MERCURY THEATER CHICAGO ANNOUNCES
CASTING AND ARTISTS FOR
WOMEN OF SOUL – WITH A SPECIAL TRIBUTE TO ARETHA
A soulful musical salute Written and Directed by Daryl D. Brooks
with Musical Direction by Robert Reddrick

Chicago –Artistic Director Christopher Chase Carter, Managing Director Shane Murray-Corcoran, and Executive Producers Walter Stearns and Eugene Dizon announce the cast and creative team for the next Mainstage production of the 2021-2022 Mercury Theater Chicago season, Women of Soul, featuring a special tribute to Aretha Franklin. This production is written and directed by Daryl D. Brooks, with music direction by Robert Reddrick. Women of Soul runs January 28– March 6, 2022 at Mercury Theater Chicago, 3745 N. Southport Avenue. The press opening is scheduled for Thursday, February 3 at 7:30 p.m.

Women of Soul is a celebration of the most powerful women of soul to ever grace the stage. Audiences will jump to their feet to honor dozens of incredible women including Whitney Houston, Donna Summer, Diana Ross, Janet Jackson and Janis Joplin. This musical features powerhouse performers singing legendary music including “I Say a Little Prayer,” “I Will Survive” and “Respect.” This musical revue recognizes the struggles and triumphs these women went through to reach the pinnacle of success. This is a once-in-a-lifetime musical masterpiece that audiences will remember for years to come.

Writer and Director Daryl D. Brooks is delighted to revisit this hit show:

“Women of Soul had its world premiere at Black Ensemble Theater in 2018. This feel-good revue is being given an exciting new life and the chance to be seen by new audiences at Mercury Theater Chicago. The production is a tribute to iconic female artists. Audiences will celebrate these artists performed with love and passion by Chicago’s favorite performers,” comments Daryl D. Brooks.

The cast of Women of Soul includes Cynthia Carter, Robin DaSilva, Jerica Exum, Hannah Efsits, Dwight Neal, Colleen Perry, Rhonda Preston, Jessica Seals, Aeriel Williams, and Katherine Viviano (understudy).

The creative team for Women of Soul includes Daryl D. Brooks (Writer and Director), Robert Reddrick (Music Director), Christopher Chase Carter (Musical Staging) Angela Weber Miller (Scenic Designer), Denise Karczewski (Lighting Designer), Carl Wahlstrom (Sound Designer), Max Maxin IV (Video Designer), Rachel West (Master Electrician), Rueben Echoles (Wig Designer/Costume Designer), Nathalie Silva (Wardrobe Supervisor), Kristi J. Martens (Stage Manager), Lucy Whipp (Assistant Stage Manager), Will Hughes (Scenic Charge), and Keely Vasquez (Casting Associate).

Tickets for Women of Soul, starting at $35, are on sale now at the box office, 3745 N. Southport Avenue in Chicago, http://www.mercurytheaterchicago.com.


FACT SHEET / WOMEN OF SOUL

Title: Women of Soul
Written and Directed by: Daryl D. Brooks
Music Direction by: Robert Reddrick
Featuring: Cynthia Carter, Robin DaSilva, Jerica Exum, Hannah Efsits, Dwight Neal, Colleen Perry, Rhonda Preston, Jessica Seals, Aeriel Williams, and Katherine Viviano (understudy).

Creative Team: Angela Weber Miller (Scenic Designer), Denise Karczewski (Lighting Designer), Carl Wahlstrom (Sound Designer), Max Maxin IV (Video Designer), Rachel West (Master Electrician), Rueben Echoles (Wig Designer/Costume Designer), Nathalie Silva (Wardrobe Supervisor), Kristi J. Martens (Stage Manager), Lucy Whipp (Assistant Stage Manager), Will Hughes (Scenic Charge), Keely Vasquez (Casting Associate) with Walter Stearns (Executive Producer), Eugene Dizon (Executive Producer), Reneisha Jenkins (Associate Producer), Christopher Chase Carter (Artistic Director / Musical Staging), and Shane Murray-Corcoran (Managing Director).

Dates:
Previews: January 28 – February 2, 2022
Regular Run: February 4 – March 6, 2022
Press Opening: Thursday, February 3 at 7:30 pm

Schedule: Wednesdays: 7:30 p.m.
Thursdays: 7:30 p.m.
Fridays: 7:30 p.m.
Saturdays: 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.
Sundays: 2 p.m.

Location: Mercury Theater Chicago, 3745 N. Southport Avenue, Chicago

Tickets: $35 – $80
Box Office: 3745 N. Southport Avenue in Chicago; http://www.MercuryTheaterChicago.com

Notes of Interest:
Director Daryl D. Brooks is Producing Managing Director of Black Ensemble Theater, where he previously director Women of Soul. In addition to his many Black Ensemble Theater credits Daryl recently directed Pump Boys & Dinettes and Memphis with Porchlight Music Theater.

Music Director Robert Reddrick is the music director and drummer for Chicago’s Black Ensemble Theater. He is a seven-time recipient of the Black Theater Alliance Award, and five-time Jeff Award nominee for musical direction. He has been music director for projects at Steppenwolf Theatre, University of Illinois, Free Street Theater, and drummer for many other productions throughout Chicago. He also performs with his band The R2Project featuring Bonnie Phillips.

Aeriel Williams recently returned from New York where she played Diana Ross in the off-Broadway production of Trevor the Musical.

Cast member Jerica Exum was in the national tour of Waitress and has been seen locally at Black Ensemble and Paramount, where she performed in Cinderella and Newsies.

Rhonda Preston has performed with Black Ensemble Theater for 25 years. She has traveled internationally, performing with Blues band Mississippi Heat and Gospel favorite Tina Brown and the Gospel Messenger.

