Monday, March 28, 2016

REVIEW: Don't Miss This! The New Sincerity at Theater Wit Through April 17th

Adult Night Out
Chi, IL LIVE Shows On Our Radar: 
The New Sincerity at Theater Wit

★★★ Genuinely funny! Feels authentically connected to Americans currently in their mid-20s, and it deals with a question I find to be exceptionally germane to the moment. A VERY SMART PIECE!
- Chris Jones, Chicago Tribune

Brutally honest and fiercely funny!

The cast is darn near close to perfect!
 Reserve your tickets for any performance 
with offer code "NSTREET" for $5 off EACH ticket!
(offer expires 4/5)

Here at ChiIL Live Shows we adore this production and highly recommend it. We had a number of friends involved in the Occupy Chicago movement and when I initially read the premise of this show I couldn't see how Theater Wit could convincingly pull this off on stage. I should never have doubted. They came through in spades!

Theater Wit's stage has been beautifully and convincingly transformed into a New York worthy live/work loft space, while the protests were effectively portrayed by screens streaming news from Occupy New York, and by a steady stream of fascinating characters entering and exiting from the Occupy "battlefields.

Yes, this show is laugh out loud funny, but it's also complex and multilayered enough to leave you thinking about snatches of dialogue days later. Rose (Maura Kidwell) is well cast as the naive geek girl, smart, driven and eager to prove herself. Sadly, in her inexperience, she confuses power in one crush and a zen like aimlessness with sexiness, instead of finding someone to truly treat her decently and appreciate her gifts. Natasha (Erin Long) is also brilliant as the eternal unpaid intern whom everyone writes off. She comes across as an almost ditzy and cliche millennial, but as the play unfolds, it's apparent that under her flakey persona, she's actually quite bright, insightful and more than competent.

Nobody is quite who they seem in this show. The wild eyed, perennially unemployed Occupy idealist just may turn out to be a trust fund baby, taking a break from the Bentleys to play rebel with a cause in a tent city full of free love and fun times. Maybe some violent acts are deserved. Maybe some "activists" are not arrested for their heartfelt ideals, but for a byline and a power grab at fame. History is constantly rewritten, movements are coopted, and you can't always believe what you read or see, even if you were there. Whether the press is mainstream or under the radar, reporting is subjective and often filtered through dogma, opinions, and ulterior motives, consciously or subconsciously.

It's eerily appropriate that Benjamin (Drew Shirley) ends the show by donning a Guy Fawks mask for his black tie, big donor dinner for the Occupy movement. The iconic face has been appropriated by Anonymous, the on line hacktivist group, and pop culture in general. The mask has come to stand as an easily recognizable symbol for protest, yet the element of disguise, secrets, and lies is still present too. Don't miss this!


Directed by Jeremy Wechsler
Featuring Maura Kidwell, Erin Long, 
Drew Shirley and Alex Stein

Arguably the play of our current political moment, 
Wit's Midwest premiere of Alena Smith's new play about love, sex and protest is perhaps the first drama to deal with the idealism of the Occupy Movement, and explores the personal motivations for why people pursue dissent.

Erudites among us know "New Sincerity" is an actual term used in music, aesthetics, film criticism, poetry and philosophy, generally to describe art or concepts that run against prevailing modes of postmodernist irony or cynicism. 

Theater Wit is excited to introduce Chicago to one of the nation's top young women playwrights with The New Sinceritya comedy by rising dramatist Alena Smith (Tween Hobo, The Newsroom, The Affair) about love, sex and protest, and perhaps the first drama to deal with the idealism of the Occupy Movement.

Performances run through April 17. Show times are Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m., and Sunday at  2 p.m. Tickets are $12-$36. Theater Wit is located at 1229 N. Belmont, in the heart of the new Belmont Theatre District in Chicago's Lakeview neighborhood.To purchase single tickets, a Theater Wit Membership or Flex Pass, visit or call 773.975.8150.

In The New Sincerity, Smith investigates the fine line between sincerity and self-promotion through the story of Rose, a young journalist who has to untangle a sticky quagmire of politics, ambition and love. The year is 2011, and an Occupy-style movement has sprung up near the offices of the literary journal where Rose works. She gets swept up in the movement, but can she behave honestly in a context that may only be an unending performance? Her attempt to navigate her personal life in the midst of political, social and romantic upheaval is a poignant and comic drama for a rising generation.

