October 24, 2015

Continuing our support of productions that embrace inclusion for artists and audiences, below are shows that you can buy tickets to THIS WEEK that we feel are moving our community in the right direction.  Let your wallet do the talking. Buy tickets to shows that celebrate inclusion.​ Then write to producers and tell them you want to see more of it.  Decision makers are led by numbers and this is one way we can all make a difference.    



Raven Theatre presents The Play About My Dad directed by Marti Lyons

playing now through November 28 at Raven Theatre

 6157 N Clark St, Chicago, IL 


The play by Boo Killebrew tells of the author's father, a doctor in Gulfport, Mississippi during Hurricane Katrina who stayed behind to tend to those who couldn't or wouldn't evacuate to safety when the waters began to rise. Their fights for survival against the storm are played against the backdrop of the doctor's relationship with his adult daughter, the playwright. Raven's production of this meta-theatrical tragicomedy will be staged in October, shortly after the tenth anniversary of that devastating storm that hit the Gulf coast from August 23-31, 2005.


Ticket Prices: $18-42 buy tickets here

The cast includes Tuckie White (Boo Killebrew), Joe Mack (Larry Killebrew), JoAnn Montemurro (Sallye Killebrew), Patrick Agada (Kenny Tyson), Nick Horst (Neil Plitt), Aaron Lamm and Henry Stegemann (alternating as Michael Thomas*), Paloma Nozicka (Rena Thomas), Miguel Nunez (Jay Thomas), Sandra Watson (Essie Watson)


The Goodman Theatre presents The New Stages Play Festival

playing now through November 15 in the Owen Theatre

170 N Dearborn St, Chicago, IL


Since its inception at Goodman Theatre in 2004, New Stages has offered theatergoers a glimpse into the development process of new plays, many of which have gone on to receive full productions at the Goodman and elsewhere. Of the 65 plays seen in a developmental production or staged reading at New Stages over the years, 65% were written by playwrights of color and/or women. As the festival has grown, technical aspects of the productions have advanced as well. The three developmental productions, Mother Road , Objects in the Mirror, and King of the Yees, all receive full technical support with a design team​


Ticket Prices: FREE  Reserve standby tickets here

The cast includes Lakin Valdez, Lisandra Tena, Angelica Roque, Chelcie Ross, Tommy Rivera, Ronnel Taylor, Christopher Meister, Ricardo Gutierrez, Brenda Barrie, Charles Andrew Gardner, Lily Mojekwu, Jeff Parker, AC Smith, Melissa Canciller, Rammel Chan, Francis Jue, Deanna Myers and Daniel Smith 


Don't forget about our previously recommended shows, which you can still get tickets for...


Mariposa Nocturna presented by 16th Street Theatre​, Charm presented by Northlight Theatre, Love and Information presented by Remy Bumppo Theatre, R & J: The Vineyard presented by Red Theatre and Oracle Theatre, Miss Buncle's Book presented by Lifeline Theatre and 1984 presented by Steppenwolf Theatre.





October 18, 2015

Since our incredible kick-off, The Chicago Inclusion Project has continued to explore how we will sustain our efforts and where we can make the greatest impact.  Fully aware that we don’t have all the answers, we seek out others who may be passionate about our cause, and reach out to those who have experienced our intentions first hand.  For this reason, we’ve interviewed the actors who were involved in our first reading of The Time of Your Life by William Saroyan, performed on June 1, 2015 at Victory Gardens Theatre. Todd Garcia...


Todd Garcia


This specific casting of “The Time of Your Life”...Did it tell the story, in your opinion?


Yes, honestly this is a story of “life” and there are characters in this play that anyone can easily relate to. I don’t think the casting changed the base story; if anything I think it enhanced it.


How did it feel to read the role(s) you were given? Would you have asked to be seen for it?


I loved reading the role I was given. I said something at the reading itself but this role was the story of me meeting my wife and falling in love, it was a normal and easily performed role. No, I don’t think I’d have been seen for it…but I think I could have played it.


Listening to it or watching it, did anything take you out of the story?


Like I’ve said, this is a story of life. I think anyone can relate to it and the characters who told the story. I never once thought of the race of the person reading, I only cared about what they were saying.


