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Podcast with Resident Director of ‘The Phantom of the Opera’ DAVID RUTTURA

Posted by: Showbiz Chicago (February 5, 2014)

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Podcast with Resident Director of ‘The Phantom of the Opera’ DAVID RUTTURA fromSHOWBIZ CHICAGO 

Cameron Mackintosh’s new production of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA is currently playing to to sold out audiences at Chicago’s Cadillac Palace Theatre.Resident Director David Ruttura discusses the vision of this new U.S. tour and what fans of Phantom can expect to see when they walk through the theatre doors. For more information visit ThePhantomOfTheOpera.com/USTour or BroadwayInChicago.com

unnamedDAVID RUTTURA (Resident Director) has worked extensively as an Associate Director on Broadway (Spider-Man (Resident Director),Follies, Lombardi, Million Dollar Quartet, WhiteChristmas, A Man For All Seasons), Off-Broadway (Atlantic Theater Company, Roundabout), regionally (Kennedy Center, La Jolla Playhouse, Philadelphia Theatre Co., Old Jews Telling Jokes) and internationally (Ben Hur Live). Directing credits include projects with Gateway Playhouse, Araca Project, Ars Nova, 2g, Joe’s Pub, Fordham University, Ensemble Studio Theatre, among others. Film Credits include the Web-series Dick Punch and stalkTALK.davidruttura.com.

New version of PHANTOM OF THE OPERA Is A Triumph

Posted by: Showbiz Chicago (January 17, 2014)

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Last evening, while walking through the lobby of the Cadillac Palace theatre to see the Cameron Macintosh’s new production of The Phantom of The Opera, there was a sense of excitement among the patrons that was electric.    Prior to walking through the theatre doors to take their seats, all the attendees huddled into little circles discussing their personal relationship with this unique blockbuster.  We (as I include myself in this pre-theatre gathering) debated our favorite Phantoms, the different countries and continents we have seen a production and how this show was benchmark in how we view other works. 

    From these conversations, one thing became apparent; any new production that deviates from director Hal Princes’ original is going to be microscopically dissected with reverence to what came before.   With reverence duly noted, Phantom of The Opera under the direction of Laurence Connor (who also directed the new Les Mis and the 25th Anniversary concert version of  Phantom) remains iconic. 

 

 

Andrew’s command, nothing in his score has been touched. The changes are visual and character driven. Original designer Maria Bjornson ‘s opulent yet largely implied vision of the Paris Opera House has been replaced with a more imposing drum that twists, turns and opens into sets that are grittier and more realistic.   This realism carries through to the performances, allowing to cast create more intimate on-stage relationships with each other.

Where Prince’s original was conceived as a stand-alone production, Mr. Connor’s version is developed to work on its own as well as setting up Webber’s 2009 sequel, Love Never Dies, which should to be viewed to fully understand the choices the actors make in their characters. Briefly, Love Never Dies takes place ten years later in Coney Island, New York, where Madame Giry and Meg help the Phantom to escape. Christine and Raul are married and have a ten-year-old musically gifted son, who turns out be you know whose.

This new production now places much more emphasis on Madame Giry’s character and allows the actor playing Raul to give it some added depth you don’t see in the fist version.  However the biggest noticeable change in character is the Phantom, who is now cast much younger in order to make the revelations in Love Never Dies more palatable.  These changes come at some expense to the emotional impact felt in Prince’s version. But considering that Connor’s production stays true to the heart of the original while also making the characters more fully developed, is a testament to his integrity and skill.

For this new U.S. tour, Mr. Connor has assembled a magnificent cast that is vocally superior to most every prior incarnation, especially in the clarity of the words that are sung. Ben Jacoby (som of stalwart Phantom Mark), is hands down the best Raul I have seen.  He has found many new angles that make this usually drab character multi-dimensional and interesting.    Julia Rose Udine’s Christine is spectacular and one of the best to ever have played this role.  There is no naiveté in Udine’s interpretation, giving us a strong, independent, Christine who is in control of everything except the her grief over her father, a famous violinist who passed three years prior.  Her inability to control his grief not only makes Udine’s version of Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again the new show stopper but also gives Cooper Grodin’s Phantom a manipulative way in.

