Friday, October 29, 2021

Mozart’s THE MAGIC FLUTE November 3–27 at Lyric Opera of Chicago

ChiIL Mama’s Chi, IL Picks List 

What You Need to Know About Mozart’s


November 3–27 at Lyric Opera of Chicago

THE MAGIC FLUTE Cory Weaver LA Opera

I'll be out to review on November 7th, so check back early and often. In the meantime, book your tickets now. It's a short run with only 7 performances, and tickets are sure to be in demand.

A prince’s valiant quest leads to love at first sight. But to prove his worth for marriage, he must first survive daring trials of wisdom and devotion. The Magic Flute, Mozart’s final opera, is full of gods and monsters, compassion and revenge, love and death—it is both a fanciful fairy tale and a profound reflection on spiritual enlightenment. Lyric Opera of Chicago presents a sumptuously bold, new-to-Chicago production that pays homage to the 1920’s silent movies and German expressionism, while remaining faithful to the magic the opera’s title promises.

•       A truly cinematic experience unlike any opera Lyric has produced. This spectacularly inventive production, created by the team of Suzanne Andrade and Barrie Kosky and directed in Chicago by Tobias Ribitzki, features eye-popping projections by animator Paul Barritt and innovative stage design and costumes by Esther Bialis. Taking its inspiration from silent films, the production foregoes the traditional spoken dialogue in between the operatic scenes. Instead, texts are projected onto the stage with musical accompaniment.

•       The most enduring classical earworm? The villainous Queen of the Night’s high-flying “Der Hölle Rache” (“Hell’s Vengeance”) is one of the most famous arias in all of opera. It is instantly recognizable from its myriad appearances in popular culture, from Disney’s Operation Dumbo Drop to the film Eat Pray Love to TV’s Gossip Girl, not to mention a long list of iconic commercials. In this production, the Queen of the Night fills the stage as a gigantic spider while her stratospheric high notes blow the roof off the Lyric Opera House.

•       An acclaimed Chicago native comes home. Renowned conductor Karen Kamensek, who was born in Chicago, makes her Lyric debut leading the Lyric Opera Orchestra in interpreting Mozart’s captivating and familiar score. In the 2019/20 season, she made a sensational Metropolitan Opera debut conducting its much-buzzed-about production of Philip Glass’s Akhnaten.

•       Lyric favorites return to Chicago. Ying Fang stars as the heroine Pamina, a role she has performed to great acclaim at the Met and in Zurich. She made her Lyric debut as another Mozartian ingenue, Zerlina, in 2019/20’s Don Giovanni. Brenton Ryan, who appeared at Lyric as the Fool in the 2015/16 production of Berg’s Wozzeck, returns in the key role of Monostatos.

•       Exciting debuts. The Magic Flute features many artists making their much-anticipated Lyric debuts in leading roles, including Lila Dufy as the Queen of the Night, Pavel Petrov as Tamino, Huw Montague Rendall as Papageno, and Tareq Nazmi as Sarastro.

•       Meet the next generation of opera stars. Six members of Lyric’s artist development program—The Patrick G. and Shirley W. Ryan Opera Center—take on featured and supporting roles in The Magic Flute: Denis Vélez is Papagena, Mathilda Edge is First Lady, Katherine DeYoung is Second Lady, Kathleen Felty is Third Lady, Martin Luther Clark is First Armored Man, and Anthony Reed is Second Armored Man.

•       A local flute with 20 years of magic. Assistant principal flautist Dionne Jackson, a Chicago native, plays Papageno’s charming flute solos from the orchestra pit. A graduate of The Juilliard School, she has held the position of assistant principal flute with Lyric Opera of Chicago since 2001.

•       Only seven performances: November 3; matinees on November 7, 11, 14, and 17; and November 19 and 27.

•       2 hours and 40 minutes, including 1 intermission.

•       Sung in German with projected English texts.

•       For updated information about Lyric’s ongoing health and safety protocols visit

Lyric’s presentation of Mozart’s The Magic Flute is generously made possible by The Negaunee Foundation, Nancy & Sanfred Koltun, Liz Stiffel, the Gramma Fisher Foundation of Marshalltown, Iowa, Mr. & Mrs. Dietrich M. Gross, and Randy L. & Melvin R.* Berlin. *deceased

Lyric Opera of Chicago thanks its Official Airline, American Airlines.

Lyric Opera of Chicago is supported in part by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and acknowledges support from the Illinois Arts Council Agency.

About Lyric

Lyric Opera of Chicago is committed to redefining what it means to experience great opera. The company is driven to deliver consistently excellent artistry through innovative, relevant, celebratory programming that engages and energizes new and traditional audiences.

Under the leadership of General Director, President & CEO Anthony Freud, Music Director Enrique Mazzola, and Special Projects Advisor Renée Fleming, Lyric is dedicated to reflecting, and drawing strength from, the diversity of Chicago. Lyric offers, through innovation, collaboration, and evolving learning opportunities, ever-more exciting, accessible, and thought-provoking audience and community experiences. We also stand committed to training the artists of the future, through The Patrick G. and Shirley W. Ryan Opera Center; and to becoming increasingly diverse across our audiences, staff, programming, and artists—magnifying the welcoming pull of our art form, our company, and our city.

Through the timeless power of voice, the splendor of a great orchestra and chorus, theater, dance, design, and truly magnificent stagecraft, Lyric is devoted to immersing audiences in worlds both familiar and unexpected, creating shared experiences that resonate long after the curtain comes down.