Robin J. DaSilva was awarded the 2019 Jeff Award for playing the title role in Mahalia Jackson: Moving Through the Light at Black Ensemble. She has also performed at Porchlight, Theater at the Center and Theo Ubique, among others. As a vocal arranger, she has worked with many churches, recording artists, commercial, television shows and musical theatre productions.

COVID PROTOCOL: For the safety and comfort of patrons and staff, Mercury Theater Chicago will be requiring audience members to provide proof of vaccination either with a physical copy of the vaccination card or on a smartphone. In addition to proof of vaccination, all guests 18 years and older must present a government-issued ID, such as driver’s license or passport. Guests under 18 may also use a school photo ID. People with a medical condition that prevent vaccination may provide proof of a COVID-19 PCR test taken within 72 hours of the performance start time or a negative COVID-19 antigen test taken within 6 hours of the performance start time. All patrons will have to wear a mask throughout the performance when not actively eating or drinking regardless of vaccination status.

About Mercury Theater Chicago
The beautifully renovated Mercury Theater Chicago is in the heart of the Southport Corridor at 3745 North Southport Avenue, within a sophisticated neighborhood of restaurants and boutiques just steps from Wrigley Field. A delightful destination, Mercury Theater Chicago is a live-theater seating 280 people, adjoining Venus Cabaret Theater (seating 80).

The building that houses the Mercury opened in 1912 as a silent film nickelodeon, named The Blaine Theatre after actor and former Senator and Secretary of State James G. Blaine. The Blaine became obsolete when talking pictures became popular nationwide in 1928. The building served a variety of uses until 1994, when it was purchased by theater producer Michael Cullen and transformed into a live theatre, named the Mercury Theatre.

In 2010 the building was sold again and reopened as Mercury Theater Chicago under the direction of Walter Stearns, a veteran theater director and producer. Mercury Theater Chicago’s second performance space, Venus Cabaret Theater, offers a unique intimate theatrical experience complemented by specialty cocktails. Mercury Theater Chicago is thrilled to be part of the city’s vibrant theatre community, boasting record-setting long runs, employing hundreds of artists and recognized with dozens of award nominations. Mercury Theater Chicago’s team includes Christopher Chase Carter (Artistic Director), Shane Murray-Corcoran (Managing Director), Walter Stearns and Eugene Dizon (Executive Producers) and Honey West (Cabaret Director). Visit www.MercuryTheaterChicago.com.

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: December 9, 2021


SISTER ACT
the hit musical for the holidays
MUST CLOSE January 2, 2022

Kelvin Roston Jr. gets into the holiday habit with
Alexis J. Roston and the acclaimed cast of Sister Act
for the final week of performances, December 29 – January 2


Chicago –Disco diva Deloris Cartier and the Sisters of Our Mother of Perpetual Faith are getting into the Christmas habit at Mercury Theater Chicago with the final weeks of performances of the hit musical Sister Act. The critically acclaimed production, perfect for the whole family, must close on January 2, 2022, at Mercury Theater Chicago, 3745 N. Southport Avenue.

Kelvin Roston Jr, fresh off his performance in the title role in Othello at Court Theatre, will join his wife Alexis J. Roston (Deloris) and the entire Sister Act company for the final week of the run, December 29 – January 2. Kelvin will play the role of Curtis Jackson for the final four performances.

Sister Act, based on the 1992 film, features music by Alan Menken, lyrics by Glenn Slater, and book by Bill and Cheri Steinkellne, and Douglas Carter Beane. This production is directed by Reneisha Jenkins, with music direction by Diana Lawrence and choreography by Artistic Director Christopher Chase Carter.

This feel-good musical comedy is based on the hit 1992 film that has audiences jumping to their feet! Set during the holiday season, the production is perfect for all ages. Featuring original music by Tony and Oscar winner Alan Menken (Newsies, Beauty and the Beast, Little Shop of Horrors), this uplifting musical was nominated for five Tony Awards, including Best Musical.

When disco diva Deloris Van Cartier witnesses a murder on Christmas Day, she is put in protective custody in the one place the cops are sure she won’t be a found: a convent! Disguised as a nun, she finds herself at odds with both the rigid lifestyle and uptight Mother Superior. Using her unique disco moves and singing talent to inspire the choir, Deloris breathes new life into the church and community but, in doing so, blows her cover.

The cast of Sister Act also includes Jane Grebeck-Brewer (Mother Superior), Gilbert Domally (Eddie), Leah Morrow (Mary Patrick/Ensemble), Denzel Tsopnang (Curtis, through December 26), Ed Kross (Monsignor/Ensemble), Nicole Armold (Michelle/Ensemble), Ruben Castro (Pablo/Ensemble), Isabella Andrews (Mary Roberts), Austin Nelson Jr. (TJ/Ensemble), Marcus Jackson (Joey/Ensemble), Jenny Rudnick (Mary Lazarus/Ensemble), Nicole Cready (Mary Theresa/Ensemble), Nancy Wagner (Martin-of-tours/Ensemble), Aalon Smith (Tina/Ensemble), Yasir Muhammad (Ensemble), and Lydia Burke (Swing).

The creative team includes: Reneisha Jenkins (Director), Diana Lawrence (Music Director), Christopher Chase Carter (Choreographer), Angela Weber Miller (Scenic Designer), Jackie Fox (Lighting Designer), Marquecia Jordan (Costume Designer), Carl Wahlstrom (Sound Designer), Max Maxin IV (Video Designer), Rueben Echoles (Wig Designer), Kristi J. Martens (Stage Manager), Daniel J. Hanson (Assistant Stage Manager), Will Hughes (Technical Director), and Keely Vasquez (Casting Associate).