This is where change in age, making the Phantom about 20 years younger, becomes an issue.  In the original, the larger age difference made it much easier to believe that Christine may actually believe that the self-professed ‘Angel of Music’ is her father reincarnate.  Mr. Grodin, and all other subsequent Phantoms who play the role in this version must find a way to overcome this hurdle, as it is a big one, but one that needs to be addressed.  That aside, Mr. Grodin, who only stepped into this role last week, is edgy, sexy and vocally stunning.     Where Grodin excels is in the “Final Lair” scene, where he dealves into emotional depths that I have not witnessed since seeing Michael Crawford.  And, by restaging Christine and the Phantoms final encounter, Christine realizes the depth of the Phantom’s love for her. This new ending is theatrically brilliant.

But,  the most riveting part of this version lies in the performance of our own Linda Balgord as Madame Giry.   Ms. Balgord drives the production where it needs to go.  There are no new lines or scenes for the character, which makes Balgord’s performance even more amazing.    Instead, it is through Madame Giry that all things are put into motion for the sequel and Balgord re-defines this role as no other actress could do.

And, to answer the most asked question that I have gotten.  Yes, the chandelier drop is still in the show, and better then ever.  In fact I have a piece of it next to me as a write this review.

Mr. Macintosh and Mr. Conner have given us a Phantom for a whole new generation.  It has been almost thirty years since Michael Crawford and Sarah Brightman made history creating these roles and now the torch is passed that will
ensure the Opera Ghost’s success for decades to come.  Phantom is an unstoppable force that remains one of the greatest musicals of all time.    Do not dare miss this Phantom.

The Phantom of the Opera runs through March 2, 2014 at the Cadillac Palace Theatre, 151 W. Randolph St, Chicago, IL.  For more information visit www.BroadwayInChicago.com or  www.ThePhantomOfTheOpera.com/ustourFor calendar information, visit www.TheatreInChicago.com

My "two cents" for 2014

Posted by: Cindy Ripley (January 3, 2014)

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Most likely you have deleted or adopted a resolution as we begin this New Year.  Let’s please leave the perennial favorite, “weight loss”, off the list but I am happy to put a few of my “favs” on it.

Clear the Clutter.  From backstage storage to your computer desktop, to your brain. Get rid of or at least organize anything that might hold up your new creative energy for 2014.   Go easy; a single step is a great start and will keep you motivated.

Learn WITH your kids. Pick a show you know very little about, try a new technique to learn music or choreography.  Some novelists say they start a story and they don’t know quite where its going but they are drawn into the unfolding of the story.  Teachers and students are most engaged in learning when they BOTH own it.  It is truly exhilarating.

Embrace Collaboration.  Arts teachers are the most caring, selfless, creative and crazy people on earth.  Invest in the team!

Ask for help. I know you would tell a child there is always someone they can go to for help.  Follow that advice for yourself.   http://www.mtishowspace.com/show_support.php

Encourage kids to do their best. Share your experience, stories and offer unconditional support. The child who played a tree in the back row will be your friend on Facebook 15 years from now.

Most importantly, have fun tapping into your artistic side sailing into 2014.  That one is non-negotiable.

Podcast with MICHAEL AARON LINDNER from ‘A Christmas Carol-The Concert’

Posted by: Showbiz Chicago (December 21, 2013)

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Podcast with MICHAEL AARON LINDNER from ‘A Christmas Carol-The Concert’ from SHOWBIZ CHICAGO on Vimeo.

MICHAEL AARON LINDNER discusses his role of Ebenezer Scrooge in the A Christmas Carol-The Concert and the process of putting this major new work on the stage.  Visit http://www.achristmascaroltheconcert.com/store to purchase the soundtrack and dvd of the concert.

Michael is a nationally recognized, Joseph Jefferson award winning actor who has performed at many prestigious theaters.His credits include Harry Bright in the National Tour of Mamma Mia!; Edna Turnblad in Hairspray at the Drury Lane Theater; Fezziwig in the Goodman Theater’s annual production of A Christmas Carol and Louis the Baker in Chicago Shakespeare Theater’s critically acclaimed production of Sunday in the Park with George. He resides with his beautiful wife and two mischievous sons in Evanston, IL.

