Thursday, October 24, 2019

GIVEAWAY: WIN a Family 4 Pack of Tickets (Up To $80 Value) to Lyric Opera for Kids: EARTH TO KENZIE

ChiIL Mama’s Chi, IL Picks List
Via Lyric Opera at Vittum Theater

**Perfect for families with children ages 7-12**

 For Your Chance To WIN A 
Family 4 Pack of Tickets (Up To $80 Value) 
to Lyric Opera for Kids: EARTH TO KENZIE
Winners Choice of November 9 at 1pm and 3pm and November 10 at 3pm at Vittum Theater 
Enter through midnight November 4th.

Earth to Kenzie tells the story of a 5th grader named Kenzie who has just been forced to move to a family shelter with her mother. She escapes the uncertainty in her life through the world of video games and with her avatar, Edwin. Through her wild adventures with Edwin, she realizes that home is not a place, but rather wherever she is with her mother and the ones she loves. The show features dynamic & video game-like music, a transforming set, and a fantastic cast of four talented artists.

If you had encountered opera at an early age, even as young as 7 years old, what difference would that exposure have made in your life? Lyric Opera of Chicago has been providing innovative educational and artistic programming for youth across the Chicago area for many years, reaching an average of 33,000 students each season. With the start of our new season comes a new wave of young operagoers that we’re eager to introduce to the art form.

Lyric will present its fourth original children’s opera – Earth to Kenzie – this fall. A co-commission with Seattle Opera, Earth to Kenzie was composed by Frances Pollock with a libretto by Jessica Murphy Moo. When 5th grader Kenzie and her mother have to move into a family shelter, Kenzie finds refuge in the world of video games alongside her avatar, Edwin. Through their imaginary space adventures, Kenzie discovers that home is not always a place, but rather wherever she is with the ones she loves.

Lyric's educational partner for Earth to Kenzie is Codeverse, the world's first fully interactive coding studio and development platform for kids ages 6-13. With Codeverse’s help, students will gain a better understanding of the technology that goes into games like the one Kenzie plays in the opera. 

There are a few ways that students and the public can watch this engaging new opera in the coming weeks:
Public performances, perfect for families with children ages 7-12, will take place on November 9 at 1pm and 3pm and November 10 at 3pm at Vittum Theater, 1012 N. Noble St. in Chicago's Noble Square neighborhood. Tickets begin at just $10 for kids/$20 for adults. Click here for more information and to book your tickets. 

*Opera in the Neighborhoods Shows May Be CANCELLED until The Chicago Teachers' Strike is resolved: 
Due to the Chicago Teachers Union work stoppage, performances of Earth to Kenzie scheduled at CPS venues may need to be cancelled. Please monitor this webpage for the most current information:

Performances Via Lyric's longtime Opera in the Neighborhoods program, Earth to Kenzie will be presented at 15 different venues across Chicago and surrounding suburbs. Educators can bring their students to one of two performances, 10am or 12pm at each venue free of cost, and are given curriculum resources ahead of time to introduce their students to opera. Students who attend will also receive access to free online resources through Codeverse. For more information, please visit

Earth to Kenzie touches on a lot of relevant themes for young people – overcoming personal challenges by facing fears; being proud of who you are; and the idea that home is not always a place. The Chicago Tribune recently published a startling article with data from the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless revealing that in the 2018/19 school year, 16,450 Chicago Public School students did not have a permanent home. As stated in the article, “Most were in temporary living situations, meaning they stayed in shelters, motels, cars or, in about 90% of the cases, 'doubled up' with others. Doubling up doesn’t generally meet the federal government’s definition of homelessness, so people in those situations don’t qualify for federal programs for those without homes.” You can also hear more about Chicago Coalition for the Homeless’s data and the story of child home security in Chicago through this WBEZ interview on Morning Shift.

Like far too many students living in Chicago, Kenzie and her mother receive an eviction notice and are forced to move out and find temporary housing in a family shelter. Through Earth to Kenzie, Lyric Opera of Chicago and co-commission partner Seattle Opera strive to raise awareness about housing insecurity and foster understanding that homelessness is something that happens to people, but is not who they are, something Kenzie comes to realize in the opera.

There are lots of important themes to explore through Earth to Kenzie, and Lyric is pleased to make that possible for thousands of students across Chicago in the next two months. Participating teachers and educators receive extensive resources to prepare their students for the opera, and some of these items may also be helpful for families or first-time operagoers of all ages.

Do you want to help prepare your child for the performance? Check out our Backstage Pass! study guide and program.

Interested in learning more about Earth to Kenzie’s educational partner, Codeverse? As part of our partnership, Codeverse has offered resources for teachers to give their students more insight on the world of coding, video game creation and app development. Check them out here!

Want to know more about the set design and creation of the video game world that Kenzie travels to with her avatar, Edwin? Watch the “Meet the Designers” video below!

 For Your Chance To WIN A 
Family 4 Pack of Tickets (Up To $80 Value) 
to Lyric Opera for Kids: EARTH TO KENZIE
Winners Choice of November 9 at 1pm and 3pm and 
November 10 at 3pm at Vittum Theater 
Enter through midnight November 4th.

Monday, October 21, 2019

GIVEAWAY & REVIEW: MADAGASCAR – A MUSICAL ADVENTURE at Marriott Theatre for Young Audiences Now Playing Through December 29, 2019

Out of the zoo and onto the Marriott Theatre stage!
Now Playing Through December 29th

ChiIL Mama's Giving Away 2 
Family 4 Packs of Tickets ($72.92 Value)
Enter Below for Your Chance to WIN!
(Enter early and often through midnight November 3, 2019)

Guest Review
by lori morrison 

Marty, the Zebra's, 10th Birthday wish is to get out of the zoo and visit nature. Following the team of penguins with a dream to get back to Antarctica, he does just that.  Worried, his friends (Alex, Gloria, Melman and Mason) go searching for him. 

