Wednesday, April 25, 2018

OPENING: Circus Rendition of The Odyssey by Homer Via Actors Gymnasium's Spring Youth Circus

Chi IL Live Shows On Our Radar:

We're pleased to announce Actors Gymnasium's Spring Youth Circus production of 
The Odyssey by Homer! 

Adapted by Mary Zimmerman
Adapted and directed for the circus by Kerry Catlin
Circus Choreography by Sylvia Hernandez – DiStasi

Performances start May 12! 

ChiIL Mama's Chi, IL Picks List: Family Friendly Circus Fun

For the 4th season now, my teen son and daughter have both been cast in Actors Gymnasium's amazing spring and fall circus shows. It's been a stellar opportunity for them to work with some of Chicago's top theatre professionals, hone their circus arts skills and make some lasting friendships. These family friendly productions are high quality, high flying aerial fun and well worth seeing. Don't miss these terrifically talented teens. The run is 6 shows only and the theatre space is intimate, so I strongly suggest getting tickets in advance. Highly recommended. I'll be out to catch the show on opening weekend, so check back soon for my full review.

This circus adaptation of Homer’s myth begins with a modern young woman who is struggling to understand Robert Fitzgerald’s translation of The Odyssey. A classical muse appears, and the young woman becomes the goddess Athena–a tireless advocate for Odysseus in his struggle to get home. Adapted for the circus from Mary Zimmerman’s irreverent and witty twist on this epic tale, Kerry Catlin brings to life the story of Odysseus’s ten-year journey, depicting his encounters with characters such as Circe, Poseidon, Calypso, the Sirens, and others with astonishing acts of circus.

My son, Dugan's playing Alcinous. Yes, I'm the mother of an ancient Greek king! Come on out and catch it if you can. 

The Actors Gymnasium Youth Circus is a performance-based training program for students 5th grade through 12th grade, which takes place in the fall and spring and culminates in a fully-produced, original show. This intensive experience pairs professional artists and youth performers to collaboratively create an original new show and includes high-quality training in drama, dance, aerial and circus arts. The Youth Circus is one of our most popular ticketed events each year.

OPENING: WORLD PREMIERE MUSICAL, LAST STOP ON MARKET STREET Via Chicago Children's Theatre April 24-May 27, 2018

Chi IL Live Shows On Our Radar:


ChiIL Mama Chi, IL Picks List: 
I'll be out for the press opening this Saturday, so check back soon for my full review. Chicago Children's Theatre has been a favorite of ours since their inaugural production in 2005, when my teens were tots!

Chicago Children’s Theatre’s 2017-18 season finale has arrived, and it’s the hip-hop, heart-thumpin’, toe-tappin’ joy ride Last Stop on Market Street, a world premiere musical based on the 2016 Newbery-winning, Caldecott-honored children’s book by Matt de la Peña.

Starring E. Faye Butler as Nana,
with young actors Alejandro Medina (left)
and Kei Rawlins (right) rotating in the role of CJ

Nationally acclaimed playwright Cheryl L. West (Akeelah and the Bee) has adapted for the stage Peña’s multiple award-winning book about 7-year-old CJ and his wise Nana who teaches him to find beauty on a Sunday afternoon bus ride through the city. This is a co-commission and rolling world premiere with Children’s Theatre Company of Minneapolis that is already attracting national attention, including a feature in American Theatre Magazine.

Motown legend Lamont Dozier and his son Paris Ray Dozier have created a jammin' original score. Goodman Theatre's Henry Godinez directs the Chicago world premiere and the play’s subsequent co-commissioned debut at Children’s Theatre of Minneapolis.

Don't miss Chicago theater legend E. Faye Butler's CCT debut as Nana, with Alejandro Medina, an 11-year old actor from Oak Park, and Kei Rawlins, 10-years old from River North, rotating in the role of CJ. The cast also features Melanie Brezill, Jesse Bhamrah, Brian Keys, Kirra Silver and Breon Arzell.

 E. Faye Butler plays Nana, and Alejandro Medina alternating with Kei Rawlins as CJ.

Countless kids, parents and teachers know and love Peña’s warm-hearted story about 7-year-old CJ and his wise Nana who teaches him to find beauty on a Sunday afternoon bus ride through the city.

 E. Faye Butler as Nana and Kei Rawlins alternating with Alejandro Medina as CJ.

But stop! In the name of love! Because Motown legend Lamont Dozier and his son Paris Ray Dozier, the duo behind the music in Chicago Children’s Theatre 2014 smash hit Mr. Chickee’s Funny Money, are returning to create their second original score for CCT with Last Stop on Market Street.

Last Stop on Market Street is adapted by Cheryl L. West, features an original score by Motown legend Lamont Dozier (pictured) with his son Paris Ray Dozier, and is directed by Henry Godinez with music director is Andra Velis Simon.

Henry Godinez, resident artistic associate at Goodman Theatre, has been tapped to direct the Chicago world premiere, and the play’s subsequent debut at Children’s Theatre of Minneapolis. Godinez is a respected veteran director and actor who has worked at all of Chicago’s major stages, including Chicago Children’s Theatre where he staged the company’s very first production in 2006, A Year with Frog and Toad.

