Northlight still puts on its productions at the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts in Skokie.( J Jacobs photo)
Going back to a stage show will feel different fall of 2021. But those folk who really want an in person experience won’t be complaining about wearing a mask indoors. Just expect it to be a requirement, then sit back and enjoy the live action on stage.
Here are a few of the shows opening in Chicago and the suburbs this fall.
Aurora: “Kinky Boots” at the Paramount Theatre, 23 E. Galena Blvd, Now through Oct. 17. For tickets and more information visit Paramount.
Evanston: “Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992″ at the Noyes Cultural Arts Center, 927 Noyes St. A Fleetwood Jourdain Theatre production, it runs Sept. 11-26. For tickets and more information visit Fleetwood Jourdain.
Lake Forest: “Brighton Beach Memoirs” at Citadel Theatre, 300 S. Waukegan Rd., Sept 17-Oct. 17. For tickets and more info visit Citadel Theatre
Lincolnshire: “The World Goes Round” at the Marriott theatre, 710 Marriott Drive, Sept 15=Nov. 7 . For tickets and more info visit Marriott Theatre.
Oakbrook Terrace: “Forever Plaid” at Drury Lane, 100 Drury Lane, Sept. 17-Nov. 7. For tickets and more information visit Drury Lane Theatre.
Skokie: “Songs for Nobodies” at Northlight Theatre in the North shore Center for the Performing arts at 9501 Skokie Blvd., Sept 23-Oct. 31. For tickets and information visit Northlight Theatre.
“As You Like It” at Chicago Shakespeare on Navy Pier at 600 E. Grand Ave. Oct 6- Nov 21. For tickets and more information visit Chicago Shakespeare Theater
“Macbeth” Sept 17-Oct. 9 and The Elixer of Love Sept. 26-Oct. 8 at Lyric Opera of Chicago 20 N. Wacker Dr. Visit Lyric Opera of Chicago.
“The tragedy of Othello, The Moor of Venice” Oct 7-Nov. 21 at Court Theatre 5535 S. Ellis Ave. on the University of Chicago’s Hyde Park campus. For information and tickets visit Court Theatre.
Creating an intimate face-to-face theatrical experience seems the primary objective of Theatre For One: Here We Are, a series of eight new microplays.
They are written and directed by black, indigenous, and women of color presented by Chicago’s Court Theatre under the leadership of Charles Newell, Artistic Director Marilyn F. Vitale and Executive Director Angel Ysaguirre.
Promoted as a live digital theatrical experience, the performances take place via an Internet based video platform similar to Zoom. Audience members are required to participate via a computer preferably using a Chrome browser with their camera, speakers, and microphone operational.
Right off the bat, I find this a little bit of overkill as I did not experience a substantial amount of interaction on my part with any of the actors I encountered.
I will say that the expectation of interaction did set up a sense of intimacy where I might otherwise have stayed a bit more aloof and thus participating as more of an observer than an active listener. So in this sense it works.
Interestingly there are a few minutes between each play where audience members are prompted to chat among themselves in the “lobby” by typing messages anonymously which was amusing, playful and interactive.
Theatre For One: Here We Are brings together one actor with one audience member to share a laugh, tell a story or create an imaginative moment.
Being certain that your audience is “with you” is indeed one of the challenges of online theater. After all, actors thrive on the energy from the audience and the lack of energy can be a drawback in digital theater.
Each audience member is randomly assigned four out of the eight plays in the package which are as follows:
Thank You For Coming. Take Care by Stacey Rose, directed by Miranda Gonzalez, featuring Sydney Charles
What Are The Things I Need To Remember* by Lynn Nottage, directed by Chris Anthony, featuring TayLar
Pandemic Fight by Carmelita Tropicana, directed by Miranda Gonzalez, featuring Melissa DuPrey
Here We Are by Nikkole Salter, directed by Monet Felton, featuring Xavier Edward King
Thank You Letter by Jaclyn Backhaus, directed by Lavina Jadhwani, featuring Adithi Chandrashekar
Before America Was America* by DeLanna Studi, directed by Chris Anthony, featuring Elizabeth Laidlaw
Whiterly negotiations* by Lydia R. Diamond, directed by Monet Felton, featuring Deanna Reed-Foster.