There is much adventure as they travel out of the zoo, get caught in subways of New York and wake up on a boat to Madagascar which gets overtaken by the Penguins. 

Once in Madagascar, they meet many new and interesting characters, some friendly and in need of help and some who's natural instincts are to harm them.

All characters realize just how different the wild is from the zoo and must decide if this is really what they want.

Marty, gets his 10th Birthday wish come true but is it all he thought it would be? 

Alex, the Lion is king of the zoo but does he have what it takes to be king of the jungle? Does he want to be? What will that do to his friendship with Marty and the others?

With catchy songs and fun set changes throughout, this play has something for everyone. It will be most enjoyable for the 10 and under crowd but song and dance numbers like "I like to move it, move it", will have everyone up and dancing. 

Lori Morrison is an unschooling Chicago mom who lives in LaGrange with her three kids, and a rescue dog. She is a 2nd degree black belt in TKD and a burlesque dancer, who teaches self defense and works for Edge Theatre, NFP.

It’s time to escape the zoo and head to the stage! The musical twist on the blockbuster DreamWorks motion picture, MADAGASCAR – A MUSICAL ADVENTURE, comes to life for children of all ages at Marriott Theatre for Young Audiences, 10 Marriott Drive in Lincolnshire, from October 4 to December 29, 2019. 

Audiences will join the familiar zoo escapees and embark on a truly unique and “crack-a-lackin’” adventure as each animal enjoys freedom for the very first time after spending their entire life in captivity. MADAGASCAR – A MUSICAL ADVENTURE, a theatrical interpretation of the 2005 hit film, is directed by Johanna McKenzie Miller, choreographed by Ericka Mac, with musical direction by Sam Groisser. 

Join Alex the Lion, Marty the Zebra, Melman the Giraffe, Gloria the Hippo and, of course, those hilarious, plotting penguins as they bound onto the stage in this musical adventure. MADAGASCAR – A MUSICAL ADVENTURE follows all of your favorite zoo friends as they escape from their home in New York’s Central Park Zoo and find themselves on an unexpected journey to the madcap world of King Julien’s Madagascar. This special one-hour presentation for kids (and parents) of all ages is filled with larger-than-life characters, non-stop adventure, and an upbeat score that will make audiences want to “Move It, Move It!” All performances are followed by a question & answer session with the cast.

Starring in MADAGASCAR – A MUSICAL ADVENTURE are Liam Quealy as “Alex,” Ron King as “Marty,” Rashada Dawan as “Gloria,” Steven Strafford as “Melman,” Emily Agy as “Rico,” Landree Fleming as “Maurice,” Alejandro Fonseca as “Kowalski,” Yando Lopez as “King Julien,” Garrett Lutz as “Mason,” Laura Savage as “Private,” and Allison Sill as “Skipper.” 

The production will feature set design by Rachel Rauscher, lighting design by Jesse Klug, costume design by Jesus Perez, sound design by Robert E. Gilmartin, and puppetry design/construction by Sarah E. Ross; with stage management by David A. Loranca and musical supervision by Patti Garwood.

MADAGASCAR – A MUSICAL ADVENTURE runs on most Wednesdays through Sundays at 10 a.m. with certain performances at 12:30 p.m. Visit or call (847) 634-0200 for exact schedule, as show times and dates may vary. Single ticket prices are $18.23 per person. Groups of 20 or more receive a discount by calling (847) 634-5909. Free parking is available at all shows. To reserve tickets, call the Marriott Theatre Box Office at (847) 634-0200 or visit

Enter HERE for Your Chance to WIN!
ChiIL Mama's Giving Away 2 
Family 4 Packs of Tickets ($72.92 Value)
(Enter early and often through midnight November 3, 2019. Tickets are good for winners' choice of any Madagascar date/time at Marriott through December 29th, 2019, pending availability.)

Friday, October 18, 2019

WIN a pair of tickets to Lifeline Theatre KidSeries' Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile Now Playing Through Nov. 24, 2019

ChiIL Mama's Chi, IL Picks List:
Lifeline Theatre KidSeries Presents 
Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile,
Based on the book by Bernard Waber,
Opens October 20

Plus Performances with Touch Tour and Audio Description on October 27,
Open Captioning on October 26, Autism/Sensory-Friendly Performance on November 3, 
and Stories Come Alive! Hour Workshops Every Saturday and Sunday During the Run 

This production is recommended for children ages five and up and runs approximately one hour with no intermission.

Enter Below
WIN a pair of tickets (Up to $40 Value) to be used for any performances on 
October 26th or 27th 
(2 winners)!
Enter through midnight Wed, October 23rd.

When I was a child, the Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile stories were favorites of mine, and I adored reading them to my own children when they were young. My kids also loved catching Lyle Finds His Mother, on stage at Lifeline back then. I'm so excited a new generation of littles will discover the joys of Lifeline's Lyle productions. Their excellent KidSeries has been a favorite of ours for decades and we're elated to partner with them once again, on a ticket giveaway for our readers. Enter below for your chance to win, and introduce your littles to the joys of theatre arts.

Lifeline Theatre’s KidSeries presents Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile, based on the children’s book by Bernard Waber, with adaptation by Lifeline Theatre ensemble member Christina Calvit, music and lyrics by George Howe, and directed by Lifeline Theatre ensemble member Amanda Link. While the Primm family is busily moving into their new home on East 88th Street, they are shocked to discover a crocodile in their bathtub! His name is Lyle, he performs tricks, and, oh, he only eats Turkish caviar. The Primm’s are quick to welcome Lyle into the family, but not everyone is so thrilled about a crocodile living on the block. Discover the meaning of family in this musical based off the beloved classic by Bernard Waber. 

Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile runs Saturday, Oct. 19 – Sunday, Nov. 24 at Lifeline Theatre, 6912 N. Glenwood Ave. Press Opening is Sunday, Oct. 20 at 1 p.m. Regular performance times are Saturdays and Sundays at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m., with an added autism/sensory-friendly performance on Sunday, Nov. 3 at 3 p.m. (Previews are Saturday, Oct. 19 at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m.; and Sunday, Oct. 20 at 11 a.m.) Tickets are $20 for adults, $15 for children (2-18), and may be purchased at the Lifeline Theatre Box Office, 773.761.4477, or by visiting  

Accessible Performances: The Sunday, Oct. 27, 11 a.m. performance will feature a pre-show touch tour of the set at 10 a.m. and live audio description for patrons who are blind or have low vision. The Saturday, Oct. 26, 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. performances will feature open captioning for patrons who are deaf or hard-of-hearing. And there will be an added autism/sensory-friendly performance on Sunday, Nov. 3 at 3 p.m. for patrons with social and/or cognitive disabilities. For more information about Lifeline’s accessibility services, please contact Accessibility Coordinator Erica Foster at 773.761.4477 x703 or at

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

The complete cast and production team for Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile includes:

CAST: Lifeline ensemble member Heather Currie (Mrs. Primm); with guest artists: Gabriel Fries (Mr. Primm/Mr. Grumps), Matt Patrick (Josh/Hector P. Valenti), Chris Vizurraga (Lyle); Understudies: Grace Bobber, Joe Liolos, and Jordan Moore.

Lifeline Theatre ensemble members Christina Calvit (Adaptor), Diane Fairchild (Asst. Director), Amanda Link (Director); with guest artists
Eric Backus (Sound Designer), Emma Cullimore (Props Designer), Noah Ginex (Puppet Designer), Ricky Harris (Music Director), George
Howe (Composer), Sanja Manakoski (Costume Designer), Jennifer McClendon (Production Manager), Sam Moryoussef (Master
Electrician), Lauren Nichols (Scenic Designer), Harrison Ornelas (Technical Director), Kate Reed (Stage Manager), and Jonah White
(Lighting Designer).

Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile runs Saturday, Oct. 19 – Sunday, Nov. 24 at Lifeline Theatre, 6912 N. Glenwood Ave. Press Opening is Sunday, Oct. 20 at
1 p.m. Regular performance times are Saturdays and Sundays at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m., with an added autism/sensory-friendly performance on
Sunday, Nov. 3 at 3 p.m. (Previews are Saturday, Oct. 19 at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m.; and Sunday, Oct. 20 at 11 a.m.) Tickets are $20 for adults, $15 for
children (2-18), and may be purchased at the Lifeline Theatre Box Office, 773.761.4477, or by visiting

Lifeline Theatre also offers “Name Your Price” tickets one half-hour before the show (subject to availability), group rates and other discounts available upon request. A party room is available for full-service birthday and special event parties. Lifeline Theatre is accessible by CTA (Red Line Morse stop/busses) and free parking is available at Sullivan High School (6631 N Bosworth Ave., lot located on the corner of Bosworth Ave. and Albion Ave., with the entrance on Albion) with free shuttle service before and after the show. Street parking is also available. Lifeline is accessible to wheelchair users and visitors who need to avoid stairs.

Now in its 37th season, Lifeline Theatre is driven by a passion for story. Our ensemble process supports writers in the development of literary adaptations and new work, and our theatrical and educational programs foster a lifelong engagement with literature and the arts. A cultural anchor of Rogers Park, we are committed to deepening our connection to an ever-growing family of artists and audiences, both near and far. Lifeline Theatre – Big Stories, Up Close. 

Lifeline Theatre’s programs are partially supported by Alphawood Foundation; A.R.T League Inc.; Elizabeth F. Cheney Foundation; Chicago CityArts, a grant from the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events; The Common Cup; Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation; FGMK LLC; Flex Print, Inc.; Lloyd A. Fry Foundation; Illinois Arts Council Agency;  MacArthur Fund for Arts and Culture at Prince; The Polk Bros. Foundation; Rogers Park Social; S&C Electric Company Fund; The Shubert Foundation; and the annual support of businesses and individuals.

WIN a pair of tickets (Up to $40 Value) to be used for any performances on 
October 26th or 27th 
(2 winners)!
Enter through midnight Wed, October 23rd.

Friday, October 11, 2019



Family Acceptance Project Poster Series Guides Families & Caregivers on Reducing Risk for Suicide, Drug Use and Other Serious Health Risks & Promoting Well-Being for LGBTQ Youth

Designed for Use in Public Spaces & Everywhere that LGBTQ Children & Youth Are Served

High levels of risk for LGBTQ adolescents for suicide, substance abuse, depression and victimization call for evidence-based approaches that increase support and connectedness at individual and institutional levels, starting with the family. Foundational research from the Family Acceptance Project (FAP) at San Francisco State University has shown that parents and caregivers have a compelling influence on their child’s risk and well-being that provides a behavioral framework to reduce risk, strengthen families and support positive development for LGBTQ children and youth. In conjunction with National Coming Out Day, FAP is releasing a new series of posters that are designed to be used in public spaces like libraries and community centers and everywhere that children and youth are served, including schools – to share key information from FAP’s peer-reviewed studies and family support work with ethnically, racially and religiously diverse families and their LGBTQ children.

Disseminated in conjunction with a range of international, national and local groups, the posters will educate the public, families, youth, religious leaders and others about the critical link between specific family rejecting and accepting behaviors with risk and well- being for LGBTQ children and youth – especially suicide. They provide a dynamic education and intervention resource to help families decrease rejection to prevent risk and increase acceptance and support to promote well-being for LGBTQ children & youth.