Jump on this bus Chicago theater lovers, because Last Stop on Market Street stars musical theater legend E. Faye Butler in her Chicago Children’s Theatre debut as Nana. Alejandro Medina, an 11-year old actor from Oak Park, and Kei Rawlins, 10-years old from Chicago’s River North neighborhood, will rotate in the role of CJ.

The Last Stop cast also features Melanie Brezill, Jesse Bhamrah, Brian Keys, Kirra Silver and Breon Arzell. The production team includes Andra Velis Simon (music director), Stephanie Paul (choreographer), John Musial (scenic design), Izumi Inaba (costume design), Alex Ridgers (lighting design), Ray Nardelli (sound design), Eleanor Kahn (properties design) and Ari Clouse (stage manager).

Last Stop on Market Street runs April 24-May 27 at Chicago Children’s Theatre, The Station, 100 S. Racine Avenue in Chicago’s West Loop. Show times are Saturday at 10:30 a.m., 12:30 p.m. and 3 p.m., and Sunday at 10:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m.

School matinees are Tuesday and Thursday at 10 a.m., and Wednesday and Friday at 10 a.m. and Noon.

Last Stop on Market Street is recommended for ages 6 and up. Single tickets are $35 including fees. For subscriptions, single tickets and information on group rates, visit or call Chicago Children’s Theatre Guest Services, (312) 374-8835.

All Aboard! Don’t miss Chicago Children’s Theatre’s bus to Last Stop on Market Street

Young CJ is staying with his grandmother - stripped of his smart phone or tablet “because Nana says so” - in a world considerably different from the one he’s used to. Dragged on an urban bus ride that’s loud, gritty and weird, guided by his veritable force of nature, Nana, CJ travels a little closer to his roots and learns that things are not always what they have been, and people are not always who they may seem.

Leading Chicago Children’s Theatre’s cast in this as Nana is the indefatigable E. Faye Butler, a Chicago musical theater legend who has performed around the globe to international acclaim. Her many awards include six Joseph Jefferson Awards, two Helen Hayes Awards, a Barrymore Award and four Black Theatre Alliance Awards.

Alejandro Medina (CJ) arrives at CCT off a successful run as Tall Boy in Porchlight Music Theater’s Billy Elliott. Kei Rawlins (rotating as CJ) recently made his professional debut in the Goodman’s A Christmas Carol, can be seen in TV ads for Sprint and T. Rowe Price, and was featured earlier this year in Chicago Tribune Sunday Magazine.

The cast for Last Stop on Market Street features (top, from left) E. Faye Butler, Alejandro Medina,
Kei Rawlins, Breon Arzell, (bottom) Jesse Bhamrah, Melanie Brezill, Brian Keys and Kirra Silver.

The ensemble cast has worked at many of Chicago’s top stages. Breon Arzell (Mr. Dennis) performed in Objects in the Mirror (Goodman), An Octaroon (Definition Theatre), The Wiz (Kokandy Productions), The Hairy Ape (Oracle Productions) and The Scottsboro Boys (Raven Theatre). Jesse Bhamrah (Blind Man/Mr. Chow), new to Chicago, just made his local debut in Goodman’s An Enemy of the People. Melanie Brezill (Posey/Butterfly) starred in Chicago Children’s Theatre’s My Wonderful Birthday Suit! this season, performed on Broadway in The Book of Mormon and in the national tour of Mamma Mia!. Brian Keys (Tat Man), an actor, singer and musician born and raised on the south side, recently performed a solo show in Collaboraction’s PEACEBOOK Fest, in the Jeff Recommended Ruined with Eclipse Theater and Seven Guitars at Court. Kirra Silver (Jojo) co-starred earlier this season in The Snowy Day at Emerald City Theatre Company and Time Stands Still at Raven Theatre. 

Matt de la Peña (author) is the New York Times bestselling author of six young adult novels (including Mexican WhiteBoy, We Were Here and The Living) and four picture books. Last Stop on Market Street, illustrated by Christian Robinson, was released in 2015, and won the 2016 Newbery Medal, Caldecott Honor Book and Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor Book awards. His newest picture book, Love with illustrator Loren Long, released this spring, is inspired by the birth of his daughter. In 2016 he was awarded the NCTE Intellectual Freedom Award. He received his MFA in creative writing from San Diego State University and his BA from the University of the Pacific where he attended school on a full basketball scholarship. Peña currently lives with his family in Brooklyn, NY. He teaches creative writing and visits high schools and colleges throughout the country.

