Click here to visit the most recent Players list.
We’ve always known we were a town for theater. But this year perhaps we needed outsiders to remind us of just how great Chicago’s theater community is compared not only with New York, but with the rest of the world. Venerable London theater critic Michael Billington went so far as to herald our city as the “current theatre capital of America” after a recent visit, citing not only the three big S’s (Chicago Shakespeare, Second City and Steppenwolf), but also Victory Gardens and the Goodman. Other critics from New York and Toronto sent similar, although not quite as superlative, love letters this year. So it seems fitting this year that our Players issue, in the past reserved for members of the theater community who wield the most power, focus on the artists—those both on stage and behind-the-scenes who make out-of-towners go home and drool.
Written by John Beer and Nina Metz, with additional contributions by Tom Lynch and Jamie Murnane
1. Bob Falls
Artistic director, Goodman Theatre
The Tony Award-winning director continues to woo major talents, from Stephen Sondheim to Arthur Miller, boosting the Goodman’s national rep and making it the undisputable king of the hill in Chicago theater. High-profile productions include last fall’s ode to Edward Albee and the Latino Theater Fest. This year’s crop includes Matthew Modine and Scott Glenn in the world premiere of “Finishing the Picture” (Miller’s newest play) and the return of our town’s adopted son, Brian Dennehy, in Eugene O’Neill’s “Hughie”—both directed by Falls himself.
2. Tracy Letts
Playwright, actor, director, Steppenwolf ensemble member
2004 was the year of Tracy Letts, who can now put the words “Pulitzer finalist” by his name for “Man From Nebraska.” The still-running New York production of “Bug” has generated so much buzz that Letts is writing a screen adaptation of his play for movie director William Friedkin. As an actor, he gave a superb, treacle-free performance in Northlight’s “Tuesdays with Morrie” opposite Mike Nussbaum. His directorial debut with Lookingglass’ “Great Men of Science” was less impressive, but hard to discount altogether. Coming up, starring roles in “The Dresser” and “The Pain and the Itch” (both for Steppenwolf), and he’ll direct a show for Trapdoor Theatre this winter.
3. Dennis Zacek and Marcelle McVay
Artistic director and Managing director, Victory Gardens Theater
While other theater companies are cutting costs, Victory Gardens is barreling ahead with an ambitious plan to rehab the old Biograph movie theater into a $9 million state-of-the-art facility scheduled to open a year from now. Other achievements of note: The off-Broadway transfer of “Trying,” a solid hit from last season, and a tentatively scheduled appearance by John Mahoney in a June production of “Symmetry,” with Zacek at the helm.
4. John Mahoney
Actor, Steppenwolf ensemble member
After signing off from his eleven-year gig on NBC’s “Frasier,” Mahoney vowed to spend more time working in Chicago theater—and the Oak Park resident has kept his word. Ticket sales hit record levels thanks to his performance in the Steppenwolf’s “I Never Sang For My Father” and he returns to the stage with fellow ensemble member Tracy Letts in “The Dresser” next month. Plans are in the works for a Broadway production of “The Drawer Boy” with Mahoney in the cast (reprising his role from the ’01 Steppenwolf production), and schedule permitting, he will also star in “Symmetry” at Victory Gardens.
5. Eric Rosen
Playwright and Artistic director, About Face Theatre
About Face continues to focus on works about gay, lesbian and bisexual communities, from the hilariously camp, 1950s-era girl-on-girl action in “Pulp,” to the homier vibe of Rosen’s “Winesburg, Ohio.” The company has been homeless for two seasons but seems to have found a comfy berth at the Steppenwolf, where it will stage a new play by Moises Kaufman (director of this year’s Tony and Pulitzer winner, “I Am My Own Wife”). Rosen, who joined Kaufman at the Sundance Theatre Lab this summer, will also direct Richard Greenberg’s ’03 Tony winner, “Take Me Out,” at the Steppenwolf in March.
6. Sean Graney
Playwright and Artistic director, The Hypocrites
Graney’s work with his theater company is swiftly establishing him as Chicago’s answer to Joanne Akalaitis or Peter Sellars: a director equally at home with the idioms of classical theatre, the modern avant-garde, and pop-culture shtick. Productions like this year’s “Leonce und Lena” and the upcoming “Equus” have won him plaudits and a NEA Career Development Grant for directors. And he’s a prolific writer, too: his company’s premiere of his play “The 4th Graders Present an Unnamed Love-Suicide,” with its nod to “Marat/Sade,” deserves a look.
