Category Archives: Author Events

Hunger “In The Works”

Thanks to those who joined us for the first evening of our HUNGER “In The Works” presentation at the Pritzker Pavilion last night! We enjoyed a successful first reading, and great conversation with author Elise Blackwell (Hunger, The Unnatural History of Cypress Parish, Grub, and An Unfinished Score) and playwright/Lifeline ensemble member Chris Hainsworth (adaptor of Hunger).

There’s still two more nights to catch this exciting presentation — purchase your tickets here!


Hunger “In The Works” at the Pritzker Pavilion.

Hunger “In The Works” at the Pritzker Pavilion.

The Hunger team with author Elise Blackwell. (From left, Robert Kauzlaric, Chris Hainsworth, Elise Blackwell, John Henry Roberts, Simone Roos, Peter Greenberg, Jenifer Tyler, Matt Engle, and Katie McLean Hainsworth)

Autumn goings-on

THE NEW YORK FREAKIN’ TIMES calls The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs! “One of the best children’s shows of the year. Case closed.” Yowza!

This adaptation by ensemble member Robert Kauzlaric (from the book by Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith) first played at Lifeline in 2007 and has since had productions all over the nation. It is currently being performed by Atlantic Theater Company in NYC thru the end of October. Check out the article in The New York Times and another review too!

NEW TECH DIRECTOR!
We are thrilled to welcome Joe Schermoly as Lifeline’s new Technical Director. Joe is a scenic designer who also works as a TD and we are super lucky to add him to the Lifeline team in both capacities. You can see Joe’s design work on our stage right now as the scenic and props designer (and the tech director) for The Count of Monte Cristo (now extended through November 13th). You can find out more about Joe by checking out his website.

We are also bidding a fond and sad adieu to our former tech director, Ian Zywica. Ian spent the last two years at Lifeline, tech directing our shows and also designing The Moonstone, The Last of the Dragons, and The Blue Shadow. We will miss him greatly and are hoping he will visit us often.

NEW LIFELINE BABY!!!!
Ensemble member Paul Holmquist and his wife Kristina Fluty are new parents!

Gus Carlson Holmquist arrived on Monday September 12th. He is hale and hearty and beautiful.

OPEN HOUSE CHICAGO
In the midst of six shows this past weekend, Lifeline was honored to participate in Open House Chicago! It’s an event produced by the Chicago Architectural Foundation and this is the first time the Rogers Park neighborhood was on the explorer map! Shuttle buses brought people to the neighborhood and we were toured by over 200 people this past weekend (although most of them didn’t actually see the performance space because we had so many performances going on)! Our visitors were thrilled to see all our secret areas of the building and many vowed to return to see a show. It was great fun to introduce so many new people to our building.

THE 13 CLOCKS got a nice preview feature in the Sun-Times and a great review in Time Out Chicago Kids and is a visual treat. It features “mini-me” puppets and other theatrical devices that are brand new to our KidSeries. Amanda Delheimer Dimond directs for the first time at Lifeline and we are so happy and lucky to have her with us.

The 13 Clocks is a Rob Kauzlaric adaptation with both new faces and old favorites in both the cast and production teams: Scenic designer Chelsea Warren (Mr. Hatch, Mrs. Caliban, Flight of the Dodo, The Dirty Cowboy), sound designer Mikhail Fiksel (Neverwhere, Watership Down, The Last of the Dragons), props designer Katherine Greenleaf (Arnie the Doughnuti), costume designer Nathan Rohrer (assisted on Treasure Island), plus newbies Melanie Berner (puppet associate), Heather Gilbert (light designer), and Clare Roche (stage manager). The cast includes newbies Joey DeBettencourt, Mildred Marie Langford, and David Guiden, plus Lifeline returners Mike Ooi (Neverwhere, The Last of the Dragons, Zorro) and Jonathan Helvey (Zorro). Rockin’ understudies that are more than ready are: Ariel Begley, Jacquis Neal, and Morgan Maher — all new to Lifeline!

