Saturday, December 29, 2012

“Stitched & Seriously Unprepared Prepares” Opens January 13 At Annoyance Theatre

“Stitched & Seriously Unprepared Prepares” is a double bill of two popular sketch comedy teams who use unconventional paths to explore a variety of dark worlds, scary characters, and hidden truths. In other words, real life as seen through the eyes of Annoyance Theatre performers.

“Stitched” is directed by Anneliese Toft and stars three actors -- Erin Johnson, Jack Farrell, and Wolfgang Stein -- who begin the show as solo players, but as scenes overlap, get stitched together into two and three person scenes. Unusual in concept, the actors’ separateness dissolves until their likemindedness and similarities mold the three shows into one.  The dark world inhabited by “Stitched” may find its characters facing a hot microphone, or introducing a child-murdering mother. Or not. “Dark comedy to us is in the unrealized truth revealed,” explains Jack Farrell. “We use characters to expose the soft, vulnerable underbelly of life through accentuated slices-of-life scenes.”

“Seriously Unprepared Prepares” features the comedy duo favorites, Jo Scott and Jeff Murdoch, who have performed as part of the larger team, “Seriously Unprepared.” This Annoyance version, directed by Ryan McDermott, presents a 30-minute, fast-paced sketch show that zooms from low- to high-brow and encourages its audience do some post-show pondering of what really went on before their eyes. Topics range from somber death row and funeral backdrops to a raunchy Victoria's Secret lunchbox. “Expect pee bits as well as fun,” warns Jo Scott. “There will be fun.”

“Stitched & Seriously Unprepared Prepares” plays Sunday nights, 8 p.m., January 13 - February 3, 2013. Tickets are $10 and may be purchased at the company’s website or by calling the box office: 773.561.HONK (4665). The Annoyance is located at 4830 N. Broadway, Chicago, Illinois, 60640.

Managing Director, Annoyance Theatre
P: 773.561.4664
F: 773.561.3999

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

God is Gay and Wants You to Be Gay, Too: Proof From the Bible

"God is Gay and Wants You to Be Gay, Too: Proof From the Bible," a solo show from Lee Barats, opens December 16, 2012 and plays through January 6, 2013 at The Annoyance Theatre.

In his audacious satire, comedian Lee Barats creates an eerily authentic conversion camp using audience volunteers. Presenting himself as an earnest evangelical youth group leader, Barats employs the same guilt and emotion employed by Christian camps; but this time, straight men will be converted to gay.

Barats assures us that young men who struggle with same-sex attraction can now breathe easier because groups like Exodus International, who insist you can “pray away your gay,” have it all wrong. God isn't anti-gay, In fact, He wants His children to be gay, and Barats uses his rainbow-colored lens to point to passages in the bible that confirm his views.

“God is Gay...” is directed by Jared Jeffries (TV Screams at iO, Farrell Walsh’s “Last Resort” at iO).

Along with "God is Gay...," Barats is the co-creator with his brother, Matt of "The 101th" which plays at the Annoyance through November 11, 2012. Barats and his brother are also avid air-guitar competitors and devotees. Barats has performed in the Annoyance’s "Skinprov”, as well as iO’s “Big Spoon," The Playground Theater’s “The Grrr,” and Chemically Imbalanced Theater’s “Mad Contender.”

“God is Gay and Wants You to Be Gay, Too: Proof from the Bible" will play Sundays, 8PM. Tickets are $10, $8 for students and can be purchased at the Annoyance website, or call the box office: 773.561.HONK (4665). The Annoyance is located at 4830 N. Broadway.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Tech for Rookies: hands-on lessons for mobile phones and pads

 I'm pleased to announce a new sideline:

Tech for Rookies: hands-on lessons for mobile phones and pads

The Basic Package includes four, 45-minute private lessons, and four follow-up questions via phone or email. Cost is $150.

To book your sessions, or for more information, contact:, or call 773-320-5681.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

"It's Christmas, Goddanmit" Plays in December at The Annoyance

"It’s Christmas, Goddamnit,” a new play that upends nostalgic family get-togethers, plays Saturday nights, 10 p.m. December 1-29, 2012 at The Annoyance Theatre.

