Chicago’s Premiere Storefront Theatre

French New Wave and Old Times

Check out Aly Renee Amidei’s research for Old Times here Oo la la!

Strawdog Theatre Company hosts an evening at the historic William H. Reid House

Join us at 2013 South Prairie Avenue on June 18, 2011 from 6pm-10pm for an evening of cocktails, noshes and hobnobbing with entertainment provided by Strawdog Ensemble members. Famed comedy team Justine Turner and Michaela Petro will perform as their alter egos J&M, with music provided by The Cool Breeze.

“There will be ever so many romantic misunderstandings.”*

Suggested minimum donation is $25.00 and all donations go to support Strawdog Theatre Company.

RSVP to with name and number in your party.

To donate ahead of time visit to be connected to the Network for Good donation site, designate your gift to the “Prairie Ave. Event”.

*there may or may not be romantic misunderstandings

Float Like a Rudi-fly, Bee Like a Sting

“They jump on RUDI” p. 44, CONQUEST OF THE SOUTH POLE By Manfred Karge

Yep, that’s what the text says. It’s not quite “Exeunt pursued by bear”, in that you could very well run right past it on first reading the script. Once you notice it, you can imagine, perhaps, a menacing circle around RUDI as the lights fade to black. Maybe some Nine Inch Nails blaring and a few round house punches thrown in the shadows?

This play deals with the value of friendship, and the lack of identity that can come to the unemployed. The story is told with fragments of obtuse poetry and moments of high style mixed with good old fashioned real human connection.

That’s most of it. But, somewhere in there [SPOILER ALERT] someone gets the living shit kicked out of them. Kimberly Senior and our fight choreographer wanted the fight to happen and then right at the point when it should be over, it’s not over. It keeps going. And going.

How many of you have ever wanted to beat Andy Lawfer like a toothless whore with a hand on your wallet? Keep those hands raised. Okay, so that’s most of you. For those of you without your hands raised:Remember that time when you were in that play with Andy, and right at that part of the play where your character has that important moment that defines them? That moment you couldn’t wait for all your friends, family, and Chris Jones to see? And Andy did that thing. You know that line he made up that wasn’t in the script. Remember? Sure, it got a laugh. Okay, it was pretty funny. Maybe you stole that bit and used it in your next show. But still. What an asshole, am I right?

It’s been hard to shoe-horn a beating of Andy into his last few roles at Strawdog. What? You’re going to beat up the funny blind guy in RED NOSES, the fresh faced newsie in STATE OF THE UNION or the giant talking cat in MASTER AND MARGARITA? But with Rudi…mix domestic abuse with a touch of Hitler and this is what ya’ get.

Ensemble members Jamie Vann and Tom Hickey teach Anderson Lawfer a long overdue lesson.

In the able hands of David Wolley and his Boy-Friday, Alex Farrington, we get a fight with echoes of Sonny’s beating of his brother in law in THE GODFATHER. When too much is never enough. Fists, elbows, knees, feet, bottles and even pastries are invited to this gruesome smack-down.

We hope there is at least one moment that makes you want to turn your head and at least one that makes you think we screwed up and actually kicked Andy’s teeth in. Justine Turner’s character Rosi is not the only the victim of Rudi’s wrath in the scene, but Justine is also, as fight captain, tasked with making sure we don’t actually hurt everyone’s favorite bewitching little scamp

Well, this show opens on April 24th and I say: “Come for the unemployed German miners, but stay for the Lawfer beat down.”

Michael Dailey

I’m Flyin’

Today I flew!

Justine Turner flies with the help of Alejandro Cordoba and Jude Roche

Ok, so maybe it was Sunday and maybe we still have a long way to go, but I FLEW! I know it was in the script, but often things are in scripts that you don’t have the chance to put on stage.

Theatre! It's a crap shoot.

Saturday I changed the toilet seat in the greenroom that was almost rusted on, with rust and probably caked with s#@t but SUNDAY I FLEW! Tuesday and Wednesday rehearsals were canceled because of a blizzard but Sunday I FLEW! Can you tell Sunday was really exciting for me?

