Three new unusual plays to watch


L to R, Steven Swick, Andre Patterson and Ann d'Aquino (Photo courtesy of Northwestern University)
L to R, Steven Swick, Andre Patterson and Ann d’Aquino (Photo courtesy of Northwestern University)

Called “Stateville Voices,” three short plays directed by Sydney Chatman, former Goodman Theatre’s Michael Maggio Fellow, can be watched live at no charge Friday, July 3 at 5 p.m. on Facebook, YouTube and

A virtual premier of “Parameters of Closeness” by André Patterson, “Ain’t Nothing like Quality Time” by Taurean Decatur and ” Comic Books and Candy”  by Antonio McDowell, the plays are products of a Spring 2019 playwriting course taught by playwright and Goodman Artistic Associate Rebecca Gilman as part of the Northwestern Prison Education Program (NPEP).

The performances will be followed at 6 p.m. with a discussion about the plays and life at the Stateville Correctional Facility during COVID-19. Panelists include Antonio McDowell (Stateville Voices playwright who was recently granted clemency by Governor JB Pritzker) and his attorney, Josh Tepfer; Patrick Pursley (NPEP participant and former Stateville inmate); and Jennifer Lackey (Director of the Northwestern Prison Education Program and the Wayne and Elizabeth Jones Professor of Philosophy at Northwestern University).

(Note: prior to the COVID-19 shutdown, live performances of the Stateville Voices plays were planned for Goodman Theatre, Kennedy-King College and Stateville Correctional Center. The Goodman intends to facilitate the live presentation when safe to do so.)


Red Tape and Boho Theatres lead Non Equity Jeff Awards


Hedwig and the Angry Inch at Theo Ubique. (Austin D. Oie Photography)
Hedwig and the Angry Inch at Theo Ubique. (Austin D. Oie Photography)


The 47th Non-Equity Jeff Awards announced honorees in 21 artistic and technical categories on June 22. Their work was featured at 14 theater companies during the 2019-2020 season.

A Jeff Awards statement said “With respect for current times calling for reflection, conversation and action towards issues of social justice, commemoration of the annual awards had been postponed.”

Red Tape Theatre led with six awards for “All Quiet on the Western Front” and Boho Theatre received five awards. for its productions.

A complete list of award recipients and nominees is at the non-Equity section at  Jeff Awards.

The following are some of the categories and recipient:

Production – Musical

Big Fish (2020) – BoHo Theatre

Production – Play

All Quiet on the Western Front (2020)


All Quiet on the Western Front (2020) –

New Work

Matt Foss – All Quiet on the Western Front (2020) –

Director – Musical

Stephen Schellhardt – Big Fish (2020) – BoHo Theatre

Director – Play

Lili-Anne Brown – P.Y.G. or The Mis-Edumacation of Dorian Belle (2020) – Jackalope Theatre Company

Performer in a Principal Role – Musical

Will Lidke – Hedwig and the Angry Inch (2020) – Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre

.Amanda Raquel Martinez – Ghost Quartet (2020) – Black Button Eyes Productions

Performer in a Principal Role – Play

Brookelyn Hébert – Ada and the Engine (2020) – The Artistic Home

Eric Gerard – P.Y.G. or The Mis-Edumacation of Dorian Belle (2020) – Jackalope Theatre Company

Performer in a Supporting Role – Play

Renee Lockett – Sugar in Our Wounds (2020) – First Floor Theater

Michael Turrentine – Mlima’s Tale – Griffin Theatre Company – Griffin Theatre Company

Performer in a Supporting Role – Musical

Kyrie Anderson – Big Fish (2020) – BoHo Theatre

Jeff Pierpoint – Big Fish (2020) – BoHo Theatre

Equity Award announcements are expected in August



‘The Talk’ is a play for right now


Sonny Kelly in 'The Talk' (Huth photo)
Sonny Kelly in ‘The Talk’ (Huth photo)


Because theaters have been shuttered during the COVID-19 crisis for the safety of artists and audiences they have been putting some of their productions online. One such production was a Neo-Futurists “Wrench” production mentioned here in CTAA a few weeks ago.

