Tuesday, June 4, 2024

Book Giveaway: WIN The Best Hits on the Blues Highway by Chicago Author Amy Bizzarri

What We're Reading 
Chi, IL Book Releases On Our Radar:
The Best Hits on the Blues Highway 
by Amy Bizzarri 
Enter to win a signed copy through 6/17/24

The Best Hits on the Blues Highway, Chicago-based author, Amy Bizzarri signs her latest release at the iconic Chess Records Studios, now Willie Dixon’s Blues Heaven Foundation.
All photos by Bonnie Kenaz-Mara

ChiIL Mama's Chi, IL Picks List

To celebrate the release of The Best Hits on the Blues Highway, Chicago-based author, Amy Bizzarri is partnering up with us, here at ChiIL Mama, to offer a signed and personalized copy of The Best Hits on the Blues Highway to one lucky winner! ($26.95 retail value). Enter at the bottom of this post. Winner will be announced here and on our social media outlets on Monday, June 17th.

Just about everyone who wasn't raised in a cave has heard of Route 66, but what do you know about Route 61, AKA: The Blues Highway? We're so excited for this fun and informative guide for blues fans and travel lovers alike. The book even comes with a QR code to scan for some roadtrip tunes to get you started off down The Blues Highway in style! We're jonesin' to hit the road and give this guide a real world try. 

The legendary Blues Highway has played a key role in the lives of countless musicians. Running from Nashville, Tennessee, to New Orleans, Louisiana, there’s music around every bend. From the two-room home where “the King” was born to the original Heartbreak Hotel to the crossroads where Robert Johnson allegedly sold his soul to the devil for fame, every stop has a story to tell. 

Inspiring, practical, and entertaining, The Best Hits on the Blues Highway is the premier guide to all the off-the-radar stops along America’s Blues Highway that you simply must not miss. Author Amy Bizzarri, road trip expert and author of the bestselling guide to the Mother Road, The Best Hits on Route 66, provides a comprehensive list of 100 unique stops that you’ll want to take a moment to explore as you journey along the fascinating, 730-mile route from Nashville to New Orleans. 

The Best Hits on the Blues Highway: Nashville to New Orleans on Route 61
Amy Bizzarri
Current price: $26.95
Publication Date:  June 4th, 2024
Publisher: Globe Pequot Press
ISBN: 9781493078462
Pages: 184

Experience its world-famous music landmarks, tucked-away locations, and one-of-a-kind stops. Travel one section at a time or plan an extended trip along the entire route.


Amy Bizzarri is a freelance travel writer with a focus on family adventures and outdoor fun. She has a keen interest in Chicago history and is the author of 111 Places in Chicago That You Must Not Miss and Discovering Vintage Chicago. She is also the author of The Best Hits on Route 66.

It was our great pleasure to shoot Amy's book release party, Sunday, May 26th at the iconic Chess Records studios at 2120 S. Michigan Ave., Chicago. The lovely event included an afternoon reception and private tour of Chess Records benefiting Willie Dixon’s Blues Heaven Foundation. All event proceeds support the Blues Heaven Foundation. Here's a quick photo recap below, with a full tour set coming soon, along with a detailed book review. In the meantime, check out some excellent events this month: https://www.bluesheaven.com/events.html

The Best Hits on the Blues Highway: Nashville to New Orleans on Route 61
Book release party, Sunday, May 26th at the iconic Chess Records studios 

Best Hits on the Blues Highway, published by Globe Pequot, released 6/4/24. Find or request it at your local bookstores and online. 

CLICK HERE for your chance to WIN 

The Best Hits on the Blues Highway 

by Chicago-based author, Amy Bizzarri. 

One lucky winner gets a signed and personalized copy of The Best Hits on the Blues Highway ($26.95 retail value). Enter like we vote in Chi, IL... early and often. Winner will be announced here and on our social media outlets on Monday, June 17th.

The author has provided us with both a review copy and a signed copy that can be personalized, to give away to 1 of our lucky readers. As always, all opinions are our own. 


The Best Hits on the Blues Highway, Chicago-based author, Amy Bizzarri signs her latest release at the iconic Chess Records Studios, now Willie Dixon’s Blues Heaven Foundation.

All photos by Bonnie Kenaz-Mara

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 GoodmanTheatre.org/Joe 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 GoodmanTheatre.org/HiddenGems. 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 theatre.org/Access 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 thirdcoastpercussion.com.

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 steppenwolf.org 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 steppenwolf.org 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. HoganHorsestudio.com

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. www.jess-mcleod.com

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. palomanozicka.com @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 steppenwolf.org/plan-your-visit/accessibility or e-mail access@steppenwolf.org.

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. 

steppenwolf.org, facebook.com/steppenwolftheatre, twitter.com/steppenwolfthtr and instagram.com/steppenwolfthtr.


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 rhapsodytheater.com.

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 https://rhapsodytheater.com/ 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 https://rhapsodytheater.com/