Oberlin College and the Eugene O'Neill National Theater Institute

J. NICOLE BROOKS (Becky/Lookingglass Ensemble Member) is an actor, wordsmith, and director. Recent stage credits include the acclaimed comedy Immediate Family directed by Phylicia Rashad (Goodman Theatre; Mark Taper Forum), and Lucas Hnath’s Death Tax (Lookingglass Theatre). She is author of Black Diamond: The Years the Locusts Have Eaten (published by Methuen), Fedra Queen of Haiti (published University of Illinois Press) and has several plays in development. Directing credits include Thaddeus & Slocum: A Vaudeville Adventure, Black Diamond, and Mr. Rickey Calls a Meeting (Lookingglass Theatre). Prized ribbons: TCG Fox Foundation Resident Actor Fellowship, National Endowment for the Arts, LA Ovations, African American Theatre Alliance of Chicago, Jeff Award Nominations, and Black Theater Alliance Awards.

 

KEITH D. GALLAGHER (Ian) is making his Lookingglass debut. Chicago: Mary Page Marlowe, Marie Antoinette (Steppenwolf Theatre Company); The Gospel of Franklin, Man in Love (Steppenwolf First Look); Awake and Sing, The Lieutenant of Inishmore (Northlight Theatre); Shining City (Goodman Theatre); Tracks (TUTA Chicago); Arcadia (Court Theatre); The Real Thing (Remy Bumppo Theatre Company). Regional: A Raisin in the Sun (Geva Theatre Center); The Gospel According to James (Indiana Repertory Theatre); The Lieutenant of Inishmore (The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis); Shining City (Huntington Theatre Company). TV: Chicago Fire; Chicago P.D.; Detroit 187.

 

EDWIN LEE GIBSON (Phil) is making his Lookingglass debut. Off Broadway: Love and Information, U.S. premiere (The Minetta Lane Theatre/New York Theatre Workshop); The Seven (New York Theatre Workshop); The Bellagio Fountain Has Been Known To Make Me Cry (Concrete Temple Theatre, NYC); Turquoise (Dixon Place, NYC); The Death of Bessie Smith (New Brooklyn Theatre); The Diary of Black Men (Fairfield Halls, London). Chicago credits: The Royale (American Theater Company); St. James Infirmary (Congo Square Theatre Company). Awards: OBIE Award - Outstanding Performance. TV: recurring role as Orton Freeman on Law and Order: SVU (NBC); Shameless (Showtime). Film: Mom and Dad (Armory Films/Brian Taylor); Marshall (Chestnut Ridge Prods/ Reginald Hudlin); Blood First (NaRa Films).

WENDY MATEO (Susan) returns to the Lookingglass after last appearing as “Mother-in-Law” in Blood Wedding (2016) and “Maria” in Big Lake Big City (2013). Other Chicago credits include Tumbao: The Misadventures of la Familia Pilón at Steppenwolf Theatre Company’s 1700 Theatre and Don Chipotle produced by The Playground Theater. Wendy can also be seen on the many comedy stages around Chicago and at Mas Mejor online with the comedy duo, Dominizuelan. TV credits include: Shameless (Showtime), Chicago P.D. (NBC), and The Exorcist (FOX).

Moby Dick

June 7–September 3, 2017

Press Opening: Saturday, June 17 at 7:30 pm

Adapted and Directed by Ensemble Member David Catlin

 

From the book by Herman Melville

 

In Association with The Actors Gymnasium

 

Featuring Ensemble Members Kareem Bandealy as Starbuck, Anthony Fleming III as Queequeg (2015 Jeff Award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role) and Raymond Fox as Stubb, and Artistic Associate Kasey Foster (Fate 2), with Jamie Abelson (Ishmael), Micah Figueroa (Cabaco), Kelley Abell (Fate 3), Cordelia Dewdney (Fate 1) and Nathan Hosner (Ahab).

 

Winner of four Jeff Awards, including Best Production, fresh off a national tour to the Alliance Theatre, Arena Stage and South Coast Repertory, the critically-acclaimed Moby Dick returns to the Lookingglass stage in this harrowing and intoxicating exploration of revenge, obsession, and destiny.

 

Madness rages like the angry sea when man pits himself against leviathan in Herman Melville’s epic and poetic tale, furiously reimagined by director David Catlin (Lookingglass Alice).