Was working on “The Time of Your Life” different from working on other plays for you?  If so, how?


I’ve been very lucky to have worked with some really talented and open minded people in my time in Chicago. This play was different only in that we had a goal to specifically comment on the thought process of casting, otherwise I just came to tell a story. Like I always do.


In your opinion, what is the state of representation on Chicago stages right now?


It’s a difficult conversation to have. Generally, I see a lack of diversity on stage in Chicago and where I see it the play itself is for that specific ethnic group. Which isn’t a bad thing, but I think we need to see diversity in casting for plays where it’s not “expected”.


What are triumphs we’ve seen?  Who has been doing it right?


I think Victory Gardens is doing a great job as well as several other theaters in Chicago, of looking for ethnically diverse plays and bringing ethnically diverse stories in front of subscribers. It’s not easy and we are seeing progress. I also see a lot of allies outside of what I’d expect and I think it’s really wonderful.


What are challenges we still face as a community?


I don’t think you’ll go out and find a theater who specifically says “No” to diversity in acting. I think the biggest issue is expanding the way people look at a play and expanding the way these same people think about casting said plays. It’s easy to go with what you’re familiar with and make the “safe” choice, but part of art is changing minds and I believe we need to start by changing ours.


What would you like to see done about it?


I’d like for people to spend the time asking questions of themselves. I’d like to see them question their version of the story they want to tell and be open to the fact that others might have a different version that’s equally as good or better. I want open communication, I want people to share triumphs and I want people to be called out on failures. This is a community, we should treat each other with enough respect to have an open dialogue about where we’re doing good and where we can do better.


Each artist said “yes” to this project for different reasons. What were yours?


I’ve said this many times and I’ll say it again to anyone that will listen. Theater is about storytelling. More specifically, I think that theater is about the stories of humanity and I’ve looked at humanity recently. We’re all different. Humanity is diverse but we share so many common storylines. To not see the stage represent the diversity of the stories being told is not acceptable any longer. That’s why I said “yes”.

...Anything else?

Let’s keep moving forward.


Todd is excited to return to the stage in 2016!  We'll be sharing the news soon!

October 15, 2015

Continuing our support of productions that embrace inclusion for artists and audiences, below are shows that you can buy tickets to THIS WEEK that we feel are moving our community in the right direction.  Let your wallet do the talking. Buy tickets to shows that celebrate inclusion.​ Then write to producers and tell them you want to see more of it.  Decision makers are led by numbers and this is one way we can all make a difference.    


Northlight Theatre presents Charm directed by BJ Jones

playing now through November 8 at Steppenwolf's Merle Reskin Garage Theatre

1624 N Halsted, Chicago, IL


Charm by Philip Dawkins depicts the colorful inner workings of an etiquette class taught by Mama Darleena Andrews, an African-American transgender woman, in an LGBTQ organization known as The Center. Mama attempts to share her rules of proper behavior with a youth group ranging in sexuality, race and gender identity from a Latina transwoman to a cisgendered straight black couple to a gay suburban teen. Though her students initially struggle to see how etiquette relates to their daily battles with identity, poverty and prejudice, Mama's powerful love and unapologetic attitude eventually win them over.


Ticket Prices: $20-40 buy tickets here

The cast includes Armand Fields, Elizabeth Ledo, Monica Lopez Orozco, Julian Parker, Awate Serequeberhan, Matt Sherbach, Namir Smallwood , Brittney Love Smith , and Dexter Zollicoffer.



Free Street Theatre presents Track 13: A Playformance for Deonta Mackey

playing now through October 23 at Free Street Theater, 3rd floor of the Pulaski Park Field House, 1419 West Blackhawk Chicago, IL


The Young Fugitives' TRACK 13 takes the death of Deonta Mackey as a launching pad to explore the history of crime and policing, the present day realities of relentless racialized state violence, and the impact of growing up in Chicago in communities under pressure. Written and performed by young adults of color too often in the line of fire, TRACK 13 grapples to understand: Why is it that 50 years after the Civil Rights Act youth are being shot by those enforcing the laws their grandparents fought to change? As we chant #BlackLivesMatter, are some deaths easier to rally behind than others? How does state violence against Black women, Latinos, or queer and trans people fit into this equation? Are some youth really just "thugs"? TRACK 13 approaches these questions in a 50 minute physical theater piece directed by Ricardo Gamboa with Sean J.W. Parris with an original soundtrack composed by Sadie Woods.