7. Peter Taub
Director of performances, Museum of Contemporary Art
Under Taub’s stewardship, the performance series at the MCA has become a must-go destination for adventurous theater and dance. Taub intermingles internationally renowned performers like Mark Morris and the British performance collective Forced Entertainment with local heroes, as in this summer’s Redmoon/Court Theatre collaboration on “Cyrano.” Next season promises to add several feathers to Taub’s prodigious cap: watch particularly for “Rebirth of a Nation,” DJ Spooky’s remix of the infamous D. W. Griffith film.
8. Barbara Gaines
Artistic director, Chicago Shakespeare Theater
Traditional favorites like “Romeo and Juliet” may bring crowds to Navy Pier, but Chicago Shakespeare founder and artistic director Gaines has been sponsoring some highly significant international productions, like the Broadway-bound cycle “Rose Rage” (managing, mirabile dictu, to make the Henry VI plays watchable) and the Globe’s all-male “Twelfth Night.” Gaines herself will soon be directing two of the Bard’s tougher chestnuts: this fall’s “Merry Wives of Windsor,” and next winter’s “Measure for Measure.”
9. Kelly Leonard
President, Second City Theatricals
Leonard saw his job title change this year as he assumed the presidency of Second City Theatricals, the “legitimate” wing of Chicago’s comedy juggernaut. Thankfully, not too legitimate. Leonard’s production of “The People vs. Friar Lawrence,” a joint venture with Chicago Shakespeare, won critical and popular raves for its screwball approach to Romeo and Juliet. Leonard hasn’t abandoned Second City’s mainstage, either: as producer of “Doors Open on the Right,” he’s keeping up the group’s longstanding commitment to topical, political comedy.
10. David Zak
Artistic director, Bailiwick Repertory Theatre
Zak’s Bailiwick Theatre continued its solid tradition of independent theatre last year, with socially relevant plays like “Sin” and “Parade” complementing the commercial draw of those darned singing boys. The summer’s Pride Series underscored the theatre’s commitment to the gay and lesbian community. Zak himself was recognized once again by the Jeff committee for directing “Dr. Sex,” though the drama “Anatomy of Revenge” was less well received. Up next: the new season’s revival of “Animal Farm.”
11. William Mason
General director, Lyric Opera of Chicago
The general director for the Lyric has been associated with the house for almost fifty years, and although financial backing keeps finding its way outside of the opera world, Mason found success last year with notable productions of fan-favorites “Faust” and “The Pirates of Penzance.” This season, the Lyric’s fiftieth anniversary, the director trudges onward with Mozart’s “Don Giovanni.”
12. Dexter Bullard
Artistic director, Plasticene
Any question that Dexter Bullard is on the threshold of becoming a very big thing was settled by the Tribune Magazine’s recent cover piece. Bullard’s performance troupe Plasticene embodies the intensely physical and improvisational approach that is becoming something of a Chicago hallmark, echoed in the work of groups like 500 Clown. And his current staging of “Bug” in New York has earned him not only award nominations but the attention of such luminaries as William Friedkin.
13. The Neo-Futurists
Like the College of Pataphysics or the Church of the Sub-Genius, Neo-Futurism is looking like an institution that will transcend the wildest dreams of its founders. The Neo-Futurists supplements its signature weekly potpourri, “Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind” with a solid schedule of solo performance and scripted drama. So far in 2004, co-founder Greg Allen brought Neo-Futurism to Brooklyn; Sean Benjamin, Chloe Johnston and Steve Mosqueda revived the bibulous “Drinking and Writing”; and Connor Kalista created tours for PAC/edge. The fall brings Noelle Krimm’s Andersonville walking-tour “Alice”; and Sharon Greene and Allen have conceived shows taking on “Don Quixote” and Ibsen, respectively, to round out the season.
14. Tina Landau
Playwright & director, Steppenwolf Theatre ensemble member
If her direction of Saroyan’s “The Time of Your Life” had already attracted national attention for her ability to breathe new life into a tattered classic, Landau’s own “Theatrical Essays” demonstrated this past spring that she’s also able to concoct theater out of minimal resources—using conceptual connections rather than linear plot to structure some breathtaking visual moments. This fall, she’s grappling with a certified monument: Chekhov’s “The Cherry Orchard.”