Join us @LyricOpera on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. #Lyric2122 #LongLivePassion

For more information, visit


 ChiIL Mama’s Chi, IL Picks List: Adult Night Out




The Second City Holiday Revue. Photo courtesy The Second City.

This production is for audiences 18 years and older due to strong adult language and content. No one under 12 allowed.

Paramount Theatre is ready to unwrap its annual end-of-year tradition - bringing The Second City’s famous brand of seasonal hilarity to downtown Aurora for the holidays.

And this year, The Second City’s Holiday Revue: It’s a Wild, Wacky, Wonderful Life, will give audiences the holly jollies as the first live production to be presented in the beautiful, newly-remodeled Copley Theatre.

Following a $2 million, top-to-bottom renovation, capped by the addition of comfortable new seats and a sleek new lobby bar, the 165-seat Copley Theatre is an incredibly intimate space for Second City’s seasonal songs and gut-busting holiday skits. With no seat more than 70 feet from the stage, audiences will enjoy Second City’s side-splitting, song filled holiday spectacular up close and personal. Whether you are on the nice or naughty list, Chicago’s notorious improv troupe will have you laughing so hard you’ll shoot eggnog out your nose.

Skip the long lines and shipping delays, and give the gift of laughter to everyone you meet this holiday season. Performances are November 26-December 23: Thursdays at 7:30 p.m.; Fridays at 8 p.m., Saturdays at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m., Sundays at 3 p.m. Tickets to The Second City Holiday Revue are $37 and are on sale now. Buy early, as these shows will sell out.

The Copley Theatre is located at 8 E. Galena Blvd. in the North Island Center, right across the street from Paramount Theatre. For tickets and information, visit, call (630) 896-6666, or stop by the Paramount box office, 23 E. Galena Blvd., 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Saturday. This production is for audiences 18 years and older due to strong adult language and content. No one under 12 allowed.

Following The Second City Holiday Revue, the Copley Theatre will become home in 2022 to Paramount’s much anticipated, all-new Bold Series, a four-show subscription series that promises to bring a new type of theater to downtown Aurora - fearless, unexpected and thought provoking.

Paramount will announce its inaugural four show Bold series line-up in the coming weeks. Subscribers to Paramount’s 2021-22 Broadway Series will have the first opportunity to purchase tickets and secure their seats as part of an exclusive subscriber pre-sale.


Paramount and Copley Theatre are about gathering together and sharing in the experience of live theater. Copley Theatre is committed to the health and safety of patrons, theater employees, production staff and cast. To ensure the safety of everyone in the theater, the following policies will be in place for all performances of The Second City Holiday Revue:

Masks required for performances through December 23, 2021: Everyone in the theater must wear acceptable face coverings at all times, including during the show, except while consuming beverages in designated locations. All face coverings must cover the nose and mouth, and comply with the CDC guidelines for acceptable face coverings.

Vaccinations required for performances through December 23, 2021: Guests will need to be fully vaccinated with an FDA emergency use-authorized vaccine in order to attend a show and must show proof of vaccination at their time of entry into the building with their valid ticket and government issued ID. “Fully vaccinated” means the performance date you are attending must be: at least 14 days after your second dose of an FDA authorized two dose COVID-19 vaccine, orat least 14 days after your single dose of an FDA authorized single dose COVID-19 vaccine.

The only exception will be for guests who need reasonable accommodations due to a medical condition or sincerely held religious belief. Guests under the age of 12 will not be permitted to attend Second City and guests requesting an exemption must provide proof of at least one of the following, in addition to properly wearing a mask inside the building:

negative COVID-19 PCR test taken within 72 hours of the start of the performance, ornegative COVID-19 rapid antigen test taken within 6 hours of the start of the performance.

Rapid antigen tests must be administered by a medical professional, pharmacy or healthcare worker and must be administered within six hours of the start of the desired performance. Proof of this, along with proof of negative results, are required for entrance. Any version of a home rapid antigen test will not be accepted.

Guests may present proof of vaccination or a negative test on paper or a smartphone. In addition to proof of vaccination, all guests 18 years or older must also present a government-issued photo ID, such as a driver’s license or passport. Guests under 18 may also use a school photo ID.

Guests who do not comply with these policies will be denied entry or asked to leave the theater. If you feel you cannot follow these guidelines, please contact the Box Office at (630) 896-6666 to discuss your options.

About Paramount Theater

Paramount Theatre, 23 E. Galena Blvd., is the center for performing arts and education in downtown Aurora, the second largest city in Illinois. Since 1931, the beautiful, 1,843-seat theater, graced with a strong 1930s Art Deco influence and original Venetian décor, has been downtown Aurora’s anchor attraction. Since launching its own Broadway Series in 2011, Paramount Theatre steadily amassed more than 41,000 subscribers, prior to COVID, making it the second largest subscription house in the U.S.

Paramount Theatre is one of four live performance venues programmed and managed by the Aurora Civic Center Authority. ACCA also oversees downtown Aurora’s 165-seat Copley Theatre, RiverEdge Park, the city’s 6,000-seat outdoor summer concert venue, the Stolp Island Theatre, an immersive space opening in summer 2023, and the new Paramount School of the Arts.

For the latest news from Paramount Theatre, please visit or follow Paramount on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter, all @ParamountAurora.