There are so many rehearsal processes that you go through and you start to feel a little weighed down by the sheer magnitude of what you have taken on. For instance, an incredibly beloved and studied Russian Book that is squeezed into a play about a writer, a woman, the Devil, magic, and RUSSIA might feel like a bit of an overwhelming undertaking. It is. But the longer I spend working on this play, the more I begin to see this poetic world and begin to peel back the meaning layered in this piece. It is exciting, scary, thrilling, and magical. We are working to bring this world to life and hopefully share some of that well of emotion with the audience that comes to see it.
I guess I just wanted to write a little bit to say how thankful and grateful I am to be a part of this show and thankful for those who helped me fly.

Justine Turner

Master and Margarita

Here is an excerpt from our super cool dramaturgy packet prepared for Strawdog Theatre By Dramaturg Maren Robinson. More to come…

Mikhail Bulgakov

Mikhail Bulgakov was born May 15, 1891. He was the son of a Kiev theologian and his grandfathers were Russian Orthodox priests. He served as a medic in World War I where he was badly injured. His wounds would bother him throughout his life. He gave up medicine to pursue writing. After the Civil war his brothers emigrated. He was married three times: first to Tatiana Lappa, then Lybov Belozerskaya and finally Yelena Shilovskaya. He was published in a number of smaller publications until his work was criticized for being anti-Soviet. The play The White Guard was his entré into the Moscow literary scene but the journal it was published in shut down and the Central Repertory Committee insisted on changes to the plays including changing the title to Days of the Turbins. In 1929, a public letter from Stalin denounced his plays Flight and The Crimson Island. That same year, he wrote a letter to the government asking to leave the country or be given a job and he was given a post at the Moscow Art Theatre. He began writing a novel about the Devil visiting Moscow. Bulgakov burned the manuscript in 1930 and began it again in 1932 or 1933, then revised it from 1937 until his death in March 10, 1940 from a kidney disease.

The Master and Margarita

The novel was published by his wife in 1966 in a censored version. The text of the novel is complicated by Bulgakov’s destroying the novel and then his rewriting and heavy self-editing of the novel. Then when it was published it was also heavily censored. Most translations rely on multiple editions and his notes. While it is tempting to view Bulgakov as the Master of the novel because he is a writer there are ways in which he is also Pilate and Woland. However, Bulgakov does make references to numerous literary and theatrical figures throughout the work. Margarita is likely based on Bulgakov’s third wife Yelena (pictured above). He uses the nickname of his second wife “Banga” as the name of Pontius Pilate’s dog.

The State of the Union – First Day Address

Look at this handsome devil

By Geoff Button

So, in accepting the Republican nomination to the Senate in 1858 Abraham Lincoln famously declared “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” He was, of course, quoting the bible in an attempt to call attention to the crack splintering through the country between the North and the South, between slave state and free. But if you ask a structural engineer, on the simplest possible level he was talking about integrity. Structural integrity.

A few years back my big sister got married and settled down to start a family. Her new husband and his family were do-it-yourself type guys and they did much of the construction on their dream house themselves. They poured the foundations and then filled in the area around the basement with dirt and packed it in good and tight. They constructed the walls and hung the roof. When the building was complete, my sister and her husband went about the business of building a home. They loaded the house with furniture and filled the bedrooms with children.

But just recently they began the process of moving to a new house, and as they prepared to put their old house on the market they had a structural engineer come out and look at the place to make sure it passed inspection. This turned out to be a devastating blow. When my brother-in-law and his family had filled in the dirt around the foundation they had packed it in too tightly, putting too much pressure on the foundational walls. There, splintering through the concrete wall of the basement was a hairline crack, almost invisible, but absolutely, infinitesimally slicing the foundation in two.

When we talk about the integrity of a building we speak in absolutes. If the integrity of a structure is compromised partially, it is compromised fundamentally. We are, however, perhaps a little more generous or at least a little more lenient when we talk about the integrity of a person. We live in a world that demands compromise of us every day. If we want to achieve this we have to give up that. Most of the time these little compromises involve finding pragmatic solutions to difficult questions. Much of the time the reward seems worth the cost.