15. Susan Lipman
Executive director, Performing Arts Chicago
Lipman’s PAC/edge festival focused tightly on Chicago’s avant-garde theatrical and performance scene this year for six weeks. Performances in the cloakroom and sound sculptures in the bathrooms transformed the Athenaeum into a kind of experimental carnival. Spotlighting groups like Plasticene, 500 Clown, Curious Theatre Branch, Local Infinities and Lucky Pierre, PAC/edge demonstrated the diversity and vitality of the edgier regions of Chicago’s performance spectrum.
16. Chuck Smith
Resident director, Goodman Theatre
His easygoing demeanor is deceptive because Smith is one of Chicago’s most exacting directors. He is a founding member of the Chicago Theatre Company and an artist-in-residence at Columbia College, but for the past several years Smith has been the Goodman’s number one go-to guy. Last spring, he staged an all-African-American version of “Proof” for the theater company. Earlier in the year, he ventured up to Highland Park for a rollicking production of “Jammin’ with Pops” at Apple Tree. In March, Smith directs “The Story,” a drama about bad journalism and racial politics at a newspaper.
17. William Brown
Actor & director
Back in December, the Trib named Brown Chicagoan of the Year and it’s easy to see why. With his pitch-perfect stagings of “Our Town” at Writers’ Theatre and “Lady Windermere’s Fan” at Northlight (plus a production of “Paragon Springs” at TimeLine), Brown has been among the busier directors in town. For a third year in a row, he will play Scrooge in the Goodman’s upcoming production of “A Christmas Carol,” and next spring, he directs George Bernard Shaw’s “Arms and the Man” for Writers’ Theatre.
18. Charles Newell
Artistic director, Court Theatre
Newell’s run at the Court Theatre has established it as a reliable forum for smart productions of literate plays. Last spring, in addition to overseeing the striking “Fraulein Else,” Newell left his Hyde Park perch to bring “Cyrano” to the MCA. The Court’s fiftieth-anniversary season begins this fall, and it’s an ambitious one: Newell will direct back-to-back two classics that demand impeccable timing, “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” and “The Importance of Being Earnest.”
19. Mary Zimmerman
Director, writer, teacher, Lookingglass Theatre ensemble member
Tony-award-winning Mary Zimmerman is a staple in the Chicago theater scene. Last winter, she kicked off the season with “The Secret in the Wings” in the Lookingglass’ brand-spanking new theater in Chicago’s Historic Pumping Station. Next spring, “Silk,” her adaptation of the popular Alessandro Barico novel, will run at the Goodman Theatre. Though Chicago’s her home, Zimmerman’s genius is much too big for one city. This November, she’ll direct Shakespeare’s “Pericles” at The Shakespeare Theatre in D.C.
20. Willy Shives
Dancer, Joffrey Ballet of Chicago
One of the most recognizable members of the Joffrey corps, Shives performed principal roles in everything from the highly praised “Romeo and Juliet” (as Romeo), to Gerald Arpino’s world-premiere ballet “Ruth, Ricordi per Due,” to that perennial staple, “The Nutcracker.” Shives, recently named assistant ballet master, will perform in the troupe’s Nureyev tribute in October.
21. Andrew White
Actor, writer, director & founding member, Lookingglass Theatre Company
As The Writer in About Face’s musical version of “Winesburg, Ohio,” this summer, White ably guided the action of the play from one scene to the next. He’ll do the same thing behind the scenes this fall, when he directs his own adaptation of George Orwell’s “1984” for Lookingglass. One of the more highly anticipated productions of the new season, “1984” arrives just in time for the November elections.
22. T. J. Jagodowski
Director & performer
Improv is to Chicago what screenwriting is to L. A. (what your waiter, your accountant, and your significant other have in common), and Jagodowski’s our Charlie Kaufman. With a perfect sense of the zany and the humane and an encyclopedic range of reference, Jagodowski, along with Dave Pasquesi, has turned Wednesday evenings at ImprovOlympic into an extended seminar on the possibilities of the form.
23. Mike Nussbaum
Sure, Mike Nussbaum is a star of screens both big and small, but what Chicagoans know him for best is his captivating theater performances. Most recently, Nussbaum played the prince as an old man in The Utopian Theatre Asylum’s “The Sweet Little Prince” at Victory Gardens Theater. Only Nussbaum can so effortlessly pull off playing an old man while remaining so ageless. No wonder he was awarded the Illinois Arts Alliance Foundation’s Annual Arts Legend Award last year.