Thursday, October 28, 2021

OPENING: Imagine U: Last Stop on Market Street Via Northwestern University's Wirtz Center for the Performing Arts November 12-21

 ChiIL Mama’s Chi, IL Picks List

Imagine U: Last Stop on Market Street

Winner of the 2016 Newbery Medal, Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor, Caldecott Honor

By Matt de la Peña

Illustrated by Christian Robinson

Adapted and Directed by

Gloria Bond Clunie

November 12–21, 2021 Streaming December 3-12, 2021

Recommended for ages 6+

Estimated Runtime: 65 minutes, no intermission

I had the pleasure of catching this wonderful show at Chicago Children's Theatre back in 2018 and I'm thrilled that Northwestern is bringing it back to the area in 2021. This delightful story is a must see for families. I'm betting the adults will enjoy it every bit as much as the younger audience members. Book now as the Imagine U series is wildly popular and this short run is likely to sell out. Not quite ready to brave an indoor performance with unvaccinated littles? Wirtz has excellent covid precautions in place and they're also offering a streaming option you can watch from home. There's also a Sensory Friendly Performance Sunday, Nov. 21 @ 2 p.m. for greater accessibility. Full details are below. Don't miss this!

Fri., 11/12 @ 7 p.m.

Sat., 11/13 @ 11 a.m. and 2 p.m.

Sun., 11/14 @ 2 p.m.

Fri., 11/19 @ 7 p.m.

Sat., 11/20 @ 11 a.m. and 2 p.m.

Sun., 11/21 @ 2 p.m.

Streaming: Fri., 12/3 @ 9 a.m. through Sun., 12/12 @ 11:59 p.m.

Click HERE for tickets

Wirtz Center for the Performing Arts

Ethel M. Barber Theater

30 Arts Circle Drive


One Sunday morning, CJ and his Nana set out in the rain on their weekly bus ride across town.  Along the way, CJ wonders why they don’t own a car, or headphones, or an iPad like his friends.  Most of all he wishes they didn’t have to journey to the scary last stop on Market Street. Their trip through the bustling city becomes an exciting magical adventure which helps CJ solve a mysterious riddle, make unexpected special friends — including Mumford, The Dragon, and discover a wonderful new kind of beauty.

Creative Drama Workshops Nov. 14 and 21

Following the 2 p.m. performances on Nov. 14, 21, Northwestern teaching artists and members of the cast will offer a 45-minute creative drama workshop. The workshop is free and open to any child who attends the show. Parents and guardians are encouraged to participate. Space is limited; reservations are required, and can be made by e-mailing the Wirtz Center Box Office ( The Nov. 14 workshop will take place in Room 101 in the Wirtz Center (participants will meet in the Barber Lobby and be escorted outside to the Workshop room).  The Nov. 21 workshop will take place in the Bergan Rehearsal Room located in the Wirtz Center (participants will meet in the Barber Lobby and be escorted outside to the Workshop room).

Learn about our Health and Safety Guidelines HERE

Sensory Friendly Performance Sunday, Nov. 21 @ 2 p.m.

This adapted performance facilitated by Imagine U will provide a relaxed and safe environment for autistic and otherwise disabled audience members. This performance is open to all with an enhanced focus on theatrical accessibility.

Modifications to the performance include: 

Changes to light and sound cues to eliminate sudden changes and high volume effect

A separate sensory room if students need a break from the performance

Imagine U trained teaching artists with a background in theatrical accessibility 

Fidget toys and communication devices are welcome in the theatre

Sensory kits will be available and include items such as headphones, sun glasses, fidget toys, etc.  

 All audience members for this performance will experience this special sensory friendly performance. Learn about our Health and Safety Guidelines

Wednesday, October 27, 2021

Nightbooks on Netflix is Scary Fun

ChiIL Mama's ChiIL Picks List: 
What We're Watching

Looking for some scary good fun for older kids? Check out Nightbooks on Netflix

When Alex (Winslow Fegley), a boy obsessed with scary stories, is trapped by an evil witch (Krysten Ritter) in her magical apartment, and must tell a scary story every night to stay alive, he teams up with another prisoner, Yasmin (Lidya Jewett), to find a way to escape.

Check out the trailer HERE.

Synopsis: Alex (Winslow Fegley) is a creative boy with a strong passion for writing scary stories. But when he's labeled weird and rejected for what he likes, he swears he'll never write again. That’s when an evil witch (Krysten Ritter), captures him in her magical apartment in New York City and demands that he tell her a new tale every night if he wants to stay alive. Trapped inside with Lenore, the witch’s spiteful cat watching his every move, Alex meets Yasmin (Lidya Jewett), another young prisoner who has learned how to survive the witch's wicked whims. With Yasmin’s help, Alex must learn to embrace what makes him unique — his love for scary stories — and rewrite his own destiny to break them free.

Directed by David Yarovesky

Screenplay by Mikki Daughtry and Tobias Iaconis

Based on the book by J.A. White

Produced by Sam Raimi, Romel Adam, Mason Novick, Michelle Knudsen

Executive Producers: Rob Tapert, Jeanette Volturno

Co-Producers: Mary Anne Waterhouse, Tracy Kopulsky

Starring: Winslow Fegley, Lidya Jewett and Krysten Ritter

 *Head ups - this one has some big scares and intense moments, so it might not be appropriate for younger or sensitive viewers. If in doubt, check it out first without your child.