 

Climb aboard the Pequod with Ishmael, Starbuck, and the intrepid crew on a voyage into the darkest reaches of the human psyche with an insatiably driven Captain Ahab at the helm in reckless pursuit of the legendary white whale.

 

David Catlin(Adaptor/Director/Ensemble Member) Lookingglass directing credits include: Lookingglass Alice and The Little Prince. Other regional directing credits include: McCarter Theatre (Princeton, NJ), Arden Theatre (Philadelphia), New Victory Theater (NYC), Syracuse Stage, Actors Theatre of Louisville, Alliance Theatre (Atlanta) and The Getty Villa (Los Angeles). Other recent directing credits include: The Phantom Tollbooth (DePaul) and Moby Dick (Northwestern University). David teaches acting with Northwestern University’s theatre department.

 

KELLEY ABELL (Fate/Innkeeper) returns to Lookingglass after previous appearances in Peter Pan (A Play) and Moby Dick. Other credits include: Moby Dick (Arena Stage, South Coast Repertory Theatre, and Alliance Theatre); 42nd Street and Fiddler on the Roof (Paramount Theatre); Mr. Burns: A Post Electric Play (Theater Wit); Dorian (The House Theatre of Chicago); Bat Boy: The Musical and Titanic (Griffin Theatre). She has also worked with Goodman Theatre, The Marriott Theatre, and Chicago Children’s Theatre, and is a graduate of Northwestern University.

 

JAMIE ABELSON (Ishmael) previously appeared at Lookingglass in the initial run of Moby Dick, as well as Peter Pan (A Play) and Treasure Island (Understudy). Other recent projects include Red Kite Treasure Adventure and Red Kite Blue Sky (Chicago Children’s Theatre); The Lieutenant of Inishmore (Northlight Theatre); Eurydice (Victory Gardens Theater); Scenes from the Big Picture (Irish Theatre of Chicago); As Told by the Vivian Girls (Dog and Pony Theatre Co.); columbinus (Raven Theatre); and Hope Springs Infernal & Dorian (The House Theatre of Chicago). Regional credits include Moby Dick (Alliance Theatre, Arena Stage, South Coast Repertory). Jamie holds a BFA in Drama from the Tisch School of the Arts at NYU. 

 

KAREEM BANDEALY (Starbuck/Ensemble Member)has previously been seen at Lookingglass in Blood Wedding, Moby Dick, The Little Prince, Big Lake Big City, Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo, The Last Act of Lilka Kadison, and Peter Pan. Select Chicago credits: A Christmas Carol, Rock ‘N’ Roll, Gas For Less, King Lear (Goodman Theatre); The Wheel (Steppenwolf Theatre Company); Oklahoma! (Paramount Theatre); The Good Book, The Illusion (Court Theatre); Julius Caesar, Hamlet, The Caretaker, Heartbreak House (Writers Theatre); A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Edward II, Romeo and Juliet (Chicago Shakespeare Theater); A Disappearing Number, Blood and Gifts (TimeLine Theatre); Othello (The Gift Theatre). Regional: The Merry Wives of Windsor, The Three Musketeers, The Tempest (Illinois Shakespeare Festival); Love’s Labours Lost (Notre Dame Shakespeare Festival); Julius Caesar, Stuff Happens (PICT Classic Theatre), and four seasons at Orlando Shakespeare Theater. Film: several credits including The Merry Gentleman (dir. Michael Keaton). TV: Chicago Fire (NBC). Kareem is a recipient of the 2011 3Arts Artist Award.

 

CORDELIA DEWDNEY (Fate) returns to Lookingglass with Moby Dick after the National Tour this past year to Alliance Theatre, Arena Stage, and South Coast Repertory). Last summer she appeared on Chicago Med. Cordelia is a graduate of Northwestern University with degrees in Theatre and English and a proud alum of the British American Dramatic Academy.

