Wednesday, April 13, 2016


Chi, IL LIVE Shows On Our Radar:

MAY 12 – JULY 24 

All images by Michael Brosilow
Pictured: Johnny Arena as The Ringmaster (center) with Ensemble (clockwise from top) Shawn Pfautsch, Marika Mashburn, Tommy Rapley, Trista Smith, Carolyn Defrin

“We give you magic! We give you mystery! We give you Death and Harry Houdini!” 

Here at ChiIL Mama, this is one of our top favorite shows of all time! DEATH & HARRY HOUDINI is oh SO highly recommended! Do book your tickets ASAP, as the run will undoubtedly sell out. 

BLAST FROM THE PAST: Several years back, before a revival of Death & Harry Houdini, we had the great pleasure of interviewing Dennis Watkins in his lovely home filled with show posters and retro magic tricks from his grandfather's stash. Check out our original video interview right here:

The production previously ran to great acclaim and sold out houses in Chicago and Miami from January through August 2012 and again in the summer of 2013, The House is thrilled to bring back this dynamic and magic-filled production. 

The House Theatre of Chicago Company Member and Professional Magician Dennis Watkins Reprises His Stunning Portrayal of the Late, Great Harry Houdini

“Magic of the very highest order!,” 
declared Chris Jones of the Chicago Tribune.  

“Soar[ing] on Dennis Watkins’ brilliance as a genuine magician” and “ingeniously written and directed by Nathan Allen,” (Hedy Weiss, Chicago Sun-Times), Death & Harry Houdini leads viewers through the events of history’s most famous magician’s life told with “high energy and lack of artifice in a loose, buzzy blend of traditional storytelling, music and spectacle,” (Kris Vire, Time Out Chicago). 

The House Theatre of Chicago is proud to announce the return of the first play to ever grace its stage, the magic-filled thrill show and crowd favorite Death & Harry Houdini, written and directed by The House Theatre of Chicago Artistic Director Nathan Allen and starring Company Member and professional magician Dennis Watkins as Harry Houdini. Filled with stunning magic, poignant dialogue and original music, Death & Harry Houdini presents the story of history’s most famous magician and his life-long war against Death. 

The production runs from May 12 – July 24 at the Chopin Theatre’s Upstairs Theater, 1543 W. Division St. Previews are Thursday, May 12 – Sunday, May 15 at 7:30 p.m. Regular performances are Thursdays and Fridays at 7:30 p.m. and Saturdays and Sundays at 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. Additional performances on Wednesdays at 7:30pm in July. Preview tickets are $30 and regular run tickets range from $45 - 59. $15 same-day tickets for students and industry professionals are available for all dates, seats permitting. For more information and to purchase tickets, please visit or call 773.769.3832. 

“We’re the Houdini brothers. Forget about the others!”
Pictured: Dennis Watkins as Harry Houdini (left) and Shawn Pfautsch as Theo (Right) with Ensemble (LtoR, Top Row) Trista Smith, Carolyn Defrin, Tommy Rapley, (LtoR bottom row) Marika Mashburn and Abu Ansari. 

Beginning with the untimely passing of Harry’s father, the show travels through his first tent shows with his younger brother Theo, meeting his wife Bess and the beginning of his journey towards fame on the Vaudeville circuit. All the while, Harry feels Death close on his heels and he won’t rest until he’s conquered him once and for all. Harry will walk on broken glass, swallow razor blades and risk his life in the Water Torture Cell, but will he pull off an escape from Death? Marvel with fellow audience members as Houdini battles Death once more. 

Returning to the cast and joining Dennis Watkins as Harry Houdini are House Company Members Carolyn Defrin (Bess), Shawn Pfaustch (Theo), Tommy Rapley (Death), Marika Mashburn (Cecilia), and Johnny Arena (Ringmaster). Guest artists Rashad Hall and Julia Merchant join the ensemble.  
The Design Team includes House Company members: Nathan Allen (director/playwright), Collette Pollard (scenic designer), Lee Keenan (costume design), Ben Wilhelm (light designer), Kevin O’Donnell (sound designer/composer) and Brian DesGranges (stage management), with guest artist Harrison Adams (co-sound design). 

ABOUT NATHAN ALLEN, writer and director
Nathan Allen founded The House Theatre of Chicago with friends in the year 2001 and continues to lead the company as Artistic Director. Writing and directing credits include Death & Harry Houdini, The Sparrow, Rose and the Rime, and The Hammer Trinity (The Iron Stag King, The Crownless King, and The Excelsior King.) He also wrote and starred in The Valentine Trilogy (San Valentino and The Melancholy Kid, Curse of the Crying Heart, and Valentine Victorious) and directed The Magnificents by Dennis Watkins, with whom he created the weekly magic show, The Magic Parlour. Nathan's work has been seen on the stages of The House, The Steppenwolf Merle Reskin Garage Theatre, The Arsht Center of Miami, The Stoneham Theatre in Boston, Strawdog Theatre, The Neo-Futurarium, Collaboraction, and The Kennedy Center in Washington D.C. Nathan has received acknowledgements from the Joseph Jefferson Awards, The Orgie Awards, and The American College Theatre Festival.  He has been named an Associate Artist at The Adrienne Arsht Center in Miami, and received the Emerging Leader Award from his alma mater, Southern Methodist University.

ABOUT DENNIS WATKINS, actor and magician
Dennis Watkins, a third-generation world-class magician, works as a corporate entertainer, mentalist, and event speaker, and is also a classically trained actor, playwright and director. A founding company member with The House Theater of Chicago, Watkins has played Harry Houdini in every production of Death & Harry Houdini, winning a Joseph Jefferson Award for Artistic Specialization in Magic Design for the 2012 production.  Dennis has worked as a writer, director and/or actor on over 20 productions with The House Theater of Chicago since 2001, including the long-running The Magic Parlour playing at the The Palmer House, a Hilton Hotel. He has also worked with Steppenwolf Theatre Company, Lookingglass Theatre Company, Writers Theatre, Next Theatre, Court Theatre, Vittum Theater, Roadworks Productions, Uma Productions, Live Bait Theatre and Strawdog Theatre Company, among others.

The House is Chicago's premier home for intimate, original works of epic story and stagecraft. Founded and led by Artistic Director Nathan Allen and driven by an interdisciplinary ensemble of Chicago’s next generation of great storytellers, The House aims to become a laboratory and platform for the evolution of the American theatre as an inclusive and popular artform.

The House was founded in 2001 by a group of friends to explore connections between Community and Storytelling through a unique theatrical experience. Since becoming eligible in 2004, The House has been nominated for 60 Joseph Jefferson Awards (21 wins), became the first recipient of Broadway in Chicago’s Emerging Theater Award in 2007, and was awarded a 2014 National Theatre Company Grant by the American Theatre Wing, founder of the Tony Awards. Now in its 14th year of original work, The House continues its mission to unite Chicago in the spirit of Community through amazing feats of Storytelling.

The Water Torture Cell -One of Houdini’s most famous escapes, performed with audience on all sides
Pictured: Dennis Watkins as Houdini 

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