Also, Citadel in Lake Forest just successfully held a live production that was a round-up of past musicals. It was held sitting in cars in the parking lot of the local community center.

However, sometimes it is worthwhile to go back to productions that have become extraordinarily relevant today during our (hopefully) history-changing 2020.

One such production is “The Talk” done in Durham and Chapel Hill, NC in 2019. Presented by StreetSigns and Bulldog Ensemble Theater in cooperation with the Department of Communication at UNC Chapel Hill, it has been brought back on video for a short time only by Bulldog and PlayMakers Repertory Company with permission from the artists and unions.

Written and performed by Sonny Kelly and directed by Joseph Megel, “The Talk” is a one-person show where a young black father talks to his son about his own experiences and what the son may experience growing up in the United States of America.

The script and acting is intelligent, poignant and heartbreakingly informative. Kelly wrote it while working on his Ph.D at UNC Chapel Hill’s Department of Communication a few years ago. He has since attained his doctorate.

The show takes a little over an hour to watch but its messages are deep and lasting.  Be mindful that the video introduction says not to copy the video or use it for commercial purposes.

The production companies involved hope more people will be able to see a show that sold out in 2019 and speaks to what is still confronting Americans today.

Jodie Jacobs

Two interesting COVID directed experiences


Art Institute's popular painting by Georges Seurat . (J Jacobs photgo)
Art Institute’s popular painting by Georges Seurat . (J Jacobs photgo)


Chicago’s theater companies have been inviting audiences to watch productions on line as a way to raise needed funds to stay in business while COVID-19 has shuttered stages and in-person experiences. Citadel Theatre has found a different, fun way (sort of like a movie drive in) to enjoy a program.

Museums and other Chicago destinations have also suffered financial losses from closed doors. Youngsters and their families have also been deprived of popular places to visit. To help with the latter issue, Mayor Lori Lightfoot is journeying out to some of the city’s museums in virtual field trips geared to the whole family. They have been fun and enlightening. So go on, take a virtual field trip with her.

Outdoor Cabaret

Citadel Theatre, a Lake Forest-based equity production company, has found a new way to put on a theater experience in line with Sate and national guidelines. Audiences are invited to watch and hear one-hour matinee performances at the suburb’s Gorton Community Center Parking lot while sitting comfortably and safely in their cars.

Cabaret dates are June 13, 14, 20 and 21 at 1 and 3 p.m. at 400 E. Illinois Rd., Lake Forest.

Tickets are considered donations and must be bought in advance because of limited parking space. Entrance is on Illinois Road, exit is at McKinley Road. Community Center facilities (washrooms) will not be available.

For tickets and more information visit Citadeltheatre/cabaret.


Hit Play Chicago goes to the Art Institute

The world renown museum is the next stop on the city field trip series that visited the Shedd Aquarium, the Museum of Science and Industry, the Field Museum, the National Museum of Mexican Art and the DuSable Museum of African American History.

It’s a chance to visit (or revisit) a famous painting, hear about an upcoming block-buster exhibition and see works that might become favorites.

Visit HitPlayChicago to see the video that went live on Wednesday and will be replayed on WTTW on Friday and Monday. Scroll down to visit past field trip destinations.

Jodie Jacobs

Have a virtual museum and theater experience



African American History. (Photo courtesy of the DuSable Museum)
DuSable Museum of African American History. (Photo courtesy of the DuSable Museum)

Even though Around Town typically looks for experiences out of the house, with stay home still in place in some areas and particularly in Chicago, the experiences shared since March have virtual. Stay home has been hard on theater companies and museums. Indeed, the latest museum news is the large number of people being laid off by the Museum of Science and Industry. So Around Town will continue to let readers know of virtual experiences in those areas and talk will talk about re-openings.

DuSable Museum of African American History

Stop in the DuSable museum of African American history to hear about its virtual reconstruction of The March, visit with late Chicago Mayor Harold Washington ans see his office, learn about blacks who fought in France during World War I and become more familiar with the battle for civil rights.