**IMPORTANT: This show contains representations of violence. Please use discretion in deciding to bring younger children. TRACK 13 is recommended for audiences 13 and over.**


Ticket Prices: pay what you can buy tickets here

The cast includes Garcia, Elijah Ruiz, Eliseo Real, Omari Ferrell, Patches Blanton and Tyran Freeman 




Oracle Theatre and Red Theater Chicago present R + J: The Vineyard

playing now through October 23 at Oracle Theatre,

3809 N Broadway St, Chicago, IL


Capulet and Montague families ignite intense cultural lines between hearing and non-hearing in 1890’s Martha’s Vineyard when a unique deaf/hearing bilingual agricultural community gave way to a budding tourism industry. This beautiful and physical production is both spoken and performed in American Sign Language and is intended for all audiences. It is produced with coordination from Five Eyes Project.


Ticket Prices: Free Get tickets here

The cast includes Brendan Connelly, McKenna Liesman, Brenda Scott Wlazlo, Chris Schroeder, Jeff Kuryz, Richard Costes, Lona Livingston, Beth Harris, Simone Zebo, Pavi Proczko and Mike Stark



16th Street Theatre presents MARIPOSA NOCTURNA: A Puppet Triptych

playing October 22 Through November 1st at 16th Street Theatre

 6420 16th St, Berwyn, IL 60402


A child’s wish for her dying grandmother to have “a happy sleep” results in a bawdy, Japanese shadow-dream; a pair of bird-headed spinsters suddenly find themselves custodians of a large, glowing egg; a lonely toy carriage embarks upon a jaunty odyssey in search of buried dreams. Employing handcrafted tabletop and shadow puppets, Mariposa Nocturna explores loss, longing and rebirth in this gently humorous, darkly beautiful and emotionally resonant work.

In honor of the Day of the Dead (Dia de los Muertos), we welcome you to bring a photo of a loved one who’s passed on to contribute to the community altar.


**Mariposa Nocturna runs 55 minutes and is not recommended for audiences under the age of 8.


Ticket Price: $18 buy tickets here

The cast includes Stephanie Diaz, Jessica Mondres, Jazmin Corona, Laura Shatkus, Izzy Strazzabosco, Chris Hauser and Hannah Bennett


Steppenwolf Theatre Company presents 1984 directed by Hallie Gordon

playing October 21-November 20 in the Upstairs Theatre

1650 N Halsted St Chicago, IL


Winston Smith works for the Ministry of Truth located in the nation of Oceania, part of a vast empire in a constant, shifting war against other superstates. Dissent is not tolerated (not even in thought), and Winston and his fellow citizens are under perpetual electronic surveillance by their ever-watchful ruler Big Brother. When Winston falls in love with a co-worker, their illegal affair pushes them to rebel and face the darkest and most dangerous corners of the regime. On the heels of last year’s gripping Animal Farm, Steppenwolf for Young Adults presents Orwell’s dystopian masterpiece in a multi-media production that is a haunting, shockingly timely look at a future that seems disturbingly present.


Ticket Price: $20 buy tickets here

The cast includes Matthew Abraham, Atra Asdou, Lance Baker, Elizabeth Birnkrant,Manny Buckley, Dennis Grimes, Tyrone Phillips and Adam Poss.




October 7, 2015

Here's the thing: Diversity does happen on Chicago stages. We just want to see MORE of it.  One way we can help that is to support productions that embrace inclusion - it will only encourage theaters to do it more: Buy tickets to shows that feature casts of different ethnicities, abilities, gender identities, body types.  Then write to producers and tell them you want to see more of it.  Sometimes decision makers are led by numbers and this is one way we can all make a difference.    


