Monday, April 29, 2024

Gamers, Artists, and Geeks Galore: Photo Recap: C2E2 2024

ChiIL Mama's Chi, IL Picks List:
Adventures at C2E2 

All Photos by Dugan Kenaz-Mara Unless Otherwise Noted

Guest Review and Photo Feature

by Dugan Kenaz-Mara

Dugan Kenaz-Mara and his count puppet. Photo by D'Arcy Mies

We love attending C2E2 and it has been a lovely experience year after year. This year the show floor featured a ton of exciting areas, including backdrops for cosplay photoshoots, a setup for painting miniatures, and loads of games. Whether you prefer to play on a tabletop, an arcade machine, a computer, or in real life, there was an option for you. 

My favorite part of C2E2 this year was walking through Artist Alley and seeing the artists working in person. Many of the artist booths were set up in a way that it was easy to see how they made their pieces in their individual styles. In fact, as I explored I discovered artists using nearly every medium I could think of including the normal pens, pencils, and markers, as well as watercolors, crayons, and even ink with a toothbrush! Almost every one of them was happy to let me take photos of them and their art, which just adds to the great sense of community this convention provides. 

No matter who you are it is super easy to fit in here. Casual attendees, talented cosplayers, and special guests can all be found mingling together. They even have an area designated as an LGBT friendly space. Everyone was incredibly kind and many cosplayers were more than happy to pose for a photo. Lots of celebrities from all corners of pop culture. Just walking through the show floor without even attending a photo-op or signing I happened to see the McElroy Brothers and Svengoolie. 

The convention has many exciting panels including some from local Chicago friends like Otherworld Theater and Rough Magic Games. I even got to help Rough Magic with their show floor space for part of the day, introducing people to one-page role-playing games. If that sounds interesting to you, I recommend playing one yourself. Google Honey Heist for a free easy game you can play with friends or family at home!

Dugan Kenaz-Mara is a designer, photographer, educator,  and recent graduate of Northwestern University.

Dugan Kenaz-Mara. Photo by D'Arcy Mies 

Wednesday, April 24, 2024

August Wilson's Joe Turner’s Come and Gone Now Playing at Goodman Theatre Through May 19th BY POPULAR DEMAND

ChiIL Mama’s ChiIL Picks List: 

Adult Shows With Family Themes On Our Radar


 Joe Turner’s Come and Gone  

Photos by Liz Lauren


Tonight, longtime August Wilson interpreter Chuck Smith’s major revival of Joe Turner’s Come and Gone opens—and extends its run through May 19. I'll be there tonight, covering the production for ChiIL Mama and ChiIL Live Shows, so check back soon for my full review. I've seen most of August Wilson's century cycle and I'm beyond excited to see Goodman's revival of Joe Turner’s Come and Gone. 

Featuring an all-Chicago cast, the play follows Herald Loomis, who, in a journey in search of his estranged wife, must first contend with his own sense of heritage and identity in this story of spiritual and emotional resurrection. 

This weekend, theatergoers can support local African American artisans at the “Hidden Gems” pop-up market on-site at the Goodman, featuring arts, crafts and more, on Saturday, April 27. Joe Turner’s Come and Gone appears through May 19 in the 856-seat Albert Theatre. Tickets ($25 - $90; subject to change) are available at or by phone at 312.443.3800. Extension week performances include May 16 at 7:30pm; May 17 at 7:30pm; May 18 at 2pm and 7:30pm; and May 19 at 2pm (closing). For more information about Hidden Gems pop-up market, visit The Goodman is grateful for the support of The Elizabeth Morse Charitable Trust (Lead Funder of IDEAA Programming).

“August Wilson was a poet, and it’s easy to see why Joe Turner’s Come and Gone was one of his favorite plays. There’s a lot of mysticism in this work, and he’s always had that mysticism,” said Chuck Smith, longtime Goodman Theatre Resident Director, whose previous Wilson works include directing Gem of the Ocean (2022), Two Trains Running (2015) and Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (1997). “There are children in this play who represent the new way. We’re reminded that we must take very delicate care of our children and do whatever we can, as best we can, to provide them a better future.”

A journey of self-discovery leads to salvation in this major revival of Joe Turner’s Come and Gone—the Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright’s masterwork and one of his best-loved, most compelling plays. Herald Loomis (A.C. Smith) searches the country with his young daughter to find his estranged wife. But first, he must regain a sense of his own heritage and identity in this story of spiritual and emotional resurrection. The cast features Harper Anthony (Reuben Mercer), Anthony Fleming III (Jeremy Furlow), TayLar (Bertha Holly), Gary Houston (Rutherford Selig), Kylah Jones (Zonia), Nambi E. Kelley (Mattie Campbell), Krystel V. McNeil (Molly Cunningham), Tim Rhoze (Bynum Walker), Shariba Rivers (Martha Loomis) and Dexter Zollicoffer (Seth Holly).

ChiIL Mama's Thematic Theatre Pairings: 

ChiIL out in Chi, IL with both the Chicago premiere of August Wilson’s autobiographical show, Congo Square Theatre's HOW I LEARNED WHAT I LEARNED at Broadway In Chicago's Broadway Playhouseand Goodman's Joe Turner’s Come and Gone.  

August Wilson’s 10-play American Century Cycle is a singular achievement in the American theater. Goodman Theatre was first in the nation to produce every play—including two world-premiere productions—of the cycle, each one set in a different decade of the twentieth century, including: Gem of the Ocean (1900s), Joe Turner's Come and Gone (1910s), Ma Rainey's Black Bottom (1920s), The Piano Lesson (1930s), Seven Guitars (1940s), Fences (1950s), Two Trains Running (1960s), Jitney (1970s), King Hedley II (1980s) and Radio Golf (1990s).

Born and raised in the Hill District of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, August Wilson (1945-2005) authored the American Century Cycle of 10 plays, including Gem of the Ocean, Joe Turner’s Come and Gone, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, The Piano Lesson, Seven Guitars, Fences, Two Trains Running, Jitney, King Hedley II and Radio Golf. These works explore the heritage and experience of African Americans, decade by decade, over the course of the 20th century. Goodman Theatre was the first in the country to have produced every play in Wilson’s cycle. In 2003, Wilson made his professional stage debut in his one-man show How I Learned What I Learned. Wilson’s work garnered many awards, including Pulitzer Prizes for Fences (1987) and The Piano Lesson (1990); a Tony Award for Fences; Great Britain’s Olivier Award for Jitney; as well as seven New York Drama Critics Circle Awards for Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, Fences, Joe Turner’s Come and Gone, The Piano Lesson, Two Trains Running, Seven Guitars and Jitney. Additionally, the cast recording of Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom received a 1985 Grammy Award and Wilson received a 1995 Emmy Award nomination for his screenplay adaptation of The Piano Lesson. On October 16, 2005, Broadway renamed the theater located at 245 West 52nd Street the August Wilson Theatre.