Vote! (the black album)* written and directed by Regina Taylor, featuring Cheryl Lynn Bruce.
Each of the four “plays” I encountered (see asterisks) were well written, thought provoking, and well delivered. I would of course expect nothing less from this company.
However, I would describe these performances as monologues rather than “plays” as they are each about 10 minutes in length, delivered by one person and do not substantially evolve from their one simple premise.
They are not really “one-man-shows.” Neither are the” plays” part of a cohesive group as in “Spoon River Anthology.”
With that said I felt a bit like I was watching a series of auditions or “Moth” presentations. Of course in “The Moth” people are telling short stories derived from their own life experience which in itself has a great deal of intimacy.
This is what I felt was lacking here. Then again, isn’t that the challenge of an actor – – to take someone else’s words and make them their own? With maybe one exception generally I felt like I was being “talked at” rather than “spoken to.”
During this stay-at-home period over the past several months I have done a great deal of business online networking which has required me to have a number of spontaneous, intimate, face-to-face digital interactions with perhaps close to 100 strangers, so I understand spontaneous, authentic, digital communication.
The challenge with the Theatre for One concept is to recreate that feeling as a theatrical experience, to make me feel like this actor is sharing an intimate moment with me, personally.
If you have not had a similar online experience think of a fellow bus mate or airplane encounter where you developed a close bond with a stranger over a short period of time and where they were willing to let down their guard and share intimate details with a stranger because of the promise of anonymity. I believe this is what this company is aiming for. They get very close.
These are challenging times for actors and theater companies who need to push their creative bounds so this is a very good effort. I encourage you to check it out and experience it for yourself.
It’s about an hour long and an enjoyable way to extend your idea of what theater has been and what it can be. Grab a beverage, power up your communication portal and go with the flow. After all here we are so let’s make the best of it.
Details: Theatre for One, Feb. 21 through March 14, 2021. Performance Schedule: Thursday and Friday at 7:30 p.m., Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday at 2 and 7:30 p.m. For tickets and information visit CourtTheatre.
Lights are dimming from the south side’s Court Theatre to the north side’s Raven Theatre, and even to the west suburban Aurora’s Paramount. Due to concerns about COVID-19, the closing announcements came after IL Governor J.B. Pritzker’s edict against gatherings of 1,000 and more people and urging stoppage of smaller gatherings of even 250 people or more.
The Court Theatre canceled the production of “The Lady from the Sea” and postponed performances of “An Iliad.”
“As leadership at the University of Chicago continues to monitor the evolving status of COVID-19 in Chicagoland and across the globe, we at Court Theatre are at a critical moment in our six-decade history,” said a joint statement from Artistic Director Charles Newell and Executvie director Angel Ysaguirre.
The statement continued to say, “Theatre can’t just be seen; it must be felt. It can’t just be watched; it must be experienced. At a time of division, bifurcated attention, and growing anxiety, theatre’s power to create community out of both artists and strangers has a powerful role to play. And yet, that same communal power represents a double-edged sword for any organization striving to prioritize the health, security, and safety of all those who touch its work.”
In addition, Newell and Ysaguirre explained why they made the difficult decision to cancel current shows and postpone decisions about “The Gospel at Colonus” slated for May.
.“According to the World Health Organization and Centers for Disease Control, many of our patrons and long-term supporters are most at risk of developing serious complications from contracting this virus, a fact we take quite seriously.”
Even though “Lady From the Sea” is cancelled, Court will pay the artists so are asking patrons with those tickets to consider them a donation or credit to a future show. Because “Iliad” is merely postponed, those tickets holders can see it another time. For more information call (773) 753-4472.