A Christmas Carol – The Concert. Charles Dickens beloved Christmas Carol as you’ve never seen it, or heard it before. Enjoy the timeless story of Ebenezer Scrooge through glorious, memorable and irresistible new songs in this instant holiday classic. A Christmas Carol – The Concert has musical styles that range from classical and Broadway, to blues and gospel.  In concert with Chicago’s PBS station WTTW it was filmed at the North Shore Center For The Performing Arts in Skokie, Illinois this past May.  It was filmed before a live audience using a full symphony orchestra, a choir made up of members of the Elmhurst College Choirand the Children’s Choir of Chicago and a rock/pop rhythm section. It starred Michael Aaron Lindner as “Scrooge”, E. Faye Butler as “The Narrator”, Scott Coulter as “Fred/Bob Cratchit & others”, Kyle Scatliffe as “Marley/The Ghosts & others”, and Arya Daire as “Belle”.

It was directed for stage by David Kersnar, conducted by Amy Duran, produced for television by Scott Silberstein and directed/edited by Matt Hoffman - both from HMS Media (Under The Streetlamp & Messiah Rocks).

Bob Christianson was musical director and executive producer.

A Christmas Carol – The Concert will premiere on PBS stations nationwide starting on December 14, 2013. Check your local listings for exact day and times of airing.

 
 

Have backdrops collecting dust? Ready to sell?

Posted by: Donna Wymore (December 6, 2013)

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Cobalt Studios is looking to expand our backdrop rental inventory. We know that there are great backdrops out there, collecting dust, that would be happy to find a new and useful life.

Our requirements:

17' to 22' in height and 35' to 50' in width

General themes (a forest, a city street), some show specific themes are okay.

Good condition: no holes, no rips, no mildew.

Our Pricing: 50 cents per square foot. We will pay for shipping costs.

Send size, condition and photos to: rentals@cobaltstudios.net

ELF THE MUSICAL Proves There is No Place Like Home

Posted by: Showbiz Chicago (December 3, 2013)

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Adapting a hit film to the stage is never an easy task. It becomes even more difficult when the film is so heavily recognized with its star. Such is the case with Elf, the 2003 modern day holiday classic that features Will Ferrell as Buddy, a 6ft tall human who was raised as one of Santa’s height challenged helpers after he stowed away in a toy bag one Christmas Eve. Santa finally tells Buddy who is really is as he sets off to meet his real father (who has spent many years on the naughty list) and live life happily ever after. Of course, as any orphan story goes, things do not go as planned and Buddy becomes a fish out of water in modern day Manhattan where the gap between true believers and merchandisers are a North Pole apart.

So what happens when you don’t have the star that is associated with the initial project to rely on? Well, you have to fallback and trust the material.

The 2010 musical version contains a vibrant book by Thomas Meehan (who knows how to write an orphan musical) and Bob Martin with music by Matthew Sklar and lyrics penned by Chad Beguelin (who, in full disclosure, is a friend). Elf The Musical played limited holiday runs on Broadway for the last two years to sold out houses and even broke box office records for the theatre it occupied. Thankfully, the material is strong enough to stand on its own as a musical without its associated lead touring the country.

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Will Blum as Buddy and Larry Cahn (Walter) in ELF.
AMY BOYLE PHOTOGRAPHY

For the current tour the winsome Will Blum dons the green tights and creates an instant repore the audience, adults and children alike. In fact for an audience dominated by the young, there was nary an inappropriate sound throughout the theatre for the entire show. All of the major leads in this equity tour are first rate including Julia Louise Hosack as Buddy’s step-mom, whose amazing alto voice is thrilling to listen to; Lindsay Nicole Chambers brings a Kathy Griffin quality to Buddy’s love interest Jovie.; Larry Cahn gives a well rounded portrait of a father whose priorities have gone astray; and young Noah Marlow gives a outstanding performance as Buddy’s half brother Michael.

Director Sam Scalamoni strikes a nice balance between the fantasy of the piece and the reality of a family being slowly ripped apart. Choreographer Connor Gallagher creates some clever original dances for the height challenged elvess as well a beautiful ice skating sequence.