Cheryl L. West (adaptor) is the librettist for Play On! (which ran on Broadway and at Seattle Rep) and the author of several plays including Birdie Blue, Rejoice!, Holiday Heart, Puddin ‘n’ Pete, Jar the Floor and Before It Hits Home. The latter earned West several awards including the 1992 Helen Hayes/Charles McArthur Award for outstanding new play and the Susan Smith Blackburn prize, an international award given to a woman who has written a work of outstanding quality for the English-speaking theater. Her plays for young audiences include Akeelah & the Bee, adapted from the popular 2006 film, along with Mwindo, Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy, Addy: American Girl Story and Pullman Porter Blues. She is also a recipient of the National Endowment Playwriting Award and the Beverly Hills/Hollywood NAACP Best Playwright Award. Her plays have been produced in England, New York and in numerous regional theatres including the Goodman, Northlight, Arena Stage, Old Globe, Seattle Rep, Williamstown Theatre Festival, Bay Street Theatre Festival, Syracuse Stage, Cleveland Play House, South Coast Rep, Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park, Manhattan Theater Club, and Off-Broadway’s Second Stage. West adapted Holiday Heart for Showtime/MGM and Robert De Niro’s Tribeca Productions, which earned her a GLADD nomination and a Golden Globe nomination for Alfre Woodard. She has worked in TV and film projects at Paramount, MTV Films, Showtime, TNT, HBO and CBS. She was the Webby nominated writer for the web series, Diary of a Single Mom in collaboration with Robert Townsend’s V Studios.

Lamont Dozier (music writer/lyricist), was a member of Holland-Dozier-Holland in the 1960s and is credited for being one of the primary architects of the Motown Sound, responsible for writing, co-writing and producing more than 54 #1 hits for The Supremes, Four Tops, Marvin Gaye, Smokey Robinson, Freda Payne and a host of others. His hits include “Stop in the Name of Love,” “How Sweet It Is,” “Reach Out I'll Be There,” “Where Did Our Love Go” and more. Dozier has been inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and the Songwriters Hall of Fame, from which he received the 2009 Johnny Mercer Award, the highest praise a songwriter can achieve. He has worked with such contemporary acts as Alison Moyet, Aretha Franklin, Simply Red, Phil Collins, Boy George, Eric Clapton, Kanye West, Joss Stone, Solange Knowles, Dave Stewart, Sir Cliff Richard, Phil Collins and George Benson. His music catalogue is one of the most sampled to date by everyone from rappers Notorious B.I.G., Tupac Shakur, Lil Wayne, Dr. Dre, The Alchemist, Common, Lupe Fiasco and Three 6 Mafia, to soul icons Mary J. Blige, Nas and Usher and even alternative rockers Linkin Park.

Paris Ray Dozier (co-music writer/lyricist) is a native of Los Angeles. Dozier's professional career in music began when he was 15, writing songs for artists on Hollywood Records, Disney, where he would be signed two years after as a singer/songwriter and producer. While at Hollywood Records, Dozier was mentored by and produced an album with Rob Cavallo, most notably regarded as the producer who discovered Green Day and now the CEO of Warner Bros. Records. Dozier later became musical theme writer for B-InTune Television on UPN 13. He continues to write and produce for various artists in just about every genre of music.

Henry Godinez (director) is the Resident Artistic Associate at Goodman Theatre where his directing credits include The Sins of Sor Juana and Mariela in the Desert by Karen Zacarías; José Rivera’s Boleros for the Disenchanted (and world premiere at Yale Repertory Theatre); Regina Taylor’s Millennium Mambo; Luis Alfaro's Electricidad and Straight as a Line; The Cook by Eduardo Machado; Zoot Suit by Luis Valdez; the Goodman/Teatro Vista co-production of José Rivera’s Cloud Tectonics and the 1996–2001 productions of A Christmas Carol. He also served as the director of the Goodman’s Latino Theatre Festival. His other Chicago directing credits include Water by the Spoonful (Court Theatre), A Civil War Christmas (Northlight Theatre), A Work of Art at Chicago Dramatists, A Year with Frog and Toad and Esperanza Rising (Chicago Children’s Theatre), Two Sisters and a Piano (Apple Tree Theatre/Teatro Vista co-production) and Anna in the Tropics (Victory Gardens). He is co-founder and former artistic director of Teatro Vista. As an actor, he was most recently seen in Quixote: On the Conquest of Self at Writers Theatre. He is the recipient of the 1999 Theatre Communications Group Alan Schneider Director Award, the Distinguished Service Award from the Lawyers for the Creative Arts and was honored as the 2008 Latino Professional of the Year by the Chicago Latino Network. Born in Havana, Cuba, Godinez is a professor at Northwestern University and serves on the Board of Directors of the Illinois Arts Council and Albany Park Theater Project.

Andra Velis-Simon is a music director, adapter/arranger, vocal coach and pianist based in Chicago. Her credits at Chicago Children’s Theatre include The Hundred Dresses, A Year with Frog and Toad and Goodnight Moon. Regionally, her work has been seen at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, A.R.T. in Cambridge, Brooklyn Academy of Music, Actors Theatre of Louisville, Berkeley Rep, Olney Theatre Center in Maryland and Three Oaks in Michigan. In Chicago: The Goodman (The Iceman Cometh and Camino Real); Porchlight (On a Clear Day You Can See Forever); Theater Wit (Mr. Burns: a post-electric play and 10 out of 12); The Hypocrites (Cinderella at the Theater of Potatoes, American Idiot, Pirates of Penzance, The Mikado, and HMS Pinafore); and many others. Velis-Simon is the Resident Music Director for Firebrand Theatre. 