This year’s annual Christmas celebration at the James’ home has a macabre twist. Along with the traditional passive-aggressive silences and sniping, Dad has surprising news: he’s been dilly-dallying with the next door neighbor. Now, throw in the accidental murder of a loathed uncle -- with the neighborly sweetheart’s “slow” son as the culprit -- and you have a Christmas Eve decorated with dysfunction, distrust, and disaster; but damn funny.

Director Charley Carroll admits to using his own Southern family’s dreadful way of communicating to shape the slapstick performances of an array of zany characters. “Sadly, it wasn’t hard to envision my own relatives pretending to be charming and lovable, and then descending into browbeating and sarcasm,” Carroll says. “Yet, what a treasure trove for comedy!”

Carroll’s assistant director for the show is Duke Harbison. “It’s Christmas, Goddamnit,” was created by an ensemble that includes Bridget Ballek, Mantas Dumcius, Annie Donley, Emily Fitzpatrick, Paul Jurewicz, Jeff Murdoch, Jimmy Pennington, Kellen Terrett, Lee Russell, and Jo Scott. This same goofy group has performed in the Annoyance’s “Splatter Theater” and will be seen in a remount of their well received “The Tragedy of Balloon Boy” scheduled for January, 2012.

"It’s Christmas, Goddamnit,” plays Saturdays, 10 p.m., December 1-29, 2012. Tickets are $20. For more information, view the Annoyance website, or call the box office: 773.561.HONK (4665). The Annoyance is located at 4830 N. Broadway, Chicago, Il. 60640.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Three Chicago Actresses To Join L.A. Author Racelle Rosett At Book Cellar October 25

 CHICAGO - When Los Angeles author Racelle Rosett (photo, far left) reads from her debut story collection, “Moving Waters” at the Book Cellar in Lincoln Square, the audience will enjoy a special bonus because the prize-winning writer will be joined by three admired Chicago-area actresses.

    Reading excerpts with Rosett at the free event, which is scheduled for Thursday, October 25, 2012, 6 p.m, are: Lia Mortensen (photo, second), a Jeff nominated actress who has appeared in productions at Steppenwolf, Goodman, Chicago Shakespeare, Northlight, Court, Next and Victory Gardens;  Jennifer Estlin (photo, third), an actor, and owner and executive producer of Chicago's Annoyance Theatre who has worked in Off-Broadway and regional theatre, film, and television; and Nili Yelin (photo, far right), an award-winning children's storyteller known as The Storybook Mom, and marketing and public relations director for the Wilmette Theatre.
    Rosett’s appearance at the popular Book Cellar, 4736 N. Lincoln Ave., Chicago,  is part of the author’s national tour with the Jewish Book Council. She won a Writing award for the television show, “thirtysomething” and is the winner of the Moment Magazine-Karma Foundation Prize for Jewish Short Fiction and the Lilith Fiction Prize.

    “Moving Waters” introduces us to a television producer who moonlights as a cantor, an actress who leaves her husband for their nanny and enters a mikvah to mark the transition, and a young widow who gets her hair colored to prepare for the unveiling of her husband’s gravestone.

    In its portrayal of Rosett’s story collection, The Jewish Book Council describes “Moving Waters” as an “exploration of the unexpected role of ancient ritual as it informs the lives of members of a Reform Jewish community in Hollywood...... Rosett’s stories help us to know these characters whose losses and struggles are deeply felt in each story, revealing the importance of faith in a seemingly faithless place.”

    For more information about Rosett, go to and for details about the Book Cellar, visit its website,

The actresses:

   Lia Mortensen has worked as an actor in Chicago theatre for over 20 years, including productions at Steppenwolf, Goodman, Chicago Shakespeare, Northlight, Court, Next and Victory Gardens.  She is an ensemble member of Provision Theater where she will in the spring appear in a new adaptation of “Spoon River Anthology,” and The Den Theatre where she directed her first production, “Bus Stop.” She will be directing “Quality of Life” at The Den this fall, as well as appearing in a remount of Brian Friel’s “Faith Healer,” which played to critical acclaim in Chicago 15 years ago.  Mortensen has appeared in TV and film, most recently on “Chicago Code” and in the remake of “Nightmare on Elm Street.”  She also  has a successful career in voiceover.