@Netflix #NightbooksNetflix

Friday, October 22, 2021


ChiIL Mama’s Chi, IL Picks List



This special event is free and open to the public, but pre-registration is required via the Once Upon Our Time Capsule website at

The past 18 months were rife with change, stress and even unexpected joys. And while adults had plenty of opportunities to share how they were impacted by COVID-19, children were given precious few platforms to express how this challenging year impacted them. 

Until last spring, when two parent volunteers and more than 35 youth-focused Chicago nonprofits, schools and government agencies joined up to launch Once Upon Our Time Capsule, a citywide project that captures the individual and collective experiences of Chicago’s children living through the COVID-19 pandemic.

The goal? To elevate Chicago’s children to superhero status, and to let them to see themselves as the incredibly special generation of kids that they are - kids confronted with a pandemic, social unrest, the shift to remote learning, and even the loss of friends and family. The project celebrates kids who were able to overcome adversity and emerge from the worst of the pandemic stronger, smarter and more empathetic to others.

“The kids of Chicago have an important story to tell about the years 2020 and 2021,” said project co-founder Stacey Gillett. “Through Once Upon Our Time Capsule, we listened to what they found cool and special, what they found weird and difficult, and most importantly, how they were brave.”

Gillett’s counterpart, Time Capsule co-founder Stephanie Hodges, added, “from May to August, we collaborated with over 35 youth-serving organizations to engage thousands of kids ages 5 to 12 from more than 70 different communities. With the enthusiastic support of partners, we heard from all of the communities where Chicago’s kids live, learn and play, including schools, summer camps, inpatient hospital settings, homeless shelters, and residential care for undocumented minors. Approximately 70 percent of participating children represent Chicago’s BIPOC communities.”

In all, the project engaged more than 5,000 Chicago children who created personal Time Capsules this summer. They custom-decorated their Time Capsules, stowed personal mementos inside, and shared the memories they’d like to keep and those they’d prefer to leave behind. By doing so, Chicago’s kids were given a creative, cathartic outlet, unlike anywhere in the world, to process the emotional toll of being a child during a pandemic, to release the negative, and celebrate the positive that came out of the unforgettable years of 2020 and 2021.

That’s why, on Wednesday, October 27 at 4:30 p.m. in the Harold Washington Library Winter Garden, 400 S. State St., project volunteers and partners will come back together with participating children and families at the official Once Upon Our Time Capsule Sealing Ceremony.

The ceremony kicks off with a Time Capsule Gallery showcasing select Time Capsules, Time Capsule-inspired arts and crafts activities for kids, plus live performances by Global Girls, After School Matters, People’s Music School, Auditorium Theatre’s Hearts to Art Summer Camp and Chicago Children’s Theatre. Next comes a festive Time Capsule Parade, culminating with a ceremonial sealing of the Giant Time Capsules.

Confirmed speakers (at press time) include Amy Eshleman, First Lady of Chicago; Chris Brown, Commissioner, Chicago Public Library; Jacqueline Russell, Co-Founder and Artistic Director, Chicago Children’s Theatre; and, Stacey Gillett and Stephanie Hodges, Co-Founders, Once Upon our Time Capsule. 

Following the ceremony, hundreds of Time Capsules will be aggregated into 12 Giant Time Capsules and put on display at iconic cultural institutions around the city including Chicago Children’s Theatre, Chicago Academy of Sciences/Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, The DuSable Museum of African American History and Legler Regional Library in Chicago’s Austin community.

In 2026, these 55-gallon drums, teeming with Time Capsules from 2021, will be unsealed to allow a new generation of Chicagoans to revisit the story of life in Chicago during the pandemic, as told through its children’s eyes. 

Also, stay tuned, because on October 27, organizers will announce new plans to write and publish a children’s book telling the Once Upon Our Time Capsule story, drawing from actual stories of life during COVID-19 shared by kids during the summer of 2021. A supporting curriculum will be created to allow integration of the book into educational settings to create an opportunity for kids to discuss hopes for themselves and for the future of Chicago.

More about Once Upon Our Time Capsule

Once Upon Our Time Capsule was launched in May by Stacey Gillett and Stephanie Hodges, two professionals with backgrounds in urban innovation and technology who live in the city with their families. Lead partners are The Center for Childhood Resilience at Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, Chicago Children’s Theatre, Chicago Public Library and My CHI. My Future.

Community and school partners included 826Chi, Adler Planetarium, After School Matters, Augustus H. Burley Elementary School, Boys and Girls Club of Chicago, Brian Piccolo Elementary School, BUILD, Casa Central, Carole Robertson Center for Learning, Chicago Academy of Sciences/Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, The Chicago History Museum, Chicago Housing Authority, Chicago Park District, Chicago Youth Centers, Children’s Museum of Art and Social Justice/KIPP Charter Network, Chinese American Service League, Communities in Schools of Chicago, DuSable Museum of African American History, Friends of Cabrini, Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana, Hearts to Art, Heartland Alliance Human Care Services, Hyde Park Art Center, Ingenuity Chicago, JCC Chicago Apachi Day Camp, John C. Dore Elementary School, Lincoln Elementary School, MENTA Academy, Metropolitan Family Services, Namaste Charter School, Oscar Mayer Magnet School, People’s Music School, Primo Center for Women and Children, Suder Montessori Magnet Elementary School, UChicago Medicine Comer Children’s Hospital and YWCA Metropolitan Chicago.