Last Stop on Market Street received a developmental reading in summer 2017 at the American Music Theatre Project at Northwestern University. Following its debut at Chicago Children’s Theatre, Last Stop at Market Street will be remounted with a new cast as a rolling world premiere September 15-October 21 at Children’s Theatre Company in Minneapolis, again under the direction of Henry Godinez.

Access Weekend for Last Stop on Market Street is May 12 and 13:

CCT continues to grow its commitment to all Chicago children at The Station by expanding services for patrons with disabilities. Access Weekend for Last Stop on Market Street is May 12 and 13, 2018. Services include:

Pre-show Touch Tour of the set prior to the show for guests who are blind or have low vision:
Saturday, May 12 at 9:30 a.m.

Live open captioning for guests who are deaf or hard of hearing:
Saturday, May 12 at 10:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m.

Sensory friendly performance for children on the autism spectrum or with Down Syndrome: 
Sunday, May 13 at 10:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m.
Note: Modifications are made to lighting, sound and music to avoid sensory overload, with a nearby Quiet Room.

For more information about Access services, visit or contact CCT’s Access and Inclusion department at

About Chicago Children’s Theatre

Chicago Children’s Theatre has transformed the former 12th District Police Station, located in the heart of Chicago’s West Loop neighborhood at 100 S. Racine Avenue, into its first permanent home. The new Chicago Children’s Theatre, The Station, celebrated its grand opening in January 2017, and now serves as a beautiful, mixed-use performing arts, education and community engagement facility that welcomes all Chicago families.

In addition to live performances in its new Pritzker Family Studio, Chicago Children’s Theatre, The Station, is a centrally located community hub with the most diverse roster of year-round performing arts classes and camps for children 0 to 14 anywhere in Chicago. 

Registration is open at for the next eight-week spring session, April 9-June 2, 2018. High demand classes include Bubble James, HipHop4Tots, Intro to Piven Theatre Workshop, Circus and Aerial Arts with Actors Gymnasium, Wiggleworms West Loop, Improv with The Second City and Intro to Theatre.

Registration is also open for a unique series of 2018 Summer Camps at Chicago Children’s Theatre, The Station, ranging from week-long Adventure Camps born from legends, myths, folktales and fairytales. Look for half-day Play Time camps for little ones 3-1/2 to 5, special two-day workshops like Acting for the Camera and Acting with Green Screen, a GRRL Power camp in August for girls only that brings the Viola Project’s signature girl-powered Shakespeare program to Chicago Children's Theatre and Camp Red Kite, a three-week summer arts camp tailored specifically to the unique interests and needs of young people on the autism spectrum. 

Visit, email, or call (312) 374-8835 to register your child for one camp or many.

Since its launch in 2005, Chicago Children’s Theatre has cemented its reputation as the city’s largest professional theater company devoted exclusively to children and young families. The company evolved out of Chicago’s need for high-quality, professional children’s programming to match the quality and significance of powerhouses such as Steppenwolf Theatre Company, Goodman Theatre and Lookingglass Theatre. CCT has always believed children should be treated as the sophisticated audiences that they are, showcasing high profile and award-winning talent, inventive production values and compelling stories that challenge, educate and entertain. CCT also honors a strong commitment to low-income families and children with special needs. In partnership with Chicago Public Schools, the company offers free tickets to more than 5,000 Chicago-area low-income students each season.

CCT has built its national reputation due to its focus on new work, producing 16 world premieres in the last 11 years including The Selfish Giant, The Hundred Dresses, Jackie and Me, Dot and Ziggy, The Houdini Box, The Elephant and The Whale (in association with Redmoon), Mr. Chickee’s Funny Money, Leo Lionni’s Frederick, Wonderland, Alice’s Rock & Roll Adventure, A Snowy Day with Beatrix Potter, Jabari Dreams of Freedom, Moonshot: A Race to Space, The Year I Didn’t Go To School: A Homemade Circus, My Wonderful Birthday Suit! and An Epic Tale of Scale. These enjoyed successful inaugural runs in Chicago, many followed by productions at theaters across the U.S.

In 2017, Chicago Children’s Theatre became the first theater for young audiences in the nation to win a National Theatre Award from the American Theatre Wing, creators of the Tony Awards.

Led by Co-Founders, Artistic Director Jacqueline Russell and Board Chair Todd Leland, Board President Eric Neveux and Community Programs Artistic Director Frank Maugeri, Chicago Children’s Theatre is supported by a dynamic Board of Directors comprised of dedicated individuals from the fields of entertainment, philanthropy and business. 

Chicago Children's Theatre is sponsored in part by Goldman Sachs Gives and ComEd, with specific production support from The Chicago Community Trust.