Wit's cast for The New Sincerity includes Maura Kidwell as Rose, Erin Long as Natasha, Drew Shirley as Benjamin and Alex Stein as Django. Theater Wit Artistic Director Jeremy Wechsler directs. The production team includes Adam Veness (set), Izumi Inaba (costumes), Sarah Hughey (lights), Sarah Putts (sound), Vivian Knouse (props), Majel Cuza (production manager) and Katie Klemme (stage manager).
Alena Smith (playwright) is one of Variety's 10 TV Writers to Watch in 2014. She lives in Los Angeles, where she writes for Showtime's The Affair and previously wrote for HBO's The Newsroom.  She created the Twitter character Tween Hobo (featured in Paste, The Believer, A.V. Club and elsewhere), which begat the novel Tween Hobo: Off The Rails published in 2014 by Simon & Schuster. 

Her play The New Sincerity premiered in 2015 at Bay Street Theatre in Sag Harbor, New York. The New York Times called it "a splendid new play...this is comedy with a poignant edge." Her plays have been produced internationally, including The Bad Guys, which was made into an independent film. She received her MFA in Playwriting from the Yale School of Drama, and studied philosophy at Haverford College and Oxford. Her essays about writing for theater, TV, and the internet have been published in Grantland and the Los Angeles Review of Books.

Jeremy Wechsler (director) most recently staged Theater Wit's The (curious case of the) Watson Intelligence by Madeleine George, Bad Jews by Joshua Harmon, Mr. Burns, a post-electric play by Anne Washburn, Madeline George's Seven Homeless Mammoths Wander New England, and that show's summer remount at Art Square Theatre in Las Vegas. Wechsler also staged Wit's acclaimed Completeness and The Four of Us (Itamar Moses), Tigers Be Still (Kim Rosenstock), This (Melissa James Gibson), Spin (Penny Penniston), Feydeau-Si-Deau (Georges Feydeau), Men of Steel (Qui Nguyen), Thom Pain (Based on Nothing) (Will Eno), Two for the Show (James Fitzpatrick and Will Clinger) and The Santaland Diaries. His productions have been nominated for and won multiple awards for design, performance, adaptation and best new work. 

About Theater Wit
Theater Wit - "a thrilling addition to Chicago's roster of theaters" (Chicago Tribune) and "a terrific place to see a show" (New City) - is now in its fifth season in its home at 1229 W. Belmont Ave. in Chicago. In 2014, Theater Wit was awarded the National Theatre Award by the American Theatre Wing for strengthening the quality, diversity and dynamism of American theater.

Founded in 2004, Theater Wit's mission is to explore contemporary issues with wit and wisdom through new works and Chicago premieres. As a production company, Theater Wit is Chicago's premier smart art theater, producing humorous, challenging and intelligent plays that speak with a vibrant and contemporary theatrical voice. Recent critical and box office hits include Bad Jews by Joshua Harmon, Mr. Burns, a post-electric play by Anne Washburn, The (curious case of the) Watson Intelligence and Seven Homeless Mammoths Wander New England by Madeleine George, Completeness and The Four of Us by Itamar Moses, and perennial holiday favorite The Santaland Diaries.

As an institution, Wit seeks to be the hub of the Chicago neighborhood theater scene, where audiences enjoy a smorgasbord of excellent productions in three, 99-seat spaces, see a parade of talented artists and mingle with audiences from all over Chicago. Theater Wit brings together Chicago's best storefront companies, including 2015-16 resident companies Stage Left, About Face, Shattered Globe and Kokandy Productions.

For more information, visit or call the Theater Wit box office, 773.975.8150.

Smart and well acted. Captures the spirit of an age. RECOMMENDED!
— New City

★★★1/2 A beautifully written, terrifically staged play. “The New Sincerity” is the work of an important new voice in the American theater. A continual delight.

Recommended! A great cast with screwball sensibility throughout.

                  Don't miss this!

ChiIL Tips:

Green box street parking is fairly cheap and plentiful if you leave a bit of extra time. If you're running late, love convenience, dread parallel parking, or money's no option, there is a reasonably priced valet service right in front.

This is not your typical lackluster theatre bar with minimal choices or a chug in the lobby policy. Theater Wit has some seriously tasty local micro brews. I'm partial to IPAs and have tried a variety of great ones here. They also have a full cocktail and wine bar, and non alcoholic choices if you're not a fan of the hop heavy. They feature handmade chocolates and baked goods by local artisans (even a Theater Wit chocolate bar!) and a variety of top-shelf liquors. All drinks may be taken into the performance.