Often compared to the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) Study that is shaping interventions to prevent health risks, FAP’s research has identified specific family behaviors that predict risk and well-being for LGBTQ youth in adulthood. In addition, FAP has developed the first evidence-informed family support model that is being integrated into systems of care including behavioral health care, family preservation services, foster care, school-based care, trauma-based care and faith-based mental health care that will use the posters and other FAP evidence-based materials that are also Best Practice resources for suicide prevention. FAP’s research has found that family behaviors such as not letting an LGBTQ youth learn about their sexual orientation and gender identity, have an LGBTQ friend or participate in an LGBTQ support group have the same impact related to risk as physically beating an LGBTQ child. Similarly, FAP’s research has found that supporting a young person’s gender expression is among the most wellness- promoting behaviors that help protect against risk and foster well-being.

FAP’s poster series is being released in conjunction with National Coming Out Day in the U.S. and internationally in English and Spanish to emphasize the importance of family and caregiver reactions to LGBTQ and gender diverse children and youth. FAP is working with groups in the U.S. and other countries to disseminate the posters in a wide range of settings, including public spaces, clinics, schools and congregations to promote open conversations between parents and children, between young people and their providers and in families and communities to increase acceptance and support for LGBTQ children and youth. FAP is partnering with University of Oregon Implementation Science and Prevention Science researchers to evaluate the impact the posters have on care for LGBTQ young people.

Direct links:
Main landing page:  
English main page:
Spanish main page:

Said Dr. Christine Moutier, Chief Medical Office of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention: “We know that suicide risk is increased for LGBTQ youth, particularly when rejection occurs in their lives. So educating parents and others about the research surrounding the critical role they can play in the risk and well-being of their children is vitally important. We all need to learn more about what constitutes accepting verses rejecting behaviors. These posters are a prime example of how research can be turned into lifesaving action.”

Dr. Judith Cohen, Co-Developer of Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, the most widely used trauma treatment model for children and youth, noted that, “FAP’s posters provide simple, evidence-based ways for families to support their LGBT children and improve their health and happiness. We’re very excited to integrate FAP’s posters and intervention strategies into Trauma- Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for LGBT youth who have experienced trauma.”

Dr. Caitlin Ryan, Director of the Family Acceptance Project, noted that: “The posters are key resources to help families and providers understand the critical need for family support and the impact that specific family accepting and rejecting behaviors have on risk and well-being for LGBTQ children and youth. Efforts to change, deny and minimize a child’s LGBTQ identity and gender expression start at home and last a lifetime just as affirmation and support build healthy futures for LGBTQ children and youth. 

The posters are free and available for all to use. We hope that agencies, congregations and communities will download, print and use them everywhere.”

For more information about the Family Acceptance Project and to view and download the posters, visit

Wednesday, October 9, 2019



Led by Music Director Mei-Ann Chen, Chicago Sinfonietta’s season opener highlights the current endangered state of the world and acts as a call to conserve

Guest Review
by Catherine Hellmann

It’s not every day that an audience is treated to fabulous music, an education from the conductor, a multicultural orchestra, and a free tree (well, a stick for now) in a container to take home as a physical, lasting memory of the experience.

Chicago Sinfonietta was praised by the Chicago Tribune as being “the city’s hippest orchestra,” and it is easy to see why. The evening began with Principal Percussionist Jeff Handley receiving recognition for “The Ford Musician Award for Excellence in Community Service” for his dedication to underserved students in Chicago for 15 years. 

Next, there is the sheer diversity of the ensemble. It is truly exciting to see so many women and musicians of all races in the orchestra. The opening conductor was Jonathan Rush, who is a Project Inclusion Conducting Fellow. The program is another facet of the Sinfonietta that sets them apart from other orchestras--developing young, diverse talent for conducting and leadership. One of their past participants now plays with the prestigious Hollywood Bowl Orchestra. 

Three of the dynamic compositions, collectively named Earth Triptych which focused on the environment, were world premieres. Each selection was unique: The Soul of Gaia by Stefan Smith depicts the land, undisturbed before humans. Earth “before money, politics, chaos, uncontrolled destruction.” The second movement, by Michelle Isaac, a composer based in Chicago, invokes a rain dance ritual with wind and thunder. Some of the sound effects were provided by the audience where we were instructed to tap our laps for light rain and clap for the heavier rain. (Another unusual feature was seeing the musicians participate through singing or wind “blowing,” not just the expected playing of their instruments.) The peaceful music was interrupted by the jarring blast of the trombone section to depict pollution. By the third movement, earth is in dire straights: the last movement is entitled Extinction and Rebirth. As stated by the composer, Fernando Arroyo Garcia-Lascurain, “This is the reckoning, like a terrifying fire ablaze in the distance. Things are beyond urgent-there is chaos.” By the end, the only thing remaining is hope. 

Maestro Mei-Ann Chen exhibits astounding enthusiasm and passion for the material. She also has to be one of the most gracious and generous conductors I have ever seen, acknowledging many of her players at the conclusion of pieces, applauding soloists and sections. The composers were brought onstage after their selections were played and presented with flowers. The Sinfonietta is a joyous group with a conscience--even their programs were made entirely from recycled paper!

To further their message and mission, the Sinfonietta included activities that addressed positive impacts on our planet: 

From their website: “Plus, join us in the Grainger Ballroom during intermission for BRIDGE — our audience engagement program sponsored by Macy's! Create your own seed bombs with Plant Chicago, learn how to be zero-waste with Collective Resource Inc., immerse yourself in a rare plant installation with The Plantier, take home a free tree from The Chicago Region Tree Initiative, learn how to protect Lake Michigan with The Shedd Aquarium, and more! “ 

I told my companions that I really did see audience members walking around holding plants. My daughter popped up and announced she would go get a tree to take home. Um...we live in a condo with a tiny yard, so where was she planning to keep this tree? “In my room,” she explained. Silly me---of course! (We were still debating a name for her stick, er- tree--on the way home…) 

The second half featured Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5 in C minor, Op. 67. We all know it best from those famous opening four notes: “Da-da-da-DUUUUUM!” Maestro Chen had all of us sing it as part of her introduction. I was thrilled to hear this complete symphony. I am sentimental for Beethoven, my father’s favorite composer. My dad was also a violinist, gardener, birdwatcher, and environmentalist way before it was cool, so he would have adored the concert and the mission of the Chicago Sinfonietta.