Once Upon Our Time Capsule is supported by the generosity of Bloomberg Philanthropies, Chicago Public Library Foundation, Comer Family Foundation, Crown Family Philanthropies, John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and Polk Bros. Foundation. Multiple Inc., a branding and marketing firm based in Chicago, Atlanta and Vancouver, is generously providing pro bono strategic branding, website and communication services for Once Upon Our Time Capsule. 

For more information, visit or follow Once Upon Our Time Capsule on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Monday, October 18, 2021

FEST ALERT: The Chicago International Puppet Theater Festival is BACK, January 20-30, 2022

ChiIL Live Shows On Our Radar

Save the Dates

The 4th Chicago International Puppet Theater Festival will return with live performances, ready to make Chicago the puppetry capital of the world, January 20-30, 2022.

For 10 days, Chicagoans and visitors alike will be treated to a deep, diverse roster of contemporary and traditional puppetry forms presented at cultural institutions large and small all over the city. Shows, artists and all festival events will be announced in the fall.

Until then, visit to sign up for the fest’s e-newsletter to be the first to learn the 2022 festival line-up, ticket on sale dates, special events and offers, and behind-the-strings scoop. Or, follow the festival on Facebook at, on Instagram at and on Twitter @ChiPuppetFest.

Originally founded as a project of Blair Thomas & Co., the Chicago International Puppet Theater Festival has now evolved to become an organization in its own right, bringing three biennial, multi-week, citywide festivals in 2015, 2017 and 2019. Already, Chicago’s puppet festival has grown to be the largest of its kind in North America, attracting more than 14,000 audience members every iteration to dozens of Chicago venues large and small to enjoy an entertaining and eclectic array of puppet styles from around the world.

Expanded operations at the Chicago International Puppet Theater Festival are being overseen by Artistic Director/Festival Founder Blair Thomas, Managing Director Sandy Gerding, and new staff members Taylor Bibat and Mark Blashford. Acclaimed Chicago puppeteer Tom Lee has joined Thomas as Co-Director of the Puppet Lab, while Grace Needlman is coordinating pursuit of the Chicago Puppet Lab’s mission: incubating more works of boundary-breaking puppetry in Chicago, expanding equity in the field of puppetry, and encouraging interdisciplinary experimentation in puppet theater.

For more information, visit

Friday, October 8, 2021

REVIEW: Punk Grandpa Now Playing at Dreamers YOLO! Through October 16, 2021

ChiIL Live Shows On Our Radar

Guest Review

By Cath Hellmann 

It’s not often that the playwright of a show I’m reviewing enthusiastically praises my cool new socks within moments of our first meeting. In all fairness, they are super-fun socks with corgis and bacon on them. What’s not to love?? And the outgoing playwright is LaurA! Force Scruggs, who I liked immediately. 

Punk Grandpa is her sweet homage to her funny, irreverent, outrageous grandpa. He always encourages our young heroine to be herself, enjoy life, and it’s ok to be different. What a wonderfu message in our current strange times. 

Playing the grandpa with relish is Colin Jones who breathes life into every scene. He yells from the car at random women that he’ll “pick them up later!” He flirts with all the bank tellers. He claims a black umbrella from the lost-and-found at the bank that’s not really his, but he’s lost other ones along his travels, so he figures it balances out. He tells his granddaughter that the FBI sends him messages through his hearing aids. 

Punk Grandpa is hilariously inappropriate. He brags to the bible-thumpers at church that his son drives a fancy car, makes a lot of money...and is a pimp! The Churchgoers need some levity, as one congregant intones that, “The Liberals are not going to Heaven.” 

Of course, Young Laura, portrayed by a sweet Sallie Anne Young,  adores him. He protects Laura from her horrid older brother who calls her “Freak Show.” She was a very serious child, and her fun-loving grandpa helps lighten her spirits and see the whimsy in life. Laura imagines herself as a fairy, and our Narrator-Older Laura, played by Felisha McNeal, is dressed in a tutu with a wand. She’s been asked in her neighborhood by local children if she really IS a fairy. 

Later in life, Punk Grandpa is diagnosed with Alzheimers. It’s a sad ending for the vivacious man who meant so much to Young Laura. Knowing what he was really like makes his decline all the more tragic. 

The production opens with a vintage slideshow of photos of the real-life Punk Grandpa. I wish we had been able to see the pictures more clearly. My young theater companion thought the images would have been more effective at the end of the play instead of at the forefront. Then the audience members have the opportunity to form their own opinions and impressions of Punk Grandpa from the show. 

I loved the soundtrack of Big Band and Jazz music. Dancing and music play important roles in the show and in the spirit of Grandpa. 

The players who round out the production have a lot of heart. The tiny storefront theater on Lincoln Avenue feels cozy like one is watching a performance in your friend’s living room. The publicity notes describe Punk Grandpa as the male version of one of my favorite characters, Auntie Mame. Remember, “Life is a banquet, and most poor suckers are starving to death!” Punk Grandpa would have approved. 

Cath Hellmann is a teacher, mom, avid theater goer, and lover of silly socks. Her goal is to be the grandma who causes mischief.  

"Punk Grandpa" is like a modern-day Auntie Mame, with genders reversed. It’s all about being yourself, not worrying about what others think, embracing life and humor and the value of the grandparent/grandchild relationship. The show takes place one magical weekend Laura spent with her grandpa at 5 3/4 years old, portrayed through storytelling, dance, music and vintage family movies and photos. Grandpa was the free-est, most inappropriate person Laura ever knew and this show demonstrates how he set Laura free to be herself through his humor and unpredictable, wild ways. It'll put hair on your chest.

