Friday, April 25, 2014

Director's Note: A Midsummer Night's Dream

I came to this production of A Midsummer Night's Dream through a series of happy coincidences.

I had seen productions performed in promenade and loved the staging. The experience of being on the same level with the actors, surrounded by their world, was an incredibly vivid and exciting experience.
I felt an immediate urge to do a promenade staging myself, and for several years, I have wanted to do so with one Shakespeare’s plays.

When discussions began in the company about Strangeloop’s upcoming season, I realized it might be the time to finally do it. Promenade is unusual and can put a unique, visceral, intimate twist on classic – a concept that fit right into Strangeloop’s mission. I also knew that we had The Side Project space. While small, it offered many things that could lend themselves to a promenade staging. With its large lobby and multiple doors, I felt it was a venue where the entire space could be utilized for performance. Moving an audience with the action through the space was another concept I had been contemplating for a long time. It seemed to be the right time and the right space for this staging.

I settled on Midsummer as the play because it’s a classic and endearing comedy. Much of Strangeloop’s recent productions, as well as my own personal projects, explored the tragic or dark side of stories. I wanted to do something lighthearted. I felt it was time to do a big, fun, rollicking comedy that made an audience laugh. Midsummer was the natural choice.  It has two distinct worlds – the "normal" world of Athens and the magical forest – which plays perfectly into the staging. And what I enjoy is, at its heart, it’s a honey-tongued farce that manages to be broadly comic while making incredibly profound observations on the nature of love.

Setting the story in the 1940s seemed natural, as well. It was a time of war, upheaval and some uncertainty, but the period somehow has its own classic, timeless sense that lends itself to so many stories. It was a time of darkness that produced to goofy screwball comedies and bright, boisterous big band music. That is ultimately what I tried to accomplish with this production – laughter and optimism in the face of uncertainty and darkness.

Holy Robison

Thursday, April 24, 2014

A Midsummer Night's Dream Bio: Herbert the Lion

Herbert the Lion (The Lion)
is excited to make his Strangeloop debut. He previously was seen roaming the plains of Africa looking for zebra meat and in the Lion King. Favorite roles include Aslan in The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe and the Cowardly Lion in the Wizard of Oz. For some reason people keep trying to cast him as Tigger in Winnie the Pooh and that always ends in an awkward discussion about specie-ism against the Big Cat community. Much love to this cast of A Midsummer Night’s Dream who teach him something new about the craft of acting every day, and to Holly for seeing him across a crowded train station and knowing, on the spot, he’d be perfect for this part. Love always to Miona, who sticks her hand inside me every day and touches my heart. I wouldn’t be the lion I am without you, dear.

A Midsummer NIght's Dream Bio: Tim Larson

Tim Larson (Demetrius) is delighted to be working with Strangeloop for the first time. Other Chicago credits include The Dumb Waiter and The Water's Edge with AstonRep, as well as Waiting For Lefty, The Return of Radio Goggles, and The Revenge of Radio Goggles with Oracle. Tim has been living and performing in Chicago for the past couple of years. He holds a BFA in Acting from the University of Montana and is a proud company member of AstonRep Theatre Company. He'd like to thank the cast and crew for their hard work, and Bonnie for her love and support.

A Midsummer Night's Dream Bio: Caitlin Jackson

Caitlin Jackson (Hippolyta/Titania)
grew up performing and training in Indiana where she worked with Young Actor's Theatre, Indiana Repertory Theatre, Indianapolis Civic Theatre, Edyvean Repertory, Theatre on the Square and the American Cabaret Theatre, as well as others in the Indianapolis area. She moved to Chicago in 1997 to study acting at The Chicago Academy for the Arts, and then majored in performance at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Since then, Caitlin has performed with Chase Park, Ludicrous Theatre, Walkabout Theatre/Knife & Fork, New American Folk Theatre (where she is also a company member), Cowardly Scarecrow's Musical of the Living Dead, Hell in a Handbag's 2013 production of Christmas Dearest (Bette Davis) and, most recently, Wayward Productions (Fight Night 2014). This is her third Midsummer, second "Titania" and first Midsummer with Strangeloop (which she is very happy about as she totally digs these Strangloop folks quite a bit). Thanks to a truly fantastic Director, Holly, and (as always) M,D,K&S. Love to this Cast & Crew...for reals.