 

MICAH FIGUEROA (Cabaco/Captain of New Bedford Whaling Ship) returns to Lookingglass after appearing in the original production of Moby Dick in 2015, and in Lookingglass Alice. Chicago theatre credits include: Tall Girl and the Lightning Parade (Walkabout Theater); The Winter Pageant (Redmoon Theater); Distance to the Moon (First Floor Theater). Regional theatre credits include: Moby Dick (Alliance Theatre, Arena Stage, South Coast Repertory); In the Beginning, Henry IV (Dallas Theater Center); The Farnsworth Invention, Wild Oats (Theatre Three); Coriolanus, Cyrano de Bergerac, Macbeth (Shakespeare Dallas); Titus Andronicus (Kitchen Dog Theater); Sense and Sensibility (Stolen Shakespeare Guild). He earned a BFA from Southern Methodist University and the British American Drama Academy.

 

Anthony Fleming III(Queequeg/Ensemble Member) was last seen at Lookingglass in Moby Dick in 2015 and Lookingglass Alice in 2014, which marked his tenth production of the show and where he completed 555 total performances. Other Lookingglass productions include Big Lake, Big City, Mr. Rickey Calls a Meeting, Arabian Nights, 1984, Icarus, Fedra and Race. Select regional theater credits: Ma Rainey with Milwaukee Repertory Theater and Clybourne Park with Arizona Theatre Company. Anthony is a Chicagoan who has been working since 1997 on Chicago stages, including Victory Gardens Theater, Steppenwolf Theatre Company, Goodman Theatre, Court Theatre, Chicago Theater Company, and Piven Theatre Workshop. 

 

KASEY FOSTER (Fate/Artistic Associate) has been performing, producing, and directing in Chicago since 2004. She recently returned to Chicago after performing in the National Tour of Moby Dick and was newly named an Artistic Associate with Lookingglass. Kasey has appeared regionally at Arena Stage (Washington, D.C.), Alliance Theatre (Atlanta), Berkeley Repertory Theatre (CA), and most recently in Chicago with Lookingglass' Treasure Island, and Manual Cinema's Mementos Mori. She sings with Chicago bands: Grood, Babe-alon 5, Old Timey, and This Must be the Band. She has directed/choreographed over thirty original works, and produces an annual series called Dance Tribute. 

 

RAYMOND FOX (Mr. Stubb/Captain Boomer/Captain Gardiner/Ensemble Member) last appeared at Lookingglass in Thaddeus and Slocum: A Vaudeville Adventure. Off-Broadway/Broadway: Metamorphoses (Second Stage Theatre, Circle in the Square Theatre). Regional Credits: Goodman Theatre, Seattle Repertory Theatre, Berkeley Repertory Theatre, Arena Stage, Arden Theatre, South Coast Repertory Theatre, Remy Bumppo Theatre Company, Route 66 Theatre, Hartford Stage, American Repertory Theatre, Indiana Repertory Theatre, Alliance Theatre, Meadow Brook Theatre, The House Theatre of Chicago, Mark Taper Forum, Court Theatre, McCarter Theatre, Kansas City Repertory Theatre, First Folio Theatre, Canada’s Stratford Festival and TimeLine Theatre (Blood and Gifts, 2013 Equity Jeff Award for Supporting Actor). Education: Northwestern University and the A.R.T. Institute at Harvard University.

 

NATHAN HOSNER (Captain Ahab) makes his Lookingglass debut. He recently played Lord Aster in the first national tour of Peter and the Starcatcher. Chicago credits include productions with Writers Theatre, Chicago Shakespeare Theater, Court Theatre, Goodman Theatre, Paramount Theatre, About Face Theatre, and First Folio Theatre. Regional credits include productions with American Players Theatre, Alabama Shakespeare Festival, Indiana Repertory Theatre, New Theatre, Illinois Shakespeare Festival, Arkansas Shakespeare Theatre, Door Shakespeare, and The BoarsHead Theater. Nathan is a graduate of The Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. 

 

About Lookingglass Theatre Company

Inventive. Collaborative. Transformative. Lookingglass Theatre Company, recipient of the 2011 Regional Theatre Tony Award, was founded in 1988 by eight Northwestern University students. Now in its 29th season, Lookingglass is home to a multi-disciplined ensemble of artists who create story-centered theatrical work that is physical, aurally rich and visually metaphoric. The Company has staged 66 world premieres, received 116 Joseph Jefferson awards and nominations, and work premiered at Lookingglass has been produced in New York City, Los Angeles, Seattle, Berkeley, Philadelphia, Princeton, Hartford, Kansas City, Washington D.C., and St. Louis. Lookingglass original scripts have been produced across the United States. In 2016, Lookingglass received the MacArthur Award for Creative and Effective Institutions.