Chuck Smith is a member of Goodman Theatre’s Board of Trustees and is Goodman Theatre’s Resident Director. He is also a resident director at the Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe in Sarasota, Florida. Goodman credits include the recent revival of August Wilson’s Gem of the Ocean (2022) and the Chicago premieres of Objects in the Mirror; Pullman Porter Blues; By the Way, Meet Vera Stark; Race; The Good Negro; Proof and The Story; the world premieres of By the Music of the Spheres and The Gift Horse; James Baldwin’s The Amen Corner, which transferred to Boston’s Huntington Theatre Company, where it won the Independent Reviewers of New England (IRNE) Award for Best Direction; A Raisin in the Sun; Blues for an Alabama Sky; August Wilson’s Two Trains Running and Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom; Ain’t Misbehavin’; the 1993 to 1995 productions of A Christmas Carol; Crumbs From the Table of Joy; Vivisections from a Blown Mind and The Meeting. He served as dramaturg for the Goodman’s world-premiere production of August Wilson’s Gem of the Ocean. He directed the New York premiere of Knock Me a Kiss and The Hooch for the New Federal Theatre and the world premiere of Knock Me a Kiss at Chicago’s Victory Gardens Theater, where his other directing credits include Master Harold… and the Boys, Home, Dame Lorraine and Eden, for which he received a Jeff Award nomination. Regionally, Mr. Smith directed Death and the King’s Horseman (Oregon Shakespeare Festival), Birdie Blue (Seattle Repertory Theatre), The Story (Milwaukee Repertory Theater), Blues for an Alabama Sky (Alabama Shakespeare Festival) and The Last Season (Robey Theatre Company). At Columbia College he was facilitator of the Theodore Ward Prize playwriting contest for 20 years and editor of the contest anthologies Seven Black Plays and Best Black Plays. He won a Chicago Emmy Award as associate producer/theatrical director for the NBC teleplay Crime of Innocence and was theatrical director for the Emmy-winning Fast Break to Glory and the Emmy-nominated The Martin Luther King Suite. He was a founding member of the Chicago Theatre Company, where he served as artistic director for four seasons and directed the Jeff-nominated Suspenders and the Jeff-winning musical Po’. His directing credits include productions at Fisk University, Roosevelt University, Eclipse Theatre, ETA, Black Ensemble Theater, Northlight Theatre, MPAACT, Congo Square Theatre Company, The New Regal Theater, Kuumba Theatre Company, Fleetwood-Jourdain Theatre, Pegasus Players, the Timber Lake Playhouse in Mt. Carroll, Illinois and the University of Wisconsin in Madison. He is a 2003 inductee into the Chicago State University Gwendolyn Brooks Center’s Literary Hall of Fame and a 2001 Chicago Tribune Chicagoan of the Year. He is the proud recipient of the 1982 Paul Robeson Award and the 1997 Award of Merit presented by the Black Theater Alliance of Chicago.

Full Company of Joe Turner’s Come and Gone (in alphabetical order)

By August Wilson

Directed by Chuck Smith

Harper Anthony…..Reuben Mercer

Anthony Fleming III……Jeremy Furlow

TayLar…..Bertha Holly

Gary Houston……Rutherford Selig

Kylah Renee Jones……Zonia

Nambi E. Kelley…….Mattie Campbell

Krystel V. McNeil…...Molly Cunningham

Tim Edward Rhoze…..Bynum Walker

Shariba Rivers….Martha Loomis

A.C. Smith…..Herald Loomis

Dexter Zollicoffer…..Seth Holly

Creative Team

Associate Director/Choreographer/Intimacy Consultant…Cristin Carole

Set Designer….Linda Buchanan

Costume Designer…Evelyn Danner

Lighting Designer…Jared Gooding

Sound Designer and Composer…Pornchanok Kanchanabanca

Understudies for this production include Sean Blake (Jeremy Furlow/Bynum Walker), Stacie Doublin (Bertha Holly/Martha Loomis), Kristin E. Ellis (Mattie Campbell/Molly Cunningham), Anthony Irons (Harold Loomis), Bill McGough (Rutherford Selig), Jean-Luc Nazaire (Reuben), André Teamer (Seth Holly) and Riley Lauren Wells (Zonia).

Casting is by Lauren Port, CSA. Neena Arndt is the Dramaturg. Mars Wolfe and Kimberly Ann McCann are the Production Stage Managers and Beth Koehler is the Stage Manager.


ASL-Interpreted Performance: Friday, May 10 at 7:30pm – Professional ASL interpreter signs the action/text as played.

Touch Tour* and Audio-Described Performance: Saturday, May 11, 12:30pm Touch Tour; 2pm performance – The action/text is audibly enhanced for patrons via headset.

Spanish-Subtitled Performance: Saturday, May 11 at 7:30pm – An LED sign presents Spanish-translated dialogue in sync with the performance.

Open-Captioned Performance: Sunday, May 12 at 2pm – An LED sign presents dialogue in sync with the performance.

Visit Goodman for more information about Goodman Theatre’s accessibility efforts.


Chicago’s theater since 1925, Goodman Theatre is a not-for-profit arts and community organization in the heart of the Loop, distinguished by the excellence and scope of its artistic programming and community engagement. Led by Artistic Director Susan V. Booth and Executive Director/CEO Roche Schulfer, the theater’s artistic priorities include new play development (more than 150 world or American premieres), large scale musical theater works and reimagined classics. Artists and productions have earned two Pulitzer Prizes, 22 Tony Awards and more than 160 Jeff Awards, among other accolades.

The Goodman is the first theater in the world to produce all 10 plays in August Wilson’s “American Century Cycle.” Its longtime annual holiday tradition A Christmas Carol, now in its fifth decade, has created a new generation of theatergoers in Chicago. The Goodman also frequently serves as a production and program partner with national and international companies and Chicago’s Off-Loop theaters.

Using the tools of theatrical practice, the Goodman’s Education and Engagement programs aim to develop generations of citizens who understand and empathize with cultures and stories of diverse voices. The Goodman’s Alice Rapoport Center for Education and Engagement is the home of these programs, which are offered for Chicago youth—85% of whom come from underserved communities—schools and life-long learners.

Goodman Theatre was built on the traditional homelands of the Council of the Three Fires: the Ojibwe, Odawa and Potawatomi Nations. We recognize that many other Nations consider the area we now call Chicago as their traditional homeland—including the Myaamia, Ho-Chunk, Menominee, Sac and Fox, Peoria, Kaskaskia, Wea, Kickapoo and Mascouten—and remains home to many Native peoples today. While we believe that our city’s vast diversity should be reflected on the stages of its largest theater, we acknowledge that our efforts have largely overlooked the voices of our Native peoples. This omission has added to the isolation, erasure and harm that Indigenous communities have faced for hundreds of years. We have begun a more deliberate journey towards celebrating Native American stories and welcoming Indigenous communities.

Goodman Theatre was founded by William O. Goodman and his family in honor of their son Kenneth, an important figure in Chicago’s cultural renaissance in the early 1900s. The Goodman family’s legacy lives on through the continued work and dedication of Kenneth’s family, including Albert Ivar Goodman, who with his late mother, Edith-Marie Appleton, contributed the necessary funds for the creation on the new Goodman center in 2000.

Julie Danis is Chair of Goodman Theatre’s Board of Trustees, Lorrayne Weiss is Women’s Board President and Kelli Garcia is President of the Scenemakers Board for young professionals.

Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Chicago premiere: Third Coast Percussion Presents Jessie Montgomery's First Work for Percussion

ChiIL Live Shows On Our Radar


presents Chicago premiere of the first percussion composition by 

2024® GRAMMY Award winner and CSO Mead Composer-in-Residence, 


a powerful collaboration between two Chicago GRAMMY® winners

Photo credits: left-right

Third Coast Percussion, photo by Saverio Truglia.

TCP with Jessie Montgomery, photo by Colin D Campbell.

Jessie Montgomery, photo by Jiyang Chen.

Third Coast Percussion (TCP), the Chicago-based GRAMMY® Award-winning quartet of classically trained percussionists, is a top favorite of ours here at ChiIL Mama and ChiIL Live Shows. Their live shows are truly a treat. If you're a fan of percussion, classical music, and/or breathtaking live shows, don't miss this!