A Midsummer Night's Dream Bio: Geoff Zimmerman

Geoff Zimmerman (Theseus/Oberon) has had way more fun than is decent playing with this talented group of people brought together by Strangeloop. He was most recently seen in Innate Theatre's production of The Pillowman. He would like to send out love, as always to his family and friends for their unending support and strength.

A Midsummer Night's Dream Bio: Julia Rigby

Julia Rigby (Puck)
Previous credits include: I am No Bird (Emily Brontë) and The Winter’s Tale (Hermione) with the Alluvium Group, The Comedy of Errors (Dromio of Ephesus) and As You Like It (Jaques) with Spectralia Theatre Company, as well as so many characters in Escape from Chicago and BLOODSPORT! The Musical at The Public House Theatre. Before moving to Chicago, she earned her BFA in Theatre Performance from Virginia Commonwealth University. You can find her on the web at

A Midsummer Night's Dream Bio: Mary-Kate Arnold

Mary-Kate Arnold (Helena)
earned her master’s degree from The Birmingham School of Acting (Birmingham, U.K.). She has performed at the Old Repertory Theatre and her U.K. stage credits include Twelfth Night (Olivia) under the direction of Phillip Breen of the Royal Shakespeare Company, After Mrs. Rochester (Ella), and Playhouse Creatures (Rebecca Marshall). Some Chicago stage credits include Of Dice and Men (Otherworld Theatre), Brilliant Traces (25th Hour Theatre), The Water’s Edge (AstonRep), Fahrenheit 451 (OtherWorld Theatre), The Tempest (Accidental Shakespeare), Macbeth (TheMassive), Wendy in Neverland (Kate Zoe Graham), and After Miss Julie (Focal Point Theatre). She is represented by Ambassador Talent, Inc. Also, she is an artistic ensemble member of OtherWorld Theatre, The Murder Mystery Company and an associate ensemble member of Trap Door Theatre. She wants to thank Strangeloop Theatre for this amazing experience, and especially Michael, her Byronic hero.

A Midsummer Night's Dream Bio: Letitia Guillaud

Letitia Guillaud (Hermia) has a B.A. in Theatre from Ball State University. She is a Co-Artistic Director and the Development Director for Strangeloop Theatre, and a Resident Artist of CIC Theater. Favorite roles include, Stella a.k.a. Pinkie (The Cockups - Mobilewave Films), Amelia (The Robbers - Strangeloop) and Joan of Arc (The Maid of Orleans - Strangeloop). She's worked as an actor, writer, improvisor, director, props designer and production manager, with such companies as The Babes with Blades, TUTA, Seanachai, A Red Orchid, The Annoyance, and iO. Letitia can be seen improvising Regency style at The Bughouse Theatre with Improvised Jane Austen. She would like to thank her husband, family and Strangeloop for all their support.

A Midsummer Night's Dream Bio: Ken Miller

Ken Miller (Lysander)
is pleased o be working with Strangeloop for the second time, having previously appeared in French With Me this past year. Other recent credits include The Passion of Dracula (Theatre-Hikes), Men Exposed (Redtwist), The Tempest and Midsummer Night's Dream (Stone Soup Shakespeare, and The Feast of Saint Mcgonagall and I am Saying this Right Now (The Plagiarists). Ken is an artistic associate with Stone Soup Shakespeare.

A Midsummer Night's Dream Bio: Maria Burnham

Maria Burnham (Quince) is an actress, writer, director, sometimes stage manager, full-time theater monkey and all around jack-of-all-trades. She studied creative writing and theater at Louisiana State University and has worked in Chicago with such companies as Appetite Theatre Co., Stockyards Theatre Project, New Millennium Theatre Co. and Red Theater. You can also see her as another Shakespearean man turned woman as Fortinbras in Hamlet: The Series (now available on YouTube) alongside Kitty and Ken. Maria is thrilled to be a company member with Strangeloop after, you know, basically forcing herself on them — hanging around the parking lot, volunteering to do their homework, helping paint their sets. She loves pursuing the undiscovered, though mostly she’s just in it for the chicken. She also has a little bit of a crush on William Shakespeare, but let's just keep that between us, OK?