"Netflix" for Theatre (Just put some pants ON please!)
Here at ChiIL Mama/ChiIL Live Shows we think this is an awesome idea! Theatre has the reputation of being expensive and it's easy to stay home on the couch. We're here to tell you to GET UP AND OUT THE DOOR. It's so worth it, and with Wit's Netflix-like "all the theater you can eat" membership deal, it's waaaaay affordable. Members can "binge watch" as many plays at they want at any of Theater Wit's three, 99-seat spaces for one low monthly fee of $36/$22 for students, along with many exclusive member perks! 

The best way to secure seats at Theater Wit is by signing up for a Theater Wit Membership. Wit also offers a 10-play Flex Pass for $215 to anything presented in the building, a savings of up to 40%. Single tickets for Wit's 2015-16 productions start at $12, and will go on sale approximately two months before the first preview of each production. Do it. You know you want to!

I'm going to close with a recent e-mail from the production's director, Jeremy Wechsler, who is also Theater Wit's Artistic Director, and a frequent fixture at performances. This speaks to the invaluable talk backs and conversations that multilayered productions invoke and Theater Wit is happy to foster. It's one of my favorite elements of live theatre. There's something compelling in the dynamic nature of a show and the idea that audience energy and attitudes influence each show in the moment, and vice versa. Jeremy's letter moved me and I think he is on to something.

"It's been fascinating to hear the audience and critical response to The New Sincerity. In our history, this show has been unique in it's response. While the praise for the production, script and performances has been near unanimous, people's takeaway from the evening has been surprisingly varied. Is the play a call to action? Dismissive of the impact of protest? Full of caricature or completely honest characterization?

We've had some of our best post-show conversations ever. Sitting around drinks, our audience has argued with each other about these questions. I've rarely seen a play amplify individual perspectives this strongly. Nor have I had the pleasure of seeing so many people, cross-generational and politically divided, really reach out to each other for understanding and compassion. A lot of this has to do with the complexity of Alena Smith's writing. The work is no way polemic, choosing instead to treat the politics of the moment through very messy human lenses. 

I suspect that your Facebook feed is as awash in political posts as mine right now. In the midst of all the didactic absolutism that substitutes for public discourse in our presidential elections, The New Sincerity offers a refreshing space to embrace the complex, multi-faceted and harmoniously conflicted beauty of our individual desire for change and growth.

I want to invite you to catch Theater Wit's latest work before it closes on April 17th. We could all use its compassion and empathetic perspective in the eight months ahead."

Jeremy Wechsler,
Artistic Director
Theater Wit

GIVEAWAY: 4 Tickets ($120 value) to the World Premiere of JABARI DREAMS OF FREEDOM at Chicago Children's Theatre 4/5-5/1 (ages 9+)

Chi, IL LIVE Shows On Our Radar:

(Recommended for ages 9+)

"Young people need this play right now," says Chicago Children's Theatre Artistic Director Jacqueline Russell. "They need to learn that despite whatever is going on in the world around them that every child has the power to find courage, to recognize their potential and to share their own gifts."

Here at ChiIL Mama, we've been ardent supporters of Chicago Children's Theatre since their inception. They consistently bring professional, high caliber productions to fruition, collaborating with Chicago's best and brightest. They are renowned for world class world premieres and never dumb down shows, because they're for children. We're very excited to see Jabari Dreams of Freedom, a story set in Chi, IL's own south side! We encourage our readers to book tickets in advance as these shows are likely to fill.

Disclosure: ChiIL Mama is pleased to partner up with Chicago Children's Theatre yet again. Thanks to CCT for providing complimentary tickets for our giveaway and for review purposes. As always, all opinions are my own.

ENTER HERE for your chance to WIN a family 4 pack of tickets ($120 value) to opening day, Saturday 4/9 at 11AM! 
Enter through midnight 4/6. Recommended for ages 9+.


Meet Jabari, a young boy from the south side of Chicago, scared and confused by the turbulent, sometimes unjust world around him. A gifted artist, Jabari escapes to the Civil Rights era through his colorful paintings where he interacts with children from the past - including a young Barack Obama. His poignant dreams of freedom empower Jabari to live courageously in the face of fear.