For more information, visit

OPENING: We Will Rock You at Taft High School 4/25-4/28/18

Chi, IL LIVE Shows On Our Radar:
Taft Performing Arts Presents We Will Rock You
April 25th-28th

Here at ChiIL Mama, we rarely cover high school musicals, since there are 176 high schools in the city of Chi, IL! This one, however, has my one and only daughter in it. One of her close friends has the lead. And well... who doesn't love Queen songs?! Catch it if you can. Tickets are a reasonable $10 for adults and $5 for students.

ChiIL Mama's Chi, IL Picks List: Family Friendly Theatre Fun

Taft Performing Arts presents We Will Rock You - The performing arts departments present the Spring Musical We Will Rock You--featuring the music of Queen--April 25-28 in the Taft Auditorium. Tickets are available at and at the door. Don't miss it! 

Featuring more than 20 hit Queen songs, WE WILL ROCK YOU School Edition follows two revolutionaries as they try to save Rock in a post apocalyptic world. Featuring the songs “Another One Bites the Dust,” “Bohemian Rhapsody,” “Killer Queen,” “We Will Rock You,” “Somebody To Love,” “We Are The Champions,” “Under Pressure” and many more.

Forty students are in the cast, and countless others are helping with music, lights, sound, and set construction. Tickets are $10 for adults, $5 for students and are available at the door and online at

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Sesame Street: F is for Friends Pop-Up Tour Coming To Northbrook Court Saturday April 28th 11am-4pm

ChiIL Mama's Chi, IL Picks List: 
F is Also For FREE Family Friendly Fun

Bring your family to meet Elmo and Abby Cadabby at the Sesame Street: F is for Friends Pop-Up Tour! 

WHEN: Saturday, April  28, 2018
The event will be open to the public from 11am-4pm with three live shows repeating throughout the day.

WHERE: Northbrook Court (Lord and Taylor Court)
1515 Lake Cook Rd, Northbrook, IL 60062

About the Sesame Street: F is for Friends Pop-Up Tour
HBO and Sesame Workshop present “Sesame Street: F is for Friends,” a free mall tour inspired by the 48th season of Sesame Street. This immersive, limited-engagement tour includes a 15-minute show starring costumed Elmo and Abby Cadabby characters as well as stories and songs about celebrating similarities and differences between friends. Pre-schoolers and their families will learn that while we may be different from one another, we’re alike in so many ways, too! It doesn’t matter if you’re a monster, a fairy or a kid, we can all be friends!

These free shows will repeat throughout the day. Families will also enjoy character meet-and-greets, digital activity stations, photo opportunities that include Cookie Monster’s new food truck, and more.

Play, dance and sing along with Sesame Street……that’s what friends are for!

Follow along on social media and tag your fun event photos with the hashtag #SesameFriends

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Illinois Bicentennial Celebration to Include ISM Launch of “Story of Illinois” Website

The Illinois State Museum (ISM) is highlighting artifacts that tell the story of Illinois’ rich heritage as part of the state’s Bicentennial celebration.

Here at ChiIL Mama, I'm particularly interested in the Illinois Bicentennial celebration since both of my children and my husband were born here in Chicago, as was my father, and his parents. His grandfather came to Chicago from Sweden and we've been here now for 5 generations.

Illinois Association of Museums has partnered with ISM to launch the “Story of Illinois” website, featuring objects from the ISM Illinois Legacy Collection, as well as collections from other museums across the state that help bring the state’s heritage to life.

“The collections from museums in Illinois help tell the unique story of Illinois, from statehood 200 years ago and beyond,” said Illinois State Museum Interim Director Robert Sill. “The new ‘Story of Illinois’ website will allow anyone to go online and sample some of the best of Illinois history, art, culture, and science.”

The new website, built by the ISM, previews some objects that will be on display in the “Bicentennial and Beyond:  The Illinois Legacy Collection” exhibition, which will open at the Illinois State Museum in Springfield on June 30. 

“You will find some rare, quirky, and beautiful objects on the website, such as the Lone Ranger’s saddle used by Brace Beemer from the Wabash County Museum, a ceremonial war club used by the Potawatomi Indians from the Chicago History Museum, a painting by Illinois native and American Impressionist Ivan Summers from the Cedarhurst Center for the Arts, and a photoelectric relay used at the Chicago Century of Progress Exposition of 1933-34,” said Illinois Association of Museums President Karen Everingham. “Each item has its own story to tell.”

While Illinois became a state 200 years ago, the collections held by Illinois museums help tell a story of Illinois dating back approximately 500 million years.  From animals, fish, insects and plants to minerals, jewels, paintings, manuscripts, stone tools and fossils – the “Story of Illinois” website will feature some of the best artifacts and treasures from the collections of the participating museums.

Objects will be added to the website regularly during the celebration of the Illinois Bicentennial this year and promoted through the ISM Facebook page.

Find the website at this link. 

Click HERE for more information on the Illinois Association of Museums.

Click HERE for more information on the collections, programs and exhibitions of the Illinois State Museum. 