Tickets for Sister Act, starting at $35, are on sale now at the box office, 3745 N. Southport Avenue in Chicago, http://www.MercuryTheaterChicago.com.

Recommended for ages 12 and up, but younger children are welcome with parents’ discretion.

Fact Sheet / Sister Act

Title: Sister Act
Music by: Alan Menken
Lyrics by: Glenn Slater
Book by: Bill and Cheri Steinkellne, and Douglas Carter Beane
Directed by: Reneisha Jenkins
Music Direction by: Diana Lawrence
Choreography by: Christopher Chase Carter

Featuring: Alexis J. Roston (Deloris), Jane Grebeck-Brewer (Mother Superior), Gilbert Domally (Eddie), Leah Morrow (Mary Patrick/Ensemble), Denzel Tsopnang (Curtis through December 26), Ed Kross (Monsignor/Ensemble), Nicole Armold (Michelle/Ensemble), Ruben Castro (Pablo/Ensemble), Isabella Andrews (Mary Roberts), Austin Nelson Jr (TJ/Ensemble), Marcus Jackson (Joey/Ensemble), Jenny Rudnick (Mary Lazarus/Ensemble), Nicole Cready (Mary Theresa/Ensemble), Nancy Wagner (Martin-of tours/Ensemble), Aalon Smith (Tina/Ensemble), Yasir Muhammad (Ensemble), and Lydia Burke (Swing). Kelvin Roston Jr. will join the cast in the role of Curtis beginning December 29, 2021.

Creative Team: Reneisha Jenkins (Director), Diana Lawrence (Music Director), Christopher Chase
Carter (Choreographer), Angela Weber Miller (Scenic Designer), Jackie Fox (Lighting Designer), Marquecia Jordan (Costume Designer), Carl Wahlstrom (Sound Designer), Max Maxin IV (Video Designer), Rueben Echoles (Wig Designer), Kristi J. Martens (Stage Manager), Daniel J. Hanson (Assistant Stage Manager), Will Hughes (Technical Director) and Keely Vasquez (Casting Associate).

Dates: Playing through January 2, 2022

Schedule:
Wednesdays: 7:30 p.m.
Thursdays: 7:30 p.m.
Fridays: 7:30 p.m.
Saturdays: 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.
Sundays: 2 p.m.

Location: Mercury Theater Chicago, 3745 N. Southport Avenue, Chicago

Tickets: $35 – $80

Box Office: 3745 N. Southport Avenue in Chicago; www.MercuryTheaterChicago.com

COVID PROTOCOL: For the safety and comfort of patrons and staff, Mercury Theater Chicago will be requiring audience members to provide proof of vaccination either with a physical copy of the vaccination card or on a smartphone. In addition to proof of vaccination, all guests 18 years and older must present a government-issued ID, such as driver’s license or passport. Guests under 18 may also use a school photo ID. Children under 12 and people with a medical condition that prevent vaccination may provide proof of a COVID-19 PCR test taken within 72 hours of the performance start time or a negative COVID-19 antigen test taken within 6 hours of the performance start time. All patrons will have to wear a mask throughout the performance when not actively eating or drinking regardless of vaccination status.

The Venus Cabaret Theater, the intimate performance space at Mercury Theater Chicago is now open with The Dark Night Series. The signature programming from Sundays through Tuesdays includes cabaret performances by Luminaries on Sundays, Comedy hosted by actor, comedian and OUT Chicago Radio’s Scott Duff, and Open Mic Nights with Chuck Larkin plus artists produced Cabaret. The intimate venue features specialty cocktails by Beverage Director Sarah Wurz. Tickets to Venus Cabaret Theater produced shows start at $15 with a two-drink minimum and are available at http://www.MercuryTheaterChicago.com.

About Mercury Theater Chicago
The beautifully renovated Mercury Theater Chicago is in the heart of the Southport Corridor at 3745 North Southport Avenue, within a sophisticated neighborhood of restaurants and boutiques just steps from Wrigley Field. A delightful destination, Mercury Theater Chicago is a live-theater seating 280 people, adjoining Venus Cabaret Theater (seating 80).

The building that houses the Mercury opened in 1912 as a silent film nickelodeon, named The Blaine Theatre after actor and former Senator and Secretary of State James G. Blaine. The Blaine became obsolete when talking pictures became popular nationwide in 1928. The building served a variety of uses until 1994, when it was purchased by theater producer Michael Cullen and transformed into a live theatre, named the Mercury Theatre.

In 2010 the building was sold again and reopened as Mercury Theater Chicago under the direction of Walter Stearns, a veteran theater director and producer. Mercury Theater Chicago’s second performance space, Venus Cabaret Theater, offers a unique intimate theatrical experience complemented by specialty cocktails. Mercury Theater Chicago is thrilled to be part of the city’s vibrant theatre community, boasting record-setting long runs, employing hundreds of artists and recognized with dozens of award nominations. Mercury Theater Chicago’s team includes Christopher Chase Carter (Artistic Director), Shane Murray-Corcoran (Managing Director), Walter Stearns and Eugene Dizon (Executive Producers) and Honey West (Cabaret Director).

Visit http://www.MercuryTheaterChicago.com

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Artists announced for The Black Monologues
at the 5th edition of Black Beauty Festival: Joy & Magic

April 10-11, 2021

Chicago, IL– Victory Gardens Theater, in partnership with The Black Women’s Expo and Black Owned Chicago, presents the 5th Edition of the Black Beauty Festival (BBF), April 10-11, 2021. Offered virtually for the first time, Black Beauty Festival: Joy & Magic is a free two-day event that uplifts Black-owned businesses while creating conversations around beauty, health, and wellness.