Chicago Children's Theatre is excited to present the world premiere of Jabari Dreams of Freedom, a new play for young audiences by Nambi E. Kelley, the award winning Chicago actress and playwright, author of the acclaimed Native Son at Court Theatre, and star of Two Trains Running at Goodman Theatre.

Filled with powerful, timely and uplifting themes and characters, Jabari Dreams of Freedom, created especially for Chicago Children's Theatre, is a love letter to the children of Chicago. 

Performances are April 5-May 1 at the Ruth Page Center for the Arts, 1016 N. Dearborn St., Chicago.

Tickets are $10-$39. Jabari Dreams of Freedom is recommended for ages 9 and up. For tickets and information, visit or call 
(872) 222-9555.       

(Top, from left) Nambi E. Kelley is the author of Chicago Children's Theatre's
Jabari Dreams of Freedom, directed by Lili Ann-Brown. The cast includes
Philip Cusic and Cameron A. Goode rotating in the role of Jabari, with (bottom, from left) Damon Gillespie, Emily Glick, Matthew Keffer, Gavin Lawrence and Leslie Ann Sheppard.

The cast boasts two young Chicago actors, 13-year-old Philip Cusic and Cameron A. Goode,  also 13, rotating in the role of Jabari. 

Cusic performed in A Christmas Carol for two seasons at Goodman Theatre, and in Provision Theatre's The Best Christmas Pageant Ever and Pinocchio. Goode's credits include Oliver! at Drury Lane Oakbrook and Emerald City/First Stage's Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer the Musical at the Broadway Playhouse.

The cast also features Emily Glick (La Cage Aux Folles at Marriott, Juno at TimeLine), Gavin Lawrence (performer at Goodman and Steppenwolf; his play, Cut Flowers, won five Black Theatre Alliance Awards), Leslie Ann Sheppard (Chicago Children's Theatre'sThe Hundred DressesMr. Burns, a Post-Electric Play at Theater Wit) and Matthew Keffer (The Man Who Murdered Sherlock Holmes at Mercury Theatre, Porchlight's Sondheim on Sondheim, and Jeff Award winner-Actor in a Principal Role, The Wild Party at Bailiwick Chicago.)

The production team includes Ashley Honore, assistant director; Jaret Landon, music director; William Bowles, set; Mieka Van der Plog, costumes; Nick Belley, lights; Toy Deiorio, sound; Michael Stanfill, projections; and Mealah Heidenreich, props. Production stage manager is Tina Jach. Assistant stage manager is Cara Parrish.

Jabari Dreams of Freedom is recommended for ages 9 and up. Previews are Tuesday, April 5 at noon, and Wednesday through Friday, April 6-8 at 10 a.m. 

Performances continue through May 1: Tuesday through Friday at 10 a.m.; Saturday at 11 a.m., 2 p.m. and 6 p.m.; Sunday at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. Single tickets are $10-$39, and are on sale now. Run time is 75 minutes including post show Q&A session. For tickets and information, visit or call
(872) 222-9555

Email or call (773) 227-0180 x 13 to learn about deeply discounted group rates for schools, playgroups, birthday parties and scouting groups. American Sign Language interpreted performances, touch tours and autism-friendly tours can be provided upon request.

Making last minute plans?  Balcony rush tickets are available for just $10 day of show only, one hour before curtain, subject to availability. Rush tickets are sold in person only, not valid online or via phone, and are subject to availability.
Chicago Children's Theatre performs at the Ruth Page Center for the Arts, 1016 N. Dearborn St., in Chicago's Gold Coast neighborhood steps from the Magnificent Mile. The Ruth Page is a short walk from the CTA Red Line Clark/Division and Chicago stops, and the Clark, Broadway, Division and Chicago Avenue bus lines. Street parking is available, and the Ruth Page offers discounted garage parking with ticket validation at 1250 N. Dearborn and 1030 N. State. Nearby family-friendly restaurants include Epic Burger (40 E. Pearson), Lou Malnati's (1120 N. State), The 3rd Coast (1260 N. Dearborn) and Dave and Busters (1030 N. Clark). 

