Theatre Building Chicago changes hands

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LUKABA PRODUCTIONS FINDS A HOME

Lukaba Productions announced today that it will be the primary tenant of the Theatre Building Chicago, at 1225 W. Belmont Ave.  Lukaba has committed to a long-term lease with 1225 West Belmont Avenue LLC, who this week signed a contract to purchase the building from Theatre Building Chicago.

Under the contract announced this week, Theatre Building Chicago will sell its property in Lakeview, containing three 148-seat theaters, to 1225 West Belmont Avenue LLC, according to Charles H. Jesser, manager of record for the entity. Jesser also stated that the purchaser intends to make substantial upgrades to the building. (Yeah!) The transaction is expected to close in May.

Lukaba executive producer Brian Posen stated, “We are excited about the opportunity to have our own space where we can collaborate with other artists and offer audiences accessible, affordable and exceptional entertainment.”

sketchfest-logo Lukaba Productions, under Posen’s leadership, has a long history of theatrical production in Chicago.  Lukaba’s flagship product is the Chicago Sketch Comedy Festival, the world’s largest such festival that has taken place at TBC each January since 2002.  In addition, Lukaba is the parent company of the Cupid Players, the musical sketch comedy troupe that lays claim to the title of longest-running sketch revue in iO Theater’s history.  Posen has also produced a number of theatrical productions.  Those presented at TBC include the Chicago premiere of Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap, Noises Off! and How the Other Half Loves.

“We have spent the last several years searching for a permanent home that can serve as a base for our own productions, as well as helping us fulfill our mission of serving and nurturing Chicago’s theatrical artists.  We will continue TBC’s tradition of offering Chicago’s off-Loop companies affordable performance space so that the building will continue to serve as an incubator for Chicago theatre,” said Lukaba board chair Laura Michaud.

See more updates on this story at Chris Jones’ blog.

Adventure Stage Chicago forms new artistic ensemble

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Adventure Stage Chicago announces new Artistic Ensemble

As Adventure Stage Chicago (ASC) prepares to end their sixth season with the Midwest premiere of the pirate musical The Ghosts of Treasure Island, ASC announces the formation of a new artistic ensemble.

The eleven-member ensemble is comprised of actors, designers, directors, stage managers, teaching artists and writers committed to achieving artistic excellence through long-term collaboration and the creation of original work. The ensemble will be directly involved in the proposal of new projects, script development, season selection and the production process. A number of ensemble members also work in classrooms as teaching artists, implementing the company’s Neighborhood Bridges program in Chicago Public Schools. Additionally, ensemble members will serve as ambassadors for the company within the community, playing their part during outreach events at libraries, park districts, neighborhood street festivals and celebrations.

The creation of the ensemble re-focuses the development of new and original work to come from within the company, creating dynamic and transformative theatre experiences by Chicagoans for youth and families of Chicago.

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ASC Ensemble Members:

 

Tom Arvetis
  Tom Arvetis is the founding Producing Artistic Director of Adventure Stage Chicago, where he has directed world premieres of Katrina: The Girl Who Wanted Her Name Back by Jason Tremblay, The Blue House by Jose Cruz Gonzalez, and I Dream in Blues, which he co-wrote with Chicago blues singer Katharine Davis. Additionally, he recently helmed a workshop reading of Dragon/Sky by Elizabeth Wong (Silk Road Theatre Project). Tom is an Emeritus Company Member with Barrel of Monkeys, has acted in award-winning productions with the Neo-Futurists, Bailiwick Repertory Company (now Bailiwick Chicago) and Pyewacket Theatre, among others, and is a veteran sound designer. He is a graduate of Northwestern University.

 

Brian Bell
  Brian Bell recently directed Gossamer for ASC (where he also serves as a teaching artist) and will appear in their upcoming production The Ghosts of Treasure Island. Previously he completed a directing internship with the Carrousel Theater an der Parkaue in Germany and went on to direct The Retreating World by Naomi Wallace at Berlin’s Acud Theater. Brian graduated with a B.A. in Theatre Performance from the University of North Texas, where he directed and adapted Woyzeck by Georg Buechner as a final thesis. Brian is the artistic director of Chicago’s Cabaret Vagabond and has worked with Lincoln Square Theatre, Darknight Productions, Piccolo Theatre, Apple Tree Theatre and Collaboraction. He is an alumnus of the Chicago Directors Lab.