HUNGER at MILLENIUM PARK
The City of Chicago has invited us to participate in its In the Works series! There will be a reading of Hunger on the Pritzker Pavillion Stage for three performances November 17-19. (Don’t worry, it’s not outside! The stage will be in it’s “indoor” configuration – audience sits on stage, actors backs are to the glassed in wall overlooking the park.) This includes a talkback with Chris Hainsworth (adapter), Rob Kauzlaric (director) and Elise Blackwell (novelist), whom they’re flying in for the weekend.

We hope to see you in the neighborhood soon!

Dorothy Milne
Artistic Director

Upcoming events!

The spring and summer are always busy here at Lifeline, and this year is no exception. Join us in the coming months for some wonderful events, festivals and special programming…

LAURIE KELLER VISITS LIFELINE
On Sunday, April 10th at noon, Arnie the Doughnut author/illustrator Laurie Keller, will join us for a FREE meet-and-greet and book signing in the Lifeline lobby! We’ll have books on sale, along with cast recordings of this wonderful new musical.

Tickets for both the 11am and 1pm performances that day are going fast! Get yours today by calling the box office at 773-761-4477 or order online.

NEVERWHERE RETURNS
If you haven’t already heard, the Chicago Public Library has chosen Neverwhere as its Spring 2011 One Book, One Chicago selection, the 20th book in this remarkable program. There are all sorts of wonderful discussions, appearances, and conversations happening in conjunction with OBOC, including two appearances by Neil Gaiman himself (see here for the full list), but there’s one event we’re particularly excited about…

On Monday, April 11 at 6:00pm, the entire original cast from Lifeline’s spring/summer 2010 production of Neverwhere will reunite for one night only, to perform a full reading of the script and participate in a talkback with fans of the book. This is a FREE event, and it takes place at the Harold Washington Library (400 S. State Street), in the gorgeous Cindy Pritzker Auditorium. We hope to see you there!

WATERSHIP DOWN APPROACHES

Lifeline’s world premiere adaptation of Richard Adams’ beloved best-selling book is fast approaching. Previews begin April 29th, and the show runs through June 19th (full details here). Pre-sales for this highly-anticipated production are moving extremely fast – don’t miss out! Get your tickets today!

SUMMER DRAMA CAMP
Lifeline is thrilled to announce an expansion to our Summer Drama Camp (now entering its 11th year!). Our dazzlingly popular camp will not only serve kids ages 7-11 as usual (July 18-29), but will now offer a week-long program for 4-6 year olds (July 11-15)! Click here for all the details, and to register your children.

THE 15TH ANNUAL FILLET OF SOLO FESTIVAL
Expanding its dedication to the art of storytelling in all its forms, Lifeline Theatre is thrilled to produce the fifteenth annual Fillet of Solo Festival, a three-week, multi-venue solo performance festival running July 21-August 7, 2011. Participants, scheduling and full pricing details will be announced in early April. Check our website soon for updates!

GLENWOOD AVENUE ARTS FESTIVAL
This popular festival (now entering its 10th YEAR) features arts and crafts, theater, music, food and drink for the whole family on the brick streets of the Glenwood Avenue Arts District in Chicago’s historic Rogers Park neighborhood. GAAF 2011 will take place the weekend of August 19-21, and is FREE for the whole family! More details will be available soon at www.GlenwoodAve.org.

Betsy & CCM opening

Click Clack Moo opened on Sunday the 17th with two sold out shows that totally rocked the house. Congrats to all! Besides great shows, we had a bunch of other excitement:

“Udderstudies” to the rescue! We’d like to thank and congratulate Rachel Renee and Mallory Nees for being rock star understudies who really saved the day when illness struck the cast in opening week. And thanks to Ellen and the cast for supporting them and to all for being as cool as cucumbers!

Betsy Lewin was here! We were thrilled to have Click Clack series illustrator Betsy Lewin join us on opening day. She signed autographs in the lobby, along with the cast.