Jabari Dreams of Freedom: Behind the scenes

Nambi E. Kelley (playwright) has penned plays for Steppenwolf, Goodman and Court Theatre in Chicago, Lincoln Center in New York, and internationally. Most recently, Kelley's adaption of Native Son at Court Theatre, co-produced by American Blues, was named a "Top 10 Play of 2014" by the Chicago Tribune. She recently returned to Singapore to perform in her co-adaptation of The Book of Living and Dying that will be published in an anthology of plays in Singapore in 2014. Recent playwriting honors include Goodman Theatre Playwright's Unit where she penned For Her As A Piano for which she received an award for mental health advocacy, Xtigone (American Theatre of Harlem workshop production) and Harlem 9's 48 Hours in Harlem Playwright 2013. Other writing credits include: Norman Mailer Writing Colony Fellow 2012, Dramatists Guild Writers Intensive Fellow 2011, Goodman Theatre Fellowship Recipient, La MaMa Playwrights Symposium Playwright-In-Residence in Spoleto, Italy under the tutelage of Lisa Kron and Pulitzer prize winner Lynn Nottage, The Friends Fellowship (Ragdale Foundation), the 3 Arts Fellowship (twice nominated), TCG Candidate for Playwriting: Goodman Theatre, the Eugene O'Neill Playwrights Conference nomination, and was recently honored at the Black Ensemble Theatre for her contributions in playwriting. She also serves as a Chicago Dramatists Playwright-In-Residence, and is playwright emeritus with MPAACT, Chicago. Also an actress, Kelley has worked on stage and TV in Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, and internationally, playing opposite such artists as Phylicia Rashad, Alfre Woodard, Blair Underwood and Patrick Swayze. Kelley guest lectures at Lake Forest College, has a BFA from The Theatre School at De Paul University, formerly known as The Goodman School of Drama, and holds an MFA in interdisciplinary arts from Goddard College in Vermont.

Lili-Anne Brown (director), a native Chicagoan, works as a director, actor and educator, both locally and regionally. She is the former Artistic Director of Bailiwick Chicago, where she directed the Chicago premiere of the Ahrens & Flaherty musical Dessa Rose, for which she received the Joseph Jefferson Award. Other directing credits include Michael John LaChiusa's See What I Wanna See (Steppenwolf Theatre Garage Rep), the critically acclaimed Chicago premiere of Passing Strange (BTA Award for Best Director of a Musical, Jeff Award nomination for Best Director of a Musical), and the world premiere of Princess Mary Demands Your Attention by Aaron Holland, with Bailiwick Chicago; American Idiot at Northwestern University; On the Boards and Hearts of Darkness at Roosevelt University; and Hairspray, Unnecessary Farce, Cabaret, Sweet Charity, The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee and Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story, at Timber Lake Playhouse, where she is an Artistic Associate. She is a member of Actors' Equity Association and SAG-AFTRA, an associate of SDC, and a graduate of Northwestern University.

About Chicago Children's Theatre
 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 believes children should be treated as the sophisticated audiences that they are with high-profile and award-winning talent, inventive production values and compelling stories that challenge, educate and entertain. Chicago Children's Theatre evolved out of Chicago's need for high-quality, professional year-round children's programming to match the quality and significance of theatrical powerhouses such as Steppenwolf Theatre Company, Goodman Theatre and Lookingglass Theatre.

Audiences have embraced Chicago Children's Theatre since its inaugural production, A Year with Frog and Toad, at the Goodman Theatre in 2006. The company also has had a strong focus on new work producing ten world premieres 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 and Wonderland, Alice's Rock & Roll Adventure. These enjoyed highly successful inaugural runs in Chicago, followed by new productions at family theaters across the U.S. Chicago Children's Theatre productions feature everything from black-light scenery to live music to interactive four-dimensional sets to life-size puppets, and performances showcase the heart of Motown to Vaudeville to contemporary, current and modern styles. 

Chicago Children's Theatre also offers a full roster of after school theater classes and summer camps. It also honors a strong commitment to low-income families and children with special needs. In partnership with Chicago Public Schools and Target, the company has offered free tickets and transportation to more than 5,000 Chicago-area low-income students each season. 

Meanwhile, Chicago Children's Theatre has pioneered immersive theater designed for children on the autism spectrum via its Red Kite Project, and recently expanded programming to address the needs of children with impaired vision or hearing and Down's syndrome.

In December, 2015, Chicago Children's Theatre broke ground on the its first-ever permanent home - an adaptive reuse of the former, 12th District Police Station at 100 S. Racine Avenue in Chicago's West Loop into a beautiful, mixed-use performing arts and education facility designed to serve all Chicago families. Phase One, including a flexible, 149-seat studio theater for professional shows, student performances and Red Kite interactive theater for students with autism, plus a lobby, classrooms, support space and parking, will be finished next winter. Phase Two, to be completed in 2020, includes a state-of-the-art, 299-seat mainstage theater. Until then, the Ruth Page Center for the Arts remains the company's performance home.