My guests enjoyed the show. Courtney from Out of Town said she loved the venue and acoustics at Orchestra Hall. She didn’t expect the concert to be so “engaging” with Maestro Chen explaining what we were about to hear and the significance of the piece. Courtney felt like the audience was really a participant, not a passive listener. She also commented how the Maestro obviously “super enjoys what she does.” I was thinking how much kids would enjoy this interesting concert and was pleased to see so many children at intermission. 

My daughter Camelia, the Tree Girl, had the funniest summary of the whole experience: “It was definitely the Liberal Agenda, but in the best possible way.” Explain further? “Lots of diversity on stage, a woman conductor, music about global warming, giving away’s everything a Conservative Southernor thinks we do in the North that’s so terrifying.”
Out of the mouths of teenagers...  

As the Chicago Sinfonietta describes themselves: “We are an orchestra in action. We are looking forward to a season-opening that makes our audience reconsider the role of classical music — and how it can quite literally change the world.” 

Bravo on a memorable night of through-provoking, glorious music.  

Catherine Hellmann is a theater lover, lover of books, Mom of three, longtime educator, and at one point in her life, delivered singing telegrams.

The nation’s most diverse orchestra, Chicago Sinfonietta is thrilled to present the standout 2019-2020 season opening concert, Forces + Fates: The Beauty and Volatility of Planet Earth, a performance centered on awe, imperfection and disorder found on Earth and how the future may rest in the hands of the human race. Forces + Fates looks not only to push boundaries, but also help raise awareness and spread knowledge on this critically timely topic through music. Featuring Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5, the “fate” symphony plus a world premiere work commissioned by Sinfonietta, listeners will experience a musical journey that celebrates the beauty that surrounds us while posing the question of what do we need to do to protect the planet. 

Chicago Sinfonietta’s performances will occur Saturday, October 5, 2019 at 8 p.m. at Wentz Concert Hall, 171 E. Chicago Ave., Naperville, and on Monday, October 7 at 7:30 p.m. at Symphony Center, 220 S. Michigan Ave., Chicago.

Under the direction of 2019-2020 Assistant Conductor and Project Inclusion alum Jonathan Rush, Chicago Sinfonietta will open the season with Felix Mendelssohn’s Hebrides Overture, Op.26, which allows audience members to explore the astonishingly geometric Fingal’s Cave, known for its natural acoustics and spine-shivering harmonies in the British Isles. Music Director Mei-Ann Chen takes the podium for the rest of the concert and will conduct a world premiere piece commissioned by Chicago Sinfonietta, Earth Triptych, composed by Stefan L. Smith, Michelle Isaac and Fernando Arroyo Lascurain. A three-part co-composed work, Earth Triptych explores life before humanity, present time and the mystery of the future, in a dark, yet hopeful piece. The three composers of Earth Triptych each bring a distinct voice to this work, yet each movement leads cohesively to the next.

Referencing the rainmaking rituals and the evolving nature, Clarice Assad’s Nhanderú showcases the worshipping rituals of the Amazonian Tupi-Guarani tribes when asking for help with their crops. Forces + Fateswill also feature George Walker’s Lyric for Strings and the concert ends with Ludwig van Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5, Op. 6. 

“The Chicago Sinfonietta is an orchestra that thrives on reflecting the important conversations of our society. Therefore, it is not surprising to see the Sinfonietta opening the new season with a very hot global topic which is also a very innovative one relating to orchestral repertoire,” said Mei-Ann Chen, music director of Chicago Sinfonietta. Besides the obvious choices of works inspired by nature, such as in the case of Mendelssohn and also in the new work by our dear friend, Clarice Assad, our brand new Sinfonietta commission will feature three composers of diverse backgrounds piecing together a new symphonic sketch centered around Earth’s past, present and future through the Earth Triptych. With our Mother Earth facing more detrimental threats than ever, we need Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony to remind us that our fates are intertwined and only universality and the brotherhood/sisterhood of mankind can save our planet!”

“My relationship with Chicago Sinfonietta stems back to 2008 as a viola fellow in the Inaugural Class of the Orchestral Freeman Fellowship. Maestro Freeman gave me the opportunity to showcase the second movement from my first symphony during the annual Martin Luther King concert of 2009. So, I’m extremely excited to collaborate with them once again on this project,” said Stefan L. Smith. “It is clearly evident that climate change is real, and I try to do my part in taking the necessary steps to contribute to helping this cause. It is only fitting that I feel called to musically create a change within us to respect our beautiful planet. My movement, entitled “The Soul of Gaia,” takes the audience on a journey through the majesty of our planet before civilization. In the first movement, a serene flute solo leads the listener to constant changes of harmony, symbolizing the evolution of our planet. I feel that it accurately displays the vast, serene, and introspective qualities of the place we call home.”

“Music is a powerful tool for experiencing empathy. Uncommon in a concert setting, Forces + Fates has an important theme of environmentalism, allowing Chicago Sinfonietta concert goers to both celebrate the beauty of the earth and to reflect on our responsibility to ensure the earth’s longevity,” said Michelle Isaac, Chicago-based composer and orchestrator. “As the composer of the second movement of Earth Triptych, I felt a responsibility to tell the tempestuous story of the present relationship between humans and earth. The middle movement illustrates a symbiotic relationship devolving into one of parasite and host, often putting the listener on edge. It is my hope that this piece, along with the rest of the program, invites a dialogue of empathy surrounding our current climate crisis.”

