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 www.racellerosett.com and for details about the Book Cellar, visit its website, www.bookcellarinc.com.

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, www.annoyanceproductions.com, 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 theannoyance.com or by calling the box office: 773.561.HONK (4665).