 

Brandon Campbell
  Brandon Campbell has worked for Adventure Stage Chicago as a teaching artist, stage manager and production manager since moving to Chicago in 2001. He is also an Associate of Collaboraction, serving as production manager for Sketchbook 5, 6, 7, 8 and Carnaval. Other production credits include the world premiere of Jose Rivera‘s Massacre at Goodman Theatre (with Teatro Vista), Chicago Sketchfest and several shows with the Neo-Futurists. In his creative time he has worked as a writer/performer (Dark Eyed Strangers), a puppeteer and designer (Laika’s Coffin, The Cay, Joe’s Garage, Beowulf Vs. Grendel), and a sax player (Seeking Wonderland, 2nd Story, Jenn Rhoads Project).

 

Sarah Rose Graber
  Sarah Rose Graber graduated from Northwestern University’s theatre program and received her Acting Certificate from the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London. She was the Circumnavigator Foundation’s Travel Around the World Study Grant Scholar, which enabled her to travel the globe while researching the way theatre is used as a tool for communication and education to encourage social change. She chronicled her journey in a play called Time For Take-Off! She adapted The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe into a bilingual play for English and Spanish viewers and Edmund Spenser‘s epic poem “The Faerie Queene” into a mask play she directed called IMAGO, for which she received the Center for Interdisciplinary Research in the Arts Grant (CIRA) and the Program in the Study of the Imagination Grant (PSI). Chicago credits include Northlight Theatre, Metropolis Performing Arts Center, Strawdog Theatre, Chemically Imbalanced Comedy, Village Players Theatre, and Factory Theatre, where she is also a company member.  As a teaching artist, Sarah has taught and directed for Northlight Theatre, Arts Berwyn, Chicago Children’s Humanities Festival, the National High School Institute at Northwestern, Neighborhood Bridges, and many residencies at Chicago area schools.

 

Laura Kollar
  Laura Kollar attended Loyola University Chicago, where she earned degrees in Theater and Psychology. Costume design credits at Adventure Stage Chicago include Gossamer, Holes, The Blue House, The Cay and Shakespeare Stealer. She co-designed Still Life With Iris with fellow ASC ensemble member Jessica Kuehnau and helped create costumes for Katrina: The Girl Who Wanted Her Name Back and I Dream in Blues.  Laura’s work has also been seen with Actor’s Theatre Company, Theatre Mir, Lookingglass Theatre, Collaboraction, Chicago Shakespeare Theater, Serendipity Theatre, North Park University and Pegasus Players, among others.

 

Jessica Kuehnau
  Jessica Kuehnau‘s previous designs for ASC have included sets for Eye of the Storm, The Shakespeare Stealer, and The Blue House, and costumes for Still Life with Iris, Search for Odysseus and Katrina: The Girl Who Wanted Her Name Back. Since completing her MFA in Scenic and Costume Design at Northwestern University, Chicago design credits include Rivendell Theatre, Pegasus Players, Lifeline Theatre, Griffin Theatre, Backstage Theatre Company, MPAACT, The Building Stage, Metropolis Performing Arts Center, and Light Opera Works. She is also full time faculty and resident scenic designer at Northeastern Illinois University, as well as the resident set designer and design professor at North Park University.

 

Allison Latta
  Allison Latta is a graduate of the theatre program at Virginia Tech. She has also studied Commedia dell ‘Arte with Anotonio Fava in Reggio Emelia, Italy. Chicago performance credits include Buffalo Theatre Ensemble, Strawdog Theatre and Redmoon Theatre. She was a founding member of TriArts, Inc. and created four original Commedia shows with that company, including Hfob-N-Ffos, which was named a Best of Fringe show at the Winnipeg Fringe Festival. She has appeared in ASC’s productions of Sideways Stories from the Wayside School, And Then They Came for Me: Remembering the World of Anne Frank, Still Life With Iris, The Ash Girl, Holes and Gossamer. She can also be seen in a number of national commercials and independent films. She has worked as a teaching artist with ASC, Gallery 37 and Metropolis Performing Arts Center

 

Scott Letscher
  Scott Letscher is currently the Managing Director of Adventure Stage Chicago. He was a company member of the late, lamented Terrapin Theatre for over ten years, where he served for two years as their Artistic Director. At Terrapin, he directed the After Dark Award-winning production of Aunt Dan and Lemon, the world premiere of Requiem in a Light Aqua Room by Sean Graney, The Rimers of Eldritch, The Sneeze and Public/Privacy. He appeared in the Terrapin productions Nina Variations, Blue Remembered Hills, The Pooka and Daniel O’Rourke, The Kramer and Laurel and Hardy Sleep Together. He also spent four years with the Children’s Theatre Fantasy Orchard as an actor and adaptor. He received a Theatre Arts degree from Marquette University.