   Jennifer Estlin is an actress as well as an owner and executive producer of Chicago's Annoyance Theatre.  She has worked in Off-Broadway and regional theatre, film, and television. Her better known roles include recurring character Cathy Briscoe on NBC’s “Law and Order,” and she has appeared on “Late Night with Conan O’Brien,” “Exit 57,” and soap operas “Loving” and “As the World Turns.”  Film credits include “Volcano” and indie movies “Choose,” “iMurders,” and “Chicago Boricua.”

   Nili Yelin is an award-winning children's storyteller known as The Storybook Mom. She performs throughout the Chicago area for clients that include The Chicago Tribune, Field Museum, Shedd Aquarium, Arlington Park, Chicago Botanic Gardens, and schools, libraries, and family-friendly organizations. Yelin is in development with Storyola Productions on a storybook app for children ages 2-6 and is working on a book proposal on storytelling technique called "How To Rock A Story." She also is marketing director for the Wilmette Theatre and produces all their live events for children.


“Kitty Massacre: The Making of Milo and Otis” Premiers at The Annoyance

Unlike childhood classic, no animals will be harmed in this production

Lifting a plot from the childhood classic, “The Adventures of Milo and Otis,” Chicago’s Annoyance Theatre has announced the premier of  “Kitty Massacre: The Making of Milo and Otis,” which will preview Sept. 29 and October 6, then run Saturday nights at 8 p.m. through December 1.

Created by Jeremy Dionisio, and written by Dionisio and Liz Bell, “Kitty Massacre” zanily imagines what went on behind the scenes of the 1986 Japanese film classic. And since this is the Annoyance -- a theatre company renown for its satiric and comedic take on its themes -- this version pits an evil, domineering executive producer, Hal Higby, against a dedicated young producer, Maggie, and her animal wrangler fiancĂ©, Charlie, while at the same time, coping with an unruly eccentric director, Tatsuo Nojima. The show promises, “romance, torture, greed.”

While the actual production was criticized for putting their live animal cast in continuous danger over the four years of shooting, Dionisio and Bell insist their animals -- Bell’s real-life rescued pets -- will remain adored, but unharmed throughout the show’s run.

Dionisio said he didn’t see the Masanori Hata-film when it first came out “because my mother ordered us to boycott the movie.” He eventually viewed it and it remained in his memory until the recent controversy surrounding the HBO show, “Luck” jarred it to top of mind. As for Bell, an  animal activist who will be participating in the Chicago Marathon as a PAWS Charity Runner,  she “loves the juxtaposition between this sweet, fuzzy, innocent children’s film about cuddly little kittens and puppies and the awful allegations of animal cruelty.”

Despite it being madcap, Dionisio sees his show “as a commentary on the machine-like approach of the film industry as they chew up and spit out young, aspiring actors. The movie we’re mocking seemed to burn through a stable of helpless animals.”

Along with Liz Bell, other members of the “Kitty Massacre” cast include Brittany Davis, Mantas Dumcius, Avery Lee, Jack Swokowski, and Ben Zisk. The show is also a homage to 1980’s pop culture, so the singing and dancing will feature hit songs, especially those of Lionel Richie.

Tickets are $20, $15 for students and during previews, and can be purchased either at The Annoyance website,, or by calling the box office at (773) 561-HONK (4665). The Annoyance is located at 4830 N. Broadway, Chicago, Illinois.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Director Scott Waldman to be “Almost ATLANTA" Guest Playwright Sept. 15 at Annoyance Theatre

CHICAGO -  Take a quick-witted group of improv performers, toss in the narrative skill of a playwright, stir in dramatic scenes unusual for this venue, and you have an exciting theatre piece playing on Saturdays in September, 10 p.m. at Chicago’s Annoyance Theatre, 4830 N. Broadway.

Titled, “Almost ATLANTA” (poster image), the unusual melange has ambitious goals: to introduce traditional playgoers to the spontaneity of improv and to bring to improvisation some of the gravitas of serious drama.