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Registration Open For COMEDY PREP SCHOOL One Day Workshop at STAGE 773 for Ages 12-17

STAGE 773 

Registration is now open for students ages 12-17 to participate in the one-day comedy extravaganza that unites Chicago’s young, up-and-coming comedians May 12

Stage 773 producers of The Chicago Sketch Comedy Festival and Chicago Women’s Funny Festival are excited to announce the return of Comedy Prep School (CPS), a one-day festival for young comedians on Saturday, May 12 from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Comedy Prep School features workshops taught by professional performers and teachers from Chicago’s world class comedy institutions, as well as opportunities to learn, play, and perform with 100+ fellow young comedians. In addition to this, attendees will be treated to an exclusive performance by hilarious, high caliber comedy group, Ms. Mistoffelees. Individual students and groups ages 12-17 are invited to register.

“As Chicago’s premiere off-loop comedy hub, we are so excited to bring together the youth in our industry through the return of Comedy Prep School, “ says Jill Valentine, Executive Director of Stage 773. “This festival provides us not only with the opportunity to teach young, aspiring comedians about comedy and its styles, but also serves as a way for us to embrace comedy with this next generation of artists.”

Comedy Prep School features four, age-appropriate workshops that are taught by highly skilled professionals in the comedy industry. These workshops include Comedic Song Writing, Advanced Improv: Go For It!, Physical Comedy, and Writing for Diverse Voices. Comedic Songwriting, taught by Mollie Rehner, allows students to learn how to find “the funny” when writing a song through song structure, point-of-view and rhyme. In Advanced Improv: Go For It!, Micah Philbrook gets students out of their head and into the scene by teaching confident choices, reckless agreement, and unapologetic support. From miming to slapstick, Sarah Barnhardt provides young comedians with the tools to release their inner comedian in Physical Comedy. Nicole Hastings teaches how to find your voice and respect other’s experiences in comedy with Writing for Diverse Voices.

After a day of workshops, students are invited to see the skills in action with a performance from professional group, Ms. Mistoffelees. From there, they will be able to take the stage themselves and play and perform for each other. Lunch and snacks will be provided throughout the day.

Registration for Comedy Prep School is $100 for students ages 12-17. Chaperones are requested for large groups. The cost includes all workshops and performances, lunch, and snacks. Additional information is available online at, by phone 773.327.5252, and in person at the Stage 773 box office, located at 1225 W. Belmont. To sign up, please contact Tim Soszko at

Mollie Rehner an actor, comedic song writer, rapper, and producer in Chicago. She is a member of the infamous Chicago musical comedy group, The Cupid Players, and co-stars in Rehner & Nixon and Trifecta. She was featured in The New York Television Festival with her online comedy duo Hard Candy and performed in Gilda’s LaughFest. A producer for The Chicago Sketch Comedy Festival and Chicago Women’s Funny Festival, Rehner is a former Late Night intern for Conan O’Brien and Jimmy Fallon and performs all over Chicago and the United States.

Micah Philbrook an improvisor, actor, writer, director, and teacher based in Chicago. He is half of the tim&micah project, an avant garde sketch comedy troupe; a founding member of pH Productions, an award winning theater ensemble known for original comedic works; the executive producer of That Sunday Show, a modern comedic variety show; and he’s a regular performer with Those Who Can’t, an improv showcase featuring teachers of improvisational theater. Micah has toured the Atlantic ocean and the Caribbean on cruise ships, performing with The Second City, and toured North America and Europe, performing and teaching improv and sketch comedy, with the tim&micah project and pH productions. Since 2008, Micah has been a faculty member of the Second City Training Center in Chicago where he has taught well over 160 classes in the comedic arts.

Nicole Hastings is a teacher and performer with the Second City, teaching a range of classes in the Beginning Improv, Music and Conservatory programs. She has performed Off-Broadway in Blank! The Musical and at the Edinburgh Fringe festival in Thrones! The Musical. She can be seen in The Deltones at iO, as well as in Baby Wants Candy and The Improvised Sondheim Project. At Second City, she has been an ensemble member in The Second City Touring Company, Fast, Loud & Funny, Life Hacks and American Mixtape. Nicole is a native of Northern California and a graduate of Columbia University in New York.

Sarah Barnhardt is a producer and performer in Chicago.  Physical comedy is her jam!  Therefore, she helped create The Comedy Dance Collective, a sketch comedy group that uses physical comedy and dance to delight their audiences.  Recent credits include The Comedy Dance Collective (performer and producer) and THIS IS THE WORST (solo show), both of which have been seen at various venues and festivals around Chicago and beyond.  She is also the creator and producer of Deep Dish Pizzazz: Chicago-Style Comedy, a show that features different Chicago comedic acts and serves up laughs to audiences in her hometown of Winston-Salem, NC.  Sarah is a graduate of the Second City Training Center’s Writing Program, Conservatory, and Music Program and has studied at The Annoyance and The Playground. 

About Stage 773
Stage 773 is a vibrant anchor of the Belmont Theatre District and home to Chicago’s finest off-Loop talent. As a performance and tenant venue, our four stages provide entertainment for everyone: comedy, theatre, dance, musicals and more. We are a not-for-profit, connecting and catalyzing the theater community, while showcasing established artists and incubating up-and-coming talent.

