Spotlight: Virtual productions feature a disaster film parody and a Pulitzer Prize-winning two-hander
Fasten your seat belt: Hell in a Handbag Productions once again dips into the disaster film genre for its latest, camp-enfused parody "Airport 1970 Something." Adapted by artistic director David Cerda and edited by Peter Neville, the virtual production stars ensemble member Ed Jones as Nancy, the lead flight attendant, who struggles to land the damaged Flight 666 and save its passengers, including legendary actresses Gloria Swanson (Cerda) and Myrna Loy (Doug Vickers) along with scream queen Linda Blair (Ricky Harris).
Collaboraction premieres 10 new works as part of its 5th Annual Peacebook Festival, which is taking place virtually in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The festival consists of two programs. "Visions of Peace" includes -- among other works -- Ada Cheng's "A Letter to My Younger Self" in which she shares emails she received from a young Asian American student involved in a racist incident. In "Back to Me," Black trans woman and dancer/choreographer Darling Shear pays tribute to her younger self. Matthew LaChapelle, an actor with Down syndrome, performs an original monologue "The Dance ... Never Give Up." The "Essential Perspectives" program centers on community responses to the pandemic. It includes Jasmin Cardenas' "Essential? ... Tengo que trabajar/I have to work" about the struggles of temp and low-wage workers. Playwright/hip-hop artist Willie "Prince Roc" Round examines West Side residents grappling with the pandemic in "This is Lawndale." And actor/artist Mia Park chronicles Asian Americans' struggle to combat racism propelled by the pandemic in "Pressure."
Livestreams at 7 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 17, through Nov. 14 on Facebook and YouTube. Free, donations encouraged. See collaboraction.org.
Third Eye Theatre Ensemble presents a virtual double bill examining how women navigate isolation. In "Stitch," inspired by The Fates of ancient Greece, writer Juliet Palmer tells the story of three women working in a fast-fashion sweatshop. In "Witness," transgender writer/performer Alexandra Enyart "grapples with what it means to live 'unseen'" and struggles not to fall into the 60% of trans people who attempt suicide.
Livestreams at 7 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 17. $10. A recording of the livestreamed performance will be available for a limited time. See thirdeyete.com.
The cast of The New Colony's virtual reading of "Other Rockpools" includes ensemble members Will Cavedo, top left, Shariba Rivers and Kelsey McGrath and Emilie Modaff, bottom left, Taylor Raye and Allyce Torres.
A physicist invites other scientists to her home to work on a time machine to escape their awful reality. As the machine nears completion, however, they face what will happen once they turn it on in the sci-fi tale "Other Rockpools," by Fin Coe, co-artistic director of The New Colony. Forced to cancel the July 2020 premiere because of the coronavirus, the company presents a virtual reading of the play to benefit Chicago Votes, a nonpartisan organization dedicated to voter and civic awareness in young people.
Courtney Gardner co-stars with Tekeisha Yelton-Hunter in Invictus Theatre Company's virtual revival of "'night, Mother."
"'night, Mother" revived
Invictus Theatre Company revives Marsha Norman's Pulitzer Prize-winning drama "'night, Mother," a shattering two-hander about mothers, daughters and mental illness. Courtney Gardner plays Jessie, a middle-aged woman battling epilepsy and depression, and Tekeisha Yelton-Hunter (Showtime's "The Chi") plays her mother, Thelma. Diane Sintich directs the virtual production.
8 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 22. Performances run online through Nov. 8. $20, with 10% of ticket proceeds going to Sista Afya Community Care, an organization that provides mental health and wellness services for African American women. See invictustheatreco.com/onstage.
Tekeisha Yelton-Hunter co-stars with Courtney Gardner in Invictus Theatre Company's virtual revival of "'night, Mother."
Black Lives, Black Words
The activist theater ensemble Black Lives, Black Words concludes its series "Plays for the People" with the premiere of "Call for the Wailing Women," a contemporary take on Euripides' tragedy "The Suppliant Women" about the widows and mothers of dead soldiers who petition the king of Thebes to bury their loved ones. Written by Chicago native Katrina RiChard, the play centers on two mothers who are fighting for their sons' honor.
Streamed at 7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 22, through Sunday, Nov. 25. $17, $10 for students. See blacklivesblackwords.org/get-tickets.
In other news
• The College of Lake County's James Lumber Center for the Performing Arts hosts The Second City's virtual sketch and improv revue "Improv House Party" at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 16. Tickets are $10. They're available at (847) 543-2300 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
• Steel Beam Theatre debuted its sixth and final installment of its ongoing "Short Takes" YouTube series featuring videotaped performances by actors, supporters and volunteers associated with the St. Charles company. The performances include a monologue from Adam Szymkowicz's "Incendiary" and another from Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream." They are part of the theater's efforts to raise funds and stay connected to subscribers during the theater shutdown. To access the video, type "Steel Beam Theatre short takes" on youtube.com.
• Nuns4Fun Entertainment has released "Holy Ghost Bingo: God, Goblins & Games!" a Halloween version of the ongoing parody in which Liz Cloud plays former nun turned bingo caller Mary Margaret O'Brien, who shares seasonal trivia and Catholic humor. Tickets are $20. A portion of every sale benefits the retired Benedictine Sisters of Chicago. See nuns4fun.com.