Your field trip leader is Mayor Lori Lightfoot who is taking viewers to the DuSable Museum on HitPlay Chicago, her fourth excursion to fascinating city destinations that are temporarily closed to the public because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Named for Jean Baptiste Point Dusable, a trader of Haitian, African and French descent the museum was founded in 1961 by Margaret Burroughs and moved to its City of Chicago Park District property in Washington Park in 1973.


Neo-Futurist Theater

See this small-box, innovative theater’s latest work the “Infinite Wrench Goes Viral” with 30 digital plays in one hour. At $5 (or more if you want), it’s a very inexpensive way of seeing a performance while Chicago theaters are dark.

Dating to the 1980’s, the Neo-Futurist Theater has been a collective of writer-director-performers who fuse sport, poetry and living newspaper into their original plays that are usually shown at a late-night “The Infinite Wrench” event. They have also done more than 65 full-length interactive mainstage productions

For their latest offering, the ensemble is working from home producing new plays each week that are filmed and shared. The Neo-Futurist ensemble of writer-performers continue to work from home and produce new plays weekly, which are then filmed and shared with patrons who subscribe via the patron platform.

For tickets and more information visit NeoFuturists.

Jodie Jacobs

Three experiences to try while waiting for Chicago to reopen

Lyric Opera House on North Wacker Drive (J Jphoto)
Lyric Opera House on North Wacker Drive (J Jphoto)

Some of us miss seeing a stage performance in person. Some miss going to the Lyric for a grand opera. Other folks miss visiting Chicago’s world class museums. The following opportunities hit these three targets while sitting at home.


Citadel Theatre has a unique experience scheduled for 6 p.m. May 21. Viewers register for what is called “The Defamation Experience.” It begins with a 70 minute film that is a one-act courtroom drama. Then there is the Deliberation. You and your fellow jury members deliberate the case on Zoom to decide the outcome.

After the deliberation and verdict, expert facilitators lead a brief post-show discussion.

Registration is free. A zoom meeting link is provided upon registration.


Hear and watch an opera segment, lecture or tour the Lyric Opera of Chicago building. The Lyric has a weekly newsletter available on its blog. Here is one aria, many audiences will find familiar.

“La donna è mobile” (“Woman is fickle”) is from the fall of 2017 performance of Giuseppe Verdi’s Rigoletto featuring Matthew Polenzani as The Duke. It comes in the third act where Maddalena (Zanda Švēde) flirts with the Duke.

For more Lyric gems visit LyricOpera/lately.


Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot has been taking field trips to the city’s exceptional institutions so that the rest of us staying home can visit these places virtually.

Each field trip shows up on line on Wednesdays and then on PBS’ WTTW on Friday and replayed the following Monday.

This week she visits the National Museum of Mexican Art. To join her go to hitplayChicago. Founded in 1987, the museum is a very special cultural destination in the Pilsen neighborhood.

To see the last two field trips scroll down to the Shedd and the Field Museum.

Jodie Jacobs

Related: Dazzling voices seduced lyric audiences



Around Town updates Hamilton and Dear Evan Hansen


'"Hamilton" closed in chicago in January 2020 (Photo courtesy of Broadway in Chicago and 'Hamilton.')
“Hamilton” closed in Chicago in January 2020. (Photo courtesy of Broadway in Chicago and ‘Hamilton.’)


A tweet from Lin-Manuel Miranda recently showed up in my email box. The famed composer/actor of the Broadway hit musical “Hamilton” tweeted that he’s “excited” because the show will be streaming on Disney Plus on July 3.

The move to the Fourth of July weekend from its originally scheduled release in movie theaters, October 2021, was a Disney decision prompted by stay-at-home orders to keep people safe from the coronavirus and a chance to direct home viewers to Disney Plus offerings.

The film features footage from a June 2016 Broadway “Hamilton” performance that stars Miranda as Alexander Hamilton with the original cast.

In a recently released statement, Disney Executive Chairman Bob Iger said, “In light of the extraordinary challenges facing our world, this story about leadership, tenacity, hope, love and the power of people to unite against the forces of adversity is both relevant and impactful.”