Thursday, October 7, 2021

REVIEW: Collaboraction For Social Change 6th Annual PeaceBook Festival 2021

 ChiIL Live Shows on our radar

Guest Review 

By Cath Hellmann

I admit that I wasn’t quite sure what to expect at the PeaceBook Festival held at the lovely Kehrein Center for the Arts in the Austin neighborhood. But it was a delightful evening filled with loads of talent and positive vibes. 

The first half of the program featured six local films created during the shutdown. Because their social justice mission, even during a pandemic, “doesn’t stop,” according to Artistic Director Anthony Moseley, who is a delightful host. 

A Letter to My Younger Self by Ada Cheng addresses racism against Asians and how students choose “not to make a scene” when confronted with hurtful comments about the coronavirus. They accept rudeness of strangers rather than rock the boat. “Silence can be a strength but it isn’t always a virtue.” Ms. Cheng reminds her younger self to “be the troublemaker.” 

Essential?...”Tengo que trabajar/I have to work” by Jasmin Cardenas is a moving tribute to struggling essential workers and how they fared during the pandemic. One Spanish-speaking woman is a street vendor who loses three months of business during the shutdown. Another Latina from Back of the Yards lost many of her clients from her cleaning business. People tried to help when there were stories in the news about how Hispanics were hit the hardest by the pandemic. A young African-American man copes with trying to find work.  

Cardenas was in the audience and gave feedback on how all three of her subjects are doing currently. The vendor came down with Covid and is recuperating. The other two have been, thankfully, working again. It was very inspiring to have the filmmaker present to give us an update on these courageous individuals. 

Brother! Blackbird by Vernon D. Gooden and Back to Me by Darling Shear both feature stunning dancing and visuals. Gooden was especially amazing in his outside dancing under the el tracks and on a city street corner. 

I Am North Lawndale by Willie Round featured several everyday heroes in his neighborhood. There is a restaurant owner who donates  back to her community and wasn’t looted during the riots that affected other businesses. There is a woman who has fresh produce that she contributes to others in a food desert.   

Oh, Colonizers! is a wonderfully witty film written by Carla Stillwell about racism. The commercials feature a beverage called “Drink of Audacity” and a phone company with a lot of nerve called “Confederate Cellular.” There was also a game show like the “Dating Game” where the American bachelor post Civil War must choose between: Reconciliation, Emancipation, and Capitalism. Hmmm...what do you think our young country chose?? Ms. Stillwell has script #2 ready to film if she gets the funding raised. I’d love to see another episode.  

The second half of the show featured poetry/spoken word, music,  and an awesome band with a wonderful percussion section and xylophone. The big name of the evening was Broadway star Karen Olivo who goes by K.O. because “nobody wants to be a ‘Karen’ these days.” ;-) I was soooo  hoping to hear her sing, since she originated the role of Vanessa in In the Heights and won a Tony for West Side Story. But tonight was a time for thought-provoking monologues. 

Molly Brennan is a force of nature with her very commanding presence on stage. She played a ukulele peace song. She’s mesmerizing. 

Abad Viquez is a charmer who goes by “Shorty A.” He arrived on stage in his motorized wheelchair. Abad told his background of being born with a disability and his parents being told he would not walk, talk, or live to see his first birthday. Shorty A is now a graduate from Senn High School, an aspiring actor, and a winner in the August Wilson Monologue Competition. A theater program, and his very encouraging teacher, kept him looking forward. 

The most powerful performance, imho, was Anthony Wolf talking about his mother and his admiration of the Jackson Five. Wolf is a painter and an incredible dancer. He also tragically lost his mother, who was murdered five days after Christmas, by one of her johns. She was able to get her hands on $5k from another john to take her son to see Michael Jackson himself. Very moving story of love, devotion, and great dance moves! 

Well, I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I loved my evening at the 6th Annual PeaceBook Festival 2021. My date even bought me a Collaboraction t-shirt! I look forward to more in the future.  

Cath Hellmann is a teacher, mom of three, theater lover, good troublemaker, and teller of tales, most of them true. 

Saturday, October 2

at the 
Kehrein Center for the Performing Arts
5628 W. Washington Blvd. 
in Chicago's Austin neighborhood
Actor, activist and Tony Award-winner Karen Olivo has been added to the line-up of Collaboraction’s 6th annual Peacebook Festival on Saturday, October 2 at the Kehrein Center for the Arts in Chicago’s Austin community.  
Collaboraction has long been a favorite of ours for social justice theatre and community based work. My son, Dugan, a Northwestern theatre undergrad, interned with their After School Matters teens the summer before last, crafting two original productions based on students' works. Prior to that, he attended the program for two years in high school. 
Collaboraction asks the hard questions with thought provoking theatre, and unflinching looks at our city and beyond. Check out their excellent Peacebook Fest lineup. We'll be out today to recap the event, one of our top weekend picks. Don't miss this. 

5:30 pm

Film Screenings

Oh, Colonizers 
Masterpiece Theatre styled satire hosted by
self-proclaimed Cultural Historian of Black Joy Carla Stillwell

Peacebook Short Films
By Ada Cheng, Darling Squire, Jasmin Cardenas, 
Vernon D. Gooden and Willie Round

7:30 p.m. 