Rebecca Sohn (photo), spokesperson for the troupe, which includes director Scott Woldman and other well-known improvisers: TJ Jagodowski, Noah Gregoropoulos, Linda Orr, Annie Donley, Ted Tremper, Annie Calhoun, and Brian Wilson, said the response from audiences where “Almost ATLANTA” has been performed -- like Steppenwolf’s Garage Theater and Chicago Dramatists -- has encouraged the actors to continue this new blend of theatre and to bring it home to the Annoyance, where it was first launched.

The addition of a different playwright at each show -- Scott Woldman is on board for September 15 and Tony Werner for September 22 -- is key to the group’s intent, Sohn says. “This is new for the playwright, and for improvisers. Instead of the audience suggesting location and theme, it’s the playwright in charge. After the cast creates characters and story in Act One, there’s a three-minute pause with the audience staying put and able to listen while the playwright gives direction for Act Two.

“Improvisers and writers approach the work differently.  The audience is invited to be part of this blend as we create a two-act play with the tension of drama and the humor of improv, that will disappear after the night’s performance.”

Jennifer Estlin (photo), Annoyance’s executive producer, said, “Mick [Napier, creative director] and I are excited to have Almost Atlanta back home. We hosted a series of their shows in 2011, and are anxious to see how the concept has evolved. It's the kind of innovative work our audiences appreciate."

Tickets for “Almost ATLANTA” are $12, $8 for students, and can be purchased at the company’s website or by calling the box office: 773.561.HONK (4665).

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Tickets on sale for Annoyance Theatre’s 25th Anniversary Celebration

Annoyance Theatre, the company that since the late 1980’s has brought Chicago audiences such hits as “Co-Ed Prison Sluts,”  “The Real Live Brady Bunch,” “Swear Jar,”  “Messing with a Friend” and this year is producing “Steamwerkz-The Musical,” “The Holy F*ck Comedy Hour,” and nearly a dozen more edgy and irreverent shows, is celebrating its 25th year.

In honor of the landmark occasion, Annoyance family from past and present are gathering and having a grand party. Annoyance’s founder and artistic director Mick Napier said, “Fans of the shows -- no matter the era -- are invited to join us. The entertainment will include actors and scenes from our classic and current line-up and it will be a great, fun night for everyone.”

Festivities are set for Saturday, August 18 at the Park West, 322  W. Armitage Ave., Chicago, according to Annoyance’s executive producer Jennifer Estlin. “Doors open at 7 p.m. for a cash bar, reminiscing and visiting," she added.

Show time is 8:30 p.m. Tickets are $25 each and available to those 18 years and older and can be purchased at Jam Productions.

For more information about the Annoyance, check out its website,
or call 773.561.HONK (4665). The Annoyance is located at 4830 N. Broadway, in Chicago’s Uptown neighborhood.

ESPR Welcomes Racelle Rosett And Her Debut Collection “Moving Waters” To Its Client Roster

We’re proud to announce that prize-winning author, Racelle Rosett, has been added to our client roster. Rosett, the winner of both the Moment Magazine-Karma Foundation Prize for Jewish Short Fiction and the Lilith Fiction Prize, will be in Chicago in October during her 2012 book tour. We’re excited about the opportunity to bring to area readers “the sly, deft stories of Racelle Rosett,” as described by the Association of Jewish Libraries.

“Moving Waters” introduces us to a television producer who moonlights as a cantor, an actress who leaves her husband for their nanny and enters a mikvah to mark the transition, and a young widow who gets her hair colored to prepare for the unveiling of her husband’s gravestone.

In their portrayal of Rosett’s debut collection, The Jewish Book Council describes “Moving Waters” as an “exploration of  the unexpected role of ancient ritual as it informs the lives of members of a Reform Jewish community in Hollywood. Guided by the compassionate leadership of Rabbi Beth, members of the young female rabbi’s congregation discover themselves, their connection to each other and to God. Set against the landscape of contemporary Los Angeles, Rosett’s stories help us to know these characters whose losses and struggles are deeply felt in each story, revealing the importance of faith in a seemingly faithless place.”