ADULT NIGHT OUT: Chicago Premiere of BIRDS OF A FEATHER Via Greenhouse Theater Center

ChiIL Live Shows On Our Radar:

Chicago Premiere!
Greenhouse Theater Center Presents
By Marc Acito
Directed by Artistic Director Jacob Harvey
April 27 – June 10, 2018

ChiIL Mama will be ChiILin' at Greenhouse Theater Center for the press opening of BIRDS OF A FEATHER on April 30th. We embrace all types of families here, and love banned books. We also can't wait to check out Marc Acito’s touching and humorous play BIRDS OF A FEATHER, directed by Artistic Director Jacob Harvey. Based on one of America’s most banned books, Acito’s hit comedy brings to life the story of the Central Park Zoo’s gay penguins to tell a truly hilarious human story. Check back soon for my full review. 

The Greenhouse Theater Center is pleased to conclude its 2017-18 season with the Chicago premiere of BIRDS OF A FEATHER which will play April 27 – June 10, 2018 at Greenhouse Theater Center (Upstairs Main Stage), 2257 N. Lincoln Ave. in Chicago. Tickets are currently available at, in person at the box office or by calling (773) 404-7336. 

BIRDS OF A FEATHER features Abu Ansari, Aaron Kirby, Marika Mashburn and Paul Michael Thomson.

It takes two to Tango. Roy and Silo are your typical gay American dads with one noticeable exception: they’re penguins! No strangers to the spotlight, these two Central Park Zoo chinstrap penguins have partnered and adopted an egg, but will they be able to raise little Tango together? BIRDS OF A FEATHER is a heartwarming and surprising tale, based on the true story that became one of the most banned books in the U.S.

“Birds of a Feather is a play that at its core explores the most complex, contrary, and difficult animals to predict: human beings,” comment director Jacob Harvey. “Actio does something brilliant in this piece as he employs fun and feathers to allow us insight into our own bird-brained existence.” 

The production team for BIRDS OF A FEATHER includes: Joe Schermoly (scenic design), Christina Leinicke (costume design), Will Coeur (lighting and video design), Jeffrey Levin (sound design), Nick Thornton (movement director, dramaturg), Jena Sugay (asst. director), Mara Santos (asst. dramaturg), Merle Palmer (stage manager) and Rebecca Rogers (asst. stage manager).

Educational Partnership with North Central College
BIRDS OF A FEATHER will be presented through an educational partnership with North Central College, allowing students to shadow professional actors as the production’s understudy cast. Students will be immersed in every facet of the production, serving not only as understudies but as assistant designers and assisting members of the production team, in a program that serves as an extension of classroom work and a springboard into the Chicago theatre community. The student understudy cast will have two guaranteed performances at the Greenhouse, one for a high school audience and one for the public. A NCC student will also shadow the stage manager.

Location Greenhouse Theater Center (Upstairs Main Stage), 2257 N. Lincoln Ave, Chicago
Dates: Previews: Friday, April 27 at 7:30 pm, Saturday, April 28 at 7:30 pm and Sunday, April 29 at 7:30 pm
Press Performance: Monday, April 30, 2018 at 7:30 pm
Regular run: Wednesday, May 2 – Sunday, June 10, 2018
Curtain times: Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 pm; Sundays at 2:30 pm. Please note: there will be an added performance on Wednesday, May 2 at 7:30 pm; there will not be performances on Saturday, May 5 at 7:30 pm or Sunday, May 6 at 7:30 pm.

Tickets: Preview: $20. Regular run: $35 - $45. Students and industry: $15. Tickets are currently available at, in person at the box office or by calling (773) 404-7336. Season Flex Passes are also available.

About The Artists
Marc Acito (Playwright) wrote the book of the Broadway musical Allegiance, which New York Newsday recognized for its “well-structured book” and “fully developed characters.” Acito’s comedy Birds of a Feather won Washington D.C.’s Helen Hayes Award for Best New Play. He won the Ken Kesey award for his novel How I Paid for College, which he adapted as a one-man musical starring Alex Brightman. Other projects include A Room with a View (Old Globe and 5th Avenue Theaters), Chasing Rainbows, about the adolescence of Judy Garland (Goodspeed Musicals) and It’s a Secret, a musical in Mandarin for Broadway Asia in China. This June, he’ll direct his rock musical comedy Bastard Jones at the cell theatre in New York. A former commentator on NPR’s All Things Considered, Acito now writes regularly for Playbill and teaches Musical Theater History and Story Structure at NYU. He’s a proud member of the Dramatists Guild, MENSA and Weight Watchers.