Live "Gifts of Peace" solos 
created and performed by: 

Karen Olivo

Tony Award-nominee as Satine in Moulin Rouge. Karen
declined to return to Moulin Rogue and commercial theater after what they felt was the theater community's lack of meaningful response to the allegations against Broadway producer Scott Rudin. The are also a Tony Award-winner as Anita in West Side Story, and Karen originated the role of Vanessa in In the Heights.

Abad Visquez

A 19-year-old Senn High School graduate, born with sacral agenesis, who placed first in Chicago's qualifying rounds of the 2019 August Wilson Monologue Competition and won third place in the national championship in New York City.

Ada Cheng

The Chicago storyteller, solo artist, show producer, educator, facilitator, and speaker based in Chicago, and a frequent, favorite Collaboraction solo performer.

David Flores

The activist, artist, storyteller and Humboldt Park native, currently enrolled at the Art Institute of Chicago.

Anthony Wolf

A native of Chicago's west side, a dancer, painter and writer whose career has led to him work with Jay Leno, the Chicago Bulls, Puff Daddy, Eve, Oprah Winfrey and many more.

Marvin Tate

A multidisciplinary artist, performer and educator, active in the Chicago music scene since 1993, and collaborator with the likes of Leroy Bach, Theaster Gates Jr. and the Black Monks of Mississippi.

Molly Brennan

The Chicago actor, artist, agitator, activist and accomplice. Brennan has performed at Steppenwolf, Goodman, Lookingglass, Lyric Opera, Second City, American Theatre Company, The Fly Honey Show and others.

Olivo will be one of the seven Gifts of Peace solo artists sharing their perspectives on peace with Collaboraction’s audience, live and in-person. 
Tickets to see Olivo live at Peacebook on Saturday, October 2 are $5-$35. Performances start at 5:30 p.m. The Kehrein Center for the Arts is located at 5628 W. Washington Blvd. in Austin. Go to to purchase tickets. 

​​Karen Olivo (she/they) is a multi-hyphenate living/working on the ancestral lands of the Ho-Chunk Nation in Madison, WI. She is most widely known for their acting work that spans the last 25 years on Broadway and TV. In the Spring of 2020, Olivo co-founded the non-for-profit organization, AFECT- Artists for Economic Transparency (, in an effort to educate the industry and promote discussion regarding entertainment industry structures and how they can be altered to better support underserved communities.

“Building a better industry is more important than putting money in my pockets,” Olivo said. 
Olivo’s most recent theatrical work is for playing “Satine” in Moulin RougeThe Musical for which they received their second Tony Award nomination. Olivo is also recognized for their Tony Award-winning performance as “Anita” in the acclaimed 2009 Broadway revival of West Side Story, a role for which she also earned Drama Desk, Drama League, Outer Critics Circle, and Astaire Award nominations.

Some of their Broadway theater credits include originating the role of “Vanessa” in the Tony Award-winning musical, In the Heights (2008 Astaire Award), starring as “Faith” in the Broadway production of Brooklyn the Musical, and in Jonathan Larson’s Pulitzer- and Tony Award-winning musical, RentOlivo is familiar to Chicago audiences, too, having portrayed Angelica Schuyler in the Chicago production of Hamilton from 2016 to 2017. 

Olivo is also recognized for her many television appearances including a series regular, recurring and guest-starring roles on “Harry’s Law”, “The Good Wife,” “Criminal Minds: Suspect Behavior,” “Chase,” “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit,” “Conviction,” and “Law & Order.” As an educator Olivo has worked at Northwestern University, NYU-Tisch, Cincinnati Conservatory of Music, University of Wisconsin-Madison, as well as working as a visual artist, writer, and vocalist. Their 1st solo album LEAVE was released in 2018.

A festival of films and solo performances sharing personal perspectives on peace featuring Peacemakers Karen Olivo, Ameena Matthews, Marvin Tate, Ada Cheng, Molly Brennan and more, music by Joyful Soundz, debut of Carla Stillwell’s short film Oh, Colonizers, a response to January 6

Each Peacebook event will present a selection of world premiere Gifts of Peace Solos created and performed live and in-person by a diverse line-up of leading Chicago peace visionaries.

Gifts of Peace soloists on October 2 in Austin are Abad ViquezAda ChengAnthony WolfDavid FloresKaren OlivoMarvin Tate, and Molly Brennan.
A collection of short films all produced by Collaboraction since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic precedes the solo works each night. 

The evening will conclude with a Crucial Conservation between the artists and audience about how to increase the peace in Chicago. 
“This unique moment in history is an open door to new ideas and actions around cultivating peace in Chicago and we are honored to be able to share these gifts of critical voices and perspectives on Peace,” said Collaboraction Artistic Director Anthony Moseley
Tickets, $5-$35, are on sale now. Go to for tickets, the full line-up, artist bios, show descriptions and artist information. 

Note: Masks will be required at all times, and proof of vaccination is required. Or, in order to not limit access to the great majority of these communities based on their vaccination hesitancy, a negative Covid PCR test within 48 hours of performance time, or a negative six-hour hour rapid antigen test, will also be accepted. Visit for updates to Collaboraction's Covid policies.