That said, here are some shows we're excited about that you can see THIS WEEK:


The Hypocrites presents AMERICAN IDIOT directed by Steven Wilson

playing now through October 25 at The Den Theatre’s Heath Main Stage
1329 N. Milwaukee Ave. in Chicago’s Wicker Park neighborhood


Based on punk rock band Green Day's Grammy Award-winning multi-platinum album of the same name, AMERICAN IDIOT follows three lifelong friends, forced to choose between their dreams and the safety of suburbia in a post 9/11 world. The musical features hits including "Boulevard of Broken Dreams," "21 Guns," "Wake Me Up When September Ends," "Holiday" and the blockbuster title track, "American Idiot." A critical smash on Broadway and in London, AMERICAN IDIOT received a 2010 Tony Award nomination for Best Musical and won the 2011 Grammy Award for Best Musical Show Album.


Tickets Prices: $28 – $36.  Buy tickets here 

The cast includes Isa Arciniegas, Marcos Barnes, Becca Brown, Elisa Carlson, Jay W. Cullen, Whitney Dottery, Dakota Hughes, Brian Keys, Michael Kurowski, Luke Linsteadt, Alex Madda, Aubrey McGrath, Steven Perkins, David Daniel Smith, Janelle Villas, Malic White, Krystal Worrell, and Alexander Zukoff.


Rasaka Theatre presents WASHER/DRYER directed by Kaiser Ahmed

playing now through October 11 at Victory Gardens Theater
2433 N Lincoln Ave Chicago IL


Washer/Dryer is a new farce that throws a modern, multicultural marriage into the pressure cooker of tight New York City living. When Indian- American Sonya elopes with Chinese-American Michael, she thinks she has finally found her happily-ever-after, and possibly even fulfilled her grandmother's wish for marriage. But when Michael discovers that Sonya's apartment is "Single Occupancy Only," and a colorful cast of nosy neighbors and relatives show up to complicate matters further, the couple is forced to re-evaluate their dirty laundry and decide whether all is really fair in love and real estate.

Tickets Prices: $30 Buy tickets here

The cast includes Bryan Bosque, Cheryl Hamada, Erika Napoletano, Rasika Ranganathan, Abbas Salem



Remy Bumppo Theatre presents LOVE AND INFORMATION directed by Shawn Douglass

playing now through November 1 at The Greenhouse Theatre
2257 N Lincoln Ave, Chicago IL


When troubleshooting fails, searching returns no hits, and there's no app for that - who do you turn to? In her groundbreaking new play, the prolific Caryl Churchill pushes through societal firewalls and live-streams the life-long desire for human connectivity. Mirroring the fragmented mind of the post-modern age, Love and Information explores the most advanced and glitchy operating system in existence - the human brain.

Tickets Prices: $15 - $52   Buy tickets here

The cast includes David Darlow, Linda Gillum, Emjoy Gavino, Andrés Enriquez, Gregory Fenner, Raymond Fox, Jennifer Glasse, Mary Poole, Frank Sawa, Penelope Walker



The Goodman Theatre presents DISGRACED directed by Kimberly Senior

playing now through October 25th in the Albert Theatre
170 N Dearborn Street, Chicago IL 


Can anyone ever truly escape their past? Having distanced himself from his Muslim upbringing, Amir Kapoor is quickly climbing the corporate ladder at his powerful Manhattan law firm. When Amir and his wife Emily, a Caucasian artist inspired by Islamic painting, host a dinner party for Amir’s African American co-worker and her Jewish husband, the initially pleasant evening quickly erupts into a volatile cultural debate over race, religion and class in the modern world. Winner of the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for Drama and helmed by the play’s Broadway director Kimberly Senior, Disgraced delivers unflinching insight into the complexities of cultural assimilation and the struggle to define one’s identity in today’s global society.​

Tickets Prices: $20 - $84   Buy tickets here

The cast includes J. Anthony Crane, Behzad Dabu, Nisi Sturgis, Bernard White and Zakiya Young



 Lifeline Theatre presents MISS BUNCLE'S BOOK directed by Dorothy Milne

playing now through November 1 at Lifeline's space
6912 N Glenwood Ave Chicago, IL

Audio Description and Touch Tour Saturday October 10


Barbara Buncle is just an ordinary, unassuming spinster passing an unremarkable existence in the sleepy village of Silverstream. But when the Great Depression wipes out her nest egg, she tries her hand at writing and publishes a novel – under an assumed name – about her quaint hometown and the oddball characters that inhabit it. When the book becomes a surprise bestseller and her neighbors’ foibles are thrust into the national spotlight, Miss Buncle must navigate a madcap storm of accusations, rivalries, and romances. A rollicking look at life imitating art and art imitating life, in a world premiere adaptation of the 1934 novel by D.E. Stevenson.