Led by Artistic Director Jacqueline Russell and Board Chair Todd Leland, the company is supported by a dynamic Board of Directors comprised of dedicated individuals from the fields of entertainment, philanthropy and business. Officers include Jeff Hughes, President; Lynn Lockwood Murphy, Vice Chair and Secretary; David Saltiel, Vice Chair; and David Chung, Treasurer. 

Chicago Children's Theatre is sponsored in part by ComEd, Goldman Sachs Gives and Target. 

For more information about Chicago Children's Theatre visit, call CCT's dedicated box office line, (872) 222-9555, or the administrative office, (773) 227-0180.

Disclosure: ChiIL Mama is pleased to partner up with Chicago Children's Theatre yet again. Thanks to CCT for providing complimentary tickets for our giveaway and for review purposes. As always, all opinions are my own.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

WIN 4 Tickets ($60 value) to Lester’s Dreadful Sweaters at Lifeline Theatre (Ages 5+)

Family Friendly Shows On Our Radar
ChiIL Mama's ChiIL Picks List:

Lifeline Theatre KidSeries Presents Lester’s Dreadful Sweaters,
World Premiere Musical 
Based on Book by K.G. Campbell
(Recommended for Ages 5+/under 2 NOT admitted)

Lester (Sam Button-Harrison) receives a dreadful new sweater from Cousin Clara; in Lifeline Theatre’s world premiere musical adaptation of “Lester’s Dreadful Sweaters,” Photo by Suzanne Plunkett.

Still looking for some fun Easter gifts, unique spring birthday surprises, and fun things to do with visiting relatives? ChiIL Mama's a huge fan of experiential gifts--things you can experience together as a family. Few kids need more candy or toys. Gift laughter and fun memories instead, like live theatre! My kids grew up on Lifeline Theatre. We were season subscribers for years and I firmly believe all those excellent book based adaptations and incredible professional productions helped my kids grow into the theatre lovin' teens they are today.

Disclosure: ChiIL Mama is elated to partner up once again, to offer a free family 4 pack of tickets to one of our lucky readers. Thanks to Lifeline for providing tickets for our giveaway and for review purposes. As always, all opinions are my own.


ENTER HERE through midnight Monday 3/28 for your chance to win 4 Tickets ($60 value) to Lester’s Dreadful Sweaters at Lifeline Theatre (Recommended for Ages 5+/under 2 NOT admitted). Winner's choice of any shows next Sat 4/2 & Sun 4/3 pending availability.

Lester’s Dreadful Sweaters:
One terrible morning, Cousin Clara presents young Lester with the gift of a hand-knit sweater… and it is DREADFUL: shriveled yet saggy and smothered with pom-poms. Lester (who likes things just so) is mortified to wear it, but his parents insist and the kids at school tease him relentlessly. When he ruins the sweater “by accident,” Clara just makes others, each more ghastly than the last. To restore his neatly ordered life and save face on the playground, Lester must find a way to stop the endless parade of horrifying sweaters once and for all. Enter a fashion nightmare and embrace your inner clown in this world premiere musical based on the charming 2012 book by K.G. Campbell. This production is recommended for children ages five and up (children under two not permitted), and runs approximately one hour with no intermission. 

**Plus Performance with Touch Tour and Audio Description on March 26, Performance with Open Captioning on April 2, and Autism-Friendly Performance on April 17 and Stories Come Alive! Hour Workshops Every Saturday and Sunday During the Run!** 

Lifeline Theatre’s KidSeries presents Lester’s Dreadful Sweaters, a world premiere musical adaptation with script by Lifeline Theatre ensemble member Aly Renee Amidei; lyrics by Aly Renee Amidei, Julie Tallarida and Scott Tallarida; music by Scott Tallarida; and directed by Lifeline Theatre ensemble member Heather Currie, based on the book by K.G. Campbell

Lester’s Dreadful Sweaters runs through Sunday, Apr. 24 at Lifeline Theatre, 6912 N. Glenwood Ave. Regular performance times are Saturdays and Sundays at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m., with an added autism-friendly performance on Sunday, Apr. 17 at 3 p.m. Tickets are $15 and may be purchased at the Lifeline Theatre Box Office, 773.761.4477, or by visiting 