Jacob Harvey (Director) is the Artistic Director of Chicago's Greenhouse Theater Center (GTC), beginning his tenure by launching the organization’s producing arm with the Solo Celebration, a series of 16 solo plays and events over eight months. He also contributed to the series as a director, helming the Chicago premiere of Circumference of a Squirrel, as well as the co-production I Do Today (The Other Theater Company). Jacob is also the director of GTC's recent hit production of Machinal, which was award four (out of four) stars by Chris Jones of the Chicago Tribune and named one of the top ten productions of 2017.  Locally, he has taught for American Theatre Company’s Bridge Program, and was named one of Newcity’s “Players 2017.” A freelance director, teaching artist and producer, Harvey was awarded the Bret C. Harte Director/Producer Fellowship for Berkeley Repertory Theatre’s 2013/14 Season; served as Associate Producer and Interim Director of Programming for the Drama Desk Award Winning New York Musical Theatre Festival (NYMF); and served as the Co-Artistic Director of the Ovation Award-Nominated Mechanicals Theatre Group in Los Angeles. He is also a Producer for Your Theatrics International, a full service entertainment production company, specializing in the production of theatrical events around the world. With a fervent passion for developing new musicals, he was the Co-Producer of Ladyhawks (NYMF 2013 Best of Fest under the title Volleygirls) and the Associate Producer of Ryan Scott Oliver’s 35MM: A Musical Exhibition. Other regional directing credits include, Mr. Marmalade (The Theatricians), The Shape of Things (Silver Bell Productions), the world premiere of the new musical The Many Selves of Mia Scott (Carrie Hamilton Theater) and assistant director of the world premiere of Marcus Gardley’s The House The Will Not Stand (Berkeley Repertory Theatre). He is also the creator of the upcoming musical web series currently in development, The Cycle. Jacob attended the BFA program at Marymount Manhattan College and is a graduate of The Los Angeles County High School for the Arts. 

About the Greenhouse Theater Center
The Greenhouse Theater Center is a producing theater company, performance venue and theatre bookstore located at 2257 N. Lincoln Ave. in Chicago’s Lincoln Park neighborhood. Our mission is first and foremost to grow local theatre.

The Greenhouse Theater began its producing life in 2014 with the smash hit Churchill, after which came 2016’s much-lauded Solo Celebration!, an eight month, 16 event series highlighting the breadth and depth of the solo play form. This year, the Greenhouse announced a full subscription season, with a mix of multi-character and solo plays. With a focus on our community, the Greenhouse has also launched the Trellis Residency Initiative, an initiative designed to cultivate the next generation of Chicago theatre creators, as well as the MC-10, an ensemble of mid-career playwrights whose works will be included in future Greenhouse programming.

As a performance venue, our complex offers two newly remodeled 190-seat main stage spaces, two 60-seat studio theaters, two high-capacity lobbies and an in-house rehearsal room. We strive to cultivate a fertile environment for local artists, from individual renters to our bevy of resident companies, and to develop and produce their work. In 2016, the Greenhouse announced a new residency program, which offers a reduced rate to local storefront companies while giving the Greenhouse a stake in the resident’s success. We house Chicago’s only dedicated used theatre bookstore, located on the second floor of our complex. 

With new ideas always incubating, the Greenhouse is flourishing. Come grow with us!

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Second City High School Improv All-Star Team Sundays at 6PM

Chi, IL Live Shows On Our Radar:
Venue: Judy's Beat Lounge

Family friendly improv fun

Here at ChiIL Mama, we're huge fans of improv. I was first introduced to the form in a high school class and went on to found an award winning improv troupe at Miami University that lasted over 20 years. My teens, husband and I checked out the Chicago high school improv All-Star team performance last Sunday and it was lots of fun. We have 3 friends on the team and it was great to see the next generation embracing the theatre form and expressing themselves creatively in the moment and on the spot. 

We love Chicago's After School Matters programs where kids are paid to learn a variety of skills in the arts, tech, and more. Last year my two teens did a summer long, paid internship with Lookingglass Theatre where they built and performed an entire show. As a mom, I'm elated Chicago teens aren't just relegated to after school and summer jobs in fast food or retail. The Chicago high school improv All-Star team has another show this Sunday at 6pm. Check it out!

ChiIL Mama's ChiIL Tips:

Bring in food and drinks purchased at Second City: We had a tight turnaround and my kids came straight from their own rehearsal for The Odyssey at The Actors Gymnasium, so we didn't have time to stop for dinner before the Second City Show. We were happy to discover we could order carry out food in the bar and bring it in to the show. There is also a small lobby bar for the 21+ crowd, right outside of Judy's Beat Lounge,  where their show takes place, and it's fine to bring drinks in.

Parking tip: Greenbox street parking is more reasonable than the parking garage.

The Second City Training Center and After School Matters have partnered to create a Chicago high school improv All-Star team. Composed of After School Matters students who have completed at least one year of improv training and directed by Jeff Poole, the Head of the Second City Teen program. Most nights this group performs The Panic, a high energy long form improv, it is family friendly and entertaining for fan of all ages.
Auriel Anderson
Marcellis Browder
Savannah Clark
Samuel Contreras
Tegan Daley
Maya Fragoso
Ari Kelo
Maxwell Kroll
Talen McChristion
Izabella Mims-Haddad
Brendan Mohen
Camelia Patron
Mikhayla Sowemimo
Jacob Tate
Quinton Thompson
Assistant Direction by Alec Santillian
Direction by Jeff Poole

Tickets:  $13 Standard, $11 Student, $7 TC Student

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