 

The Lookingglass Theatre in Chicago's landmark Water Tower Water Works opened in June 2003. In addition to developing and presenting ensemble work, Lookingglass Education and Community programs encourage creativity, teamwork and confidence with thousands of community members each year.

 

Lookingglass Theatre Company continues to expand its artistic, financial and institutional boundaries under the guidance of Artistic Director Heidi Stillman, Executive Director Rachel Kraft, Producing Director Philip R. Smith, Connectivity and Engagement Director Andrew White, General Manager Michele Anderson, a 25 member artistic ensemble, 23 artistic associates, an administrative staff and a dedicated board of directors led by Chairman John McGowan of CTC| myCFO (a part of BMO Financial Group) and President Nancy Timmers, civic leader and philanthropist. For more information, visit lookingglasstheatre.org.

 

Published in Buzz Extra

On March 10th, 2017, Sub Pop will release the remixed and expanded reissue of Soundgarden’s Ultramega OK, a long-planned “correction” of the legendary band’s GRAMMY®-nominated debut full-length. The album was originally recorded and released in 1988 on SST Records. While the band enjoyed working with the original producer, Drew Canulette, they soon realized they weren’t quite happy with the final mix. Thus, shortly after the album’s release, the band decided to remix the album for subsequent pressings. However, success intervened: the band rapidly scored a deal with A&M and began work on their major-label debut, Louder Than Love, and the Ultramega OKremix project fell by the wayside as Soundgarden climbed their way to (ultra)mega-stardom. 

 

In 2016, after worldwide success, a hiatus, and many albums and tours, the band finally acquired the original multi-track tapes to Ultramega OK and carved out time to dig into the remix. They handed the tapes over to longtime friend and engineer Jack Endino (Nirvana, Mudhoney, Screaming Trees, Skin Yard), who worked with the band to create a fresh mix of the album that, for the band, ties up this persistent loose end and remedies the sound of their debut full-length. 

 

While they were at it, the band dug out six early versions of tracks that wound up on Ultramega OK. The songs were recorded in 1987 on 8-track tape by Jack Endino and Chris Hanzsek at Reciprocal Recording in Seattle, and mixed by Jack Endino in 2016. These versions feature the band in raw, powerful form – sonically closer to the band’s Endino-recorded six-song debut,Screaming Life – and provide a fascinating window into the development of songs that eventually became staples of the band’s set. The six songs comprise what the band refers to asUltramega EP, and they are included in this reissue. 

 

Ultramega OK is available for preorder available now on CD / 2xLP / DL / CASS from Sub Pop and soundgardenworld.com. The album comes packaged in a foil-stamped gatefold with custom dust sleeves, features liner notes from Kim Thayil and Jack Endino, and includes a previously unseen photo from renowned photographer Charles Peterson. Preorders of the LP from megamart.subpop.com, soundgardenworld.com, and select independent retailers will receive the Loser edition on marble blue and maroon vinyl (while supplies last). 

 

Hailed as grunge innovators, Soundgarden redefined rock music for a generation. In the late ‘80s, the band – singer Chris Cornell, guitarist Kim Thayil, bassist Hiro Yamamoto, and drummer Matt Cameron – combined a punk ethos, brutal metal soundscapes, and Cornell’s ravenous roar to capture the attention of the masses. Jagged and ferocious, their music was deeply at odds with the synth-pop and hair metal which dominated the ‘80s airwaves. Early indie releases, including seminal Screaming Lifeand Ultramega OK, quickly led to a dedicated indie following as the band toured on both sides of the Atlantic. Subsequent albums, including Badmotorfinger, Superunknown, and Down on the Upside, achieved multi-platinum sales and launched the band to international fame. 

 

Published in Buzz Extra

Chicago, IL– American Blues Theater, Chicago’s second oldest Equity Ensemble, under the continued leadership of Producing Artistic Director Gwendolyn Whiteside, has named Idris Goodwin the winner of the 2017 National Blue Ink Playwriting Award. Goodwin’s play, HYPE MAN, was selected from a pool 543 submissions. As part of the award, Goodwin receives a $1,000 cash prize and the opportunity to further develop his script with American Blues Theater.