Rosett’s work has appeared in “Tikkun,” “Ploughshares,” the “New Vilna Review,”  “Jewish Fiction,” the “Santa Monica Review,” and “Zeek.” As a television writer, Rosett won the WGA award for “thirtysomething.” She lives in Los Angeles with her husband and two sons.

Directors of synagogues, women's organizations, book groups, and ethnic study programs, who are interested in receiving a review copy of “Moving Waters,” are encouraged to contact Meanwhile, story samples are available at

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Wilmette couple gets funnier with age

Wilmette Village News
Wilmette couple gets funnier with age
Taubenecks keep things fresh with improv training

by Alan P. Henry

July 13, 2012

Anne (bottom row, far left) and Greg Taubeneck (top row, second from right) gather with fellow students of an intensive class at Annoyance Theatre out of Chicago. photo:Photos Submitted.

Retirees Anne and Greg Taubeneck simply won't act their age. Moreover, annoyance has become their favorite mode of expression.

While many other seniors are engaged in civilized pursuits like golf and tennis and bridge, this Wilmette couple has liberated itself from dignity and joined students decades younger to learn and practice the art of improv at the Annoyance Theatre in Chicago.

"We are the old people there, but that doesn't matter," said Anne, 65, who was a freelance writer for many years for the Chicago Sun-Times and Chicago Tribune, specializing in coverage of food, arts and travel.

"One of the bad things about getting old is the thought that 'Oh no, I am old. I have to behave in a certain way.' Well, no you don't," she said. "This is an environment where you don't have to act your age. It is age blind, gender blind, color blind. You can be a little kid or a teenager or a different gender. That is kind of cool."

Her husband has a similar take.

"You spend your life writing stuff, which means you are always looking at it and second guessing it and worrying about it," said Greg, 69, who worked for Leo Burnett for 32 years and retired in 2005 as executive creative director.

Among many career accomplishments, he co-created the Rhapsody in Blue United Airlines campaign in the 1980s.

"With improv you are making it up as you go along," Greg said. "There is no looking back. It is over once you do it. There is something very freeing and crazy about making everything up as you go along."

The road to crazy has been a long one for the Taubenecks, who have been married for 43 years, have lived in Wilmette since 1978 and have two children, 23 and 33, both living in New York City.

They met while performing in a University of Illinois student production of "A Funny Thing Happened On The Way to the Forum." After a 30-plus year hiatus, they began performing in charity shows for the Evanston Women's Club.

That led to meeting improv star Susan Messing, who was a performer on the Second City main stage and now teaches and performs at the Annoyance Theatre.

Anne and Greg got their improv feet wet with a group called "Mouth to Mouth" that primarily met at people's homes, then took classes at Second City.

They also read "Improvise," by Mick Napier, improv legend and the founder nearly 25 years ago of the Annoyance Theatre.

Last September, Anne and Greg enrolled in an intensive, one-week class at Annoyance taught by "an All-Star lineup" that included Napier and Messing.

"We had a great time and thought, 'Let's take the curriculum,'" said Anne.

They have been enrolling in one-night-a-week eight week sessions ever since.

"The Annoyance way of looking at improv is to be very character or emotion based," she said. "You have a real strong emotion in mind, and you can basically say anything and you should be able to get a scene going."

Anne recalled, for example, her improv as a Viking named Demetri, who confesses while on the open sea to motion sickness and asks a fellow Viking for a Tums.

Greg particularly enjoyed playing a high school football player who at halftime is seeking advice from his coach. The only problem: The coach is a flamboyant drama coach. Absurd events follow.

"You never know what you are going to get," laughed Greg.

"You have to use your brain. It is an active pursuit, not a passive pursuit," Anne said. "You have to really be engaged and pay attention."

You have to also want to cast aside convention, both agreed.

"Your whole adult life when you are working or you are a parent, you are trying to be a grownup and do things the way you are supposed to do them, and you try to be responsible," Anne said. "Improv is the opposite of that. You throw all that out the window. You can be haughty or angry or flirty or anything you want to be. You can be totally improper. It is very liberating."

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Chicago’s Annoyance Named Theatre in Residence in Wilmette

After a successful season of shows developed at Chicago’s Annoyance Theatre, and performed at the Wilmette Theatre, the northern suburb’s own eclectic movie house and live event space, has named Annoyance its “Theatre in Residence.” And with the atypical designation, comes a line up for Saturdays in July, September, October, November, and December.