This year’s theme is Joy & Magic, two words that perfectly encompass the celebratory BBF experience. BBF will include online shopping for Black-owned businesses, free performances from The Black Monologues, a jam session with up-and-coming artists, a haircut tutorial, yoga hour, paint & sip afternoon, and raffle giveaways. Each event is free, though pre-registration is required. For more information or to RSVP for an event, visit www.victorygardens.org.

The festival kicks off with a performance by The Black Monologues, created and produced by Tanikia “Nikki” Carpenter and under the direction of Deanna Reed-Foster. Festival writers include Tanikia Carpenter, Reginald Edmund, and Tiffany Oglesby. Performers include Demetra Dee, Maya Hooks, Renee Lockett, Marcus D. Moore, Jermaine Robinson Jr. and Frederick Paul Williams. Desireé Applewhite is the stage manager.

Black Beauty Festival: Joy & Magic Lineup
Saturday, April 10, 2021
The Black Monologues
2:00-3:00 p.m. CT on Zoom

In partnership with Black Owned Chicago, The Black Monologues returns to Black Beauty Festival for its annual performance. Created and produced by Tanikia “Nikki” Carpenter and under the direction of Jeff Award-winning actress Deanna Reed-Foster, The Black Monologues is a showcase of solo performances that capture the African American experience as it pertains to a specific theme. This year, performances will be a celebration of the Black experience through generations.

Haircut Tutorial
4:30-5:30 p.m. CT on Zoom

Join Headrest Barbershop’s Tim Johnson as he teaches you the fundamentals of cutting hair. This is an informational session to learn new techniques and ask questions; no need to bring anything to this workshop other than yourself!

Jam Session
7:00-8:00 p.m. CT on Zoom

Need a reason to get on your feet? Be sure to tune into this virtual mini-concert, featuring performances by up-and-coming musicians!

Sunday, April 11, 2021
Yoga Hour
1:00-2:00 p.m. CT on Zoom

Relax and unwind in this 45-minute yoga session led by Wellness Specialist Daryl Satcher. All skill levels are welcome to attend. If you don’t have a yoga mat, you can use a large towel or a carpeted floor. For the best experience, bring water and a small towel for sweat.

Paint & Sip
3:00-4:00 p.m. CT on Zoom

Sip on our special BBF cocktails, sponsored by Love Cork Screw, as you create a masterpiece from the comfort of your home with Alexie Young and Art West Chicago! No experience necessary. FREE art supply kits available for all registrants (25 people maximum).

Vendor Chat
5:00-6:00 p.m. CT on Zoom

Come get to know the business-savvy entrepreneurs featured in this year’s Black Beauty Festival! This event will be facilitated by Alex Jones, owner of Fad2Fresh vintage clothing and memorabilia.

Some of the 2021 Black Beauty Festival vendors include Dressed 2 The Tee Apparel & Accessories; Dr. Herbal’s Organic & Vegan Hair Care; Dzigns by Deb; Fad2Fresh; Gill Family Jewels; Luv That Scrub; Model Esteem; North Lawndale Employment Network – Sweet Beginnings, LLC; philosofher: The Life of•The Love of•Her; Suuri Design; and TBE Cosmetics.

For more information about Victory Gardens, visit www.victorygardens.org.  Follow us on Facebook at Facebook.com/victorygardens, Twitter @VictoryGardens, and Instagram @victorygardenstheater.

Richard Gallion Entertainment will be casting actors for the hit stage play 1800’s Vs 2020. We are re-casting a few roles.

ROLES:

Amy: (Caucasian, mid 20’s-30’s) She’ s 100% invested in her interracial marriage. Born with a silver spoon was a great platform for Amy. But now she’s building a platform full of Love and money is which makes it even better. She’s believes in her husband more than he believes in himself. But know that there is a thin line with pushing him to walk in his destiny and opening a gap in her marriage.

Phillip: (AA Male, 5’10 or taller, in shape, 21-35 years old, if can sing that’s a Bonus but if not it’s not a deal breaker) A man that was born into slavery and doesn’t know what freedom really looks like. When freedom isn’t your own, creating a love life with no fear cease to exist. The reality is you’re one auction away from never seeing the love of your life again.

PAYMENT:

There is pay but don’t quit your job.

HOW TO SUBMIT:

Email your resume and headshot to richardgallionent@gmail.com or reply to back to this email..

Sides will be sent to your email address. This is a video audition. We are seeking local talent only.

 

Blake Hawthorne is a performing singer, songwriter and actor hailing from Indiana destined to leave a mark in Chicago and the world. At the youthful age of 21, he has already performed in several musicals and released his own music, independently.

He’s performed in a number of stage productions in the Chicagoland area including “The Other Cinderella” and “You Can’t Fake The Funk” which are also two of his most favorite musicals.

Blake plans to continue releasing new music independently, as he works to accomplish all of his goals. He believes in making music that reflects his life. Although he’s just beginning his journey, he’s quickly gaining momentum and has nowhere to go but up.

Possessing plenty of experience in both music and acting, he plans on becoming a legend in the entertainment industry that will last for decades to come.

Lastly, Blake is the son of one of my Kenwood Academy high school classmates, Marcus Hawthorne. I know you and your family are so proud of your son bro! #BroncoForLife

GO BANG! Magazine: When and how did you get started in entertainment?

Blake Hawthorne: I started singing at 8 years old. I sang in a school recital and realized that I was pretty good at it. After that, I started taking lessons to get better. It took a long time to reach the point I’m at now but I was ready for the work.

GO BANG! Magazine: Are you primarily a vocalist or can you/do you write lyrics, compose music, play an instrument or produce tracks as well?