But the more we compromise on the little things, day by day it gets easier and easier to compromise on the big things. This is how life goes, we believe ourselves to be one thing, and then slowly, one compromise after another, we find that our actions define us as something else entirely.

This is what has happened to Grant at the beginning of the play. Years before, on their honeymoon in Victoria, Grant and Mary didn’t necessarily have a lot but what they had was integrity, ideals. And that was plenty. Yet it’s an easy thing, standing at the beginning of a new life, to feel strong and confident and see an unswerving and principled path ahead. It’s quite another to go about the hard task of building a life, of running a business, of maintaining a marriage. You find compromises have to be made. And bit by bit, moment by moment, you find the person you were at the start is altered. And like a building, when you compromise partially, you compromise fundamentally.

And politics. Politics, the art of compromise. By it’s very definition it demands of its participants the willingness to sacrifice their ideals at the altar of the greater good. Because of this there is much about the profession that is noble, that is inspiring, and that speaks to the very best in each of us. But make no mistake: The price of leadership is a pound of flesh. The best politicians are the ones with the finest blades, the leaders who manage to maintain their fundamental structure by cutting surgically, carefully avoiding the vital and necessary organs. But it is not a career for a man that wants to remain whole.

Some people are built for this sacrifice and do so willingly, enthusiastically. Others are like Mary, unwilling to compromise no matter how devastating the cost. Or like Grant, unable to admit to himself that his compromised morality has begun to define him.

The play is both cynical and hopeful in equal measure. It is cynical, I think, because it communicates very clearly the belief that a leader of uncompromising integrity simply cannot be elected by the American political system.

But hopeful, I think too, because we also watch as Grant and Mary are drawn back together, and in rediscovering each other, begin to reclaim what is truest inside themselves. As Grant is drawn away from his indiscretions and attempts to regain the sense of self he felt at the beginning of it all, we are given the slimmest hope that maybe in one way a man’s integrity is not like a building’s at all.

The play allows us to hope that, at least with people, it is possible to regain that which has been lost. At the end of this play we see another crack, splintering its way through one union, but are given hope as we watch a different union begin the painstaking work of putting itself back together.

Coupla Clowns IM and stuff

hey lady.
Hey man.
How’s your week?
It was great and hot.
How was yours?
hot and hot.
and also great.
sure, sure.
That’s what Theatre on the Lake Summer Camp Fun Time is all about….being hot!
Andy reminded me that Theatre on the Lake is where Edward (the vampire from Twillight) originally dies.
Andy needs to stop reading Twillight.
Let the boy have his stories.
It’s the small things.
I am on Facebook just staring at Allison Latta’s new baby Wyatt.
He is beautiful.
Yes, indeed. Can’t wait to meet the trouble maker.
Are you excited about doing Red Noses back at The Dog again?
Yes! While we all miss Latta (Flagellant Sister Wife from the original Red Noses) and all the others Noses we have some new, amazing actors that we get to play with all summer!
New Noses!
We are spreading…like the plague.
but like a good plague, you know?
It’s like the same way a video or something goes viral.
it’s a good thing.
I think Bret Michaels is actually joining the cast once we get back to Strawdog.
which is fine.
is he out of the hospital?
not yet.
are we going to Skype him in?
speaking of, we should bring Tom Hickey some donuts.
He’s fine.
like a donut boquet?
and i don’t think he likes donuts.
what would a donut boquet look like?
I will make one for Amerisnax.