Elf The Musical along with Christmas Story, The Musical proves the viability of these stories in different mediums, whether told on the big screen or a proscenium stage. The message resonates now more than ever because it reminds us what is truly important, especially in this age of the have and have nots.

Elf The Musical plays through December 15, 2013 at the Cadillac Palace Theatre, 151 W. Randolph St.. For more information visit BroadwayInChicago.com.   For calendar information visitTheatreInChicago.com 

 

A ROCKING VERSION OF ‘SILENT NIGHT’ JUST RELEASED: DEE SNIDER & GIULIANA RANCIC RELEASE A NEW HOLIDAY SINGLE FROM DEE SNIDER’S ROCK AND ROLL CHRISTMAS TALE TO PREMIERE IN CHICAGO FOR THE HOLIDAYS 2014

Posted by: Showbiz Chicago (November 27, 2013)

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image004Dee Snider, front man for the heavy metal sensation Twisted Sister and a cast member “Celebrity Apprentice Allstar” has paired up with Giuliana Rancic (“E! News,” “Fashion Police”) in a duet that rocks for a good cause. This electrifying reinterpretation of a holiday classic from Snider’s new musical production, DEE SNIDER’S ROCK AND ROLL CHRISTMAS TALE, marks Giuliana’s singing debut and a significant portion of the proceeds from all digital download sales will support her charity, Fab-U-Wish. This phenomenal foundation grants wishes to women undergoing treatment for breast and ovarian cancer. Snider and Rancic’s “Silent Night” will also be featured this coming spring on an episode of “Giuliana & Bill”on E!. Enjoy this special musical collaboration and, in return, make someone’s holiday merrier and brighter!

The new single dropped Tuesday, November 26, 2013. During the first week the song is available, it can be purchased for $0.99, and after that it will be $1.29. Visit iTunes.com to download.

DEE SNIDER’S ROCK AND ROLL CHRISTMAS TALE will make its World Premiere in Chicago and will play the Broadway Playhouse at Water Tower Place (175 E Chestnut) Nov. 4, 2014 through Jan. 4, 2015. It will be part of the Broadway In Chicago 2014 Fall Season. Group tickets for 10 or more are now on sale by calling Broadway In Chicago Group Sales at (312) 977-1710. Individual tickets for DEE SNIDER’S ROCK AND ROLL CHRISTMAS TALE will go on sale at a later date. For more information, visit www.broadwayinchicago.com 

Goodman’s “A Christmas Carol” a Wonderful Blend of New Elements and Familiar Faces

Posted by: Showbiz Chicago (November 27, 2013)

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(L to R) Ron Rains (Bob Cratchit) and Larry Yando (Scrooge) in A Christmas Carol at Goodman Theatre

Reviewed by: Joseph Hillenmeyer

Now entering its 36th year, The Goodman Theatre’s production of “A Christmas Carol” is a family tradition for many in the Chicago area. The story is Dickens at his best and one of the most beloved stories of the holiday season. My own interest in theatre blossomed when my family would make an annual trek to The Avenue Theatre in Lincoln Square in the early ’90s for the various renditions of the production that took place there. Shockingly, I think it’s been 20 years since I saw a performance and the Goodman’s rendition was certainly a reminder of why this story is still so celebrated even 170 years after it was written.

For the Goodman, Henery Wishcamper directs for the first time and clearly let ambition guide the production, with a set that was as remarkable as it was realistic. It takes little imagination from the audience to imagine the counting house in London in the 1800s, or the cold draft that surrounds Bob Cratchit (Ron Rains) as he warms his hands on his candle.

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A.C. Smith (Ghost Of Christmas Present) in A Christmas Carol at Goodman Theatre.

While the workhouses and debtors’ prisons have closed, greed is as alive as ever. But present as it may be, Scrooge will always remind us, even 170 years from now, that people can change and hearts can warm. I think the best element of  Scrooge’s transformation is that it is not borne out of the fear which the third ghost has the power to instill, but the guilt that builds in him as he is forced to relive the moments in his life when he has chosen profits over people.

An honest-to-the-book rendition of the story, the production is brought to life with outstanding set elements and special effects. A.C. Smith also proves a welcome addition to the production as the Ghost of Christmas Present, as was the the live music during Fezziwig’s Christmas party. The Goodman’s performance will delight fans of the story and instill the Christmas spirit into any who see it, no matter how much of Scrooge they may be. 