ABC-TV appearance: As if opening day weren’t exciting enough, Betsy and Farmer Brown and all the farmyard animals were at ABC at 7am on Sunday morning to do a promotional piece. (This was before coming back to do the two-show day up at Lifeline!) The ABC team was very hospitable. Betsy Lewin was interviewed and the cast did a couple teasers plus a musical excerpt from the show. It was great fun — and we managed to get the cast, costumes and various hen nests and hay bales back up to Lifeline before the first show!

Go live theatre!

Dorothy Milne
Artistic Director

Neil Gaiman and Lenny Henry visit Neverwhere

Neil Gaiman and his friend, actor/TV producer Lenny Henry (co-creator and producer of the Neverwhere BBC miniseries), came to see our production of Neverwhere on Sunday, June 13th. It was a top-secret, stealth situation. Their publicists told us (and we knew from being fans ourselves) that if news of this visit leaked out, we’d be overwhelmed. There would be a few hundred people turning up at Lifeline without tickets to the show, trying to get a glimpse of our celebrity guests. So we told no one: not the artists involved, not even the board and ensemble. It was hard!

Neil and Lenny arrived at 3pm for the 4pm show. Erica and I were trying to fix the broken leg on the couch in the lobby, both of us on the floor with a hammer and flashlight, when Sean Sinitski (Mr. Croup) came sprinting in from his pre-show cigarette, yanked me away from the couch and hissed “Neil’s here!”

“Don’t tell the cast until afterwards,” I threw over my shoulder as I went outside to greet our guests.

My plan had been to take our guests next door to Duke’s so as not to cause a riot in our lobby, but Neil and Lenny already had a plan of their own, having sighted something exciting on our block.

“We’re early, we’ll just disappear for a bit,” suggested Neil.

“YES! To the comic book store!” shouted Lenny gleefully, waving in the direction of Evil Squirrel.

I was delighted by their joy and ease. They spent the next 45 minutes strolling around our ‘hood, returning with a couple coffees and a bag of goodies from Evil Squirrel (which they report to be a really good store, nicely laid out. We agree!)

Okay, now here’s the thing about Lifeline. For a big building, there is nowhere to go if you want to hide people. Everything is public or backstage space. So I kind of pile them into the box office (but carefully out of sight from the box office window). They are now squinched into the space by Erica’s desk for the 15 minutes before the show and the door hits one or the other of them every time a staff person comes in or out. I hit them myself a couple times. But both Neil and Lenny are happy and comfortable. “So tell me more about your theater,” Neil inquires cheerfully, wedged between our xerox machine and a few boxes of season brochures.

After the show, Neil and Lenny stayed to meet with the cast and crew. They were enthusiastic and generous. Each of their specific and detailed compliments about the production will be treasured for our lifetimes. At the close of these conversations, Neil asked if anyone wanted anything signed and there was a mad scramble for books and memorabilia and both he and Lenny cheerfully made time for all who wanted signatures and photographs.

The cast & crew with Neil and Lenny

Director Paul S. Holmquist with Neil

Neil has been tweeting about the show since. His generosity in trying to promote the show for us is remarkable and has been a great help for extension sales.

As Chris Hainsworth (Marquis de Carrebas) posted elsewhere, “It’s so awesome when your heroes turn out to be awesome!”

Yes. Yes it is.

Dorothy Milne
Artistic Director

Latest News

The Blue Shadow opened on March 14th. Playwright Nambi Kelley, assisted by her nephew Xavier, created the play using folk tales from five different cultures and set the story in a Rogers Park classroom. (Nambi went to Field Elementary School just down the street!). The show also features extremely catchy music by composer Joe Plummer.

And there’s a book! In addition to writing the play, Nambi wrote The Blue Shadow in book form. It is illustrated by Chicago artist Kirk Anderson and is ADORABLE. Our opening day festivities included a book signing by Nambi and a folk dance class held upstairs by show choreographer Camille Kuthrell. A good time was had by all.