24. Michael Halberstam
Artistic director & co-founder, Writers’ Theatre
2003 proved to be Halberstam’s year as director, helming notable productions of “Crime and Punishment” and “Rough Crossing.” This season may be even bigger for the Artistic director and co-founder of Writers’ Theatre, as he directs Curt Columbus’ adaptation of Chekhov’s masterpiece, “The Seagull.” Also on Writers’ schedule: George Bernard Shaw’s romance “Arms and the Man” and Nick Whitby’s “To The Green Fields Beyond.”
25. Amy Morton
Actor & director, Steppenwolf Theatre ensemble member
Steppenwolf’s utility artist has had much success both on-stage and off, with an impressive turn in Kushner’s “Homebody/Kabul” last summer and a directing gig on the Pulitzer-winning “Topdog/Underdog” shortly after. This season, the Oak Park resident directs another Oak Park local, John Mahoney, in Ronald Harwood’s “The Dresser,” set in 1942 England.
26. Russ Tutterow
Artistic director, Chicago Dramatists
Tutterow’s efforts to open doors for emerging local writers and performers ranks as one the most notable aspects of Chicago theater, as Chicago Dramatists provide workshop programs and groom new plays from infancy to adulthood. Last fall’s “Soft Target” proved that talent lies within the theater, and this season’s premiere, “The Age of Cynicism or Karaoke Night at the Hog,” begins this month. In March, Tutterow is set to direct the full-length drama “South Africa.”
27. Brian Sidney Bembridge
Most theater productions would be terribly lacking if it weren’t for a great scene and lighting that’s just right. That’s why Brian Sidney Bembridge’s job is so important. Chicago’s most renowned scenic designer, the thirtysomething just racked up a Jeff Award for his lighting of TimeLine’s production of “Hannah and Martin,” which he also designed the set for. Most recently, the visionary mastermind designed the sets of Lookingglass’ “The Shaggs: Philosophy of the World” and Live Bait Theater’s “Camp Nimrod for Girls.”
28. Henry Godinez
Director & Goodman Theatre artistic associate
Havana’s claim in the Chicago theater scene has proved himself the head honcho in Latino theater, after programming the second Latino Theater Festival at Goodman and directing Nilo Cruz’s “Anna in the Tropics” at Victory Gardens last year. The Goodman artistic associate just wrapped up a gig directing Luis Alfraro’s “Electricidad,” which was the centerpiece of the festival this year.
29. Marta Juaniza
Public relations manager, Department of Cultural Affairs
Whether it’s putting together an audio walking tour for Millennium Park or programming plays, Marta Juaniza is doing it all. She’s been highly instrumental in booking theater companies rent-free in spaces like Gallery 37 Center for the Arts’ Storefront Theater and the Cultural Center’s Studio Theater—making cutting-edge theatrics accessible. When space became an issue, Juaniza began booking companies at the vacant Loop Theater, which was slated for demolition this past June. But, thanks to its success, the program has been extended through December, featuring such productions as greasy joan & company’s production of “Antigone,” 500 Clown’s“500 Clown Frankenstein,” and Hell In A Handbag Productions’ “Rudolph the Red Hosed Reindeer.”
30. Jim Vincent
Artistic director, Hubbard Street Dance Chicago
The artistic director for Hubbard Street Dance Chicago took the reigns from the great founder Lou Conte just over four years ago, and in that short time he’s certainly made a name for himself. He choreographs HSDC’s twenty-one dancers, and last year proved memorable, as HSDC turned 25. Earlier this year, Vincent made history when his company appeared on stage with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra for the first time.
31. Gary Griffin
This guy’s got Tony written all over him. The director helped build the Chicago Shakespeare Theater into an admirable Chicago institution, and international fame seems destined. This fall, he directs the musical version of “The Color Purple” for Alliance Theatre at the Woodruff in Atlanta, while still allegedly finding time to direct a to-be-announced musical production at Chicago Shakespeare this spring.
32. Anna D. Shapiro
Director, Steppenwolf Theatre associate artist
With her mood-infused production of “Man From Nebraska,” Shapiro transformed Tracy Letts’ spare, cinematic script into something unforgettable. Her direction of Robert Anderson’s 1968 sap-fest, “I Never Sang For My Father,” was remarkably entertaining. With Shapiro at the helm, you know you’re getting the good stuff. This spring, she directs Letts in “The Pain and the Itch” at Steppenwolf.