Fernando Arroyo Lascurain, Composer and Violinist who is working with Chicago Sinfonietta for the very first time added, “Having composed pieces inspired by the social and natural climate of our world in the past, collaborating with such a talented group was a welcomed prospect. The third movement is a mixture of ominous grandeur, intimate introspection and uncertainty. In light of recent events regarding climate change, orchestral works like these provide a space to reflect on the consequences of our actions as a society and how it affects this beautiful planet we call home.”

To celebrate the start of the 32nd season in advance of the Chicago performance, Chicago Sinfonietta’s Associate Board is hosting Prelude 2019: Rhythm + Flow Monday, October 7, 2019 at 5:30 p.m. at Symphony Center. The annual fundraising event features networking, cocktails, hors d’oeuvres and silent auction and raffle, with the opportunity for local young professionals to interact with major players in the arts community. Tickets range from $40 to $100 each.

Since its inception, diversity, inclusion and bold and dynamic programming have been at the center of Chicago Sinfonietta’s mission. In 2016, Chicago Sinfonietta was one of just 14 organizations in the nation to receive the MacArthur Award for Creative and Effective Institutions – the “genius award” for nonprofit organizations. The Sinfonietta was also selected in 2016 by the Chicago Innovation Awards in recognition of its innovative approach to programming.  Prior to that, Chicago Sinfonietta was named by ASCAP as the recipient of the 2011-12 Award for Adventurous Programming and in 2013 was dubbed, “the city’s hippest orchestra” by the Chicago Tribune, always embracing the daring programming that has been part of its history. 

Chicago Sinfonietta is grateful to concert sponsors Walder Foundation and William Blair. Season sponsors including BMO Harris Bank, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois, Southwest Airlines, Fairmont Hotel, Hotel Indigo, Northern Trust and its season media sponsors including Chicago Reader, Chicago Magazine, NapervilleMagazine, WBEZ and Chicago Tribune. 

Tickets to Forces + Fates: The Beauty and Volatility range from $10 to $62 when purchased in advance online. For tickets or more information, please visit

About the Sinfonietta
Now in its 32nd year, Chicago Sinfonietta has pushed artistic boundaries to provide an alternative way of hearing, seeing and thinking about a symphony orchestra and is dedicated to promoting diversity, inclusion, racial and cultural equity in the arts. Each concert experience blends inventive new works with classical masterworks, each from a diverse array of voices, to entertain, transform and inspire. In 2016, Chicago Sinfonietta was the proud recipient of John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation’s prestigious MacArthur Award for Creative and Effective Institutions (MACEI). This award recognizes exceptional organizations that are key contributors in their fields.

The orchestra was founded by Maestro Paul Freeman to address the disconnect between the utter lack of diversity in orchestras and the vibrant, nuanced, communities for which they play. For more than 32 years, Chicago Sinfonietta has made it their mission to represent the city of Chicago, reflecting that vibrancy on stage and in their programming, making classical music accessible for anyone. In everything they do, Chicago Sinfonietta is inspired by founder Paul Freeman (1936-2015). The orchestra’s 32 years have been highlighted by six European tours, two Kennedy Center performances, three Millennium Park concerts attended by over 21,000 people and 16 recordings, including Project W, which was released in March 2019.

About Mei-Ann Chen
Innovation, imagination, passion and dynamism are the hallmarks of conductor Mei-Ann Chen. Music Director of the MacArthur Award-winning Chicago Sinfonietta since 2011, and Artistic Director & Conductor for the National Taiwan Symphony Orchestra Summer Festival since 2016, Ms. Chen is acclaimed for infusing orchestras with energy, enthusiasm, high-level music-making, and galvanizing audiences and communities alike. A sought-after guest conductor, Ms. Chen’s reputation as a compelling communicator has resulted in growing popularity with orchestras globally.

North American guesting credits include appearances with the Symphony Orchestras of Atlanta, Baltimore, Cincinnati, Chicago, Detroit, Fort Worth, Houston, Indianapolis, Oregon, River Oaks Chamber, San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle, Toronto, and Vancouver. Overseas engagements include the symphonies of BBC Scottish, Denmark’s National, Aalborg, Aarhus, and Odense, Sweden’s Gävle, Gothenburg, Helsingborg, Malmö, and Norrköping, Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra at the Concertgebouw, Norwegian Radio and Trondheim, Finland’s Tampere Philharmonic, Austria’s Grosses Orchester Graz, Germany’s Badische Staatskapelle Karlsruhe, Brazil’s São Paulo Symphony Orchestra, and National Taiwan.

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

KINDIE LAND: Mr. Singer & the Sharp Cookies To Release Daniel Johnston’s “Devil Town” Cover This Friday, October 11, 2019

Mr. Singer & the Sharp Cookies, Chicago’s most energetic, award-winning band for kids, are releasing a spooky single this Friday! Their cover of Daniel Johnston’s “Devil Town” is due out October 11, 2019. Keep an ear out!

Here at ChiIL Mama, we've been covering Chicago's own Mr. Singer & The Sharp Cookies since their first release waaaaay back in 2005. They're favorites of ours and we've done video interviews with the band, shot them live in concert at our weekly kindie rock series, Beat Kitchen Concerts for Kids, and teamed up with them on numerous giveaways for our readers. 

They've been playing Devil Town at rockin' Halloween shows for years. I even shot them at Beat Kitchen doing this awesome cover back in 2011. Check it out here:

Speaking of Halloween spirit and weird creatures, we're also pretty big fans of their covers of The White Stripes' Little Ghost and The Cramps Goo Goo Muck. Great tunes that are fun for all ages.