 

Jana Liles
  Jana Liles came to Chicago after receiving her B.F.A. in Theatre from Emporia State University in her home state of Kansas. She completed her M.F.A. in Theatre from The Chicago College of Performing Arts at Roosevelt University. She has performed with such theatre companies as Chicago Shakespeare Theatre, Light Opera Works, Quest Theatre Ensemble, The GreyZelda Theatre Group, Chemically Imbalanced Comedy and Adventure Stage Chicago, while also appearing in numerous films, local television programs and commercials. An accomplished singer and dancer, she has also been fortunate enough to perform in front of thousands of people at the Lollapalooza music festival in Grant Park. In addition to serving as ASC’s Marketing Coordinator, she is the Casting Director at BackStage Theatre Company.

 

Merissa Shunk
  Merissa Shunk has been with Adventure Stage Chicago since 2007 as the Director of Education. Before moving to Chicago she lived in Chiang Mai, Thailand as a Peace Corps Volunteer. She is originally from sunny California where she studied theatre, taught theatre, and studied how to teach theatre at UCLA and Santa Clara University. She has freelanced as a curriculum writer and teaching artist for the Silk Road Theater Project, is the Fine Arts Curriculum Advisor at Rowe Elementary School, and has been a mentor (Drama Mama) in Redmoon Theater‘s Mentoring program, Drama Girls.  In fall of 2008 she co-founded the Chicago Arts Educator Forum and also serves on the board of the Illinois Theatre Association.

 

Brandon Wardell
  Brandon Wardell is a freelance Lighting and Scenic Designer in Chicago. He holds an MFA from Northwestern University and teaches at several universities, including Northwestern University, Columbia College Chicago, The University of Chicago, and Illinois Wesleyan. Recent lighting credits include The Hollow Lands (Steep Theatre), On An Average Day (Backstage Theatre Company), The Arab-Israeli Cookbook (Theatre Mir), John & Jen (Apple Tree Theatre), The Robber Bridegroom (Griffin Theatre) and The Blue House (ASC).  Scenic Designs include Maria’s Field (TUTA), In Arabia We’d All Be Kings (Steep Theatre), Holes (ASC), Dracula (The Building Stage) and Be More Chill (Griffin Theatre). 

Village Players taps storyteller Megan Wells as first artistic associate

 

Village Players' new Artistic Associate, Megan WellsDirector, actor and storyteller Megan Wells has been named Artistic Associate at Oak Park’s Village Players Theatre. She is the first Artistic Associate to be named at the 50-year-old non-Equity theater, and ushers in a new program implemented by Artistic Director Daniel Taube.

Taube was named Artistic Director at the theater in August, after former Artistic Director Carl Occhipinti left the post to devote himself full-time to his thriving career in therapeutic massage. VPT has two stages, the 50-seat black box Studio Theatre established by Occhipinti several years ago, and a 180-seat main stage that’s been the bulwark of the 1010 W.  Madison Street facility since it opened in 1984.

Wells, of Lagrange Park, is well known in story-telling circles for her prowess with original works. She has toured locally and regionally with her one-woman performances of Dracula, Psyche and Eros, Helen’s Troy, Firebird, and The Last Supper, spinning tales that merge rich dramatic detail with thorough scholarship.  Wells has numerous awards for storytelling, including the EdPress Distinguished Achievement Award for “Fire in Boomtown”, a piece on the history of the Chicago fire she performer with composer/musician Amy Lowe. Her most recent work at VPT was helming The Miracle Worker for the studio space earlier this season.

While the precise nature of the Artistic Associate program has not been spelled out, it will be a “sort of residency fundamental to improving the quality of progressive work at VPT in the coming years,” Taube said in a prepared statement.

VPT is in the middle of its 2009-2010 season, with the main stage shows dedicated to “New American Classics” and the studio programming to plays written by women or focusing on a strong, central female character. A Chorus Line opens March 13 on the main stage, while Marie Irene FornesMud opens in the studio space March 27. The main stage season continues with Christopher Durang’s The Marriage of Betty and Book May 7 – June 27. The studio space will host Naomi Iizuka’s Polaroid Stories June 10 – July 18.