Raven Theatre at 6157 N. Clark St.is suspending all shows on its stages including Griffin Theatre Company’s Midwest premiere of Lynn Nottage’s “Mima’s Tale.
“We are, of course, saddened that we are unable to complete the run of Mlima’s Tale, but the health and safety of our artists and patrons are more important during this challenging time. It’s going to be tough few months for Chicago theatre, but we will all get through this together,” said Griffin Artist dDrector Bill Massolia. For Griffin refunds, credits or deductible donation information call (773) 338-2177. Griffin has also cancelled its touring youth production of The Stinky Cheese Man.
Raven’s performances of “A Doll’s House and the children’s production of “Aesop’s Amazing Adventures in the Land of Fables,” have also been suspended.
Raven’s staff explained the actions in the following statement: “The health and safety of our artists and community members is our highest priority. Based on recommendations from Governor J.B. Pritzker and Mayor Lori Lightfoot, we have made the difficult decision to suspend performances of all productions currently running at Raven Theatre.
“As a small, non-profit arts organization, this hurts. It hurts our hearts to not be able to share our art with you. It also hurts us financially. This is why we are asking you to consider converting the value of your ticket purchases to a tax-deductible donation to our company. Your patience and generosity today will allow us to come back with the artistic vigor you have come to expect from Raven when we are able to return to the stage.”
As with other theatres, Raven has the following options: “If the option to donate is available to you, please contact our box office so we can issue you an acknowledgment letter. Otherwise, you may move your tickets to our upcoming production of Eden Prairie, 1971 (playing May 7 – June 21, 2020), request a refund, call (773) 338-2177 to discuss the options.
Paramount Theatre has canceled the remaining “The Secret of My Success” performances as mandated by Governor J. B. Pritzker, and has postponed but is working on rescheduling “Killer Queen,” “Stomp,” “Straight No” and other of the venue’s shows, according to Paramount President and CEO Tim Rater.
In his statement Rater said the move was “a cautionary measure to help combat the spread of Covid-19 (coronavirus).” The statement said that ticket holders to “Success” would receive an account credit to use toward future performances at Paramount Theatre or RiverEdge Park. Ticket holders to postponed shows will be contacted with new dates. In addition, Classic Movie Monday screenings also will not be presented in March or April. For more information call (630) 896-6666.
Many people familiar with Airbnb these days can probably appreciate issues related to inviting visitors into your home or at least dealing with travelling public.
In this popular Agatha Christie mystery, five distinctly eccentric individuals have each booked their stay on the inaugural weekend opening of Monkswell Manor, a country guesthouse owned and operated by Mollie and Giles Ralston (Kate Fry, Allen Gilmore).
Did you have a favorite show seen this season, that’s season defined by the Equity Jeff Awards eligibility rules as Aug. 1 to July 31.
If it was a touring production presented by Broadway in Chicago it can make this publication, Chicago Theater and Arts,’ top ten list but it wouldn’t have been eligible for an Equity Jeff award.
So think again about shows you’ve seen at such Chicago area venues and theater companies as Court Theatre, Steppenwolf, Chicago Shakespeare, Lookingglass, Drury Lane, Paramount, et al. There are about 250 theater companies in the Chicago area, many of whom are non-equity
This season’s equity nominations were announced early this morning, Sept. 3 2019. For non-equity, nominations and award recipients see Jeff Awards Non-Equity. For the complete list of Jeff Equity Nominees in all categories visit Jeff Awards. (Play photos shown here are among this season’s equity nominations.)
But before looking at which theaters scored big with the Jeff Committee, know who or what about the awards.
About the Jeff Awards and eligibility
According to the Jeff website, the awards have been “honoring outstanding theatre artists annually since it was established in 1968.” It goes on to say, “With approximately 55 members representing a wide variety of backgrounds in theatre, the Jeff Awards is committed to celebrating the vitality of Chicago area theatre by recognizing excellence through its recommendations, awards, and honors.