A Midsummer Night's Dream Bio: Michael Houghton Wagman

Michael Houghton Wagman (Bottom)
is very excited to once more act with Strangeloop where he has been a company member since 2010. Previous Strangeloop acting credits include The Millionaire Farmer, The Maid of Orleans, As You Like It and Our Perfect Holiday. Other favorite acting credits include Cash on Delivery (Saint Sebastian Players), Harry's Halfway House (Rebekhah Theatre Project), and Some Air (Nothing Without a Company at the 2011 Abbie Hoffman Died For Our Sins Festival). In addition to Michael’s acting credits, he has also written Santa Claus vs. the Easter Bunny for both Strangeloop and Donny’s Skybox Theatre (also director), Shadows and Lust for Strangeloop at the 2012 Chicago Fringe Festival, and Crisco vs. Olive Oil for Loopshop3. Michael would like to give an enormous thanks to Holly and the cast for giving me the most fun and rewarding theatre experience I've had in a long time, to Lisa and Darcy for keeping me from ever becoming as vain and self-centered as Bottom, and to my family for their endless love and support.

A Midsummer Night's Dream Bio: Miona Lee

Miona Lee (Snug/Cobweb)
is excited to be a part of Strangeloop's production of A Midsummer Night's Dream. She received a BFA in Theatre Performance at Missouri State University in Springfield Missouri. Favorite roles include: Various roles in several Living Canvas productions, Vixen in Bram Stoker's Dracula, Martha Graham in Ten Lives in Performance, various villainous characters at the Springfield Children's Playhouse, and Gwendolyn in The Odd Couple. She wants to thank her husband Tim for his constant love and support.

A Midsummer Night's Dream Bio: Naomi Lindh

Naomi Lindh (Flute/Peaseblossom) is having a blast with Strangeloop and the Midsummer ensemble! In Chicago, she has had the joy of working with a smorgasbord of theatre companies including Odradek Theatre Company, where she is a proud company member and current Literary Manager. She received her BFA in Acting from Boston University's School of Theatre and holds a certificate in Classical Acting from the London Academy of Music & Dramatic Art. Next up, you can catch her performing this summer in The Two Gentleman of Verona with Muse of Fire Theatre Company. For more updates, check out her website at

A Midsummer Night's Dream Bio: Kitty Mortland

Kitty Mortland (Egeus)
is thrilled to be part of one of Shakespeare's most beloved plays and excited to work with Strangeloop Theatre for the first time. Her most recent Shakespearean turn was as the Dane herself in Hamlet: The Series, now available on YouTube. She has recently appeared on Chicago stages in Down & Derby (The New Colony), Devour (20% Theatre Chicago), and Cut to the Chase (The Artistic Home). Kitty recently started her own YouTube talk show called Just a Fling, which has been amusing audiences around the world and is about to start filming a second season. She is also a singer/songwriter and has played venues such as the Elbo Room, Reggie’s Rock Club, and the Underground Lounge. Kitty would like to thank Owen for his undying support and sweet, fuzzy face. DFTBA.

A Midsummer Night's Dream Bio: Holly Robison

Holly Robison (Director) is incredibly excited to be directing a full-length production with Strangeloop for the first time. She has previously directed a selection for Loopshop, as well as a selection from Henry V for Focal Point Theatre’s Against Type Project. As a Company Member, she has also performed in numerous Strangeloop productions, including Rossum's Universal Robots, The Robbers and As You Like It, as well as directing other short works and A Midsummer Night's Dream. Additional favorite roles include Elizabeth Bennet in Pride and Prejudice, Martha in The Children’s Hour, and Juliet in Romeo & Juliet. Holly is also a member of Improvised Jane Austen. She has been living and performing in the Chicago for several years and studied at Second City, Victory Gardens Theater, TUTA Theatre, and Chicago Shakespeare Theater. Huge thanks to this phenomenal cast and crew!