Accessible PerformancesThe Saturday, Mar 26, 11 a.m. performance will feature a pre-show touch tour of the set at 10 a.m. and live audio description for patrons who are blind or have low vision. The Saturday, Apr. 2, 1 p.m. performance will feature open captioning for patrons who are deaf or hard-of-hearing. And there will be a relaxed/sensory-friendly performance on Sunday, Apr. 17 at 3 p.m. for patrons with social and/or cognitive disabilities. For more information about Lifeline’s accessibility services, please contact Accessibility Coordinator Erica Foster at 773.761.4477 x703 or at

PLUS: Join Lifeline Theatre every Saturday and Sunday at 12 p.m. during the run of Lester’s Dreadful Sweaters (following the 11 a.m. show, or before the 1 p.m. show) for our Stories Come Alive! Hour. Children will enjoy an interactive storytelling session and on-your-feet theatre games. The cost is only $5 per child. Reservations are recommended, though not required. Contact Lifeline Theatre at 773-761-4477 for more information.
 The complete cast and production team for Lester’s Dreadful Sweaters includes:

CAST: Guest artists Sam Button-Harrison (Lester), Elizabeth Levy (Clara), Amanda Roeder (Mother), Scott Sawa (Father), and Chris Vizurraga (Mr. Twist). With understudies Maria Dale, William Marquez, and Dustin Rothbart.

CREW: Lifeline Theatre ensemble members Aly Renee Amidei (Adaptor, Co-Lyricist, Costume Designer), Heather Currie (Director), and Alan Donahue (Scenic & Properties Designer); with guest artists Emily Arnold (Assistant Costume Designer), Benjamin W. Dawson (Production Manager), Diane D. Fairchild (Lighting Designer), Lavina Jadhwani (Casting Director), Laura McKenzie (Music Director), Sam Moryoussef (Master Electrician), Kate Reed (Stage Manager), Julie Tallarida (Co-Lyricist), Scott Tallarida (Composer, Co-Lyricist), Joe Schermoly (Technical Director), and Eli Van Sickel (Sound Designer).

Lifeline Theatre also offers “Name Your Price” tickets a half-hour before the show (subject to availability), group rates and other discounts available upon request. A party room is available for full-service birthday and special event parties. Free parking is available at the designated lot west of the theatre (NE corner of Morse and Ravenswood) with free shuttle service before and after the show. Street parking is also available and Lifeline Theatre is handicapped and CTA accessible (Red Line Morse stop/busses). 

Now in its 33rd season, Lifeline Theatre is driven by a passion for story. Our ensemble process supports writers in the development of literary adaptations and new work, and our theatrical and educational programs foster a lifelong engagement with literature and the arts. A cultural anchor of Rogers Park, we are committed to deepening our connection to an ever-growing family of artists and audiences, both near and far. Lifeline Theatre – Big Stories, Up Close. 

Lifeline Theatre’s programs are partially supported by Alphawood Foundation; Elizabeth F. Cheney Foundation; The Chicago Community Trust; a CityArts grant from the City of Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events; The Common Cup; Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation; FGMK LLC; Flex Print , Inc.; The Grover Hermann Foundation; Illinois Arts Council, a state agency; MacArthur Fund for Arts and Culture at Prince; Netrix LLC; The Polk Bros. Foundation; S&C Foundation; The Shubert Foundation; and the annual support of businesses and individuals.

Disclosure: ChiIL Mama is elated to partner up once again, to offer a free family 4 pack of tickets to one of our lucky readers. Thanks to Lifeline for providing tickets for our giveaway and for review purposes. As always, all opinions are my own.

Friday, March 25, 2016

PARENTS NIGHT OUT: United 232 Now Playing at House Theater

Chi, IL LIVE Shows On Our Radar:

The Production Runs Through May 1 at the Chopin Theatre

Tonight, ChiIL Mama will be ChiILin' in Chi, IL with one of our favorite storefronts, The House Theatre of Chicago. We were already reviewing elsewhere for the UNITED FLIGHT 232 press opening on 3/20, and the buzz about this show has been great. Can't wait to see for ourselves! Check back soon for our full review.

The House Theatre of Chicago is proud to announce the world premiere adaptation of Laurence Gonzales’ book Flight 232, adapted and directed by Vanessa StallingUnited Flight 232 tells the story of the harrowing July 19, 1989 flight bound for Chicago’s O’Hare airport. United Flight 232 runs through May 1, plays at Chopin Theatre’s Upstairs Theater, 1543 W. Division St.  