“I am of course honored and grateful, but mostly I am charged up,” said Idris Goodwin.  “I want to use the theatre as a venue to wrestle with our national sicknesses but also a place to nod heads in unison, as we collectively imagine towards liberation. HYPE MAN, this latest entry into my break beat plays series, exemplifies this desire. I can’t wait to further refine the play with the indomitable American Blues Theater, in one of the greatest cities for art.”

“We’re honored to announce Idris Goodwin’s script as the 2017 winner,” notes Producing Artistic Director Gwendolyn Whiteside. “Idris’s script is both heartbreaking and humorous with characters impossible to forget. The themes resonate empathy and a call to action. We’re thrilled to further develop HYPE MAN with Idris.

HYPE MAN is a story about a controversial police shooting inflaming tensions between an interracial hip hop trio. It is a rhythmically woven drama exploring race, representation, fame and friendship.

About Idris Goodwin

Idris Goodwin is a playwright, poet/performer and essayist. His play How We Got On developed at the O’Neill National Playwrights Conference, premiered in Actors Theatre’s 2012 Humana Festival, and is being produced at theatres across the country. It is the first in his “break beat play” series which includes The REALNESS and HYPE MAN. Other plays include Blackademics, This Is Modern Art co-written with Kevin Coval, And in This Corner: Cassius Clay, Bars and Measures, and The Raid. Goodwin is one of seven playwrights featured in the widely presented HANDS UP!, an anthology commissioned by The New Black Fest and published by Samuel French. His one act Black Flag was produced Off Broadway in Summer Shorts Festival at 59E59 Theatre. He’s received support from the NEA and Ford Foundation, and awarded Oregon Shakespeare’s American History Cycle Commission, and InterAct Theater’s 20/20 Prize. He's had work produced and/or commissioned/developed with Steppenwolf Theatre, The Kennedy Center, Berkeley Rep's Ground Floor Program, La Jolla Playhouse, The Lark Playwriting Center, The Playwrights' Center and New Harmony Project. These Are The Breaks (Write Bloody, 2011), his debut collection of essays and poetry, was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Goodwin’s poetry has featured on HBO, The Discovery Channel, Sesame Street and National Public Radio.  Goodwin is an assistant professor in The Department of Theatre and Dance at Colorado College. Find him at www.idrisgoodwin.com

 

About the Blue Ink Playwriting Award

The annual Blue Ink Playwriting Award was created in 2010 to support new work. Since inception, American Blues Theater has named 7 Award winners, 35 finalists, and 59 semi-finalists. American Blues awarded more than $5,000 in cash and prizes for 2017.  The full list of 2017 Blue Ink Playwriting Award winners can be found at AmericanBluesTheater.com.

 

Each year American Blues Theater accepts worldwide submissions of original, unpublished full-length plays. The winning play is selected by Producing Artistic Director Gwendolyn Whiteside and the theater’s Ensemble. The playwright receives a monetary prize of $1,000 and a developmental workshop or staged reading at American Blues Theater in Chicago.  Finalists and semi-finalists are also awarded a cash prize.

 

Submissions for the 2018 Blue Ink Playwriting Award open July 1, 2017. All submissions must be received by American Blues Theater by August 31, 2017 at 11:59pm. Playwrights may only submit one (1) manuscript each year for consideration.

 

About American Blues Theater

Winner of the American Theatre Wing’s prestigious 2016 National Theatre Company Award, American Blues Theater is a premier arts organization with an intimate environment that patrons, artists, and all Chicagoans call home.  American Blues Theater explores the American identity through the plays it produces and communities it serves.

 

The diverse and multi-generational artists have established the second-oldest professional Equity Ensemble theater in Chicago.  The 37-member Ensemble has 530+ combined years of collaboration on stage. As of 2016, the theater and artists received 186 Joseph Jefferson Awards and nominations that celebrate excellence in Chicago theater and over 31 Black Theatre Alliance Awards. The artists are honored with Pulitzer Prize nominations, Academy Awards, Golden Globe Awards, Emmy Awards and numerous other accolades.  