Saturday, October 2
Kehrein Center for the Arts, 5628 W Washington Blvd., in Austin

5:30 p.m. Film Screening 
Oh, Colonizers
by Carla Stillwell
Oh, Colonizers is a Masterpiece Theatre styled satire hosted by self-proclaimed Cultural Historian of Black Joy Carla StillwellOh, Colonizers unpacks the way white people throughout America’s history have spread "oppression mayonnaise" over countless Black and Brown people. In this episode, we look at the period after the Civil War when America had a choice between emancipation, reconciliation and capitalism. With the help of a metaphorical World Colonization game show and KAREN inspired commercials, Oh, Colonizers connects the dots between capitalism and the insurrection of January 6, 2021 with historical accuracy and enough comedy to help the medicine go down.

Peacebook Films
by Ada Cheng, Darling Squire, Jasmin Cardenas, Vernon D. Gooden and Willie Round
Short films from Collaboraction's 2020 Peacebook Fest include (left) Essential?...Tengo que trabajar/I have to work by Jasmin Cardenas and (right) This is North Lawndale by and featuring Willie “Prince Roc” Round.

Live Music by Joyful SoundZ, led by Joy Smith, the Englewood percussionist, teaching artist and Tru Chat podcast host, featured in Collaboraction’s Encounter Englewood.
Joy Smith performed at Collaboraction's 25th Anniversary Moonset Sunrise gala in June. 

7:30 p.m. Gifts of Peace Solos
Abad Viquez, a 19-year-old Senn High School graduate and budding theater actor, born with sacral agenesis, who placed first in the Chicago qualifying rounds of the August Wilson Monologue Competition in 2019 and won third place in the national championship in New York City.
Ada Cheng, the Chicago storyteller, solo artist, show producer, educator, facilitator, and speaker based in Chicago, and a frequent, favorite Collaboraction solo performer.
Anthony Wolf grew up on the west side of Chicago and is a dancer, painter and writer whose career has led to him work with Jay Leno, the Chicago Bulls, Puff Daddy, Eve, Oprah Winfrey and many more.

David Flores, the activist, artist, storyteller and Humboldt Park native, currently enrolled at the Art Institute of Chicago.
Karen Olivo, Tony Award-winner for West Side Story, Tony Award nominee for Moulin Rouge! The Musical, and theater educator and activist, co-founder, AFECT-Artists for Economic Transparency 

Marvin Tate, a multidisciplinary artist, performer and educator, active in the Chicago music scene since 1993, and collaborator with the likes of Leroy Bach, Theaster Gates Jr. and the Black Monks of Mississippi.

Molly Brennan, the Chicago actor, artist, agitator, activist and accomplice. Brennan has performed at Steppenwolf, Goodman, Lookingglass, Lyric Opera, Second City, American Theatre Company, The Fly Honey Show and others.

All Gifts of Peace Solos will be captured by a multi-camera live video team directed by award winning filmmaker Marquis Simmons for future release on Collaboraction’s Together Network.

Want to spark social change in Chicago and beyond? 
Become a CollaborActivist! 

Join the company’s new member program that supports digital workshops and live programs, helps pay artists equitably, and provides a brave space for diverse voices who create transformative performances on critical social issues. CollaborActivists receive exclusive invitations to monthly social events (virtual and in-person), free or discounted tickets, special swag, and updates on Collaboraction’s community impact. Become a CollaborActivist for as little as $1 a month at

For more information, visit, follow the company on Twitter, Facebook,  Instagram or YouTube, or call (312) 226-9633.

About Collaboraction

Collaboraction, Chicago’s theater for social change, collaborates with a diverse community of Chicagoans, artists and community activists to create original theatrical and virtual experiences that cultivate dialogue and action around the world’s most critical social issues. 

Since the company’s founding in 1996, Collaboraction has pushed artistic boundaries working with more than 4,000 artists to bring over 100 productions and events to more than 150,000 unique audience members, and has inspired measurable positive change on social justice in Chicago and beyond. Collaboraction’s work includes SketchbookPeacebookCrime SceneForgotten Future and Gender Breakdown
Collaboraction has been acknowledged for innovation and inclusivity by using theater as a tool for social change with numerous awards including, most recently, a 2020 Foster Innovation Award from Chicago’s Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events, the 2020 Multi-Racial Unity Award from the First Unitarian Church-Chicago, a 2018 Stand For the Arts Award from Comcast & OvationTV, and an Otto Award from New York’s Castillo Theatre.
In August 2021, Collaboraction returned to live performances by debuting The Light, a new ensemble of six high-achieving Chicago youth artists and activists who performed at Douglass Park in North Lawndale, LaFollette Park in Austin, and Hamilton Park in Englewood as part of the Chicago Park District’s Night Out in the Parks. Visit to see where The Light will perform next in 2021-22. 

Meanwhile, Collaboraction’s Together Network presents exclusive virtual content like Becoming, a live web show for anyone looking to be active anti-racists (first Tuesday of every month at 6 p.m. CT), and Crucial Connections, a live, interactive talk show that brings social justice warriors, artists and community residents together for crucial conversations (third Thursday of every month, 8 p.m. CT). Learn more at

Collaboraction continues to use the theater at Kennedy-King College in Englewood as its mainstage producing home. Meanwhile, the company has initiated a search for its next home for live performances, community building and video production, exploring Chicago neighborhoods historically overlooked like Englewood, Austin and Lawndale.

Collaboraction is supported by The Chicago Community Trust, the National Endowment for the Arts, the City of Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs & Special Events, Illinois Humanities, Paul M. Angell Foundation, Marc & Jeanne Malnati Family Foundation, Joseph & Bessie Feinberg Foundation, and the Illinois Arts Council, a state agency. 

For more, visit