33. Anthony Fleming III
Actor, Lookingglass artistic associate
Fleming could recite municipal code and make it sound interesting. And he’s graced with an indefinable X-factor that invariably makes him the most interesting person on stage. Last winter, critics sat up and took notice of his performance in “Free Man of Color” at Victory Gardens. The sky’s the limit for this extremely talented actor who is equally at home with comedic and dramatic roles. Coming up, he stars as the double agent O’Brien in “1984” at Lookingglass.
34. B.J. Jones
Actor, Artistic director, Northlight Theatre
It’s not easy balancing risky artistic goals with the demands of an aging north suburban audience, but Jones has done a hell of a job of it. Last season included stellar productions of “Lady Windermere’s Fan” and “Tuesdays with Morrie.” Thankfully, Jones also sneaks in more compelling works like “Blue/Orange,” in which he starred, as well. (Most of his time is spent behind the scenes, though Jones remains a very, very good actor.) This year, he presides over Northlight’s thirtieth-anniversary season.
35. Brett Neveu
Playwright, A Red Orchid Theatre ensemble member
The success of Neveu’s “American Dead” at American Theater Company only reaffirmed his place as one of Chicago’s most significant playwrights. And his reputation is spreading beyond local borders; a small New York theater company recently staged something called “Brettfest 2004.” Bigger opportunities could be on the horizon—“Lord of the Rings” star Sean Astin contacted Neveu after reading a profile of the writer in Chicago magazine. In the spring, Neveu’s latest play, “4 Murders,” will debut at A Red Orchid, where he recently became a company member.
36. Mickle Maher
Playwright & co-founder, Theater Oobleck
Maher’s mashups of high and low culture have been providing postmodern tutelage to Chicago audiences for some time now. His hilariously moving “Spirits to Enforce,” up last winter at Curious Theatre, features telemarketing superheroes eager to produce their own version of Shakespeare’s “Tempest.” Maher’s poignant gifts with language got wider distribution in the spring when Redmoon and the Court Theatre presented his rhymed translation of Cyrano at the MCA.
37. Matthew Goulish
Co-founder, Goat Island
Goat Island, the performance group Goulish co-founded with Lin Hixson in 1987, remains a linchpin of the experimental performance scene in Chicago. This year the group presented segments of a yearlong writing project at Performing Arts Chicago; in the fall, they take their new full-length performance to Europe. With British artist Tim Etchells, Goulish also runs a side project, the Institute of Failure; the Institute failed beautifully on the MCA’s stage when Etchells visited last spring.
38. David Kodeski
Live Bait’s annual Fillet of Solo showcase for quirky and adventurous solo performance provides a forum for the next generation of Spalding Grays and has spotlighted unique talents like Stephanie Shaw and Edward Thomas-Herrera. But perhaps the most visible soloist lately has been Neo-futurist alum Kodeski; with his “True Life Tales,” based on found diaries and other personal mementos, he’s invented his own sub-genre, revealing ghost worlds with strangeness, pathos, and humor.
39. Nathan Allen
Artistic director, The House Theatre
After a season of feverish praise, the House Theatre reemerged this summer with the energetic take on the birth of language, “Cave With Man.” Allen directed this physically and sonically immersive piece by troupe member Stephen Taylor. It’s not all “Quest for Fire” this year at the House, though; they return to their tradition of revisionist biography with this winter’s “Dave DaVinci Saves the Universe.”
40. Curt Columbus
Director, writer & translator
Columbus, trained in Russian literature at Yale, has made a career of putting that knowledge to use. The upcoming season will see two of his Chekhov translations take the stage in Chicago: Steppenwolf does “The Cherry Orchard” this fall, followed by his “Seagull” at the Lookingglass. When not mulling over lost youth and the intricacies of verbs of motion, Columbus finds time to oversee Theatre on the Lake and serve as artistic associate for Steppenwolf and Victory Gardens.
41. Charna Halpern
Producer & co-founder, ImprovOlympic
Halpern vigorously tends to the legacy of Del Close from her Wrigleyville theater. Offering a formidable array of pure improvisation and scripted shows, the ImprovOlympic hosts the manically entertaining Baby Wants Candy, who improvise a one-act musical from audience suggestions, as well as the sublime Jagodowski and Pasquesi. The less-experienced groups that fill out the bills can be wildly uneven, but offer the prospect of seeing the next yet-to-be-discovered Mike Myers.