 

The American Blues Theater Ensemble includes all four Founders Ed Blatchford, Rick Cleveland, James Leaming, and William Payne with Dawn Bach, Matthew Brumlow, Manny Buckley, Kate Buddeke, Sarah Burnham, Dara Cameron, Casey Campbell, Darren Canady, Brian Claggett, Dennis Cockrum, Austin Cook, Laura Coover, Ian Paul Custer, Lauri Dahl, Joe Foust, Cheryl Graeff, Marty Higginbotham, Jaclyn Holsey, Lindsay Jones, Nambi E. Kelley, Kevin R. Kelly, Steve Key, Ed Kross, Warren Levon, Michael Mahler, Heather Meyers, John Mohrlein, Christopher J. Neville, Suzanne Petri, Carmen Roman, Editha Rosario, Sarah E. Ross, and Gwendolyn Whiteside.

 

 

 

Published in Buzz Extra

Brett Neveu is a playwright to watch. To call him up-and-coming would be unfair as his work has appeared at The Goodman, Writers Theatre and Red Orchid Threatre. His new play "Her America" is being presented by The Greenhouse Theater Center as part of their Solo Celebration Series. 

 

Directed by Linda Gillum, "Her America" is single character play starring Kate Buddeke. She gives a riveting performance as a not-all-there Midwestern housewife locked in a basement. Buddeke embodies the character effortlessly. Her delivery is familiar and in many lines, hauntingly real. 

 

In the hour we spend with this unnamed character, she uses objects in her basement to freely associate memories and stories from her childhood. To whom she is speaking remains a mystery throughout. Neveu's script is highly detailed which serves to dimensionalize Buddeke's character. Through random memories, she explains the various influences in her life and how she became the person she is.

 

"Her America" files down to a crushing revelation, but along the way uncovers something darker. It says a lot about what life is like in America for those with few options. It's rare when the theater gives a truly empathetic portrayal of rural life. "Her America" was written in a bitterly devisive time and its message is to say that we should be more understanding with each other. 

 

Through February 12 at The Greenhouse Theater Center. 2257 N Lincoln Ave. 

 

 

Published in Theatre in Review

American Theater Company's  (ATC) regional premiere of Men on Boats, written by Jaclyn Backhaus and directed by artistic director Will Davis, took on the story of the one-arm captain, William Wesley Powell, who was commissioned by the U.S. government in 1869 to map the Green and Colorado rivers of the Grand Canyon.

 

Davis was recently appointed as ATC artistic director and Men on Boats is his first production for the company. He was also responsible for staging the Off Broadway version of the play in 2015.

 

The expedition, the first sanctioned in the American West, consisted of 10 grizzled explorers who set out on four boats, courageously riding through the rivers of the Grand Canyon. However, their varied personalities were almost as difficult to navigate as the terrain.

 

Backhaus' Men on Boats, performed by a genderfluid cast of women and folks otherwise defined, provides an entertaining look this historic journey as well as perhaps providing a statement on just how much American society and the role of women have changed since the 1800's. 

 

The ATC cast includes ATC ensemble member Kelly O'Sullivan (William Dunn) and ATC youth ensemble alumna Lawren Carter (Hall), with Erin Barlow (Frank Goodman), Arti Ishak (John Colton Sumner), Brittney Love Smith (Bradley), Sarai Rodriguez (Seneca Howland), Avi Roque (O.G. Howland), Stephanie Shum (Hawkins), Kelli Simpkins (John Wesley Powell) and Lauren Sivak (Old Shady).

 

A simple yet effective set and props, as well as carefully choreographed movements, provide a heightened sense of action, especially when the explorers tackle the imagined vertical drops in the rivers.

 

Although the cast is really good at selling the quirkiness and reticence of some of the explorers and how those differences lead to small skirmishes among the crews, at times it is not enough to sustain it through the 100-minute performance.

 

Overall Backhaus provides is an interesting and sobering look at how a group of people can risk everything in the name of adventure and discovery. It speaks to the heroism we often bestow on our early American West explorers, their faith and commitment in their own visions yet it also highlights the vulnerabilities, conflicts and contradictions of blind loyalty. For it is only one person, John Wesley Powell, who reaps the actual benefits of their bravery as a team.

 

Recommended

 

Men on Boats is playing at ATC now through February 12, 2017. Tickets are available at the ATC box office or by visiting atcweb.org.

 

Published in Theatre in Review
Page 6 of 28

 

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