TCP is back in Chicago this May with a new collaborative concert Jessie Montgomery + Third Coast Percussion with the acclaimed composer and violinist, featuring the Chicago premiere of the 2024 GRAMMY® winning composer’s first-ever work for percussion ensemble. The concert takes place at the Holtschneider Performance Center of DePaul University, 2330 N. Halsted St. on Friday May 3, 7:30 p.m. Tickets, priced at $50 premium (includes premium seating and post-show reception with artists), $25 general, and $10 student, are now on sale at

Acclaimed composer, violinist, and educator Jessie Montgomery is the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s Mead Composer-in-Residence and a 2024 GRAMMY® Award winner for Best Contemporary Classical Composition (Rounds for solo piano and string orchestra). TCP is thrilled to collaborate with Montgomery in a dynamic program that equally showcases her excellence as visionary creator and virtuosic performer. Study No. 1, her first-ever work for percussion ensemble, draws a vast universe of sounds out of a compact set of instruments. In addition to composing, Montgomery joins the ensemble and percussionist She-e Wu on stage to perform Lou Harrison’s Concerto for Violin with Percussion Orchestra–a tour de force that draws inspiration from the vibrant sounds of Javanese gamelan. The program also features captivating works by Armenian jazz pianist Tigran Hamasyan, contemporary icon Philip Glass, and flute + electronics duo Flutronix.

David Skidmore, TCP ensemble member and executive director, shares the genesis of the collaboration, what it means for the ensemble, and unique aspects of the performance: “Jessie Montgomery is one of the most exciting and in-demand composers working today, and when she moved to Chicago we immediately wanted to try to cook something up with her. Fortunately for us, she was just beginning a series of percussion-focused compositions so the timing worked out. Her Study No. 1 is entrancing and focused, contrasting between bright and dark, while the ensemble experiments with unique setups such as pitch bending tom-toms, resonant metals, and bowls of water. Also on the program, Lou Harrison’s Concerto for Violin and Percussion is majestic and mysterious with grandiose, visually compelling drums and gongs, complemented by intense virtuosic violin playing. That we get to share the stage with Jessie for the Concerto feels like a once-in-a-lifetime bonus.”


Jessie Montgomery shares the concept for her first composition for percussion ensembles: “Study No. 1 for percussion quartet explores a wide range of timbres within a somewhat confined instrumentation. Each player’s setup has at most four individual instruments using various implements to create a spectrum of sound from rounded and chorale-like to metallic, bright, and playful. There are three main sections, the heart of which is inspired by marching band cadences, bookended by sections that are inspired by the West African ‘talking drum’ in which various types of pitch bending and speech-like rhythmic patterns are explored. Aside from composing, I am especially thrilled to take the stage with TCP for Harrison’s Concerto, which articulates our collaborative spirit. The entire concert program is a perfect representation of the Venn diagram of our collective practices, in various roles as performers, composers, interpreters, and arrangers.”

The eclectic concert program is as follows:

Tigran Hamasyan (arr. by Peter Martin): Etude no. 1

Philip Glass (arr. by Third Coast Percussion): Aguas da Amazonia

– Purus River

– Negro River

– Madeira River

Flutronix / Third Coast Percussion: Rubix

– Play

– Go


Jessie Montgomery (arr. by Sean Connors): Suite from In Color

– Red

– The Poet

– Purple

Jessie Montgomery: Study No. 1 *Chicago premiere*

Lou Harrison: Concerto for Violin with Percussion Orchestra

—Jessie Montgomery, violin soloist

—She-e Wu and Third Coast Percussion, percussion


About Jessie Montgomery

Jessie Montgomery is an acclaimed composer, violinist, educator, and a 2024 GRAMMY® Award winner for Best Contemporary Classical Composition. She is the recipient of the Leonard Bernstein Award from the ASCAP Foundation, the Sphinx Medal of Excellence, and her works are performed frequently around the world by leading musicians and ensembles, including the New York Philharmonic, Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, and Chicago Sinfonietta. In May 2021, she began her three-year appointment as the Mead Composer-in-Residence with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Her music interweaves classical music with elements of vernacular music, improvisation, poetry, and social consciousness, making her an acute interpreter of 21st century American sound and experience. Her profoundly felt works have been described as “turbulent, wildly colorful and exploding with life” (The Washington Post). A founding member of PUBLIQuartet and former member of the Catalyst Quartet, she continues to maintain an active performance career as a violinist appearing regularly with her own ensembles, as well as with the Silkroad Ensemble and Sphinx Virtuosi.

About Third Coast Percussion

Third Coast Percussion (comprised of Sean Connors, Robert Dillon, Peter Martin, David Skidmore) is a GRAMMY® Award-winning Chicago-based percussion quartet and GRAMMY®-nominated composer collective. For nearly two decades, the ensemble has created exciting and unexpected performances that constantly redefine the classical music experience. The ensemble has been praised around the country for “commandingly elegant” (New York Times) performances, the “rare power” (Washington Post) of its recordings, and “an inspirational sense of fun and curiosity” (Minnesota Star-Tribune). A commission for a new work from composer Augusta Read Thomas in 2012 led to the realization that commissioning new musical works can be—and should be—as collaborative as any other artistic partnership. Through extensive workshopping and close contact with composers, Third Coast Percussion has commissioned and premiered new works by Philip Glass, Missy Mazzoli, Clarice Assad, Gemma Peacocke, Flutronix, Jlin, Tyondai Braxton, Augusta Read Thomas, Devonté Hynes, Georg Friedrich Haas, Donnacha Dennehy, Glenn Kotche, Christopher Cerrone, and David T. Little, among others, in addition to many of today’s leading up-and-coming composers through its Currents Creative Partnership program. Third Coast Percussion currently serves as ensemble-in-residence at Denison University. More information on Third Coast Percussion HERE.


Thursday, April 11, 2024

Chicago premiere of THE THANKSGIVING PLAY Via Steppenwolf Theatre April 25 – June 2, 2024

 ChiIL Live Shows On Our Radar

Steppenwolf Theatre continues its 48th Season with 

the Chicago premiere of  


By Larissa FastHorse

Directed by Jess McLeod

Featuring ensemble members Audrey Francis and Tim Hopper

with Paloma Nozicka and Nate Santana

April 25 – June 2, 2024 in Steppenwolf’s Ensemble Theater

Steppenwolf Theatre Company, the nation’s premier ensemble theater company, is pleased to continue its 48th season with the Chicago premiere of Larissa FastHorse’s The Thanksgiving Play, a biting comedy about everything right, wrong and woke in America, directed by Jess McLeod. The Thanksgiving Play will play April 25 – June 2, 2024 in Steppenwolf’s stunning in-the-round Ensemble Theater in Honor of Helen Zell, 1646 N. Halsted St. in Chicago. Single tickets starting at $20 are now on sale at or the Box Office at (312) 335-1650. 

The Thanksgiving Play features ensemble members Audrey Francis (POTUS – Director, The Doppelgänger) and Tim Hopper (Downstate, Chicago, Off-Broadway & London) with Paloma Nozicka (Steppenwolf debut) and Nate Santana (Ironbound).

Four (very) well-intentioned theatre people walk into an elementary school. The work at hand: a Thanksgiving pageant that won’t ruffle any feathers. What could possibly go wrong? In MacArthur Genius Larissa Fasthorse’s skewering and satirical comedy, well, just about everything. Rambunctious, thorny and not altogether politically correct, The Thanksgiving Play serves up the hypocrisies of woke America on a big, family-style platter. Come get ya some.

The creative team includes Andrew Boyce (Scenic Design), Raquel Adorno (Costume Design), Keith Parham (Lighting Design), Tosin Olufolabi (Sound Design), R&D Choreography (Violence Design), Jyreika Guest (Intimacy Consultant), Kory Danielson (Music Director), Dillon Chitto (Engagement Curator and Cultural Consultant), Kate DeVore (Vocal Coach), Patrick Zakem (Creative Producer), Elise Hausken (Production Manager), JC Clementz, CSA (Casting), Christine D. Freeburg (Production Stage Manager) and Kathleen Barrett (Assistant Stage Manager). 