Iger and Miranda had also announced and talked about the timing on “Good Morning America” on May 12.


The North American touring company of Dear Evan Hanson. (Photos byh Matthew Murphy)
The North American touring company of Dear Evan Hanson. (Photos byh Matthew Murphy)

Chicago theater audiences will have to wait until 2022 for the Tony Award winning “Dear Evan Hansen” to return to the Broadway in Chicago schedule. Originally planned for the CIBC Theatre on July 7 through Sept. 27, 2020, it has been canceled due to coronavirus concerns and state and city orders. A new date will be announced.

Several Broadway in Chicago touring productions have been rescheduled so new information continues to be announced.

Regarding “Dear Evan” Broadway in Chicago has said that ticketholders and individual ticket buyers will be refunded via their point of purchase. Their announcement included the following directions: If you purchased through Ticketmaster, click here for more information and if you purchased through the box office, email Broadway In Chicago at CustomerService/.

Jodie Jacobs


Hamilton is worth the hype

Hamilton leaves Chicago

Dear Evan Hansen


Jeff Awards Non Equity nominations

Mlima's Tale at Raven Theatre. (Photo by Michael Brosilow)
Mlima’s Tale at Raven Theatre. (Photo by Michael Brosilow)

Even though Chicago’s theater companies, arguably the most in the U.S. at 250, are now shuttered except for virtual experiences, their 2019-20 productions are still being recognized by the Jeff Awards.

Founded in 1968 to note outstanding achievement in categories somewhat similar to the Academy Awards, the Jeff Awards started with recognizing equity productions (operating under union contracts) but added non-equity in 1973.

The Non-Equity Award Nominations were just announced. Each year the plays under consideration are performed from April 1 through the season to March 1.

To be Jeff recommended, Jeff committee members have to see one element of excellence on opening night, then the production can be considered for category nominations. Committee members range from producers, theater educators and scenic designers to playwrights, musicians and theater critics and other professional theater positions. For more information visit JeffAwards/Judging.

The Non-Equity Nominations just announced are for 21 categories that among other segments include new works, musical and play productions, musical and play directors, musical and play lead performers, musical and play supporting performers, solo performers. Nominations also go to such important complementary work as costume and scenic design, choreography and sound and lighting design.

Cast of 'Head Over Heels,' a Kokandy Productions show at Theater Wit. (Photo by Michael Brosilow)
Cast of ‘Head Over Heels,’ a Kokandy Productions show at Theater Wit. (Photo by Michael Brosilow)

You may not be familiar with all the Chicago area’s non-equity theater production companies but hopefully when the COVID-19 threat is over all will reopen and you can experience their stage work.

As an example in the Production – Musical category are Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre for Hedwig and the Angry Inch, Black Button Eyes Productions for Ghost Quartet, Underscore Theatre Company for The Ballad of Lefty & Crabbe, BoHo Theatre for Big Fish and Kokandy Productions for Head Over Heels.

In the Production-Play category Raven Theatre has The Undeniable Sound of Right Now, Steep Theatre Company has First love is the Revolution, Lifeline Theatre has Middle Passage, Jackalope theatre Company has PYG or the Mis-Edumacation of Dorian Belle and Griffin theatre company has Mlima’s Tale.

Several production companies are also noted in multiple categories for other shows. Please visit JeffAwards/Non-Equity Nominees to see the entire list.

Jodie Jacobs


Jeff Award Judging in May

Head Over Heels review

Mlima’s Tale review


See memorable Chicago Shakespeare moments


Cast of 'Six" at Chicago Shakespeare. (Liz Lauren photo)
Cast of ‘Six” at Chicago Shakespeare. (Liz Lauren photo)

As a Chicago theater critic I often receive videos that could be embedded in a review. So I’m going to go back to see if I can retrieve some because they remind us of wonderful moments on stage. But while I’m going through my archives, please take a few minutes to see these clips recently sent to me from Chicago Shakespeare Theater to share with all of you.

Then, to see more of what Chicago Shakespeare is providing everone at home go to ChicagoShakes/plays and events and then click on Shakes@Home in the top left of the banner.