Among the rules to be eligible are: “A theater organization that has a production determined by Actors’ Equity Association to be an equity production and wishes to have that production judged must notify the Equity Wing Chair by the 18th of the month before the month in which the opening performance of that production is to take place.”
In addition, “the theatre must show that it has committed to produce a minimum of 18 performances, excluding previews, over a period of at least 3 consecutive weeks. Additional requirements as to the minimum 18-performance rule are: at least one performance per week must take place on the weekend, one weekday matinee a week can be counted towards the minimum of 18 performances.
“Additional eligibility requirements: a. The Jeff Committee does not judge late-night performances (i.e., all curtains at or after 9:30 p.m.), puppet theatre, opera, performance art, children’s theatre, student or youth theatre, foreign language theatre, mime theatre, unscripted or improvised productions, or staged readings.”
“The Committee no longer judges Touring Productions under its prior (and now eliminated) separate category of Touring Production Awards. A specific production originating from a non-Chicago area CAT/LORT theatre (commonly referred to as a “Touring Production”) which is not being produced by a Chicago CAT/LORT Theatre is eligible for consideration if it is presented as part of that Theatre’s subscription.”
Among the nominations
Production – Play – Large
“Downstate” – Steppenwolf Theatre Company
“Indecent” – Victory Gardens Theater
“Photograph 51” – Court Theatre
“Radio Golf” – Court Theatre
“The Steadfast Tin Soldier” – Lookingglass Theatre Company
Production – Play – Midsize
“Frankenstein” – Remy Bumppo Theatre Company
“Noises Off” – Windy City Playhouse
“On Clover Road” – American Blues Theater
“The Recommendation” – Windy City Playhouse
“Something Clean” – Sideshow Theatre Company
and Rivendell Theatre Ensemble
Production – Musical – Large
“Disney’s Beauty and the Beast” – Drury Lane Productions
“Next to Normal” – Writers Theatre
“The Producers” – Paramount Theatre
“Six” – Chicago Shakespeare Theater
“The Wizard of Oz” – Paramount Theatre
Production – Musical – Midsize
“Caroline, or Change” – Firebrand Theatre
i/a/w TimeLine Theatre Company
“A Chorus Line” – Porchlight Music Theatre
“A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder” – Porchlight Music Theatre
“Gypsy” – Porchlight Music Theatre
Production – Revue
“Djembe! The Show” – Doug Manuel, Ashley DeSimone and TSG Theatricals
“Women of Soul” – Black Ensemble Theater
“You Can’t Fake the Funk: A Journey through Funk Music”
– Black Ensemble Theater
Ensemble – Play
“Familiar” – Steppenwolf Theatre Company
“For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When the Rainbow is Enuf”
– Court Theatre
“Indecent” – Victory Gardens Theater
“Noises Off” – Windy City Playhouse
“Small Mouth Sounds” – A Red Orchid Theatre
“Twilight Bowl” – Goodman Theatre
Ensemble – Musical or Revue
“A Chorus Line” – Porchlight Music Theatre
“Million Dollar Quartet” – Marriott Theatre
“Queen of the Mist” – Firebrand Theatre
“Six” – Chicago Shakespeare Theater
“You Can’t Fake the Funk: A Journey through Funk Music”
– Black Ensemble Theater
New Work – Play
David Auburn – “The Adventures of Augie March” – Court Theatre
David Catlin – “Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein” – Lookingglass Theatre Company
Jenny Connell Davis – “Scientific Method” – Rivendell Theatre Ensemble
Ike Holter – “Lottery Day” – Goodman Theatre
Manual Cinema – “Frankenstein” – Court Theatre
Bruce Norris – “Downstate” – Steppenwolf Theatre Company
Jen Silverman – “Witch” – Writers Theatre
Mary Zimmerman – “The Steadfast Tin Soldier” – Lookingglass Theatre Company
New Work – Musical
David Cale – “We’re Only Alive for A Short Amount of Time”
– Goodman Theatre i/a/w The Public Theater
Michael Mahler and Jason Brett – “Miracle” – William A. Marovitz and Arny Granat
Daniel Zaitchik – “Darling Grenadine” – Marriott Theatre
According to Jeff Award information, 192 nominations were made in 34 categories ranging from actors, directors and choreographers to scenic and costume design and more.