Tickets Prices: $20 – $40. Buy tickets here

The cast includes Peter Greenberg, Katharine Hildreth, Elise Kauzlaric, Kristina Loy, Martel Manning, Katie McLean Hainsworth, Tiffany Oglesby, Sean Sinitski, Jenifer Tyler and Chris Vizurraga, 


October 6, 2015

In our Speaking Up series, we chat with Chicago artists about their work in the community today,  representation on our stages as well as ways we can achieve artistic and audience inclusion in our theaters. Chicago actress, Deanna Myers, took the time out of her busy schedule to chat with us about her artistic process and the moment we find ourselves in Chicago Theatre...



What is color blind casting to you? Color conscious?  When are either appropriate and have you been a part that process?  If so, what was your experience?


Color blindness in general is a blanket term. It tends to indicate a certain well meant, but ill-advised philosophy of “not seeing color.” While I understand the intent, it’s not productive. We can’t deny that many people come from lots of different backgrounds and that those backgrounds -ethnic, cultural, socio-economic, and regional- have an influence on how someone sees the world, and how the world sees/treats them. They influence someone’s interaction with the world, the amount of opportunity they’ve been afforded, and they also allow a person to bring a unique and wonderful perspective with their work. Color-blindness tends to ignore that, while color consciousness acknowledges, celebrates and is overall cognizant of the differences in people of multiple backgrounds. 


Speaking from a sheerly societal and academic standpoint, I think color-blindness was a great step along the spectrum of moving more toward social responsibility and conscientiousness, but we are now moving into a third wave of being more educated and aware. Color -consciousness is becoming the more largely accepted philosophy.


From a casting stand-point, I think the semantics of the words change a little bit. For example, casting directors and directors tend to use the term “color-blind casting” to mean that, despite a role being historically cast with a White actor, that they are open to seeing a wider variety of races in said role. Side note: I’d also love to see more things like gender identities, physical abilities, sexualities, and a variety of body types being taken into consideration, too.

I hear “color conscious casting,” as a term used by those doing the casting to indicate that a role that is written in a certain way is conscientiously and sensitively cast (i.e-no black/red/yellow/etc facing)


Working on An American Ma{u}l at UIC with Derrick Sanders and The Three Musketeers at Lifeline with Amanda Delheimer-Dimond were my first experiences working with directors who were not just aware of the issue, but who were (and are) actively working to put vastly diverse casts on stage. Seeing directors “walk the walk,” so to speak, has had a hugely positive impact on me as a person and as an artist. I think Chicago, and theatres everywhere, only stand to benefit from a model of diversity and inclusion.  



Why do you think diversity in playwrights, directors and performers has been so difficult for so many theaters?


I’ve heard a lot of different reasons as to why diversity is a challenge for people. I get it. And I think that we live in a place and time where, historically, we’ve been conditioned to give priority to a certain type of voice. Systemically, when a precedent like that is set up, it can be difficult for a lot of people to challenge those deeply instilled norms and views because we tend to take them for granted without ever realizing that anything can or should be different.



In five years, what would you like to have happened on our stages?


In five years, I’d love to see more diverse faces and inclusive casting in all sorts of shows, not just shows that were written to please the “diversity gods.” I want to see a show about a person who isn’t in the majority, but who’s “other,” doesn’t have to be bandied about as though people who aren’t White, Male, Cis-gendered, Straight and Able-bodied can’t have compelling stories that aren’t just about how they don’t fit into that category. Gay, Black Women can still worry about things like where their kids are gonna go to school. An Asian Paraplegic still worries about what he’s going to have for dinner. Someone who is Gender-Queer and Muslim might still argue with their partner over who’s going to do the dishes and wonder if said partner still loves them after it turns into a ridiculous fight. You get what I mean….



In your opinion, what is the state of representation on Chicago stages right now?