Nili Yelin, director of public relations and marketing for the 98-year-old Wilmette Theatre, was instrumental in forging the relationship. She said “North Shore audiences have proven to be good sports and enthusiastic fans of original, edgy comedy.

“‘Co-Ed Prison Sluts,’ which started us off, pulled in ticket buyers who appreciated the location closer to home. And,  Annoyance’s subversive, edgy, and provocative original material brought audiences back for all of the other migrated shows.”

Yelin, and Jennifer Estlin, Annoyance’s president, executive producer, and owner, suggest suburbanites mark their calendars for the following shows scheduled for Saturdays in 2012, at 8 p.m.:

July 28, “A Woman's Path”
Sept. 22, “Don't Act like a Girl”
Oct. 20, “Brunch Punx”
Nov. 17, “Co-Ed Prison Sluts”
Dec. 15, “Happy Karaoke Funtime” and Philip Markle‘s Actor’s Training Center Improv Group

The Wilmette Theatre is located at 1122 Central Ave., 60091, 847-251-7411. Tickets are $15 and can be purchased on line at or at the door.

The Annoyance Theatre, which celebrates is 25th Anniversary this year, is located at  4830 N. Broadway, Chicago, IL., 60640. (773) 561-4665,

Friday, May 25, 2012

Annoyance Theatre Suggests Gift Cards For Graduates

Graduation is an accomplishment that merits hoopla and gifts. While many proud parents, friends, and relatives might think “tech,” “cash,” or some other reward, Chicago’s Annoyance Theatre has another suggestion -- one they’re certain graduates will truly prize: a gift card towards improvisation classes.

Jennifer Estlin, executive producer, says “Improv classes benefit the graduate in a variety of ways. Along with providing a truly fun and energizing experience, improv can help prepare him or her for the world of work.”

Estlin said people who have trained at the Annoyance report “better working relationships because of the listening, support, and teamwork skills they learned in classes.”

The Annoyance Gift Card can be purchased in denominations of $20 to $250 and can be applied toward classes, or tickets for Annoyance shows, but it can’t be used at the bar or for merchandise.

A new session of the Ultimate Beginner classes, taught by Sean Cusick, starts June 7. The eight-week class meets on Thursdays, 6:30-9:00 p.m.  For more information about other classes, fees, and current shows, go to, or call 773-561-4665. The Annoyance Theatre is located at 4830 N. Broadway, Chicago, IL. 60640.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012


Engaged couples who want to bring more passion and excitement to their wedding, can get a taste of what a flamenco-themed first dance would look like, by taking advantage of a free offer from Flamenco Weddings, a Chicago-based company at 2914 W. Belmont on the city’s northwest side.

On Sunday afternoon, April 15, at 3:00 and 4:00 p.m. Rosetta Magdalen, flamenco dance teacher and choreographer, will teach easy steps for the all-important first dance to future brides, grooms, and their wedding parties. “Even if someone has never danced before, it’s all in the attitude,” Magdalen said. “We think the sensuous dance of Spain brings the fire of flamenco to the dance floor, and more importantly, sets the tone for a wedding reception long talked about and remembered.”

The Flamenco First Dance free mini classes will be part of Flamenco Chicago’s Spring Open House, which will run from 2:00 - 5:00 p.m. on April 15. Visitors to the Open House can also learn about the school’s six-week Fundamentals class, which offers new students an opportunity to experience body alignment and movement, turns, and heel work set to traditional and contemporary flamenco music.

Beginning, intermediate, advanced, and private lessons are also offered at Flamenco Chicago, and Magdalen will be on hand at the Spring Open House to explain all of the these options.

Complementary wine and cheese, and the music of a flamenco guitarist, will add to the April 15 festivities. For more information about Flamenco Weddings, call (773) 680-0039, or go to the website,


Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Flamenco Weddings Adds Zest to Once-in-a-Lifetime Celebrations

Soon-to-be-married couples, who seek to make their wedding receptions memorable, are turning to Flamenco Weddings, a professional Chicago-based troupe of vibrantly costumed dancers, an instrumental flamenco guitarist, and an impassioned singer.