My Facebook ads right now are: “Become a Social Worker” and “Sharks!”
we will cut this part.
oh definitely.
especially because we were misspelling bouquet.
can’t have that on the blog.
what has a year away taught you about Red Noses?
that i’m forgetful?
learning lines is your FAVORITE thing to do.
but seriously folks…
also, you love impersonating lunatics.
I think with this time around it’s been fun to play it closer to reality and less of a comedic character. which i guess according to you makes me a lunatic.
my wife thinks i’m mad because i like pancakes…and waffles. i really like waffles.
I am just glad that Red Noses is the infectious disease that is was the first time around.
with butter and maple syrup….mmmmm…..syrup.
mmmmmm….infectious disease….oh, wait.
A joyful infection of hope.
yes. it’s fun to see people get bowled over with joy. you can’t help but come along for the ride.
unless your a poopy-pants.
your not a poopy-pants are you?
it’s you’re!
Sure it is. and man landed on the moon.
what does that even mean?
everyone knows that “you’re” and “your” are interchangeable like “potato” and “POTATO.”
do you have a fever?
know i donut.
due ewe?
quick- three words that describe Strawdog Red Noses:
nothing butta goodtime.
oooo, Bret’s probably gonna want a big check at first rehearsal.
he’s fired.
is playing Marguerite different this time around?
and no.
how not so?
like I said to Johnny, I don’t think many of us, that did it the first time, put it too far away from us when the first run ended.
yes and.
It was like falling off a bicycle. You just pick it back up and remember the joys of the first discoveries and it is so refreshing to just say “yes” again with these people.
and also it’s fun to do theatre!
and see theatre. By the way, we have to go see Streetcar.
oh, yes. we have to!
maybe next weekend?
that’ll be fun. i like going on dates.
me too.
are you looking at Huffington Post while we are doing this?

Shhhh...I'm not going to hurt you. I love you!

‘iews’ this!

Andy recently got a chance to sit down with the incredibly busy and talented Eric Roach, playwright, actor, and member of the Factory Theater. He was thrilled to discuss the upcoming Plea Circus (June 18th and 19th), Strawdog ensemble members, and the history of our famed company.

Hi Eric! Nice to see you today!
What’s been happening?
Hi Anderson! Well, I’ve been working on my Pilates, which is doing a number on my glutes, and I’m also starting up a Precious Moments website, where PM fans can talk about their favorite pieces and what not. Grueling.
I bet. How do you have time for all that stuff, and still be such a hero in the theatrical community?
When you achieve your dreams, then you just have to dream bigger, that’s my motto!
Well, I’m really excited to be able to talk to you about Strawdog Theatre, a company that is very close to my heart, and my artistic home for experimenting and refining my amazing abilities. As well as producing some really ground breaking art as an ensemble.
Wait, The Artistic Home? They are so good.
They are good, but we are talking about Strawdog Theatre today. You see, after our incredible season finished with the immediate classic “The Good Soul of Szechuan”, we decided to try to meet some our budget goals by having “The Strawdog Plea Circus” later this month.
I’ve heard of that! Listen, you guys do awesome stuff! I’d hate for that space to get turned into a Persian rug warehouse or something! Although, the city could use more of those, so I’m a little torn.
I understand. Could you please give me a quick history lesson about Strawdog?
As YOU understand it.
I’d be SO happy to, Andy! Back in 1935, the WPA started the Federal Theatre Project, which as you know was the most ambitious governmental project to support out of work actors since prisons were incorporated.
Phineas J. Higginbotham, a stalwart young entrepreneur with an eye for the stage, started up the WPA Strawdog Theatrical Collective and Music Hall with Federal funds on Broadway right here in Chicago, IL!
You know what?… that’s actually pretty accurate.
It’s SO accurate!
Andy, Mr. Higginbotham and company had an inaugural production of Clifford Odets underrated masterwork “Flinching in Salinas” in 1936. The production took the city by storm, but no one was able to buy tickets.
Now, why weren’t they able to buy tickets?
The Great Depression, Anderson.
It was horrible.
Now is it true that you have been involved with Strawdog in the past?
Yes! I was involved with “Red Noses” just last year, which I believe won the Joseph Jefferson Award for Best Ensemble a few days ago! So proud!
That was a really great moment. I was also involved in that show, and it was a real treat to be so recognized.
What else have you done at Strawdog?
Smoked, drank, made out with Nic Dimond…
Mmm hmm.
Well, join the club, pal.
OH, and I’m involved with Musical Chairs, the fast paced game show that’s sweeping the nation!
That’s right! That is a product of our Late Night Season if I’m not mistaken.
You bet!
Are you familiar with any of the other Late Night Programs?
Well, there’s Variety Underground, The Hit Factory, The Direct-Off, Theatre Wars! So many great things!
It’s also a great place to meet different women than the ones you are accustomed to.
There are so many women there! I wouldn’t mind if there were some more Asian women though.
I bet you wouldn’t. Unfortunately, you need grant money for that kind of thing.
Now I know you will be attending this incredible “Plea Circus” on the 18th and 19th. Is there any act you are really excited about seeing?
I hear John Ferrick is re-enacting the entire 1st season of “The Greatest American Hero!”
I hadn’t heard that, but with so much great entertainment still being announced, it’s entirely possible!
Are you a fan of Tom Hickey?
Fan, no. Devotee of his singular acting style and rich, tenor voice, YES!
I’m not crazy about him, but I can see why you would be.
Also, on tap we have new ensemble member Mike Przygoda, and his band playing some Strawdog original musical numbers.
You had me at “Also.”
Have you heard of Michaela Petro or John Henry Roberts?
I’ve hrrrrd of them!
They will be there too!
Listen, I have a couple of notes for John Henry…they are private, and I was wondering if you could deliver them? I’m so tongue-tied around him!
Like…love notes?
You’re giving me the vapors!
John Henry Roberts makes you swoon like a Victorian Era woman.
Well, is there any other things you’d like to say to the Strawdog fans before our big event? Maybe something like, “I’ll be there.” or “I can’t wait to see Anderson Lawfer host Theater Wars!”?
I’ll be there! I can’t wait to see Anderson Lawfer host Theater Wars!
Oh, and please support proper gun laws in your city and county. All politics are local.
Thanks Eric!
You’re welcome, Anderson!