If you like “Devil Town”, be sure to check out their 2018 album, “Happy Haunted Halloween”, and keep your ears peeled for “You Rock!” their most rocking album yet. Due out in early 2020.

“Lots to like about the Sharp Cookies.  Any band with the Ramones as a major influence is way cool in our book.”  - Lou Carlozo, Chicago Tribune

“Part of being a kid in Chicago is rocking out with kindie/folk icon Mr. Singer.”- Red Tricycle

Mr. Singer & The Sharp Cookies are the husband-and-wife team of Neil and Kerry Firstenleit (“Mr. Singer” and “Kerry Appleberry”), along with dynamo drummer Michael Massett (“Marius Mustard”). The band’s rocking, electric sound has been described as “like June & Johnny Cash playing The Clash while riding unicycles through the zoo!”

Both onstage and in the studio, Mr. Singer & the Sharp Cookies specialize in fresh, positive, high-energy music at kid-friendly volumes, sneaking a little mischief, a little sweetness, and a lot of fun into their clever originals. The Sharp Cookies music salutes the ancient concept that one of the most fun things about being a kid in October is the anticipation of getting your socks scared off of you,

Albums by Mr. Singer & the Sharp Cookies include: Happy Haunted Halloween (2018) Going to a Party (2017), Bouncing Ball of Energy! (2012), and Muddy Water Beaver Dam Band (2005).

All are available wherever music is streaming, including iTunes, Amazon, Spotify, Google Play, CDBaby, and more. 

Want to learn more? Check out 

Our Facebook page

Our award winning music school’s site

A few live videos:
Come On, Come On, Come On!

Just for Fun

Rudy Rockhopper

Kirei Ladybug

OPENING: ROMEO AND JULIET: A Spectacular Retelling of The World’s Greatest Love Story November 7 – 9, 2019 at The Den Theatre

ChiIL Live Shows on our radar

Chicago Premiere!
The Family Crest, The Den Theatre & 
Jacaranda Collective Present

A Spectacular Retelling of The World’s Greatest Love Story

(pictured) Kade Cox (Mercutio) 
Photo by Audrey Palumbo

Text by William Shakespeare
Music by The Family Crest
Directed by Sam Bianchini
Choreography by Julie Brannen

November 7 – 9, 2019 on The Heath Main Stage

The Family Crest, The Den Theatre and Jacaranda Collective are pleased to present the Chicago premiere of ROMEO AND JULIET: A Spectacular Retelling of The World’s Greatest Love Story, Shakespeare’s timeless tale cinematically reimagined using live music performed by indie rock darlings and NPR music favorites The Family Crest, whose unique and sweeping orchestral sound perfectly scores the most famous love story ever told. 

 (left to right). Halie Robinson (Juliet) and Alex Quiñones (Romeo) in a publicity image for The Family Crest, The Den Theatre and Jacaranda Collective’s world premiere of ROMEO AND JULIET: A Spectacular Retelling of The World’s Greatest Love Story. 
All Cast Photos by Audrey Palumbo.

The cast includes Alex Quiñones (Romeo), Halie Robinson (Juliet), Bailey Savage (Benvolio), Kade Cox (Mercutio), Dan Lin (Tybalt), Susan Fay (Nurse), Jess Ford (Friar Laurence), Terence Sims (Capulet), Ashlea Woodley (Lady Capulet), Gaby Labotka (Prince), Julie Brannen (Dancer), De’jah Jervai (Lady Montague, Dancer), Michael Gee (Montague, Dancer) and Manisha Mahaldar (Dancer).

(left to right) Ashlea Woodley (Lady Capulet) and Terence Sims (Capulet)

Directed by Sam Bianchini with choreography by Julie Brannen, this innovative combination of actors, dancers and live music by The Family Crest will play a limited three-show engagement from November 7 – 9, 2019 on The Den Theatre’s Heath Main Stage, 1331 N. Milwaukee Ave. in Chicago. Tickets are currently available at, in person at the The Den box office or by calling (773) 697-3830.

Somewhere between a rock concert and a classic Shakespearean play, ROMEO AND JULIET finds new life through enigmatic staging, engaging choreography and an emotionally expressive soundtrack. Treated as party guests, the audience is dropped into the middle of this sensational epic in an immersive night that feels like a music video come to life.  

 (pictured) Dan Lin (Tybalt) 

 (pictured) Bailey Savage (Benvolio)

The evening features favorite hits from The Family Crest, (some of which can be heard in their iconic Tiny Desk concert), combined with never-before-heard tracks from their upcoming album, The War: Act II, which debuts in 2020. The grandiose, symphonic sounds of these classically trained musicians provides the inspiring soundtrack to the familiar tale and paints the picture like it’s never been seen before.

 The Family Crest – Photo by Christopher M. Howard.

The collaboration between The Family Crest, The Den Theatre and Jacaranda Collective creates an ideal recipe for a special event. They welcome you to join this unforgettable experience.

The production team to date includes Emily Smith (scenic design), Alon Slotter (lighting design), Gaby Labotka (fight choreography) and Amanda Jean Grissom (stage manager).

(pictured) Gaby Labotka (Prince)


Cast (in alphabetical order): Julie Brannen (Dancer), Kade Cox (Mercutio), Susan Fay (Nurse), Jess Ford (Friar Laurence), Michael Gee (Montague, Dancer), De’jah Jervai (Lady Montague, Dancer), Gaby Labotka (Prince), Dan Lin (Tybalt), Manisha Mahaldar (Dancer), Alex Quiñones (Romeo), Halie Robinson (Juliet), Bailey Savage (Benvolio), Terence Sims (Capulet) and Ashlea Woodley (Lady Capulet).