ChiIL Mama’s ChiIL Picks List: 

Adult Shows With Family Themes On Our Radar

Production Details:

Location: Steppenwolf’s Ensemble Theater in Honor of Helen Zell, 1646 N. Halsted St., Chicago

Dates: Previews: Thursday, April 25 – Saturday, May 4, 2024

Press performance/Opening: Sunday, May 5, 2024 at 6 pm

Regular run: Tuesday, May 7 – Sunday, June 2, 2024

Curtain Times: Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursdays and Friday at 7:30 pm; Saturdays at 3 pm & 7:30 pm; and Sundays at 3 pm. Please note: there will not be a performance on Tuesday, April 30; there will be an added 2 pm matinee performance on Wednesday, May 8; there will be no performances on Saturday, May 11 (Steppenwolf Gala); there will not be a performance on Tuesday, May 28.

Tickets: Single tickets for The Thanksgiving Play ($20 - $86) are now on sale at and the Box Office at (312) 335-1650. Steppenwolf Flex Memberships are also currently on sale: Black Card Memberships with six tickets for use any time for any production and RED Card Memberships for theatergoers under 30.

Accessible Performance Dates:

Audio-described and touch tour: Sunday, May 26 at 3 pm (1:30 pm touch tour, 3 pm curtain)

Open-captioned: Thursday, May 16 at 7:30 pm and Saturday, June 1 at 3 pm

ASL-interpreted: Friday, May 24 at 7:30 pm

Artist Biographies:

Larissa FastHorse (Playwright, Sicangu Lakota Nation) is an award-winning writer and 2020-2025 MacArthur Fellow. Her 2023 productions are The Thanksgiving Play (Second Stage at the Helen Hayes), Wicoun (Cornerstone Theater Company), Democracy Project (Federal Hall), Fake It Until You Make It (CTG Mark Taper Forum), For the People (Guthrie) and the national tour of Peter Pan (Networks). Selected past productions include What Would Crazy Horse Do? (KCRep), Landless and Cow Pie Bingo (AlterTheater), Average Family (Children’s Theater Company of Minneapolis), Urban Rez and Native Nation (Cornerstone Theater Company), as well as numerous productions of The Thanksgiving Play, making it one of the most produced plays in America.

Jess McLeod (Director) is a director and social justice advocate specializing in risky new work about America. Steppenwolf: Venus. Chicago: Resident Director, Hamilton; Wolf Play, Hang Man (The Gift); Earth To Kenzie (Lyric Opera of Chicago); Do You Feel Anger?, Fulfillment Center (A Red Orchid); Landladies (Northlight); How We Got On (Haven), Short Shakes! Midsummer (CST), Marry Me A Little (Porchlight). Regional: Radical (IAMA); There’s Always The Hudson (Woolly Mammoth); Pride And Prejudice (Long Wharf), The Great Khan (San Diego Rep); Hype Man (Actors Theatre of Louisville). Jess has developed new plays and musicals at Roundabout, the Atlantic Theatre Company, the O’Neill, Williamstown and Berkeley Rep Ground Floor. She is an NYCLU/Creatives Rebuild Artist-In-Residence; Woolly Mammoth’s BOLD Resident Director; and Co-Chair, with Michael Korie, of the Dramatists Guild Foundation Musical Theatre Fellows Program.

Audrey Francis (Logan) serves as Artistic Director of Steppenwolf Theatre, alongside Glenn Davis, where she has been an Ensemble member since 2017. She is an actor, director, educator and coach. Most recently, Audrey directed POTUS in Steppenwolf's 2023/24 season. Steppenwolf performing credits include The Herd, Between Riverside and Crazy, The Fundamentals, The Doppelgänger (an international farce) and Dance Nation. TV credits include Justified: City Primeval, Chicago Med, Chicago Fire and Empire. Film credits include Perpetrator, Knives and Skin, Later Days and Distant Learners. She has taught acting in New York, LA, Toronto, Sydney and Melbourne, as well as at The University of Chicago and The Theatre School at DePaul. Audrey is a professional acting coach for Showtime, NBC, Fox and Amazon, and is the co-founder of Black Box Acting.

Tim Hopper (Caden) is a member of the Steppenwolf Theatre Company ensemble. Recent roles at Steppenwolf include Andy in Downstate, which traveled to the National Theatre in London, and to Playwrights Horizons in New York. He also appeared at the Goodman Theatre in the title role of Uncle Vanya. Television appearances include Chicago Fire, the Amazon series Utopia, Fargo, The Americans, The Exorcist, Empire and Chicago Med. Film appearances include Perpetrator; Knives and Skin, School of Rock and To Die For, among others. Recipient of the 2018 Lunt-Fontanne Fellowship. Broadway: Present Laughter. Off-Broadway: New York Theatre Workshop, Theatre for a New Audience, Vineyard Theatre and the Atlantic Theater. Regionally, at Long Wharf; Williamstown and La Jolla Playhouse. Internationally, the Edinburgh Festival and Antwerp's De Singel Theatre.

Paloma Nozicka (Alicia) makes her Steppenwolf Theatre Company debut. Chicago (selected): Teddy Ferrara (Goodman Theatre); Native Gardens (Victory Gardens Theater); The Harvest (Griffin Theatre); In the Canyon, The Light Fantastic, Exit Strategy, Long Way Go Down (Jackalope Theatre Company). Regional: Citizen Detective (Geffen Playhouse); Boeing Boeing (TheatreSquared). Television: The Irrational, Chicago Med, Proven Innocent, Chicago PD, Empire. Nozicka was a 2023 Jeff Awards nominee for "Best New Work" for her play Enough to Let the Light In, and she is a playwright with the 2023/24 Geffen Playhouse Writer's Room. @palomiiiiiiita

Nate Santana (Jaxton) Steppenwolf: Ironbound. Chicago: Golden Boy, Balm in Gilead (Griffin Theatre); The Abuelas, White Tie Ball (Teatro Vista); Georgiana and Kitty: Christmas at Pemberley, The Legend of Georgia McBride (Northlight Theatre); Regional: Frankenstein, Sense and Sensibility (Indiana Repertory Theatre); References to Salvador Dali Make Me Hot (The Phoenix Theatre). Television: Chicago P.D., Suits, The Exorcist and Chicago Med.


As a commitment to make the Steppenwolf experience accessible to everyone, performances featuring American Sign Language Interpretation, Open Captioning and Audio Description are offered during the run of each STC production (see dates above). Assistive listening devices and large-print programs are available for every performance and all our spaces are equipped with an induction hearing loop. Our building features wheelchair accessible seating and restrooms, push-button entrances, a courtesy wheelchair and all-gender restrooms, with accessible counter and table spaces at our bars. For additional information regarding accessibility, visit or e-mail

Sponsor Information

The Thanksgiving Play is supported in part by Conagra Brands Foundation. United Airlines is the Official and Exclusive Airline of Steppenwolf. Steppenwolf is also grateful for the significant season support from lead sponsors Allstate Insurance Company, Paul M. Angell Family Foundation, Crown Family Philanthropies, Caroline and Keating Crown, Good Chaos, Joyce Foundation, Lefkofsky Family Foundation, Ron and Paula Mallicoat, Northern Trust, Anne and Don Phillips, John Hart and Carol Prins, Robert Rivkin and Cindy Moelis, Shubert Foundation, Inc, Walder Foundation, and Zell Family Foundation. Steppenwolf also acknowledges generous support from premier sponsors Anonymous, ArentFox Schiff, Andrew and Amy Bluhm, Michael and Cathy Brennan, Ann and Richard Carr, Chicago Community Trust, Steven and Nancy Crown,  CRC Group, Rich and Margery Feitler, Julius Frankel Foundation, FROST CHICAGO, Goldman Sachs, Shmaila Tahir and Asheesh Goel, Bob and Amy Greenebaum, Kirkland & Ellis, Harold and Mimi Steinberg Charitable Trust, Christopher and Eileen Murphy, The Orlebeke Foundation, PNC, Polk Bros. Foundation, Bryan Traubert and Penny Pritzker, Sacks Family Foundation, Smart Family Foundation of Illinois, Gary Sinise Foundation, Elliot A. Stultz, and Vinci Restaurant. Steppenwolf also acknowledges support from the Illinois Arts Council Agency. This project is partially supported by a CityArts Grant from the City of Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs & Special Events.