Blake Hawthorne: While I am a singer, I also play guitar, produce music, and write lyrics. I believe in trying to do as much as possible.

GO BANG! Magazine: How would you describe the Blake Hawthorne sound?

Blake Hawthorne: The Blake Hawthorne sound has evolved plenty of times over the years. I tend to mix genres together. RnB and Blues will always be apart of my sound. I like to do those genres my way and update them for today.

GO BANG! Magazine: In addition to singing, you’re also a stage actor. How does your acting experience influence your singing style or stage presence?

Blake Hawthorne: Being a stage actor has really influenced my performance style. The stage taught me that I need to make sure every person is feeling the performance the way I do. Doing shows for such a long time gave me the experience I need to make my shows better.

GO BANG! Magazine: What is it about acting that attracts you to pursue it?

Blake Hawthorne: I got into acting at around 13. I always loved movies and dreamed of being in one. Today, I still want to be the main star in a big movie. Being able to take a script and make it feel real is such a fun challenge.

GO BANG! Magazine: Are you primarily interested in stage acting or are you also interested in television and film?

Blake Hawthorne: I’m definitely interested in film and tv. I would even say that I’m not interested in doing film and tv. I’ve always wanted to do those but I haven’t had a huge opportunity yet.

GO BANG! Magazine: Please name any producers, songwriters or other artists that you would LOVE to work with.

Blake Hawthorne: My number one producer that I would work with is Nile Rodgers. I like his music and his style of funk. I think we would make great music together. He’s easily at the top for me. He’s also my favorite guitarist. I’m heavily influenced by his style.

GO BANG! Magazine: What is your ultimate goal in the entertainment industry?

Blake Hawthorne: My first goal is to reach the point where all I do as a career is entertainment. I want to be able to fully support myself with only acting and singing. From there, my goal is to try just about everything in the entertainment industry that I can.

GO BANG! Magazine: What are you currently working on that our readers should be on the lookout for?

Blake Hawthorne: I’m working on new original songs. They’ll be released on my YouTube, Blake Hawthorne, and available to download and stream elsewhere. It’s time to take my sound in a new direction and I’m excited.

GO BANG! Magazine: In conclusion, the COVID-19 pandemic has caught the world off guard. How are you dealing with it?

Blake Hawthorne: I make sure to get outside and keep working on my craft. The pandemic has made a lot of people lose interest in their goals. I stay conscious of that and make sure I’m still doing all I can. I make sure to remind myself how much I need this. It’s very important that I don’t lose sight of what I’m here for.

Follow Blake on ALL social media platforms.

 



Pierre A. Evans is a freelance writer of Entertainment, Music, Art, Culture, Fashion and Current Events, and previously for SoulTrain.com, NDigo.com, ChicagoDefender.com, EmpireRadioMagazine.com, and UrbanMuseMag.com, an author, singer/songwriter, actor, model, poet, dancer, and DJ. He is also the owner of Pinnacle Entertainment Productions. Follow him on Facebook, Twitter, and on Instagram

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

NORTHLIGHT THEATRE PRESENTS

FREE INTERPLAY READING OF

MERCY

BY FELICIA ODUH

DIRECTED BY HARRY J. LENNIX
FEATURING SHANESIA DAVIS, DIZZIE HARRIS, SHAMS EUGENE MONTEIRO, DWAIN A. PERRY, AND KELSEY SCOTT

SUNDAY, DECEMBER 13

Northlight Theatre, under the direction of Artistic Director BJ Jones and Executive Director Timothy J. Evans, presents an Interplay reading of Mercy, written by Felicia Oduh and directed by Harry Lennix. The virtual reading of Mercy will be presented via livestream on Sunday, December 13 (time TBA)

Catch a glimpse of this new drama while still in the development process. The reading premiere of Mercy will be followed by a live Q&A with the playwright and director. A recording will be available for 96 hours following the premiere. This event is FREE with a suggested donation, but registration is required to receive a viewing link. To sign-up, or for additional details, please visit https://northlight.org/events/interplay-mercy/.

This benefit reading is a part of Northlight’s Interplay New Play Development program, providing customized support for new work in the critical stages of early play development.

BJ Jones comments, “We are delighted to collaborate with Harry Lennix once again, this time on Felicia Oduh’s touching play Mercy. Northlight is dedicated to developing new work and new voices and Northwestern graduate Felicia Oduh is a gifted young playwright and actress who has something to say. In the same vein as Selina Fillinger, who wrote the Jeff nominated play Faceless and who also came from Northwestern, we are excited to discover and offer opportunity to fresh voices. And Harry Lennix is a gifted actor and director whose generosity and mentorship is inspiring and selfless. We are grateful for his continued relationship with Northlight and his contribution to our work.”

When Eric was leaving for college, he thought he and his friends had the world at their fingertips—until he was convicted of a crime he did not commit. Now, after 18 years away, Eric is finally home. And his mother is throwing him a party, whether he’s ready to celebrate or not. In Felicia Oduh’s new drama, one man struggles to reclaim the life he lost, while his family attempts to heal an age-old fracture.

Mercy features Shanesia Davis (Virginia), Dizzie Harris (Regina), Shams Eugene Monteiro (Eric), Dwain A. Perry (Julian), Kelsey Scott (Ariel). Stage directions will be read by Liana Runcie.

The artistic and production team includes Felicia Oduh (Playwright), Harry J. Lennix (Director), Sophia Danielle-Grenier (Zoom Coordinator), and Leean Kim Torske (Dramaturg).

The Interplay New Play Development Program is supported in part by The Sullivan Family Foundation.