“A Christmas Carol” runs through December 28 in the Goodman’s Albert Theatre, 170 N. Dearborn. Tickets are $25 – $83 and are available online at GoodmanTheatre.org, by phone at (312) 443-3800 or at the box office. For show times and dates, visit the goodmantheatre.org

 

GHOSTLIGHT RECORDS WILL RELEASE THE ORIGINAL CAST RECORDING OF THE HIT NEW MUSICAL COMEDY “MURDER FOR TWO”

Posted by: Showbiz Chicago (November 22, 2013)

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Ghostlight Records will release the original cast recording of the hit new musical comedy MURDER FOR TWO in early 2014.MURDER FOR TWO which was a hit at Second Stage before transferring to New World Stages, was called “a charmingly frenetic all-stops out musical comedy” by Entertainment Weekly, and has already extended its run through March 16, 2014. The album will be produced by Joel Moss with Kurt Deutsch serving as executive producer. Sign up to pre-order at www.sh-k-boom.com/murderfortwo.

Everyone is a suspect in MURDER FOR TWO, a hilarious musical murder mystery with a twist: one actor (Brett Ryback) investigates the crime, the other plays all of the suspects (Jeff Blumenkrantz) and they both play the piano! A zany blend of classic musical comedy and madcap mystery, this 90-minute whodunit is a highly theatrical duet loaded with killer laughs. MURDER FOR TWO features book and music by Joe Kinosian, book and lyrics byKellen Blair and direction by Scott Schwartz.

Producers Jayon Raitt, Barbara Whitman, Steven Chaikelson and Second Stage Theatre recently announced a 10 week extension at New World Stages – Stage 5 (340 West 50th Street). The show, which was originally scheduled to play through Sunday, January 5, 2014, will now play its final performance on Sunday, March 16, 2014.

Direct from a critically-acclaimed, sold-out run at Second Stage Theatre Uptown (Carole Rothman, Artistic Director, Casey Reitz, Executive Director and Christopher Burney, Curator and Associate Artistic Director), MURDER FOR TWO began performances at New World Stages – Stage 5 on Wednesday, October 23, 2013 and officially opened on Wednesday, November 6, 2013.

MURDER FOR TWO began previews at Second Stage Theatre’s uptown home, the McGinn/Cazale Theatre on Wednesday, July 10th and officially openedThursday, July 25th. It was extended twice, due to popular demand, and ultimately played there through Sunday, August 25th.

Tickets for MURDER FOR TWO are available on Telecharge.com (212-239-6200) and at the New World Stages Box Office (340 West 50th Street between 8th and 9th Avenues). Tickets for MURDER FOR TWO are priced at $75 plus a $2 facilities fee. Student Tickets are priced at $25 plus a $2 facilities fee, and are available for advance purchase subject to availability. The performance schedule for MURDER FOR TWO is as follows: Mondays at 7pm, Wednesdays at 2pm and 7pm, Thursdays at 8pm, Fridays at 8pm, Saturdays at 2pm and 8pm, and Sundays at 3pm

MURDER FOR TWO features scenic design by Beowulf Boritt, costume design by Andrea Lauer, lighting design by Jason Lyons, sound design byJill BC DuBoff and choreography by Wendy Seyb.

MURDER FOR TWO was developed at The Adirondack Theatre Festival and 42nd Street Moon. Chicago Shakespeare Theater presented the World Premiere Production in May, 2011, which was extended 4 times, running for more than 6 months. Kinosian and Blair were recognized with a 2011 Joseph Jefferson Award for Best New Musical.

ABOUT SH-K-BOOM & GHOSTLIGHT RECORDS

Sh-K-Boom with its imprint Ghostlight Records has become the leading independent force in Original Broadway Cast Recordings – building a library of over 130 records in the last 13 years, featuring the most successful Broadway musicals and solo albums by Broadway’s biggest stars. Ghostlight recently won the Grammy Award for The Book of Mormon, and released the OBCR of Newsies, the premiere recording of Carrie, the new Grammy-nominated cast recording of Anything Goes, plus the OCRs Catch Me If You CanSister Act and Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, as well as solo albums from some of Broadway’s biggest stars: Sutton Foster, Kelli O’Hara, Alice Ripley, Christine Ebersole, Melissa Errico and Ben Vereen. Other titles on Ghostlight include the Grammy Award-winning In the Heights, plus Next to Normal, Hair, Legally Blonde, Everyday Rapture, Passing Strange, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee and The Drowsy Chaperonewww.sh-k-boom.com.