I’d give Chicago a grade of C-. We’re talking. We’re working on it, but it still isn’t something that everyone is actively working on or aware of. Details fall through the cracks that don’t need to.



What are triumphs we’ve seen?  Who has been doing it right?


We’ve seen some great strides! Marie Antoinette at Steppenwolf was an awesome example of that. The Goodman Theatre does a pretty good job of inclusive programming. Personally, I think that Lifeline Theatre is constantly leading the charge, which I think is important because they are a smaller storefront, way off-loop, and they’re showing in ways big and small that they take inclusivity very seriously. It doesn’t take a ton of funding, just some effort, some education, and some mindfulness.



What are challenges we still face as a community? What would you like to see done about it?


Lots of companies and those who lead them view diversity and inclusivity as these nebulous, scary terms. They seem like these lofty, insurmountable goals and no one knows where to begin, so they tend to get stuck. I also hear a lot of people making excuses for reasons they just can’t.

I think if we could stop being afraid of the subject of inclusivity it would help. It always surprises me when a theatre becomes defensive or resistant or afraid during a conversation about it. The creative process is very much like the process of growing one’s conscientiousness. You try, maybe you make a mistake, you take notes and listen, you try again.


If there’s anything I’d like any given theatre to know, it’s that inclusivity can be achieved by doing little things in simple ways that eventually add up. It doesn’t need to be an intimidating or insurmountable task. Choose one little thing you can change each show, or each season, and you’ll find that you’re a theatre who has accomplished some incredible goals. There’s no way that making inclusivity a priority can hurt your theatre. If anything, it will make it more relevant, more exciting, and more appealing to a wider audience. How can that be bad?


I’d also love to see us stop viewing a certain archetype (White, male, middle class-ish, cis-gendered, straight, able-bodied) as the central starting point of “neutral,” and everything else as some sort varying degree of different from that.



What challenges do you face, artistically?


I often struggle with the idea of being a vocal advocate and an actor. It seems, sometimes, that the two can be mutually exclusive. By speaking up, I often risk alienating myself in ways that could keep me from getting work.


I don’t get the same opportunities that women of my age and type, but not the same race, do. Also, I have my own set of rules for auditions that I’ll accept, which reduces my opportunities by what I would guess is about 25%.


If a script or audition is sent my way, I find that I end up having to ask a lot of questions about the messages that role in that particular show sends about people who look like me. The unfortunate truth is that, because there’s so little representation of most minority groups on stage or screen, that audiences begin to view that role as a mouth piece or ambassador for all people in that group. That just isn’t a problem for a lot of people in the majority. And I have to be more careful.


Even the auditions I do get can be a challenge, as I often feel that I’m put in a position of having to speak for my minority group. When I walk into an audition for a role, and I’m the only person of color, I know that I was the person who was called in as the “wild card.” And then I feel the pressure of having to challenge what that director likely already views as the neutral starting point. I have to be on point simply to prove that I (and other people who look like me) deserve to be in that room at all. Furthermore, when a director looks at my resume, it isn’t unlikely that someone with whom I’m competing has more credits, simply because more opportunity existed for her. She appears more experienced, more seasoned, simply because the number of opportunities she’s been afforded are more numerous.


Anything else?
Having been at the Jeffs last night,I feel I must say that I was really saddened to see how few people of color were nominated, and how few were recipients of awards.  Diversity in all aspects of the community is important, from the committees who judge us, to the playwrights, to directors and casting people. 





Deanna Myers is an actor, teaching artist, advocate, dog mom and generally busy person who has worked in the Chicago community for the past 6 years. She is a company member at Barrel of Monkeys, and has been lucky enough to work with artists like Lifeline Theatre, The Waltzing Mechanics, Steppenwolf Theatre, Pavement Group, The Goodman, Paola Coletto, Redmoon Theatre, The House Theatre, Porchlight Music Theatre and Sideshow Theatre, and has been featured in a a hand full of those moving pictures. She's pretty sure they'll catch on soon. Catch her in upcoming productions with  Side Show with Porchlight Theatre (September 11th-October 17th) and New Stages Production of King of The Yees at The Goodman (November 1st-15th) 






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