Steppenwolf Theatre Company is the nation’s premiere Ensemble Theater with 49 members who are among the top actors, playwrights and directors in the field. Thrilling, powerful, groundbreaking productions - from Balm in Gilead and Grapes of Wrath to August: Osage County, Downstate and The Brother/Sister Plays - have made this theatre legendary. Founded in 1976, Steppenwolf started as a group of teens performing in the basement of a church. Today, the company's artistic force remains rooted in the original vision of its founders: an artist-driven theatre, whose vitality is defined by its appetite for bold and innovative work. Every aspect of Steppenwolf is rooted in its Ensemble ethos, from the intergenerational artistic programming to the multi-genre performance series LookOut, to the nationally recognized work of Steppenwolf Education and Engagement which serves nearly 15,000 teens annually. While grounded in the Chicago community, more than 40 original Steppenwolf productions have enjoyed success nationally and internationally, including Broadway, Off-Broadway, London, Sydney, Galway and Dublin. Steppenwolf also holds accolades that include the National Medal of Arts, 12 Tony Awards, and more. Led by Artistic Directors Glenn Davis and Audrey Francis, Executive Director Brooke Flanagan and Board of Trustees Chair, Keating Crown - Steppenwolf continually redefines the landscape of acting and performance.

Steppenwolf’s Mission: Steppenwolf strives to create thrilling, courageous and provocative art in a thoughtful and inclusive environment. We succeed when we disrupt your routine with experiences that spark curiosity, empathy and joy. We invite you to join our ensemble as we navigate, together, our complex world.,, and


Physician Magician at the Rhapsody Theater in Back to Back English and Spanish Performances May 4 & 5, 2024

ChiIL Live Shows On Our Radar

The Physician Magician with Dr. Ricardo Rosenkranz

The Rhapsody Theater celebrates Cinco de Mayo with a weekend of alternating Spanish and English language shows by Dr. Ricardo Rosenkranz: the Physician Magician, May 4th & 5th. Here at ChiIL Mama and ChiIL Live Shows, we're longtime fans of Dr. Ricardo Rosenkranz, AKA: the Physician Magician. The good doctor is not only a pediatric physician and Northwestern professor, but also the owner of Rhapsody Theater, and magician in residence. He's even created medical school curriculum for the study of magic and medicine, to improve the doctor-patient relationship. 

We first caught The Physician Magician show years ago at the Royal George Theatre, when my kids were in elementary school. I was called on stage to assist in a mystifying trick involving an old school chalk board (no spoilers). During the trick Dr. Rosenkranz spoke about Zeitgeist, and how the word literally means "time ghost". That was a new word for my young son, and he was so enthralled with the concept, he looked the word up after the show. Years later, my kid was preparing to graduate from Northwestern himself, as I was heading to the grand reopening of Rhapsody Theater. I told him Dr. Rosenkranz was the new owner, and was recreating Rhapsody as a full time magic venue. My son, Dugan instantly remembered him as "The Zeitgeist Guy". It takes a special kind of entertainer to inspire kids to do vocabulary homework and retain it for over a decade. Not only that... he's about to do it bilingually! Don't miss this. 

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

English Language Performances:

Saturday, May 4 @ 7:30 PM

Sunday, My 5 @ 2:00 PM

The Rhapsody Theater celebra el cinco de mayo con un fin de semana de espectáculos alternando funciones en español y en inglés del Dr. Ricardo Rosenkranz: el Medico Mago, Mayo 4 & 5

El Medico Mago con Dr. Ricardo Rosenkranz Espectáculos en español:

Saturday, May 4 @ 2:00 PM

Sunday, My 5 @ 7:30 PM

At the Rhapsody Theater Chicago

1328 W. Morse Avenue in Rogers Park


Plus, special pop-up menu from The Frida Room offers signature Mexican food & beverage

Born and raised in Mexico City, Dr. Ricardo Rosenkranz, MD, Chicago’s own Physician Magician, will celebrate the festive Cinco de Mayo holiday weekend by once again performing a feat never before seen on Chicago stages: performing back-to-back magic shows in two different languages, Spanish and English, at The Rhapsody Theater, 1328 W. Morse Avenue, the weekend of May 4 & 5, 2024.

The Spanish language editions of Physician Magician will mark the first full-length Spanish magic show on the Rhapsody Theater stage. Both days, Dr. Rosenkranz will perform two versions of his popular production, one in English and one in Spanish: Saturday, May 4: SPANISH language matinee at 2pm, followed an ENGLISH language evening performance at 7:30pm; Sunday, May 5, Cinco de Mayo, features an ENGLISH language matinee at 2pm followed by a SPANISH language evening performance at 6:30pm. Tickets for each performance start at $30.00 and can be purchased at

Adding to the festivities, Chicago’s popular The Frida Room, a lively family-owned restaurant with locations in Pilsen and Lincoln Park, will host a limited-time pop-up location at Rhapsody offering an array of modern Mexican favorites for purchase.  Starting Thursday, May 2 through Sunday, May 5, guests can order from a special Frida Room menu inspired by Mexican Street Food and offering main courses, such as fajitas and ceviche, in a sit-down setting before or after each show, along with Mexican favorites, such as quesadillas and flan, available in the theater throughout the shows. Accompanying these authentic food offerings will be a selection of specially curated cocktails with a Mexican twist, including Balsamo’s Lime Margarita.

Physician Magician is an elegant full-length production of rarely seen magic and illusion. One of Rhapsody Theater’s resident artists, Dr. Rosenkranz invites audiences into his study to share the magical performances he so dearly loves. Along the way he shares his connection between medicine and magic witnessing mysteries that might unlock the mind and warm the heart. The new show includes several never-before-seen illusions and brings back many signature classics and audience favorites including Balsamo, last seen on the CW’s Fool Us, creating an unforgettable performance of upbeat, fun, magical theater in a beautiful cabaret style setting.

“As the owner and resident artist at the Rhapsody Theater, I am looking forward to the challenge of performing my show in English and then immediately again in Spanish,” said Ricardo Rosenkranz, MD. “I discovered my love of magic 25 years ago after walking into a magic store in Mexico City. I am thrilled to be presenting these special editions of Physician Magician in my native language for Chicago’s robust Spanish speaking population.”

Other headliner talent at The Rhapsody Theater includes Look Closer with Joshua Jay, a new show of magic and sleight-of-hand in which Jay turns the concept of misdirection on its head, now being performed through April 28; and Ridiculous! with David Williamson, an evening of relentless laughter, mind-bending tricks, and a dash of anarchy, May 17-June 30. PLUS, throughout the year, catch resident artists Chicago’s own Physician Magician, Ricardo Rosenkranz, MD, while Ross Johnson returns with his jaw dropping mind reading show, A funny thing happened… tomorrow!  Visit for more information on all upcoming performances.