Artistic Director Barbara Gaines said, “Our stages may be dark for now, but we are still here to connect you with the power (and magic) of Shakespeare. Introducing Shakes@Home —a new digital platform that will be updated each week with engaging, original content from our artists and staff. Whether you’re teaching remotely or looking for a fun activity for the family this weekend, we’ve got you covered. Explore education tools, centuries of critical thinking, artistic interpretation, and more. Together, let’s connect, learn something new, and bring the Bard home!”


Chicago Shakespeare Clips

“We’ve gathered some of our favorite Chicago Shakespeare moments in a video playlist to help lift your spirits during these uncertain times. Go ahead: take the stage, “speak the speech,” and sing along!,” said. Barbara Gaines

The Tempest, directed by Aaron Posner and Teller (from Penn & Teller) added magic and physicality to the production.

Six, gone for now to Broadway, will be back as a touring show in Broadway in Chicago.

Slam, the fun 2019 final bout.

King Charles III, the Chicago premiere of the 2015 Olivier Award winner for Best New Play.

Ride the Cyclone (Montage), was the US premiere in 2015.

Macbeth, Aaron Posner and Teller return to direct a remarkable “Macbeth” in 2018.

Madagascar, was a children’s musical that delighted the whole family with the antics of Alex the Lion, Marty the Zebra and some sly Alex the Lion, Marty the Zebra and some sly, adventure seeking penguins.

Shakespeare in the Park, wouldn’t it be great if Shakespeare in the Park could return this summer.

Jodie Jacobs

Next theater season should be a production bonanza


heater venues range from Chicago's Lookingglass theatre in the historic Water Works (top left) and the lyric Opera House, bottom left to Goodman Theatre in a remodeled former movie theater building to the new Yard at Chicago Shakespeare on Navy Pier, bottom right. (J Jacobs photo)
Theater venues range from Chicago’s Lookingglass theatre in the historic Water Works (top left) and the lyric Opera House, bottom left to Goodman Theatre in a remodeled former movie theater building to the new Yard at Chicago Shakespeare on Navy Pier, bottom right. (J Jacobs photo)

With most Chicago theater productions postponed, audiences should start thinking of all the great entertainment that has been moved to later in the 2020-21 and over to the 21-22 season.

Here are just a few of the productions that audiences can put on their reminder calendar.

Lyric Opera of Chicago

According to Lyric General Director Anthony Freud, the rest of this spring’s offering have been canceled so “42nd Street,” a new-to-Chicago, Théâtre du Châtelet, Paris, production conducted by Stephen Mear, will be on stage next spring.

The Midwest premiere of composer Jeanine Tesori and librettist Tazewell Thompson’s “Blue” has been moved to January 2021 at Chicago Shakespeare Theater from this coming May-June’s dates at that venue. A coproduction of Washington National Opera, The Gimmerglass Festival and the Lyric, it will be conducted by Lyric music director designate Enrique Mazzola.

The Lyric Opera House is downtown at 20 N. Wacker Drive, Chicago. For more information visit Lyric Opera of Chicago. To see and hear what’s on the Lyric’s blog including clips from operas, go to Lyric Lately.


Steppenwolf Theatre

“King James” by Steppenworlf ensemble member Rajiv Joseph, a coproduction with the Center theatre Group, has been moved to the 2021-22 season from May 7 2020 and will be directed by Artistic director Anna d. Shapiro. The first episode of the “Half Hour Ensemble Podcast begins on April 7 with co-founder Jeff Perry.

Steppenwolf Theatre is in the Lincoln Park neighborhood at.1650 No. Halsted St. Chicago. For more information, to also see an interesting, historic video and hear a podcast, and to see free virtual sessions, visit Steppenwolf.


Broken Nose Theatre

A pay-what-you-can production group, Broken Nose Theatre has moved its world premiere of “This is Only a Test” to the 2020-21 season from May 2020. Broken Nose theatre is a resident group of The Den Theatre, 1331 N. Milwaukee chicago’s Wicker Park neighborhood. For more information visit Broken Nose Theatre.

Jodie Jacobs