New faces! We have some very exciting artists who are brand new to Lifeline involved on this project. In addition to Nambi, Joe and Camille, director Ilesa Duncan is a first-timer at Lifeline. We also welcome cast members Ben Chang, Susaan Jamshidi, Miguel Nunez and Dawn Pryor, all in their first Lifeline show.

Cast member Mallory Nees was seen just a couple months ago as the Queen in Lifeline’s winter kids’ show, The Last of the Dragons, and costume designer Christine Pascual designed costumes for Praying for Sheetrock way back in 1997.

Welcome to Dana Horst, Lifeline’s new grantwriter…

Dana Horst recently received an M.B.A. in Arts Administration at the University of Cincinnati and joins us after spending part of 2009 working for the Donor’s Forum in Chicago. We are delighted to have her on our team.

Dorothy Milne
Artistic Director

More on the Dooby Dooby Moo opening

Dooby Dooby Moo opened on Sunday, with celebrity guests!  This is the fourth book in the Click Clack Moo series, and also our fourth to stage.   We’ve been delighted to have author Doreen Cronin and illustrator Betsy Lewin attend the past productions and we were thrilled to have them here on opening day.  (We even had a bonus celebrity!  Betsy’s husband, Ted Lewin, was here too and is also an author-illustrator!)

Whenever a picture book is adapted for stage, the adaptor needs to do a lot of inventing and expanding.  That was particularly true for this show.  During the rehearsal process, Jim began to experiment with taking the story in different directions after feeling the play wasn’t yet working as it was.  In the end, he took a minor character (the sheep, who is new to the series) and made her the heart of the story.  In Jim’s version, Ewe is laid-off from her job and arrives at the farm looking for employment and a home.  She has lost her confidence since the firing and doesn’t know where she can fit in.   Ewe finding her feet again with Farmer Brown’s family of animals creates a really emotional show that Shole and George both mined the heck out of, along with their cast and design team. The resulting show is funny and moving and has great lessons in it.   And it is still very recognizably the Cronin and Lewin Dooby Dooby Mooand Doreen and Betsy were thrilled.  It is a triumph.   Bring us your children!  They will love it (and you will too)!

Dorothy Milne
Artistic Director

Dooby Dooby Moo opening

What a great weekend! Author Doreen Cronin and illustrator Betsy Lewin joined us between the sold-out 11am and 1pm shows on Sunday, Dooby Dooby Moo‘s opening day. Fans had their books signed by Cronin & Lewin, got autographs from the actors, checked out the cast recording, and debated the merits of their favorite barnyard animals.

The Lifeline lobby between shows on Sunday.

Fans line up to meet Cronin & Lewin.

Doreen Cronin (left) and Betsy Lewin (right) sign books.

From left: Amanda Link (Ewe), Nathaniel Niemi (Duck), Elizabeth Dowling (Pig), Betwsy Lewin (illustrator), Shole Milos (director), James E. Grote (adaptor), Heather Currie (Cow), and Craig C. Thompson (Farmer Brown)

Rob Kauzlaric
Marketing Director

August Updates

New Driveway! (And a new adventure for our former gates…)
Yesterday’s activities at Lifeline were underscored by a jackhammer rhythm and a basso sledgehamer beat. Our flaking, scaling, crumbling driveway is being replaced!

Removing the old concrete

The first and most daunting job was prying out a deeply embedded steel post that protruded out of the center of our driveway. Back when we had working gates, this protrusion functioned as a gate catch at the center of the drive. But our gates have long since ceased to function and with the removal of the post, we’ll no longer have to put a big orange cone over the hazard every time we have company.

Once the new concrete is poured today, we’re going to be smooth and beautiful and welcoming!

And what’s to become of our cute former gates? Never fear, they will have future life! The sculptor next door, Andy DeLaRosa (of B1E Gallery) has offered them a home. They will be soon decorating Andy’s sculpture garden. Be sure to check it out when you next visit us!

Drama Camp — full of fun and hilarity
Lifeline’s Summer Drama Camp for 7-12 year olds, led by Jasmin and Eddie, had its final performance on Saturday, July 25th. The final showcase featured a drum circle with drums the students made, demonstrations of games, improvisations and several short plays that the students had written themselves. A good time was had by all! Our Education Director, Lea, is already in full planning mode for next season’s off-school workshops and camp offerings!