More about Dr. Ricardo Rosenkranz, MD

Ricardo Rosenkranz was a student of the legendary Eugene Burger for nearly 20 years. As a Magical Performer, Ricardo has been often seen on the stage of Magic Chicago and is a regular performer and lecturer at the annual Magic and Meaning Conference in Las Vegas. Most Recently he completed a highly successful run at the legendary Magic Castle in Los Angeles. In 2017 Dr. Rosenkranz was invited to perform for Penn & Teller's Fool Us on the CW Network.

Born in Mexico City, Mexico, Ricardo Rosenkranz is Assistant Professor in Clinical Pediatrics at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. Ricardo holds Bachelor and Master of Science Degrees from Stanford University. He obtained his Medical Degree from Cornell University Medical School in 1990, completed a Pediatric Residency and a Fellowship in Neonatal-Perinatal Medicine at Northwestern University in 1993 and 1996 respectively. Dr. Rosenkranz was for the past fifteen years the Co-Founder of Inovamed, S.A. de CV, a health care services provider in Mexico. Inovamed is credited with the successful financial and quality-driven turnaround of one of Mexico City's oldest private hospitals. 

In conjunction with the Medical Humanities and Bioethics Program at Northwestern, Dr. Rosenkranz created the nation’s first medical school curriculum for the study of magic and medicine. Created for first- and second-year medical students, these courses explore the performance aspects of medicine and the anthropological relationship between medicine and the magical arts. The principal aim is to help medical students develop a more sophisticated and deeper understanding of the doctor-patient relationship. The success of his Magic and Medicine courses has spilled over to graduate medical education where Dr. Rosenkranz has taught similar courses elsewhere. He is a regular lecturer of this topic at Stanford University where he recently was the featured presenter for Medical Grand Rounds. Since 2011, Dr. Rosenkranz has led the Course in Magic and Medicine at the McBride’s Magic & Mystery School in Las Vegas. In 2015 he delivered a TED talk at TEDxNorthwestern.


About The Rhapsody Theater

Built in 1912 as the Morse Theater, this destination at 1328 W. Morse Avenue has long-been a source of arts and entertainment (formerly operating as the Co-Ed Theater and the Mayne Stage). Since its reopening in 2022 by Ricardo Rosenkranz, MD, Chicago’s own Physician Magician, The Rhapsody Theater has brought a Vegas-style entertainment experience to Rogers Park. This includes a newly developed, full-service restaurant and three bars throughout providing a welcoming spot for both patrons and community members to enjoy year-round. The multi-faceted theater is perfectly primed for its world-class performances. With state-of-the-art acoustics and versatile seating arrangements, the space allows for enhanced, intimate, and large format experiences. In addition to magic arts talent, The Rhapsody Theater also presents cabaret and other live music concert programming.

The Rhapsody Theater is conveniently located steps away from the Morse Red line ‘El’ station in Rogers Park. Complimentary parking is available in an adjacent lot (subject to availability) in addition to plentiful nearby street parking. 

For more information about The Rhapsody Theater or to purchase tickets, please visit

Tuesday, April 9, 2024

Save The Dates: Chicago Shakespeare Theater To Feature 10 Productions Over 12 Months

Chi, IL Live Shows On Our Radar 

Chicago Shakespeare Theater's 2024/25 Season 

features a powerful lineup of thrilling theatrical events, international partnerships, and productions of Shakespeare

Artistic Director Edward Hall and Executive Director Kimberly Motes Announce Inaugural Season for Chicago Shakespeare Theater

Artistic Director Edward Hall and Executive Director Kimberly Motes' inaugural season for Chicago Shakespeare Theater (CST) will feature 10 productions over 12 months that bring internationally acclaimed artists and companies to Chicago, launch North American, US, and regional premieres, and create dynamic Shakespeare productions for multi-generational audiences. CST brings the Royal Shakespeare Company back to Chicago after 30 years in a new, ongoing partnership and welcomes Teatro La Plaza from Peru.

The season of nearly 350 performances will begin with two summer productions: the US premiere of The Lord of the Rings – A Musical Tale, in a new staging by Paul Hart, as well as an adaptation of the beloved children’s book Corduroy, directed by Amber Mak. Edward Hall leads the fall season with Henry V and the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) returns to Chicago with their new co-artistic director Tamara Harvey’s inaugural production of Pericles. The winter begins with the Broadway hit Jaja’s African Hair Braiding, written by Jocelyn Bioh and directed by Whitney White, followed by the hilarious and uplifting Avaaz, created by Michael Shayan. The season continues with an expanded run of 40 student matinee performances of Short Shakespeare! A Midsummer Night’s Dream, adapted and directed by Edward Hall; Peru’s Teatro La Plaza brings their inventive and eye-opening interpretation of Hamlet; next comes the North American premiere of the Olivier Best New Musical Award winner Sunny Afternoon—Ray Davies and Joe Penhall’s story of the groundbreaking British rock band, The Kinks; then the award-winning playwright Lolita Chakrabarti reframes her celebrated play Hymn in Chicago.

“It is a huge pleasure to introduce this first season of work which looks forward to a year of adventure, entertainment, and thought-provoking theater made by artists in the US and across the globe,” says Edward Hall. “The range and scale of work is something to be celebrated by audiences everywhere as we illuminate the vitality of Shakespeare’s genius alongside leading contemporary writers of our day.”

“We have been energized and inspired by the audiences, artists, donors, students, and community leaders we have met over the past six months as well as by our board and staff,” says Kimberly Motes. “This season is an expression of their encouragement and the dynamism of Chicago as a city of world class theater, arts, and culture. It’s a joy to celebrate a multitude of powerful creative voices reflective of the many communities in our city.”

The 2024/25 Season

As part of a continued commitment to introducing young audiences to the magic of live theater, Chicago Shakespeare begins this summer with Corduroy (June 18–July 14, 2024 | Jentes Family Courtyard Theater). Based on the cherished children’s books Corduroy and A Pocket for Corduroy by Don Freeman and adapted for the stage by Barry Kornhauser, this 60-minute play had its world premiere at the Tony Award-winning Children’s Theatre Company in Minneapolis in 2018. Corduroy’s button has gone missing and he can’t go home with the kindhearted Lisa without it. Audiences follow the beloved bear on a rollicking and delightfully destructive journey through the department store as he searches high and low in this imaginative tale of friendship and belonging. Esteemed Chicago director Amber Mak returns to CST after last summer’s smash-hit production of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, bringing a wealth of experience directing shows for young audiences.

“Corduroy has been a beloved book for over 50 years as an enduring, lovable story of friendship, home, and being accepted just as you are today,” says Mak. “I am excited to bring these characters from the book to life on the Pier in a very fun, whimsical, and imaginative adventure that multi-generational audiences can experience together.”

Beginning in July, The Lord of the Rings – A Musical Tale (July 19–September 1, 2024 | The Yard), based on the books by J.R.R. Tolkien, comes to the stage in a US premiere production directed by Paul Hart, who created the acclaimed new staging in 2023 at the UK’s Watermill Theatre. This adventure through the multi-dimensional world of Middle-earth has been beloved by generations of readers and adapted into an Academy Award-winning film trilogy by Peter Jackson. As the Hobbits celebrate Bilbo Baggins’ eleventy-first birthday in the Shire, he gifts his nephew Frodo his most precious belonging—a gold ring. This fateful moment launches Frodo on a legendary and perilous quest across Middle-earth to the darkest realms of Mordor to vanquish evil with his loyal Fellowship. With book and lyrics by Shaun McKenna and Matthew Warchus and original music by Academy Award winner A.R. Rahman (Bombay Dreams, Slumdog Millionaire), Finnish folk band Värttinä, and Tony Award winner Christopher Nightingale (Matilda the Musical), this theatrical event celebrates the magical world of Middle-earth, making for an unforgettable experience for longtime fans and newcomers alike.