Location: The Den Theatre’s Heath Stage, 1331 N. Milwaukee Ave., Chicago

Dates: Thursday, November 7, Friday, November 8 and Saturday, November 9

Times: Doors open at 9 pm; show at 10pm

Tickets: $33. A limited number of VIP tickets are available for $60 (VIP Tickets include premium mezzanine table seats, a digital album of The Family Crest music from the show, including 3 new tracks off the not-yet-released The War Part II, and a signed collectible poster). Tickets are currently available at, in person at the The Den box office or by calling (773) 697-3830.

About The Artists
The Family Crest (Music) The brainchild of composer, vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Liam McCormick, orchestral indie rock band The Family Crest was started as a recording project in 2009 with co-founder John Seeterlin (bass) as a final release before bowing out of the industry. Instead of leaving music, they were inspired by their peers to set out to reinvent how a band could be created, starting The Family Crest with an audacious and bold vision of cultivating a musical community. “We always liked making music with people –  getting a bunch of people together and singing. So we put ads everywhere,” says McCormick. “We posted on Craigslist, distributed flyers, and emailed old friends from school.” The outcome was greater than the original duo imagined, with over 80 people credited on their first recording and over 500 musicians credited throughout their catalog.

Beyond the core band of McCormick and Seeterlin, Anthony Franceschi (drums), Laura Bergmann (flute, piano, percussion, vocals),Owen Sutter (violin) and George Samaan (trombone), over 500 “Extended Family” members participate on recordings, live shows and across the artistic spectrum. Known for their jaw-dropping live performances, The Family Crest has toured extensively domestically and internationally, garnering the support of fans and the press alike. Bob Boilen of NPR's “All Songs Considered” said of The Family Crest, “Seeing is believing. Liam McCormick is a knockout singer, you simply must hear him live... There's a decent chance you're about to discover your favorite new band.” 

 The Family Crest – Photo by Christopher M. Howard.

The Family Crest has released three full-length albums and three EPs, including their critically-acclaimed breakout Beneath the Brine, which SPIN magazine called, “…a masterfully arranged epic… sharp strings, galloping percussion, and an ambition wide enough to swallow you whole.” Most recently, the band has been releasing pieces of their current musical concept album series, The War. “The War represents the next version of The Family Crest,” says McCormick, and indeed, the album reveals a band more in tune with its own large-scale Baroque eclecticism. Jim Vorel of Paste Magazine described their first offering, The War: Prelude to War, as “A sound so big, it feels like it could collapse in on itself at any moment to form a black hole… One thing is certain: These guys are just as explosive as ever, and these songs are going to bring the house down in a live setting.” The War: Act I, the second installment in the concept series brought about similar sentiments as EARMILK stated, “The Family Crest deliver complex arrangements with such confidence that each varying sound produced is done with effortless intent and is never perceived as an afterthought… a stunning explosion of color and emotion and just another reason why I'm continually captivated by this group.” They are currently slated to release the next chapter in the series, The War: Act II in 2020.

Sam Bianchini (Director) is a director, actress, writer and producer who has worked in LA, NYC and Chicago on both the stage and screen. She began her professional career in the storefront Chicago theatre scene at 17, while obtaining her BFA in Acting from Roosevelt University’s CCPA, which shaped her artistic voice and provocative, intelligent and heartrending style. She went on to receive her MFA in Acting from UCLA. Since then, Sam has been writing, acting and producing immersive and awe-inspiring pieces of theatre and film. A meticulous eye, attention to rhythm, and musicality of emotion are main staples of her distinctive direction. Recently relocating home to Chicago, Bianchini's accomplished voice and bold vision bring fresh ideas and electrifying storytelling to the Chicago Theatre scene. Select West Coast credits: Romeo and Juliet (LA and SF), A Midsummer Night's Dream, The Cherry Orchard, Down in the Face of God and Talking Blues (director). Select Chicago Credits: An Ideal Husband, Crumbs from the Table of Joy, The Nebraska Project, My Name is Rachel Corrie (director) and Mad Like Us (director). TV/Film: Chicago Fire, The Next Big Thing (film), Lost Angeles (writer). 

About The Companies
Artistic Director Ryan Martin opened The Den Theatre in 2010 with a single theatre space. Seven years later, The Den boasts five intimate and unique theaters on two floors ranging from 50 – 200 seats, as well as two additional spaces primarily used for classes and rehearsals. The Den is also equipped with two bars enveloped by a never-ending field of lounge space for audiences and like-minded culture hounds to drink, talk, read, watch, think, listen and live. The Den is home to seven resident theatre companies including First Floor Theater, Haven Theatre Company, Griffin Theatre, The New Colony, Broken Nose Theatre, WildClaw Theatre and Firebrand Theatre. Hundreds of other companies from Chicago and beyond have also called The Den home, utilizing its theaters, studio space and easily convertible cabaret space to accommodate a stream of programming, including plays, musicals, film screenings, classical and jazz performances, dance, improv and stand-up, seminars and speaking engagements. For additional information, visit

Jacaranda Collective is a multi-media production company formed upon the principle of creating art to explore both the struggle and the beauty of existence, without claiming one Truth. Just as the Moon is rarely seen in full, we acknowledge and celebrate all phases of Life, while allowing the audience a safe space to navigate their own personal landscape. At Jacaranda, we aspire to inspire your belief in magic, and your potential to create it.

Jacaranda Collective burst onto the Chicago theatre scene earlier this spring with their knockout production of My Name is Rachel Corrie, produced at The Den Theatre. The company arrives as a passionate and provocative addition to Chicago's storefront stages. Spearheaded by artistic director Sam Bianchini and associate artistic director Halie Robinson, Jacaranda combines big, energetic vision and striking storytelling with precision and care. Bianchini and Robinson set out to make theatre that is a gift to the audience. For additional information, visit