When taking all the categories into consideration Porchlight Music Theatre topped the nominations at 17, followed by Paramount Theatre with 16 and Court Theatre with 15.
The 51 st Annual Equity Jeff Awards ceremony honoring excellence in professional theater produced within the greater Chicago area will be Oct. 21, 2019 at Drury Lane Theatre, 100 Drury Lane, Oakbrook Terrace.
Sometimes theater companies perform in more than one space and some venues host more than one resident theater company. Looking at the venues west of I 94 you find both so some of these companies have been listed elsewhere. Also, be sure to check out what’s playing at the fine theaters south of the loop such as Court Theatre and The Chicago Children’s Theatre. Next stop will be suburban theaters, then season themes.
A multi theater venue at 1543 W. Division St. the building has “Invitation to a Beheading” by Rough House Theatre and Sweven Theatre, Aug. 26 to Sept. 15, 2019. ’ “Destinos,” an international theatre festival, features Feos Sept. 19 to Oct. 27. Rough House Theatre will be again be doing the “Walls of Harrow House” September to November. The House Theatre will present The Nutcracker” Nov. 7 to Dec. 29, 2019.
For tickets and other information call (773) 278-1500 and visit Chopin Theatre.
The Den Theatre
The Den, a multi-theater venue at 4802 N. Milwaukee Ave, has its own house shows and hosts other companies. Here are a few of the plays at The Den in the 2019-20 season.
Havenis currently doing the Chicago premiere of “Kiss” through Aug. 18, 2019. presents “Incorruptible” Aug. 1-Aug 11.
First Floort is doing the Chicago premiere of “Sugar in Our Wounds,” Oct. 19 to Nov. 23, 2019, then the Chicago premiere of “Plano,” Feb. 15 to Mar. 27, 2020. Spring is the world premiere of “The Juniors,” April 18 to May 30, 2020.
New Colony will do “ Peg” Nov.13, to Dec. 14, 2019 . Then “Under the Tree” runs April 01 to May 03, followed by “Other Rockpools” July 15 to Aug.15, 2020.
For tickets and other information call (773) 697-3830 and visit The Den
The Gift Theatre,
The theatre, at 4802 N. Milwaukee Ave., is currently doing “Wolf Play” through Aug.. 18,. “Kentucky” is coming Oct. 17 to Nov. 16, 2019. For tickets and other information call (773) 283-7071 and visit The Gift Theatre.
Trap Door Theatre
The theatre, at 1655 W.Cortland St., is doing “Love and Information” Sept. 12 to Oct. 19, 2019. The December 2019 and March 2020 shows TBA. “The Water Hen” comes in May (dates TBA.) For tickets and other information call (773) 384-0494 and visit Trap Door.
The theatre is at the west end of the University of Chicago’s Hyde Park campus at 5535 S. Ellis Ave.
The season starts with “King Hedlley II” Sept 12 to Oct. 13. and hen “Oedipus Rex” Novl 7 to Dec. 8 2019. It continues in 2020 with “The Mousetrap” Jan. 16 to Feb.16, “The Lady From the Sea” Mar. 12 to Apr.12 and “The Gospel at Colonus” May 7 to June 7.
For tickets and other information call (773) 753-4472 and visit Court Theatre.
Free Street Theater
Free Street Theater performs in Pulaski Park at 1419 W.Blackhawk but is doing “Still Here: Manifestos for Joy and Survival” at South Shore Cultural Center July 25, Humboldt Park July 27 and Cornell Square Aug. 1, 2019. It also does Storyfront at 4346 S. Ashland Ave.