Hey there, Gentle Reader

“Hey there, Tom.”

I’d like to speak seriously to you about the three things that make this country great: Strawdog Theatre Company, the Internet and Money.

“Tom, we, as a great country, are deeply indebted to all three of those things.“

I know you are, Gentle Reader. I know you are.

It’s hard for me to believe but I have been a Strawdog company member for ten years. When I look at photos of myself at Strawdog from 2000 I see someone very young and tender. I think “I would totally make out with that guy.” But now when I look in the mirror I think “Holy shit, is that Mike Nussbaum?”

I console myself by remembering that I’m three times as virile now as I was in 2000. Ask anyone. It’s actually frightening. Don’t test me.

“We believe you, Tom. Or, at least, we don’t particularly care.”

Excellent. Then you have learned the first lesson. Speaking of lessons: I have learned a lot in my time at Strawdog. I learned how important working as a team is and how every single person who works on a show takes pride in their job. I learned you don’t have to actually be on stage to get satisfaction. I learned how to skim the fat off of a performance. I learned to listen. Once, at a party at Mike Dailey’s, I drank a Red Bull and vodka. I learned that it’s sort of awful. That was a learning experience too.

I have, in short, been given a lot of opportunities at Strawdog and I’ve been lucky enough to share, with my fellow company members and our audiences, a lot of funny, sad and transcendent moments. I say this in all seriousness.

“That’s lovely. But what of the Internet, Tom?”

Who talks like that, Reader? “But what of the Internet?” No one talks like that. Maybe Shakespeare. Maybe.

But, yes, I did mention the Internet. Well… I have also been working as a web designer for almost exactly 10 years and I am very aware of the changes the Internet has wrought in our society. It has brought a wave of pornography, violence and general cultural degradation. But it has also had some negative consequences.

“We see what you did there, Tom.”

Yes, I kid. But I am also serious. Tell me, Reader (if that is your real name): What percentage of the material you access on the internet would you be comfortable telling your mother about? 90 percent? 10 percent? Zero percent? Less than zero percent? Less than zero percent means that you’re actually producing this questionable Internet content. You are, aren’t you?

Now that we’ve determined that I’m dealing with a smut merchant, I’d like to appeal to whatever shred of self-respect you may have left and ask: “why not use the Internet for Good instead of Evil?” Note how I capitalized “Good” and “Evil.” I did that because of the seriousness.

“This is where the Money comes in, isn’t it, Tom?”


Strawdog is now about to begin its 23rd season. 23 is an important season for any theatre company because it’s a prime number. Even the ancient Greeks recognized this.

Going into this season Strawdog finds itself with a $4000 hole in our budget. We’re very upfront about that. That’s what we bring to the table: Honesty. And Seriousness. In order to fill that hole we are going to hold a two night telethon for Strawdog. It will feature short scenes, music, game shows and Andy Lawfer. You’ve heard about Andy Lawfer, haven’t you? Many of those stories are true.