 For more information or to reserve tickets, go to www.village-players.org or call the box office at 866-764-1010.

Addams Family set to go through Revisions

“Revisions” for ‘Addams Family’ before Broadway run

The Addams Family
Ford Center for the Performing Arts, Oriental Theatre

As the musical begins, there are storm clouds gathering over the Addams Family home. Wednesday is falling in love, and guess who's coming to dinner?

Synopsis:
In this original story, the famously macabre Addams Family is put to the test when outsiders come to dinner, hurling Gomez, Morticia, Wednesday, Pugsley, Fester, Grandmama and Lurch headlong into a night that will change the family forever.
Show Advisory:
None
Genre:
Musical
Cast List:
Nathan Lane, Bebe Neuwirth, Terrence Mann, Carolee Carmello, Kevin Chamberlin, Jackie Hoffman, Zachary James, Adam Riegler, Wesley Taylor, and Krysta Rodriguez
Production Credits:
Direction and design by Phelim McDermott and Julian Crouch
Lighting design by Natasha Katz
Sound design by Acme Sound Partners
Puppetry by Basil Twist
Music direction by Mary-Mitchell Campbell
Orchestrations by Larry Hochman
Dance arrangements by August Eriksmoen
Hair design by Tom Watson

Special effects design by Greg Meeh
Fight direction by Rick Sordelet
Heidi Miami Marshall will serve as associate director

Other Credits:
Lyrics by: Andrew Lippa
Music by: Andrew Lippa
Book by: Marshall Brickman & Rick Elice The producers of Addams Family, set for a spring Broadway opening, have hired the Tony Award-winning director Jerry Zaks as a consultant for the $16.5 million production, attempting to revive the musical from its less-than-glowing reviews.

perhaps we were taking a little too much for granted assuming that the audience walks in with the relationship with the Addams family fully intact, and we didn’t appropriately reconnect the audience to the family members,” said producer Stuart Oken.

No one on the creative team has left the show or been fired, Mr. Oken said, with Phelim McDermott and Julian Crouch still listed as the directors and production designers, and Mr. Zaks billed as creative consultant.

Mr. Zaks is close to Mr. Lane, having directed him in the long-running Broadway musical revivals of Guys and Dolls in 1992 and A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum in 1996, for which Mr. Lane won the Tony Award for best actor in a musical.

The musical’s lead producers, Stuart Oken and Roy Furman have admitted that the plot needed to focus more tightly on the Addams family members and that all roles, starting with Gomez (Nathan Lane) and Morticia (Bebe Neuwirth), needed their eccentric and subversive personalities clearly established in dialogue and song before the main action of the plot begins.

 

Bebe Neuwirth and Nathan Lane 1

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Chicago Theatre Building hires new Executive Director: Sean Cercone

Sean Cercone named new Exec Director at Theatre Building

 

Sean_000 Following a 5-month search, Theatre Building Chicago has hired Sean Cercone as new executive director of the building and the theatre’s educational and creative programs. A little about Cercone: from 2003 through 2009 Cercone served as Producing Artistic Director of The Carousel in Akron, Ohio, an 800-seat Equity theatre. During the first three years of his tenure Sean achieved an attendance increase by nearly 10%.  Of great interest to Theatre Building Chicago, Cercone also established a New Works program, which developed four shows that moved on to presentations in the National Alliance of Musical Theatre New Works Festival and the New York Musical Theatre Festival. Two of these new works (Meet John Doe and The Gypsy King) moved on to full productions at regional theatres, Ford’s Theatre and Village Theatre respectively. Cercone has also served as a four-time committee member and two-time co-chair for the NAMT Festival of New Musicals in New York.

We are extremely pleased that Sean Cercone has accepted the position as Executive Director,” said Sally Ruecking, Theatre Building president. “Sean has a highly visible and recognizable name in the theatre community on both a local and national level. He has the passion, vision and drive to lead us toward a full subscription season of new theater, as well as a strong sense of the rich history and mission of this well established mainstay of Chicago theatre.”

“I am very excited to join the fantastic team at TBC,” said Cercone. “The organization’s rich history and strong leadership over 30 years built a solid foundation and opportunity for growth. We look forward to continuing to provide an important resource for the Chicago Theatre community, while also developing our ability to have a greater impact on the landscape of the American Theatre.”