“Sharing the Watermill’s wonderful expression of The Lord of the Rings on stage with audiences across the globe beginning this summer in Chicago, with the US premiere of Paul Hart’s and Chicago Shakespeare Theater’s collaborative re-imagining, is a dream come true for all of us at Middle-earth Enterprises,” says Fredrica Drotos, of Middle-earth Enterprises.

Following his groundbreaking production of Richard III this season, Artistic Director Edward Hall opens the start of the fall season with Henry V (September 6–October 6, 2024 | Jentes Family Courtyard Theater). This gripping tale of youthful ambition and adventure explores the thrill and destructive power of war, examining nationalism at its most dangerous and seductive. From the evocative opening line, “O for a Muse of Fire,” Henry V includes some of Shakespeare’s most famous speeches and stirring poetry. Hall’s approach reflects his belief in Shakespeare as a modern writer for our modern world, exploring the themes of conflict, patriotism, and legacy through a contemporary lens. Prior to taking the helm of CST as artistic director in October 2023, Hall staged acclaimed productions of Shakespeare’s plays in London’s West End, New York, and on tour around the globe as the founder and artistic director of Propeller Shakespeare.

“Henry V remains one of the most revealing plays about war, nationalism, the consequences of both, and our need for common causes to bind us together,” says Hall. “There has never been a more prescient moment to explore our reflex for conflict through the prism of a story that contains some of the greatest writing in the English language.”

One of the world’s preeminent theater companies, the Royal Shakespeare Company returns to Chicago for the first time in 30 years as part of a new, ongoing partnership with CST. Direct from a run in the Swan Theatre at the company’s home in Stratford-upon-Avon, UK comes the mystical Pericles (October 20–December 8, 2024 | Jentes Family Courtyard Theater). In her and Daniel Evans' first season as the RSC’s co-artistic directors, Tamara Harvey directs this major new production of Shakespeare’s moving tale of love, hope, and miracles. When Prince Pericles flees for safety, he finds himself on an epic voyage through storms, shipwrecks, abduction, and loss. This exclusive limited engagement marks CST’s 100th international production of bringing the world’s great artists to Chicago.

"It’s a joy to be renewing our relationship with Chicago Shakespeare Theater in 2024, in this moment of transformation for both companies,” said RSC co-artistic directors Tamara Harvey and Daniel Evans. “The RSC’s connection with Chicago dates back to 1913 and many of our audiences and company remember welcoming CST to Stratford-upon-Avon as part of our Complete Works Festival in 2006. As the RSC’s new co-artistic directors, we share Edward Hall’s passionate commitment to collaboration across borders and to providing a platform for exhilarating theatre that speaks with immediacy to the world we live in today. Bringing this production of Pericles directly from our inaugural season marks the beginning of an exciting new chapter between our two companies. We can’t wait to share it with CST’s audiences.”

Straight from a twice-extended Broadway run, Jaja’s African Hair Braiding (January 14–February 2, 2025 | The Yard) will have its regional premiere at CST in a co-production with Arena Stage and Berkeley Repertory Theatre. This comedic play, which had its world premiere at Manhattan Theatre Club in 2023, offers a glimpse into one sweltering summer day in the lives of a group of West African immigrant women who find community in a Harlem hair salon. Love blossoms, dreams flourish, and secrets are revealed in this dazzling production. Written by acclaimed playwright Jocelyn Bioh (School Girls, or the African Mean Girls Play, Nollywood Dreams), the production is directed by Chicago native and Obie Award winner Whitney White (Our Dear Dead Drug Lord, What to Send Up When It Goes Down). Jaja's African Hair Braiding is presented in association with Madison Wells Live and LaChanze.

"I am thrilled and honored that audiences beyond Broadway will get to come to 'the shop' and meet the vibrant women of Jaja's African Hair Braiding,” says Bioh. “This play means so much to me as both a native New Yorker and as a first-generation Ghanaian American as it speaks to the heart of what makes our country so beautifully unique: its rich diversity of people and culture. There is a real universality to these women's experiences, and I can't wait for audiences to connect and fall in love with each of them."

Also beginning performances in January, following a sold out, critically acclaimed East Coast debut, Avaaz (January 21–February 9, 2025 | Carl and Marilynn Thoma Theater Upstairs) is a “powerful, defiant, celebratory” (Washington Post) exploration of family and the immigrant experience, written and performed by Emmy Award nominee Michael Shayan and directed by Tony Award nominee Moritz von Stuelpnagel. Shayan—playing the role of his own larger-than-life Iranian-Jewish mother, Roya—welcomes audiences into her home to celebrate the Iranian New Year and shares her quintessential American journey from Tehran to “Tehrangeles,” California, formerly known as Westwood. Rich in extravagant humor and heart, Avaaz is at once deeply personal and universal. This production, hailed as “ingenious” and “masterful” by BroadwayWorld and DC Theater Arts, is designed by a Tony and Emmy Award-winning creative team. It successfully premiered at the Olney Theatre Center and its time at Chicago Shakespeare marks the continuation of a US tour. A Fellow with the Sundance Institute and Lambda Literary, Shayan was recently recognized on Out Magazine’s OUT100 list of the most impactful and influential LGBTQ+ people. A Harvard-trained writer, performer, and illusionist, Shayan offers a perspective rarely seen on stage. von Stuelpnagel’s credits include the upcoming Judgment Day at CST and Present Laughter and Hand to God on Broadway.

“It’s an honor to take Avaaz across the country with Moritz and this incredible team, particularly at a time of overwhelming anti-immigrant sentiment,” says Shayan. “Avaaz offers a different narrative and grapples with complex truths in a fabulous, decadent, larger-than life party on stage. I can’t wait to share the magic of ‘Tehrangeles’ with audiences in Chicago and beyond!”

Chicago Shakespeare will increase the number of student performances from 30 to 40 and welcome 20,000 middle and high school students from across the region to Short Shakespeare! A Midsummer Night’s Dream (February 4–March 8, 2025 | Jentes Family Courtyard Theater). Adapted and directed by Edward Hall, Shakespeare’s beloved romantic comedy captures the exhilaration, foolishness, and delight of young love, as the chaos of magic and enchantment turns the world upside down. In addition to the five-week run of school matinees, this 75-minute production will offer public performances on Saturdays.

“It’s a joy to be creating this Short Shakes production as part of CST’s ongoing commitment to providing the best theater for young people,” says Hall. “I have had some of my most exciting experiences in the theater making work in this forum and look forward to sharing a comedy that warms the heart and delights the soul, inspiring young audiences and artists of the future.”

In partnership with the Chicago Latino Theater Alliance (CLATA), CST introduces Teatro La Plaza from Lima, Peru to Chicago audiences with an original and energetic reimagining of Shakespeare’s Hamlet (March 13–23, 2025 | Carl and Marilynn Thoma Theater Upstairs). Blending Shakespeare’s text with personal anecdotes from their lives, a group of young performers with Down syndrome take the stage in a lively and profound theatrical experience directed by Teatro La Plaza’s founder Chela de Ferrari. Together, the performers explore the central question “To be or not to be?” using pop music, dance, and wry humor to create an original and joyful celebration of self-expression.

“CLATA is excited to see Teatro La Plaza's Hamlet at Chicago Shakespeare Theater, not only because this is such a different adaptation of Hamlet but also because it's a very unique representation of Latine actors that also deserves to be experienced,” says Jorge Valdivia, CLATA’s executive director. “There is so much that we can learn from this unique adaptation. We’re thrilled about our ongoing partnership with CST and seeing our city give Teatro La Plaza a warm welcome.”