This theatrical version of “The Adventures of Augie March,” at the Court Theatre perhaps serves to illustrate why the popular novel by Chicagoan Saul Bellow has never before been adapted to the stage.
The story line basically follows everyman hero Augie March (Patrick Mulvey) as he meanders aimlessly through life allowing the people he meets to shape his journey. In this way Bellow suggests the arbitrariness of life and is perhaps a cautionary tale of the dangers of undefined goals.
The play opens in the Atlantic Ocean with Augie and his maniacal companion (John Judd) floating in a lifeboat after the sinking of their merchant ship.
During a flashback, Augie’s odyssey begins in the 1930s depression era crowded apartment he shares with his mother (Chaon Cross), two brothers and an overbearing Russian Jewish grandmother (Marilyn Dodds Frank).
Along the way Augie meets an odd assortment of characters which is one of the hallmarks of Bellow’s writing as he reveled in the peculiarities and idiosyncrasies of humanity.
“Photograph 51” written by Anna Ziegler and Directed by Vanessa Stalling at the Court Theatre is a snapshot of the life of British chemist Rosalind Franklin (Chaon Cross).
Until recently she had gone virtually un-credited for her contribution to the discovery that revealed the structure of DNA to be a double helix. But the discovery earned her research colleague Maurice Wilkins (Nathan Hosner) and two rival collaborators James Watson (Alex Goodrich) and Francis Crick (Nicholas Harazin) the Nobel Prize.
Franklin was hired by King’s College London for her cutting edge expertise in the field of X-ray crystallography and assured that she would be in charge of her own research. Instead, she was assigned to Wilkins’ DNA project thus leaving her status of independence unresolved at best. Continue reading “‘Photograph 51’ is a portrait of life”
It is supposed that our most ancient cave dwelling predecessors told supernatural cautionary tales of adventure that included encounters with fantastic creatures.
Their flickering fires casting out-sized, ominous, and at times, grotesque shadows on the wall amplified the sense of dread and danger. Add the slow beating of a drum mimicking the ever increasing beating of hearts, mixing with the mysterious sounds of nature lurking in the darkness and you begin to see the primeval recipe that Manual Cinema has tapped into in the telling of their version of Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein.”
Manual Cinema is a singular theatrical experience that has elements of street theater and silent film. The company mixes live action, silhouettes, puppets, shadow puppetry, masks, video, slide projection and all manner of theatrical techniques, ancient and modern to create a captivating monochromatic video mash-up, reminiscent of a nickelodeon feature, assembled and projected on stage before your eyes.
Some Chicago hotels are reputedly haunted such as the Congress Plaza on Michigan Avenue. But seeing ghostly figures there is not guaranteed. Thus, to be sure to come across spooky guest rooms, visit the Godfrey on West Huron, Oct. 27, 2018 when it holds its annual Haunted Hotel. The fourth floor rooftop lounge will be serving bewitched potions. Daring guests are welcome to explore the 20 haunted rooms on the fifth floor. The event goes from 9 p.m. to 3 a.m. Tickets start at $45 per person. For ticket and other information visit Godfrey events. The Godfrey Hotel Chicago is at 127 W. Huron St.
Or party with the real Frankenstein
Before the Court Theatre holds Manual Cinema’s world premiere of its version of “Frankenstein” on Nov. 1, it is opening the show’s final dress rehearsal to a limited number of ticket holders who are ready to party Oct. 31, 2018. Attendees should come dressed ghoulishly creepy or creatively spooky to compete in a costume contest and hungry enough to wolf down strange hors (or is it horror) d’oeuvres and cocktails. Tickets are $75 and cover the pre-show party at 6:30 p.m., performance and then a post-show artists’ mingle. Purchases of two or more tickets drop the price by $5. The Court Theatre is at 5535 S. Ellis Ave. at the west end of the University of Chicago Hyde Park campus. For tickets or other information visit the box office, call (773) 753-4472, or visit Court Theatre.