Olympia Dukakis reads for American Blues

By Leah A. Zeldes

Olympia-Dukakis Academy Award-winning actress Olympia Dukakis appears in Chicago Monday, Nov. 16, to read from an upcoming American Blues Theater production. The reading, a passage from ABT’s spring 2010 show, "RIPPED: The Living Newspaper Project" by Eduardo Machado and Rick Cleveland, takes place during a benefit for the newly-reconstituted troupe. Dennis Zacek, artistic director of Victory Gardens Theater, will also read.

Highlights of benefit, 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Monday at the Bridgeview Bank, 4753 N. Broadway, also include live blues by Chicago band The Skirts, an auction of such items as local theater tickets and a walk-on Broadway role, food and drinks. Tickets are $75, $125 for VIP admission, which includes an earlier reception with Dukakis.

Dukakis, whose film credits include Steel Magnolias, Mr. Holland’s Opus and Moonstruck, for which she was named Best Supporting Actress, is a long-time friend of ABT ensemble member Carmen Roman. "I’ve watched this company continuously produce incredible, groundbreaking work," Dukakis said. "The 2009/10 season is no exception. I’m honored to be a part of their benefit celebration, and fully support this inspirational Chicago ensemble."

"Starting from scratch without staff and absolutely no money has certainly been a challenge," said ensemble member Gwendolyn Whiteside, part of the company’s executive/artistic/administrator triumvirate, along with Roman and Heather Meyers.

In March, 23 members of the ensemble left American Theater Company, leaving behind a $1 million annual budget and taking back the American Blues name under which that company formed in 1985. The group, which comprised most of ATC’s actors, departed over differences with its artistic director, P.J. Paparelli, who was hired two years ago from Perseverance Theatre in Alaska. Paparelli had reportedly expelled several members of the company and allowed members increasingly less influence on theatrical decision making.

American Blues Theater members include Cleveland, Dawn Bach, Ed Blatchford, Matthew Brumlow, Kate Buddeke, Casey Campbell, Dennis Cockrum, Lauri Dahl, Tom Geraty, Cheryl Graeff, Lindsay Jones, Kevin R. Kelly, Ed Kross, James Leaming, John Mohrlein, Jim Ortlieb, William Payne, Suzanne Petri, Tania Richard, Editha Rosario, John Sterchi and Stef Tovar.

"I believe the work of the ABT ensemble is vital and important to Chicago’s theater community and our city as a whole," Zacek said.

Jonathan Heuring – Porchlight Music Theatre’s new managing director

JONATHAN HEURING appointed as new managing director

jonathan-heuring Porchlight Music Theatre has announced the appointment of Jonathan Heuring as full time managing director for the fifteen year old company. As managing director, he will oversee a variety of operations including marketing, development, vendors, subscription and single ticket sales—all the behind-the-scenes activities that support the artistic program.

Jonathan Heuring has worked the past 15 years in a wide variety of theatrical management roles, most notably nine years on the senior staff at Victory Gardens Theater as the Production Manager. He helped produce more than 50 world and regional premiere productions, including the 2001 season when Victory Gardens was the recipient of the Tony Award for Outstanding Regional Theatre. He also played a major role in the growth that saw the company double in size and he was an integral member of the team that oversaw an $11.6 million campaign to renovate the landmark Biograph Theater into the company’s new home in 2006. Other theater companies he’s worked for include Indiana Repertory, Emerald City, TimeLine Theatre, Oak Park Festival, Lifeline, Famous Door and Center Theatre Ensemble.

Heuring has also worked locally in non-profit management software development and sales for Easy-Ware Corporation, and in commercial theatrical production for Jam Theatricals. He is a charter member of the Joseph Jefferson Awards Arts & Technical Committee, an advisory board member of Premiere Theatre and Performance, and is a proud graduate of Indiana University. He loves to volunteer his spare time to many local non-profits including Inspiration Corporation, Preservation Chicago, and Organizing for America.

From Porchlight’s board president Jeannie Lukow:

It is Porchlight’s privilege to welcome Jonathan Heuring as managing director. His knowledge of the Chicago theatre community, his skills as a theatre administrator, and most of all, his passion for theatre will serve the company well. As Porchlight celebrates the milestone of its 15th anniversary, bringing a full time managing director on board is critical to our growth in the next 15 years."

 

We here at Chicago Theater Blog wish Jonathan the best of luck.