ABOUT THE ARTISTS

Felicia Oduh (Playwright) is a Nigerian-American, Chicago-based playwright and actor whose work focuses on Black womanhood, identity formation, and underrepresented narratives across the diaspora. Her works include Mercy and Expecting, which received workshopped readings with Vertigo Productions, and Micro, which received a staged reading with Black Lives, Black Words. As an actor, Felicia has performed in several Northwestern University mainstage productions, and she currently holds a leading role in the new comedic web series How to Love. Felicia is a recent graduate of Northwestern where she studied playwriting, acting for the screen, and majored in theatre.

Harry J. Lennix (Director) is a renowned film, television and stage actor from Chicago’s Southside. He attended Quigley Seminary high school and began his professional acting career while a scholarship student at Northwestern University. He maintained his professional career while teaching fulltime in the Chicago Public Schools.

His prolific career includes films: Man of Steel, Ray (for which he earned a SAG Award nomination), The Matrix sequels, Barbershop 2, Love and Basketball, The Human Stain and State of Play; and television: NBC’s The Blacklist, ABC’s Commander in Chief, the FOX hit series 24, as well as ER, Diagnosis Murder and Dollhouse. Harry has appeared in stage productions across the country, including Northlight Theatre’s Permanent Collection in 2005. In 2001 he was part of the first American company to be invited to the Royal Shakespeare Company, and he made his Broadway debut in 2007 as the central figure in August Wilson’s Radio Golf, which was nominated for a Tony Award.

In addition to his accomplishments as an actor, Harry works to promote social change as evidenced by his founding of Exponent Media Group (EMG), a film production company dedicated to high quality films about the African American experience. Projects include H4, a reimagination of Shakespeare’s Henry IV translated into 21st century urban Los Angeles; Troubled Waters, chronicling the journey of a stand-up comedian inspired by Richard Pryor; and the gospel concert movie Revival. He has generously lent his time and voice to the National Association of Drug Court Professionals PSA campaign and met with many Congressional leaders to advocate for Drug Courts, for which he was the recipient of a 2011 NADCP Ambassador Award. He is a frequent speaker at colleges and universities on the importance of activism and advocacy as an African American actor. A long-standing member of Northlight Theatre’s Advisory Council, Harry also holds board or advisory positions with The Goodman Theatre, Northwestern University, Congo Square Theater, and The Robey Theater (LA).

ABOUT INTERPLAY

Since its inception in 2006, Northlight’s Interplay Program has invested in provocative new works by American and international playwrights, providing customized support in the critical stages of early play development.

Through Interplay, Northlight seeks to serve the specific needs of the play and can provide playwright commissions, workshops with actors, and private or public readings. The public reading series is an instrumental part of the Interplay program, providing audiences the opportunity to participate in a part of the evolutionary process from initial idea to full theatrical production, including first-hand insight from the playwright. Also through the reading series, the playwright has the opportunity to hear audience response that is integral to shaping the play for full production.

As of 2020, Interplay has provided support for 40 new plays, 33 of which have gone on to full productions – some at Northlight and others around the country, including the Goodman Theatre, the Humana Festival, TheatreWorks, and off-Broadway. Four plays have continued on to acclaim at Ireland’s famed Galway International Arts Festival.

That staggering success rate has established Interplay as a valuable incubator for new work in the American theatre, and has helped cement Northlight’s national reputation as an important contributor to the American theatrical canon.

Northlight Theatre aspires to promote change of perspective and encourage compassion by exploring the depth of our humanity across a bold spectrum of theatrical experiences, reflecting our community to the world and the world to our community.

Founded in 1974, the organization has mounted over 220 productions, including more than 40 world premieres. Northlight has earned 208 Joseph Jefferson Award nominations and 36 Awards, as well as ten Edgerton Foundation for New Play Awards. As one of the area’s premier theatre companies, Northlight is a regional magnet for critical and professional acclaim, as well as talent of the highest quality.

Northlight is supported in part by generous contributions from Allstate Insurance; the Paul M. Angell Family Foundation; BMO Harris Bank; Bulley and Andrews; The Elizabeth F. Cheney Foundation; ComEd, An Exelon Company; The Davee Foundation; Evanston Arts Council; Evanston Community Foundation; Lloyd A. Fry Foundation; Full Circle Foundation; John R. Halligan Fund; Illinois Arts Council, a state agency; Illinois Humanities; Katten Muchin Roseman LLP; Kirkland & Ellis Foundation; Margaret and Paul Lurie; The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation; Jackie Mack and More; Colonel Stanley R. McNeil Foundation; Modestus Bauer Foundation; National Endowment for the Arts; Niles Township; NorthShore University HealthSystems; Northwestern University; The Offield Family Foundation; The Pauls Foundation; PNC Bank; Polsinelli; Ralla Klepak Trust for the Performing Arts; Room & Board; Sanborn Family Foundation; Dr. Scholl Foundation; The Shubert Foundation, Inc.; Skokie Community Foundation; The Harold and Mimi Steinberg Charitable Trust; The Sullivan Family Foundation; and Tom Stringer Design Partners.


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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Court Theatre and the Experimental Performance Initiative at the University of Chicago Launch

“For You’s Artists & Elders: “A Bridge, A Gift” Project
with Online Event December 10″

Chicago, IL – Court Theatre, under the continuing leadership of Charles Newell, Marilyn F. Vitale Artistic Director, and Executive Director Angel Ysaguirre, presents a virtual presentation, Artists & Elders: A Bridge, A Gift, on December 10, 2020 at 7pm CST to mark the culmination of their collaboration with the Experimental Performance Initiative and For You. After Court Theatre’s production of The Lady from the Sea closed due to COVID-19, Court teamed up with the Experimental Performance Initiative, Lady from the Sea choreographer Erika Chong Shuch and her colleagues from For You to connect ten artists with ten elders in Chicago. Drawing on dramaturgy from director Shana Cooper’s vision for the play, these artists looked for beacons of hope in their connections with strangers. As a form of creative mutual aid, this project offered artists and elders the chance to connect while sheltering in place, create an artistic exchange in the spirit of gift-giving and inspire new forms of distant socializing.