This fresh entry into captivating wedding entertainment is offered by Rosetta Magdalen (photo), a flamenco dancer, teacher and choreographer, who is the founder and artistic director of Flamenco Chicago located at 2914 W. Belmont on the city's northwest side. Magdalen said Flamenco Weddings is now gearing up for the June wedding season and is reaching out to those in the planning stages.

Magdalen says previous performances typically elicit comments like, "Your show made my wedding!” While those responses are delightful and welcome, what the artist really enjoys “is seeing the reaction of guests as they watch our show and then join in on some easy steps. Rarely does anyone remain at their table once the music and dancing start."

Trained as a classical pianist and dancer, with a background in ballet, tap, and folkloric dance, Magdalen settled on flamenco "because it is a percussive dance form, in which the sounds made by the feet become a musical instrument themselves. So, the rhythms and reverberations of the heel work move through your entire body. I really enjoyed the feeling of this."

Along with Flamenco Weddings, Magdalen teaches students of all ages and abilities in 13 classes offered each week. Additionally, the studio presents showcases twice a year, "where everyone is invited to participate," she says, "not just a talented few."

While Magdalen is pleased with the continuing growth of her studio -- it opened in 2003 -- and her expanding wedding business -- what especially satisfies her are the changes she witnesses in students. "It's so exciting to see them develop and grow in their confidence level,” she said, “which they tell me carries over into other areas of their lives. It's obvious the medium of flamenco can be a catalyst for people to get deeply in touch with their own spirt through movement."

As to Flamenco Weddings, Magdalen adds, "What better way to start married life then to give the gift of music, emotion, and fun to those who witness a momentous beginning."

For more information about Flamenco Weddings or Flamenco Chicago, visit the website,, or call 773-680-0039.

(The photographer for the portrait shown above is Marisela Guerra.)

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Fiction and fact converge at The Book Cellar Feb. 16, 7 p.m.

The Book Cellar, an independently owned, community-oriented bookstore located in the heart of Chicago’s Lincoln Square, will play host to two authors who focus their writing on the works of Jane Austen.

Karen Doornebos and her debut novel, “Definitely Not Mr. Darcy” will join English professor Mona Scheuermann, and her most recent nonfiction work, “Reading Jane Austen,” Thursday, Feb. 16, 2012, 7 p.m., 4736-38 N. Lincoln Ave., Chicago, IL. 60625, 773-294-2665.

“Definitely Not Mr. Darcy” tells the story of Chloe Parker who auditions for a Jane Austen-inspired public television documentary set in Derbyshire, England. Important to this 39-year-old divorced mother with a struggling business, there's a $100,000 prize to be awarded to the contestant who can successfully answer trivia questions about Austen's “Pride and Prejudice.” But the documentary turns out to be a reality dating show set in 1812 and eight women are competing to snare Mr. Wrightman, the heir to a gorgeous estate, along with the $100,000 prize.

Published in September of this year by Berkley, Penguin Group, “Definitely Not Mr. Darcy” has garnered rave reviews. “Publishers Weekly” in its starred review said “Doornebos gives the historical romance novel a hilarious update in this delightful debut.” And “RT Book Reviews” added, "this tale combines a fun plot with witty dialogue, charming characters and a strong-willed heroine. It will leave you laughing in delight and reluctant to put it down until the last page is read."

Mona Scheuermann is professor of English at Oakton Community College. She has been guest professor at universities around the world, including the universities of Hamburg and the Free University of Berlin, Germany, the University of Berne, Switzerland, and the University of Melbourne, Australia.

Her books deal with social and historical aspects of eighteenth-century English fiction, particularly in terms of women's experience. Of her new book, Eighteenth-Century Life said, “Austen’s period was arguably the most socially and politically tumultuous in England’s history, and by placing the novels in this remarkable era, Scheuermann sharply defines Austen’s view of the social contract.”

“Reading Jane Austen” was just republished in January as a paperback.

For more information about the reading and signing, call The Book Cellar at 773-294-2665, or go to its website, And, to learn more about Karen Doornebos, visit