42. Tim Evans
Producer, Steppenwolf Theatre’s Traffic series
Evans has turned Mondays—typically a dark night in theater—into a prime opportunity to showcase talents not usually seen at the Steppenwolf. Over the past year, the Traffic series featured the clowning of Bill Irwin, the droll humor of Garrison Keillor and a sold-out, weeklong appearance by the master of deadpan himself, David Sedaris. Coming up, a performance by public radio’s Terry Gross and a staged reading of Studs Terkel’s “Will the Circle Be Unbroken.”
43. Jonathan Pitts
Executive producer, Chicago Improv Festival
Pitts has built the Chicago Improv Festival into the biggest improv and sketch festival on Earth, or so they claim. What is big is that this year, the festival’s seventh, Pitts expanded it from eight days to ten, making room for more troupes and more laughs, and bringing, again, a huge amount of attention to Chicago comedy’s drug of choice.
44. PJ Powers
Artistic director & co-founder, TimeLine Theatre Company
The artistic director and co-founder of the off-Loop TimeLine Theatre Company does impressive things with a limited budget, mostly by surrounding himself with all the right people. Last year, the actor grabbed a Jeff award for his performance in “Hauptmann,” and this year’s “Hannah and Martin” went nuts with six Jeff’s. This season at TimeLine showcases the Chicago premiere of “Pravda” and the world premiere of “Martin Furey’s Shot.”
45. Karen Aldridge
Ever since her breakthrough performance in “Le Costume” two years ago, Aldridge has been an actor in demand. She has yet to be cast in a role that reveals what she’s truly capable of, but it’s only a matter of time. This past season, she was a jaded bartender in Tracy Letts’ Pulitzer-nominated “Man From Nebraska,” an introverted math genius in the Goodman’s all-African-American version of “Proof,” and a bewildered hat designer in the post-apocalyptic fable, “Far Away,” at Next Theatre. This fall, she stars as Nina in “The Seagull” at Writers’ Theatre.
46. Jason Loewith
Artistic director, The Next Theatre Company
Loewith became Next Theatre’s artistic director fairly recently, but he’s already established a strong record. Reflecting his prior work with the Court, Loewith’s brought a mixture of classic and intellectually savvy contemporary work to Evanston. Last season featured a new version of Moliere’s “Misanthrope” (directed by Loewith) and Caryl Churchill’s “Far Away”; in the fall, he premieres the Pulitzer-nominated comedy “Omnium Gatherum.”
47. Tatjana Radisic
A true artiste, Radisic’s high-concept costume designs are impossible to miss, whether you’re talking about her molting-bird-inspired frocks for the Court-Redmoon collaboration “Cyrano,” her zany getups for 500 Clown or her horse-themed work for Live Bait’s “Camp Nimrod for Girls.” Check your programs—more often than not, Radisic’s name is there. She had no fewer than five shows to her credit this past year and shows no sign of stopping.
48. Molly Brennan
Actor, 500 Clown ensemble member
Even during her Factory Theater days, Brennan was a standout—and we’re not just referring to her fuchsia hair. Equal parts mischievous little sister, dancing nerd and loudmouthed provocateur, Brennan’s comedic talents and acts of physical daring-do have taken on new meaning since she hooked up with 500 Clown—and directors agree. Shade Murray cast her as a vaudevillian clown in “Fatty Arbuckle’s Spectacular Musical Revue,” and she was handpicked by no less than Tina Landau for the director’s experimental Steppenwolf Garage work, “Theatrical Essays.” In October, Brennan and 500 Clown revive their deconstruction of Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein.”
49. Jenny Magnus & Beau O’Reilly
Playwrights, actors & founders, Curious Theatre Branch
When O’Reilly’s not monitoring the “gooning” situation in Rogers Park for NPR, he and Magnus present some of Chicago’s freshest work at their Curious Theatre Branch. This past season, Curious Theatre hosted Mickle Maher’s “Spirits to Enforce” and the Civil War-themed “My Name is Mudd.” But the season’s highlight may have been O’Reilly’s triple Beckett bill; an impeccable cast, including Guy Massey along with O’Reilly and Magnus, staged three seldom-performed one-acts. Curious Theatre Branch once again hosts the experimental Rhinoceros Festival this fall.
50. Stephan Mazurek
Writer & director, ensemble member, Walkabout Theater Company
Who would’ve thought a small script that takes place in a random crapper could be such an underground hit? “Downsize” took charge while produced in the bathroom at Piper’s Alley, and director Mazurek, a videographer and director of photography for commercials and episodes of VH1’s “Behind the Music,” is who we have to thank.