Regular performances are Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 7 p.m., from March 25 – May 1. Regular run tickets range from $30 to $35. $10 same-day tickets for students and industry professionals are available for all dates, seats permitting. For more information and to purchase tickets, please visit or call 773.769.3832.

“I love you, hurry home. I love you.” On July 19, 1989, a DC-10 headed for O’Hare with 296 aboard is paralyzed mid-air. For 44 minutes, the aircraft descended towards an emergency landing and crashed at Sioux City Gateway airport. To the astonishment of all who witnessed the event, 184 of 296 passengers and crew survived. Drawing on the interviews and research conducted by Evanston author Laurence Gonzales for his critically acclaimed book, Flight 232: A Story of Disaster and Survival, this brand new play, United Flight 232, is a reflection on how to comprehend tragedy and celebrate human ingenuity in the face of overwhelming challenges.

The House Theatre of Chicago Company Members Brenda Barrie and Johnny Arena join the cast, along with guest artists Echaka Agba, Alice de Cunha, Elana Elyce, Rudy Galvan, James Doherty, Kroydell Galima, and Michael Martin.
 San Francisco Chronicle called Laurence Gonzales’ book, “A richly detailed story that is equal parts heartbreaking [and] inspiring…”

 The Washington Post said, “Flight 232 stands alone for its absolutely riveting depiction of the flight’s last minutes and the horrendous aftermath: for its vivid sympathetic portraits of many of those aboard the plane, the crew most particularly.”

The Chicago Tribune called it, “Astonishingly in-depth…”
To learn more about Laurence Gonzales’ book, please visit his website at

United Flight 232 was commissioned and developed by The House Theatre of Chicago and the Chicago Performance Lab through the Theatre and Performance Studies Program at the University of Chicago.

Laurence Gonzales was born in St. Louis, Missouri, and grew up in Houston and San Antonio, Texas.  His book about the crash of United Flight 232 at Sioux City, Iowa, July 19, 1989, Flight 232: A Story of Disaster and Survival, from W.W. Norton, was published on July 7, 2014. He is the author of numerous books, including the bestseller Deep Survival: Who Lives, Who Dies, and Why and the sequel, Surviving Survival: The Art and Science of Resilience (both from W.W. Norton). Gonzales has won many awards, including two National Magazine Awards and the Distinguished Service Award from the Society of Professional Journalists. He has appeared as a speaker before groups ranging from the Santa Fe Institute to Legg Mason Capital Management, the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, and the Sloan School of Management at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He is also on the adjunct faculty at Northwestern University in the Medill School of Journalism. His most recent novel is Lucy (Alfred A. Knopf). His essays are collected in the book House of Pain (University of Arkansas Press). He is a fellow of the Santa Fe Institute.                                                
ABOUT VANNESA STALLING, adapter and director
Vanessa Stalling is a Chicago freelance director. Recently, Stalling directed The America Play at Oracle Productions and Mutt, by Christopher Chen, a co-production between Stage Left and Red Tape. Other recent work includes Circuscope, Actors Gymnasium, The Normal Heart, Boston University and Pullman W.A, Illinois State University. She is most known for her work as associate artistic director at Redmoon, where she enjoyed directing and choreographing several productions including a remount of The CabinetLast of My SpeciesWinter PageantPrincess Club, and Twilight Orchard. She is adjunct faculty at Columbia College Chicago and University of Chicago. She is a recipient of the Outstanding University Teacher Award and an Impact Award for her service as an Instructor at Illinois State University.

The House is Chicago's premier home for intimate, original works of epic story and stagecraft. Founded and led by Artistic Director Nathan Allen and driven by an interdisciplinary ensemble of Chicago’s next generation of great storytellers, The House aims to become a laboratory and platform for the evolution of the American theatre as an inclusive and popular artform.
The House was founded in 2001 by a group of friends to explore connections between Community and Storytelling through a unique theatrical experience. 

Since becoming eligible in 2004, The House has been nominated for 60 Joseph Jefferson Awards (21 wins), became the first recipient of Broadway in Chicago’s Emerging Theater Award in 2007, and was awarded a 2014 National Theatre Company Grant by the American Theatre Wing, founder of the Tony Awards. Now in its 14th year of original work, The House continues its mission to unite Chicago in the spirit of Community through amazing feats of Storytelling.