Thinking about this project, Artistic Director Charles Newell shares, “I’m thrilled that Court’s canceled production of Ibsen’s The Lady from the Sea has found new life as the inspiration behind such a dynamic partnership. Together with For You, Hyde Park Arts Center, and the Experimental Performance Initiative, Court has been able to spark meaningful artistic experiences in the lives of others.”

For You’s Erika Chong Shuch reflects, “We are all finding new ways to make art, connection, and meaning. The many complexities of 2020 have asked us to reconsider what building community looks like, to rethink impact, and to reimagine how we might move forward with renewed purpose. We’re grateful that Court and eXp have invited For You into their respective families as we all consider how our field’s future will unfold. The artists & elders that we’ve met through this collaboration have energized and delighted us and one another. We hope this is only the beginning.”

Court’s Executive Director Angel Ysaguirre adds, “As a form of creative mutual aid, Artists & Elders: A Bridge, A Gift illustrates the power all artforms have to brighten the lives of others. For artists and neighbors alike, this virtual program offered connection and hope during a difficult year for all.”

Speakers at the online event will offer insight and stories from their time collaborating on Artists & Elders. Featured speakers and topics include Resident Artist Ron OJ Parson discussing his work expanding community engagement at Court; Sarah Curran on the Experimental Performance Initiative at University of Chicago; Ryan Tacata and Rowena Richie from For You; Shana Cooper on how artists are shifting roles to meet the current moment; and several participants reflecting on their creative process.

The works created during Artists & Elders: A Bridge, A Gift can be viewed in a digital gallery at http://www.CourtTheatre.org/ABridgeAGift

To register for the free event on December 10 at 7pm CST, visit http://www.CourtTheatre.org.

Participants in Artists & Elders: A Bridge, A Gift include Sheldon D. Brown, Brenda Butler, Melissa DuPrey, Gina Freed , Benjamin Lamar Gay, Delia Gray, Karen Hirsch, Vanissa James, Mark Jeffrey, Emily Hooper Lansana, Sarah Lauzen, Efé McWorter, Michael Pogue, Kelvin Roston Jr., Darling Shear, Kelli Simpkins, Shaila Small, Christopher “Mad Dog” Thomas, Sophia Watson, and Larry Wolf.

Court Theatre is the professional theatre of the University of Chicago, dedicated to innovation, inquiry, intellectual engagement, and community service. Court endeavors to make a lasting contribution to classic American theatre by expanding the canon of translations, adaptations, and classic texts. The theatre revives lost masterpieces; illuminates familiar texts; explores the African American theatrical canon; and discovers fresh, modern classics. Court engages and inspires its audience by providing artistically distinguished productions, audience enrichment activities, and student educational experiences. In all of this work, we are committed to recognizing, addressing, and eradicating racism, as we strive to better serve our South Side community.

For You is a dedicated practice of performance making initiated by Erika Chong Shuch, Rowena Richie, and Ryan Tacata in 2016. For You brings strangers together for shared, intimate encounters and considers performance making as gift giving. As a response to worldwide shelter-in-place ordinances due to COVID-19, and with awareness that many elders are at risk in terms of infection and the compounding hardships of isolation, For You launched Artists & Elders, a project that brings artists and elders together for creative exchange. For more information on For You and Artists & Elders, visit: http://www.foryou.productions/artistsandelders

The Experimental Performance Initiative (eXp) at the University of Chicago brings together artists and scholars from disparate disciplines to probe histories, experiment with forms, and catalyze transformative practices. eXp at UChicago supports the research, creation, and presentation of work in which exploration, experimentation and expression form part of a dynamic and unpredictable process, one that aligns with the University’s fundamental commitments to complex thought and compelling invention.



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Lookingglass Theatre Company presents the holiday stream of Ensemble Member Mary Zimmerman’s The Steadfast Tin Soldier.

Experience Chicago’s beloved holiday tradition with your family this holiday season, as the production streams into your home this December! Based on Hans Christian Andersen’s story about a little tin soldier who never gives up, this production is a gorgeous spectacle of music and movement that is perfect for the whole family.

An Opening Night Livestream will take place December 1, 2020 at 6:30PM Central. Opening night includes a pre-show event with live music hosted by Ensemble Member Kasey Foster, who plays the Ballerina in The Steadfast Tin Soldier. Following the show, Artistic Producer Kareem Bandealy will host a Q&A with Adaptor/Director and Ensemble Member Mary Zimmerman, Co-Sound Designer, Composer and Ensemble Member Andre Pluess, and Costume Designer Ana Kuzmanic.

The cast of The Steadfast Tin Soldier features Ensemble Members Kasey Foster (Ballerina) and Anthony Irons (Goblin), with Joe Dempsey (Nursemaid), John Gregorio (Rat), and Alex Stein (Steadfast Tin Soldier).

Original music for The Steadfast Tin Soldier is composed by Ensemble Member Andre Pluess and Amanda Dehnert. Musicians include Leandro López Várady (Music Director/Piano), Greg Hirte (Violin), Juan Horie (Cello), and Constance Volk (Flutes).

The creative team includes Todd Rosenthal (scenic design), Ana Kuzmanic (costume design), TJ Gerckens (lighting design), Ensemble Member Andre Pluess and Christopher M. LaPorte (sound design), Leandro López Várady (associate arranger), Ensemble Member Tracy Walsh (choreography), Ensemble Member Sylvia Hernandez-DiStasi (circus choreography), Chicago Puppet Studio (puppet design), Amanda Herrmann (properties),Rigability Inc. (rigging design), Katrina Herrmann (stage manager) and Liz Anne Larsen (assistant stage manager). The production was filmed in 2019 by HMS Media.