Winner of four Olivier Awards including Best New Musical, Sunny Afternoon  makes its North American premiere (March 21–April 27, 2025 | The Yard). It tells the story of the rise to stardom of The Kinks through their own prolific catalog of chart-topping songs including “You Really Got Me,” “Lola,” and “All Day and All of the Night.” With an original story, music, and lyrics by The Kinks’ legendary Ray Davies and a script by Joe Penhall, this musical is an unforgettable rock-and-roll journey through the soaring triumphs and devastating lows of an iconic band that influenced generations. Edward Hall returns to this show after directing the world premiere at London’s Hampstead Theatre and in the West End.

“Anyone who knows The Kinks knows we’re a series of catastrophes turning into glorious triumph,” says Davies. “This is not an interpretation…it’s coming from my perspective and very personal to me. Most of the stories come from the family in the front room where everyone played an instrument, and everyone collaborated. Yet what’s come through is that it’s a kind of timeless story. Yes, there’s a setting, but hopefully the songs transcend time. It’s about characters and situations and people trying to get through their lives.”

In the spring, Olivier Award-winning playwright Lolita Chakrabarti returns to Chicago with her celebrated play Hymn (April 29–May 25, 2025 | Jentes Family Courtyard Theater). Originally set in London in its premiere at the Almeida Theatre, Chakrabarti will reframe the play for CST to be set in Chicago. This soul-affirming story charts the lives of two middle-aged Black men as they form a deep bond in an intimate exploration of the loyalties and betrayals of brothers, fathers, and sons. Chakrabarti’s Red Velvet enjoyed an acclaimed run at CST in 2017; other notable credits include Life of Pi, now on tour across North America, and Hamnet, a stage adaptation of Maggie O’Farrell’s novel that premiered at the Royal Shakespeare Company last year.

“I wanted to write a story of two Black men who find love with each other—a familial, platonic love,” says Chakrabarti. “My own male friends have often surprised me with their sensitivity, femininity, fussiness, insecurities, fun, kindness, and warmth—the list goes on. Hymn was born out of my desire to tell a different story. To reframe this play for Chicago is very exciting indeed, and I believe it will lend itself beautifully to this city’s rich culture.”

Chicago Shakespeare Theater will also continue its longstanding commitment to creative community engagement this summer with Shakes in the City, an evolution of Chicago Shakespeare in the Parks. Pop-up performances of Twelfth Night, directed by Tyrone Phillips, and opportunities to engage with artists will activate green spaces, neighborhood festivals, and events across the city. This new iteration of the program builds upon CST’s 12-year history of summer programming in community spaces and aims to broaden engagement with audiences across Chicago.

“I couldn’t be more excited to work on this new chapter of CST’s community programming and partner in its reimagining,” says Phillips, who directed a production of Twelfth Night in the Courtyard Theater last fall. “Chicago is my home, and I love creating here. This is a city that gets what it means to be a human, what it means to be a neighbor, and to bring this warm and joyful play that is fundamentally about community directly to people across the city in this new way is really special.”

For information on purchasing tickets, visit or call the Box Office at 312.595.5600. A variety of flexible season ticket packages are on sale now, offering savings over single tickets and guaranteeing seats at every production. Discounted tickets are available for groups of 10 or more.

About Chicago Shakespeare Theater

A Regional Tony Award recipient, Chicago Shakespeare Theater (CST) produces a bold and innovative year-round season—plays, musicals, world premieres, family productions, and theatrical presentations from around the globe—alongside education programming for students, teachers, and lifelong learners, and engagement with communities across the city. Located on Chicago’s iconic Navy Pier, CST’s campus features the Jentes Family Courtyard Theater, The Yard, and the Carl and Marilynn Thoma Theater Upstairs. Onstage, in classrooms and neighborhoods across the city, and in venues around the world, Chicago Shakespeare is a multifaceted cultural center—inviting audiences, artists, and community members to share powerful stories that connect and inspire.

Edward Hall (Artistic Director, Carl and Marilynn Thoma Chair) joined CST in October 2023 and directed his debut production as Artistic Director, Richard III, earlier this year. He previously directed the Jeff Award-winning Rose Rage trilogy at CST in 2003. An internationally recognized director, Hall has built his love of Shakespeare around original interpretations of the Bard’s plays, staging acclaimed productions in London’s West End and on tour around the globe. He led the UK’s Hampstead Theatre for nearly a decade, transforming it into one of the nation’s most successful theaters for new work development, with over 100 world premieres. He was the founder and Artistic Director of Propeller Shakespeare for twenty years touring across the US, Europe, Asia, and beyond. He has served as an Associate Director at the National Theatre and Old Vic in London. His extensive film and television credits include The Heist Before Christmas starring Timothy Spall, Blithe Spirit starring Dame Judi Dench, multiple HBO and BBC series, and the season 4 finale for Downton Abbey. He is a member of The Arts Club Of Chicago.

Kimberly Motes (Executive Director) joined CST in October 2023 after serving for over seven years as Managing Director for the Tony Award winning Children's Theatre Company (CTC), the nation’s largest and most acclaimed theatre dedicated to multigenerational audiences. She produced 46 plays/musicals including 15 commissioned new works and six coproductions/transfers, increased contributed income, completed a $25 million capital campaign, and achieved the highest ticket sales in its history. Motes held leadership roles in Minnesota including Senior Vice President of Institutional Advancement at the University of St. Thomas, Vice President of Institutional Advancement for the College of Saint Benedict, Managing Director at Theater Latté Da, and Executive Director at the Cowles Center for Dance and the Performing Arts. Kimberly spent 13 years in Washington, DC where she was the Director of Development at Arena Stage and led adult arts education programming and a ballet training program at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. She has served on grant panels for the National Endowment for the Arts and the Minnesota State Arts Board. She is a member of the Economic Club of Chicago.



Based on the books entitled 

Corduroy & A Pocket for Corduroy by Don Freeman

Adapted for the stage by Barry Kornhauser

Directed by Amber Mak

Jentes Family Courtyard Theater

June 18–July 14, 2024 



The Lord of the Rings - A Musical Tale

Based upon the books by J.R.R. Tolkien

Book & lyrics by Shaun McKenna & Matthew Warchus

Music by A.R. Rahman, Värttinä, & Christopher Nightingale

Directed by Paul Hart

The Yard

July 19–September 1, 2024 



Henry V 

By William Shakespeare

Directed by Edward Hall

Jentes Family Courtyard Theater

September 6–October 6, 2024




From the UK

By William Shakespeare

Directed by Tamara Harvey

Jentes Family Courtyard Theater

October 20–December 8, 2024


Jaja’s African Hair Braiding

Written by Jocelyn Bioh

Directed by Whitney White

The Yard

January 14–February 2, 2025



Written & performed by Michael Shayan

Directed by Moritz von Stuelpnagel

A production from the Olney Theatre Center

Carl and Marilynn Thoma Theater Upstairs

January 21–February 9, 2025



Short Shakespeare!

A Midsummer Night’s Dream

By William Shakespeare

Adapted & directed by Edward Hall

Welcoming thousands of young people for weekday student matinees with public performances Saturdays at 11am

Jentes Family Courtyard Theater

February 4–March 8, 2025




Teatro La Plaza’s


From Peru

In partnership with Chicago Latino Theater Alliance (CLATA)

Written & directed by Chela De Ferrari

Carl and Marilynn Thoma Theater Upstairs

March 13–23, 2025



Sunny Afternoon

By Joe Penhall with original story, music, & lyrics by Ray Davies

Directed by Edward Hall

The Yard

March 21–April 27, 2025 




Written by Lolita Chakrabarti

Jentes Family Courtyard Theater

April 29–May 25, 2025