You can experience either one of these once-in-a-lifetime nights, in person, for the ridiculously low, low price of $10. You probably spend more every week on salve.

“Sadly true.”

We will also be streaming the festivities live on the Internet. That’s right, Gentle Reader. Your friends in Micronesia and Belarus will be able to enjoy some of Strawdog’s greatest hits including excerpts from the Hit Factory, Shannon Hoag’s AmeriSnax, a live presentation of Hickey and Lawfer’s “Technical Difficulties”, fantastic music from the house band and, to cap it all off, a Theatre Wars Tournament of Champions. And they will also be able to donate on-line as well. This will also be useful for agoraphobics. Or people who don’t like to touch other people.

So, in closing, I ask: Won’t you please use the Internet for Good by donating to Strawdog during our time of need? Or, better yet, come out to the Telethon and enjoy yourself in Strawdog’s friendly confines.

“You have convinced us, Tom. We will attend one or both of these fantastic nights of entertainment. We would be fools not to. But, say… What is this two night telethon spectacular called?”

We call it the Strawdog Plea Circus.

“That is a pun, Tom. We never would have agreed to anything if we’d known puns were involved.”

Too late, Reader! Too late!


Tom Hickey


Call it a rebirth. Call it an awakening. Call it whatever you want. I think I’m going to go with Revolution. Not that I’m starting one. I just suddenly feel a part of one.

Let me explain.

Back towards the beginning of the year, there were some fine folks in the theatre industry who started a discussion on Twitter at roughly 2 o’clock in the morning. They started sharing ideas. Ideas that could make things better. You can read all about that conversation over here.

So once people started talking about “That Conversation” this guy decided to set-up a website and on that website he talked about an idea he had for a community building event involving storytelling. He also challenged people to produce their own version of the event.

So I did.

360 Storytelling @ Strawdog. It was a multi-media event. Along with unprepared, unrehearsed stories from people who were in the room we used pre-recorded video and Skype to show stories from other people across the county. We streamed the event over the internet because I wanted to open it up to the online community so people from just about anywhere could log on and be a part of our storytelling. It was a mess; a beautiful successful mess.

We not only had a gathering of folks in our Hugen Hall Cabaret in Chicago, but also contributors from all across the nation…and Canada! We were able to broadcast the evening and had people watching from the east coast to the west coast and all the way down in Texas. Yep. They do theatre down there, too.

I know what you’re thinking: “This is all fine and good Kyle but what does this have to do with anything?” Well, I’ll tell ya.

If you are reading this, you are part of our community. You might have just stumbled into our community and are not really sure where you are. You might not know who we are and you might not know what we do.
You might be a huge supporter of our theatre company but receive mail in a different state. You might be related to one of our company members but not really a fan of “plays” so you don’t come out to the theatre too much.
You might be new to Chicago. You might be new to theatre. You might be new.
You might be in town for the TCG conference.

Whatever the case may be, you are part of our community. And we would like to share something with you.

Our Strawdog Late Night Programming has really taken off in the last few years and we are quite proud of the work that we do in our Hugen Hall Cabaret. We’d like to think its namesake would be proud. But some of you haven’t seen that Late Night Programming because of…well, any number of reasons. And you might be saying: “I sure would like to see what goes on in that space.” Well, here’s your chance.

Strawdog Plea Circus: A Live Telethon from Hugen Hall
June 18 & 19
Broadcasting at 7, 9, & 11pm
Hugen Hall Cabaret

That’s right. A telethon. Yes, we WILL be asking for money as you’ll be getting a great show. We’ll be performing the best of Strawdog Late Night and capping it off with a Theatre Wars each night. Ten bucks will get you into the whole evening or if you are one of our night owl friends and don’t wake up until 10:30, you can come just for Theatre Wars for $5.

We’re trying new things:Challenging ourselves and challenging the way others may view what we do. Literally and figuratively. We hope the community will join this revolution with us because we all want to change the world and, you know, it’s gonna be alright.

Kyle Hamman