First Floor Theater’s POLAROID STORIES by Naomi Iizuka Opens Tonight Through Dec. 21

Posted by: Showbiz Chicago (November 21, 2013)

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29A2EA0CB-C260-5BAE-76DBC1A265573021 (1)First Floor Theater is thrilled to kick off their second season withPOLAROID STORIES, Naomi Iizuka’s masterful mash-up of Roman myth and documentary theatre, directed by FFT Artistic Producer Hutch Pimentel, playing November 21 – December 21, 2013 at Red Tape Theatre. Tickets for POLAROID STORIESwill be available at http://firstfloortheater.com/

POLAROID STORIES features Managing Director Amanda Finkand Associate Artistic Director Andrew Cutler with Brandon Boler, Luke Grimes, Jenni Hadley, Brandon Holmes, Alyssa Ramos, Shariba Rivers, Johnard Washington and Kait Ziegler.

POLAROID STORIES is an explosive re-imagining of Ovid’s Metamorphoses that blends interviews from street-based youth and sex workers with ancient myth. The play takes place in the underbelly of a city where junkies scheme, lovers run and the lost wander, a refuge for those living on the edge of society. Iizuka illuminates the depths of a metropolis with her chaotic elegy of desire, desperation and transcendence. FFT’s production explores the complex intersection of two different modes of storytelling, documentary and mythology, and the power of their confluence. The design aesthetic embraces a similar method of reimagining technologies and materials for new use.

The production team for POLAROID STORIES includes: William Boles (set design), Sarah CollongeSarah Ingraham (lighting design), Markie Gray (sound design), Alexis Chaney (costume design),Molly FitzMaurice (dramaturg), Nathan Bartley (production manager), Niki Dreistadt (stage manager)

Tickets for POLAROID STORIES will be available at http://firstfloortheater.com/. Tickets will go on sale on November 4, 2013.

About the Playwright

Naomi Iizuka’s Polaroid Stories was originally commissioned by En Garde Arts in New York, produced in the 1997 Humana Festival of New Plays at Actors Theatre of Louisville, and received the 1998 PEN Center West Award for Drama. Her other plays include 36 Views, Anon(ymous), After a Hundred Years, At the Vanishing Point, Language of Angels, Tattoo Girl and Skin. Her work has been produced by The Goodman Theatre, Timeline Theatre, Guthrie Theater, The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Huntington Theatre Company, Berkeley Repertory Theatre, The Public Theater. Ms. Iizuka is a member of New Dramatists and the recipient of a Joyce Award, a PEN/Laura Pels Award, an Alpert Award, a Whiting Writers’ Award, a Stavis Award from the National Theatre Conference, a Rockefeller Foundation MAP grant, an NEA/TCG Artist-in-Residence grant, a McKnight Fellowship, Princeton University’s Hodder Fellowship and a Jerome Fellowship. She is the head of the graduate MFA Playwriting program at the University of California, San Diego.

About the Director

Hutch Pimentel joined First Floor as the Artistic Producer after working as the Associate Producer of Sexual Perversity in Chicago, and has since then worked as a Director & Co-Curator on GrimmFest, and this fall he is directing Polaroid Stories. Previous directing credits include Back of the Throat and 4.48 Psychosis. He worked previously at About Face Theatre, where he assistant directed and produced The Pride. He is a graduate of Kalamazoo College.

About First Floor Theater

First Floor Theater, founded in 2012 by University of Chicago graduates, makes theater to feed the audience’s intellectual curiosity by re-imagining classical texts, adapting literary treasures, and creating new work for our time that stands on the shoulders of the past. FFT was named the “Best New Theater Company” in the Chicago Reader’s Best of 2013 Reader’s Pick edition.

For more information on First Floor Theater, visit http://firstfloortheater.com/