A Midsummer Nights' Dream Bio: Carrie Campana

Carrie Campana (Costume Designer) is happy to be designing costumes for her fourth show with Strangeloop. In addition to designing for Strangeloop, she has also worked with St. Sebastian Players, The Chicago Parks District and Theo Ubique. Working on Midsummer has always been a dream of hers and she has greatly enjoyed the opportunity to build fairies. She would like to thank her family for their tireless support and is happy to give them the living room back after opening!

A Midsummer Night's Dream Bio: Eric Van Tassell

Eric Van Tassell (Lighting Designer) is happy to be working again with the talented artists of Strangeloop Theatre. Eric last worked with Strangeloop on As You Like It. Lighting design credits with Oracle Theatre include The President (currently running through May 31), The Mother (nominated for a 2013 Broadway World Chicago Award for Non -Equity Lighting), The Revenge of Radio Goggles, The Return of Radio Goggles, Radio Goggles, Woyzeck, The Ghost Sonata (nominated for a 2011 Non-Equity Jeff Award for Lighting), Zero and Termen Vox Machina. Other Chicago lighting credits include Beautiful Broken (Broken Nose Theatre), A Klingon Christmas Carol 2012 and Bard Fiction (Commedia Beauregard), They Are Dying Out (Trap Door) and In Pursuit (Hobo Junction). Special thanks for Katie for enduring this first seven months of marriage. I think we’ve got it figured out.

A Midsummer Night's Dream Bio: Jaclyn Jensen

Jaclyn Jensen (Audience Development) is a native of Sandy, Utah and has her BFA in Theatre Performance from the University of Central Missouri. She is proud to be a company member with Strangeloop Theatre. Other Chicago credits include productions with Consortium Project, Chicago Parks District, St. Sebastian Players and Shapeshifters Theatre Company. Thanks Mike, and thank YOU for supporting live theatre.

A Midsummer Night's Dream Bio: Keith Gatchel

Keith Gatchel (Sound Designer) comes to us from Rockford, Ill., by way of Southern Illinois University (with a few stops in Florida). The first shows he ever worked tech on were his church's choir concerts at 15, then as a member of Young American Theatre, the youth branch of New American Theatre. Since coming to Chicago in 2005, Keith has worked tech at The Goodman Theatre, Collaboraction, Teatro Vista, Victory Gardens, Pegasus Players and more. He was also a writer for "Big News" at IO and Second City, and contributor to several Loopshop productions, as well as Strangeloop's Our Perfect Holiday 2012 with the cast (which he also stage managed). Along with being the co-literary manager for Strangeloop, he works at Blue Man Group and is the stage manager for The Kiss Kiss Cabaret.

A Midsummer Night's Dream Bio: Lauren Angel-Nichols

Lauren Angel-Nichols (Set Designer) has a BFA from DePaul University’s Theatre School and currently works as a freelance scenic painter and also as the projections designer for Cerqua Rivera Dance Theatre. Design credits include Lefties and Death Defying Acts (SSP), Matryoshka (The Plagiarists), The Nutcracker (Studio North Academy), Coyote on a Fence and I Ought to Be in Pictures (Emergent Theatre) and Bo Thomas and The Sky Pirates (Babes With Blades). Upcoming work includes Two Gentlemen of Verona (Spectralia Theatre). This fall she will also be starting her MFA in Stage Design at Northwestern.  In her free time she creates custom portraits and artwork for children's bedrooms.

“In a world where you can be anything…be yourself.”

Monday, April 21, 2014

Fairy of The Day

Cobweb (Miona Lee), left, and Peaseblossom (Naomi Lindh), right, attende their mistress Titania (Caitlin Jackson) and her new love Bottom (Michael Houghton Wagman).
Previews for "A Midsummer Night's Dream" start on Thursday, April 24, with the show officially opening on Saturday, April 26.

Tickets are available in advance at Brown Paper Tickets. But to get you in the mood for magic, we've been featuring a fairy a day on our Facebook page.

Check out all our delightful fairies (and suggest your own), as well as photos from rehearsals and tech week.