• Black Ensemble Theatre hosts a virtual fundraising gala at 7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 16, on Facebook Live, VON-TV, Apple TV and Roku. Titled "The Legacy Continues: Together We Are the Change, A Musical Celebration Eradicating Racism," the event includes a message from Dionne Warwick. "Our Gala comes at a time of new urgency as we are all reeling from the effects of the pandemic and the civil unrest that has permeated the air," said founder and CEO Jackie Taylor in a prepared statement. "Our work has made a difference. You can see it annually in the diverse audience of 55,000 that attend our productions rooted in the foundation of eliminating racism." Proceeds from the event benefit productions and educational outreach. See blackensembletheater.org.
• KJR Studio Productions streams a concert version of Johann Strauss' operetta "Die Fledermaus" at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Oct. 16-17, on YouTube.com. The farce is about a man sentenced to incarceration for punching a police officer who tells his wife he's heading to jail when he's actually attending a New Year's Eve party. Realizing he is lying, his wife disguises herself as a Hungarian countess and attends the party where her husband, who does not recognize her, tries to seduce her. See facebook.com/kjrstudioproductions.
• Northwestern University announced the creation of a speaker series honoring music theater alum Kelsey Pharr Jr. (1917-1961), who starred in The Waa-Mu Show before performing on Broadway and founding the Delta Rhythm Boys vocal group. The Kelsey Pharr Jr. Speaker Series will showcase Chicago-area theater artists of color. It commences Friday, Oct. 16, with a conversation with director/actor and Joseph Jefferson Award winner Lili-Anne Brown. See northwestern.edu.
• The New Works Virtual Festival -- a weeklong, online fundraiser for The Actors Fund featuring such Broadway veterans as Santino Fontana, Carmen Cusack, Felicia P. Fields, Daniel Jenkins, Joely Fisher, Robert Wuhl and others -- launches Sunday, Oct. 18. It consists of online readings of 20 new works by Kevin Wiczer, Connie Dinkler, Dan Lauria and others. See facebook.com/newworksvirtualfestival.
• American Blues Theater's monthly live play-reading series continues at 3 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 18, and 7 p.m. Monday, Oct. 19, with Benjamin Benne's "Alma," winner of ABT's 2019 Blue Ink Playwriting Award. The play centers on single mom Alma, who raises her daughter on a diet of tough love, good food and prayers until an incident from Alma's past threatens to upend their American dream. Ana Velazquez directs. The suggested donation is $10. (773) 654-3101 or americanbluestheater.com.
• Court Theatre presents a digital reading of Euripides' "The Bacchae," in a translation by founding director Nicholas Rudall, at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 21. Monty Cole directs the reading, which features Adia Alli, Cheryl Lynn Bruce, Atra Asdou, McKenzie Chinn, Stephanie Diaz, Kirsten Fitzgerald, Jennifer Latimore, Karissa Murrell Myers and MJ D. Rawls. See courttheatre.org.
• TimeLine Theatre hosts a livestream conversation inspired by its postponed premiere of "Campaigns, Inc.," a play by Will Allan chronicling novelist Upton Sinclair's bid to become governor of California. Allan and dramaturge Maren Robinson discuss early examples of "fake news" from 7:30-9 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 21. Ensemble member Anish Jethmalani moderates the free event, which takes place at youtube.com/timelinetheatre. See timelinetheatre.com.
• PrideArts presents a recorded performance of "Box & Cox," John Maddison Morton's 1847 farce that has been updated for the present day. In this version, Mrs. Bouncer, "the happiest drag queen in Chicago," rents the same room to two men, neither of whom know about the other. It will stream on YouTube at 7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 22 and 29. Tickets are $25. See pridearts.org.
• Shattered Globe Theatre hosts a Ghostlight Soiree fundraiser from 8-9 p.m. Oct. 23. Ensemble member David Dastmalchian hosts the event as his alter-ego, Dr. Fearless from the comic book Count Crowley. It will include performances and appearances by ensemble members as well as Hollywood makeup and special effects artist Tom Savini. Tickets are $30. See sgtheatre.org/ghostlightsoiree.
• Chicago Children's Theater has extended its drive-in theater version of its puppet show "Beatrix Potter and Friends," comprised of four stories including "The Tale of Peter Rabbit." Performances continue outdoors in the company's parking lot at 100 S. Racine Ave., Chicago, through Nov. 1. Performances are at 6:30 p.m. Thursday through Sunday. $55 per car (for up to six people) or for walk-up patrons. Space is limited to 17 cars. Advance reservation is required. (312) 374-8835 or chicagochildrenstheatre.org.
• Actor/casting director Emjoy Gavino and set designer/artist Sydney Lynne Thomas are among the local theater artists who received 3Arts Awards this year. 3Arts is a Chicago nonprofit organization that advocates on behalf of female artists, artists of color and artists with disabilities. The organization's 13th Annual 3Arts Award Celebration will be livestreamed Monday, Oct. 19, on YouTube. The event, which includes 15 commissioned pieces by past awardees, is free. See 3arts.org/event.