Sneak Peek for Treasure Island, August 9th
Our sneak peeks are among my favorite Lifeline events and this one was particularly fun. “Jolly Jolly Grog” (rum punch named after one of the sea shanties in the show) was served along with the usual wine and cheese and treats. Subscribers and donors mingled with Lifeline artists, staff and board. Brani showed her renderings, costumes were modeled and blood packs were discussed. Chris and John demonstrated a knife fight from the show and then broke it into slow-mo pieces so Geoff could explain the techniques and deceptions they use to fake us out. Alan‘s set model was on display and we got to see the firing of one of the antique pistols that he and Geoff have rigged up to fake/shoot. As always, we took folks on tours around the facility so people get to see our hidden nooks and crannies. It is great fun to get to meet our donors and subscribers and express our thanks to them with these parties!

The Farm Animals are back!
Shole and George and Jim are working on Dooby Dooby Moo, another tale from the popular series by Doreen Cronin and Betsy Lewin. This time the farm gets involved in a talent show! We’re bringing back TWO former Farmer Browns to share the role. Craig Thompson, who originated the role in Click Clack Moo will perform on weekends and Ben Kirberger, who was one of the Farmer Browns in Duck for President, will perform the weekday performances. Amanda Link (formerly Hen in Duck for Prez) is back to play Ewe. Elizabeth Dowling (Pig in Giggle Giggle Quack) is back to play Pig. Heather Currie (Pig in Duck for Prez) is back to play Cow, and we welcome Nathaniel Neimi as our brand new Duck. Whew! That’s a lot of animals (and former animals). We’ve collected quite a barnyard as we move into producing our 4th book in this popular series. As usual, Doreen and Betsy and their families will fly in from NY to see the show — this time for opening (October 18)! Yay!

Dorothy Milne
Artistic Director

Best. Benefit. EVER!

Lifeline’s annual benefit was held on Thursday, April 16, in the newly refurbished, totally sparkly, mosaic-filled dome room of Preston Bradley Hall in the Chicago Cultural Center.  Elegant and totally grown up.

To go with our mystery theme (we’re gearing up for Busman’s Honeymoon at Lifeline), Christina adapted a Dorothy L. Sayers short story, The Unsolved Puzzle of the Man with No Face into a short play and hotshot, super-best-selling Chicago-based mystery writers Sean Chercover, Julie Hyzy and Sara Paretsky each provided totally different and HILARIOUS endings to the piece and took questions from the crowd after.

Many thanks to those that made this happen — despite most of them being up to their eyebrows in Busman’s rehearsal:  Frances directed the play-let and Peter, Paul, Jenifer, Jim, Shole, Phil, Katie, Rob and Elise played the multiple villains, victims and investigators. Also thanks to our rockin’ board and benefit committee!  Woohoo!

Behind the scenes of the Best Benefit Ever:
Outtakes (if only we’d had video documentation) include:  1) not being able to find the prop gun that was packed for the show, realizing it had been left in the trunk of an already valet-parked car and trying to get it back in time for the performance without being arrested for illegal possession of a wicked looking firearm (in reality just a starter pistol).  2) me and Allison going out for Subway to feed the set-up crew at lunchtime and me falling down an entire marble staircase at the Cultural Center but not hurting myself at all.  3) not being able to fit all our stuff back in the van at the end of the evening and trying to give the stuff that wouldn’t fit to the dock workers at the Cultural Center:  “Okay, please take the beer — no, I’m sorry, the vodka we can return for store credit, we have to fit that in somehow.   You can have the wine though.   What? You don’t like wine?  Okay, it’s just the beer then — and could you please take this cheesecake?”  4) Erica, Allison and me sitting on the floor at Lifeline with a bottle of champagne amidst the stack of boxes toasting the event’s success.

Dorothy Milne
Artistic Director