Direct link to RSVP: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLScC_ftrs0VgKEj3YntNw65iZhmorzL1mSxaAivmYO7lBdIdtg/viewform

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

The League of Chicago Theatres announces
the Samuel G. Roberson Jr. Resident Fellowship,
funded by the McMullen & Kime Charitable Trust
to support the work of Black theatre artists in Chicago

Chicago (July 15, 2020)– The League of Chicago Theatres announces The Samuel G. Roberson Jr. Resident Fellowship, a grant to fund a residency for early to mid-career Black theatre artists based in Chicago for a one-year partnership with a Chicago area theatre. This fellowship is funded by the McMullen & Kime Charitable Trust and administered by the League of Chicago Theatres.

Each year, the Fellowship will be focused on a particular area of concentration in Theatre Arts—Directing, Artistic Leadership or Education, for example. The focus of the 2020 Samuel G. Roberson Jr Resident Fellowship Award is Playwriting.

The artist and host theatre recipients will work together toward a public performance of a play, performance piece, or other performance endeavor. Each year, an artist will be awarded $20,000 for participation in the program. The host theatre will be awarded $7,500 for its support of the artist.
Application and eligibility requirements can be found at http://leagueofchicagotheatres.org

The spirit of this award encourages a relationship to be developed between the artist and the theatre that benefits the development of the artist’s career. The project should be driven by the needs, artistic growth, and professional development of the artist. Host theatres are expected to support the artist through the development of the work and the end of the timeline is not expected to be the end of the relationship.

Priority will be given to host theatres that have a stated mission to produce work by Black or BIPOC artists.
Executive Director of the League of Chicago Theatres Deb Clapp comments, “The grant from the McMullen & Kime Charitable Trust is a generous gift to the Chicago theatre community and a fitting tribute to the late Samuel G. Roberson, Jr., a respected teacher, actor, director, Artistic Director and champion of social justice theater. Sam was a beloved collaborator and friend to the Chicago theatre, and the League of Chicago Theatres is honored to administer this Fellowship in his name to support the work of Black theatre artists.

“The League has served an important role in helping us fine tune both the vision and the details of this grant,” said Melinda McMullen and Duncan Kime, in a joint statement. “Through our work with the League, we discovered there is a gap in funding for new and emerging Black artists, and this Fellowship is one way to begin to address that gap. While the award money is significant, this is not just about money. The goal of this award is to create an environment in which a Black artist can work in partnership with a host theater to create new work and foster a relationship that will last well beyond the year-long period of the Fellowship.”

About Samuel G. Roberson Jr.
Samuel G. Roberson Jr. was Artistic Director of Congo Square Theatre and a teaching artist with Victory Gardens Theater, Steppenwolf Theatre, American Theatre Company, Northlight Theatre, and 16th Street Theatre. As an actor, his Chicago stage credits include: Samuel J and K (Steppenwolf), Civil War Christmas (Northlight), The Colored Museum and Sanctified (Congo Square), Living Green and The Lost Boys of Sudan (Victory Gardens), and The Ballad of Emmett Till (Goodman Theatre). As a director, credits include The Scottsboro Boys (Porchlight Music Theatre) and Twisted Melodies (Congo Square Theatre).

Samuel founded an Education and Outreach initiative with Congo Square Theatre Company called Y-BOOM (Young Brothers Owning Our Mission), a literacy-based leadership program that provided a safe environment for adolescent African American men. As a two-time leukemia survivor he always had a passion for giving back and started a non-profit organization, called Make Me A Match Project, dedicated to saving the lives of patients in need of a bone marrow transplant. He used theatre as a means to raise awareness about leukemia, blood related diseases, and the need for more people to join the marrow donor registry. A graduate of Howard University, he began his theatre career with an apprenticeship at The Children’s Theatre of Minneapolis, where he spent three years defining his desires for acting, writing, directing, and social justice theater.

Chicago lost a beloved, brave and committed truth teller when Sam lost his life-long battle with Leukemia on May 21, 2017. We are most pleased to honor his memory in this way.

About Chicago theatre
Chicago theatre is the leader in the U.S. with more than 250 theatres throughout Chicagoland, comprising a rich and varied community ranging from storefront, non-union theatres to the most renowned resident theatres in the country, including 5 which have been honored with Regional Tony Awards, and the largest touring Broadway organization in the nation. Chicago’s theatres serve 5 million audience members annually and have a combined budget of more than $250 million. Chicago produces and/or presents more world premieres annually than any other city in the nation. Last year alone Chicago theatre companies produced more than 100 world premiere productions and adaptations. Each year Chicago theatres send new work to resident theatres across the country, to Broadway, and around the world.

The McMullen & Kime Charitable Trust
Melinda McMullen and Duncan Kime serve as advisers to the McMullen and Kime Charitable Trust. They have been involved in Chicago theater for two decades. McMullen has served on the boards of Congo Square and Lookingglass Theatre Company. The Trust has been particularly active in supporting the work of Black artists, including HeLa at Sideshow Theater, Thaddeus and Slocum: A Vaudeville Adventure and most recently Her Honor Jane Byrne, both of which were produced at Lookingglass Theatre Company.

League of Chicago Theatres’ Mission Statement
Theatre is essential to the life of a great city and to its citizens. The League of Chicago Theatres is an alliance of theatres which leverages its collective strength to support, promote, and advocate for Chicago’s theatre industry. Through our work, we ensure that theatre continues to thrive in our city.

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