Meet the Creative Minds Behind the New Theater Company “The Ruckus”

Introducing a new theatre company to the Chicago scene.  This one has caught my attention.


We’re here to create, to examine, to invent, to explode—to create a ruckus. Our aim is to break down the old models of new work development in order to nurture new forms, great plays and better and smarter artists. We will work together to create vibrant and unexpected new work, spin terrific yarns and build a world in which two things are sacred: the rehearsal room and the audience member. We will be messy; we will be brave; we demand that our theater become both aspect and integral to our community. We will bring the ruckus.


clip_image002Allison Shoemaker is the Artistic Director and a Co-Founder of The Ruckus Theater. Directing credits for The Ruckus include Apple Frog Baseball, I Do Not Speak the Language, Three Lennon Fugue, The Retreating World, Fore Play and the forthcoming Heist Play. Other directing credits include Private Eyes, Arbor Day and Am I Blue (York Arena Theatre). Allison also served as Producer for 365 Days/Plays at the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center. When not fighting for truth, justice and the right of the playwright to revise in the rehearsal room, Allison writes things that sometimes get published. Recent credits include admit2, The Pedestal and Chicago’s own Contrary Magazine. She is overly fond of semicolons, 35mm film, science jokes, Walt Whitman and really excellent drummers.

clip_image002[4]Managing Director and Co-Founder Ryan Dolley was born and raised in Metro Detroit, to his everlasting pride and shame. Playwriting credits for The Ruckus include Joshua’s Play, Phantom Limbo and Linear A, which was presented at the Barrow Street Theatre’s Fortnight2 Festival in Manhattan. He served as Assistant Literary Manager for the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center’s 2007 summer conferences and is currently Literary Manager of the Element New Play Festival. When he isn’t attempting to reconcile general relativity with quantum mechanics, Ryan can be found feverishly perusing the shelves of your local library or comic shop in search of enlightenment.

clip_image004Director of Development Joshua Davis is fairly new to the city having recently received his MFA in Theater Arts from Brandeis University. Some of his recent theater credits include: Miles Standish in Vivian Matalone’s The Pilgrim Papers (Berkshire Theatre Festival), Charles Dickens in A Christmas Carol (Berkshire Theatre Festival), Duke of Buckingham in The Three Musketeers (Double Edge Theatre Company), Macheath in The Threepenny Opera (Brandeis Theatre Company), and Yoko Ono in Three Lennon Fugue (The Ruckus Theater). During the 9 to 5 hours of the day Joshua is the Arts-in Education Program Assistant for The Illinois Arts Council, a state agency. From 5pm to 9am Joshua is an actor, designer and Director of Development for The Ruckus Theater.

clip_image006Director of Communications Jeffrey Fauver received his BFA in Music Theatre Performance from Western Michigan University. Professionally he has performed leading roles in The King and I, Anything Goes, Incredible Sex, Cabaret and The Mouse Trap. In Chicago, his credits include Caves! at Gorilla Tango and La Commedia E Finita and Pushing Daisies at Sandhill Theatre Company. As a communications professional he has led publicity campaigns for Goodman Theatre and Chicago Shakespeare Theater, including the world-premiere production of 2009 Pulitzer Prize-winning Ruined by Lynn Nottage, Toneelgroep Amsterdam’s Rouw Siert Electra directed by Ivo van Hove, the world premiere of Magnolia by Regina Taylor, directed by Anna D. Shapiro, Passion starring Ana Gasteyer, directed by Gary Griffin and the world premiere of Turn of the Century starring Jeff Daniels, directed by Tommy Tune. He collects hobbies like reading, sarcasm, cooking and Star Trek-ing.

clip_image008Casting Director Melissa Pryor is currently a casting associate with TP&R Casting running sessions for commercials, film, television and print and doles out 30-60 high fives daily. She last performed with New Leaf Theatre in the Jeff-nominated production of The Dining Room. She has served as a Vanguard member for The House Theatre of Chicago and teaches audition and monologue classes at Piven Theatre Workshop. She’s also totally into figure drawing right now and refers to Saturdays as Naked Lady Drawing Day.

clip_image010Literary Manager and Co-Founder Mitch Vermeerch hails originally from Clinton Township MI. He has a BA in Creative Writing from Western Michigan University and sometimes a beard. His plays have been produced at Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo College, The Black Hills Theater in Grand Rapids MI and The Hygienic Art Park in New London CT. In 2007 he was a member of the National Theater Institute’s Theatermakers Program at the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center in Waterford CT. He is a founding member of The Ruckus Theater and currently lives in Chicago where he performs music and roots against Chicago sports teams with a fervent passion.

–continued– Three’s a crowd. Four’s a Ruckus.


clip_image012Artistic Associate and Co-Founder Ghafir Akbar (Sarasota FL) is a third year MFA candidate at the Asolo Conservatory and an associate member of the Asolo Repertory Theatre in Florida. At Asolo he has appeared in Equus, Romeo and Juliet, Much Ado About Nothing, Three Postcards, Blur and Wilder! Wilder! Wilder! A graduate of Western Michigan University he appeared in The Pillowman, The Lion in Winter, Brighton Beach Memoirs, Slaughterhouse-Five and Hip Hop Creation with Will Power. Born and raised in Kuala Lumpur, Ghafir is an established actor and was a member of The Instant Café Theatre Company performing in their repertoire of comedy revues and biting satirical work. Other notable credits there include roles in The Baltimore Waltz and Gross Indecency. One of his first paid acting jobs was as a Spice Girls impersonator. He was Scary Spice.

clip_image014Artistic Associate Katie Dickinson (New York NY) is based out of New York. She is also a member of The Lighthouse Theatre Company. Her most recent work has been Chorus in Antigone at the Manhattan Repertory Theatre and Ensemble in Chamber Theatre Productions Encore! Tour. She also wears many hats as playwright, director, producer and actor. She owns many hats and wears them all.


Artistic Associate Joel Gelman (Los Angeles CA) hails from the Metro Detroit area of Michigan where he invented and perfected the method of making imaginary ice cream out of an upside down pound puppy big wheel. Some regional credits include Les Misérables at the Hollywood Bowl; Tobacco Road at La Jolla Playhouse; Loves and Hours at Pennsylvania Centre Stage; and several shows including State Fair at Timberlake Playhouse. Joel’s Chicago credits include 20%’s Snapshots festival and Artificial at Gorilla Tango. Joel is also the co-creator and performer of The Heliotropic Man, a one-man show conceived with Tom Dugdale. Joel recently received his MFA in Acting from UC San Diego and holds a BA in Theatre Performance from Western Michigan University.

clip_image018Artistic Associate and Co-Founder Seth Miller (Brooklyn NY) is an actor, director, playwright, musician and visual artist. Credits with The Ruckus include the world premiere of Apple Frog Baseball and Linear A, which was presented at the Barrow Street Theatre’s Fortnight2 Festival in Manhattan. Other New York credits include Homesick (The Ohio Theatre), The Barbarians (Schapiro Theatre), Leon Ingulsrud’s The Great White Hunter (The International Underground) and Macbeth and No City with The Other Madison Square Garden, where he also serves as producer. Seth also appears in the outrageous theatrical extravaganzas created by his band, Not Blood, Paint. You can, and should, find them on iTunes. Seth’s work can be seen this season in Tell It & Speak It & Think It & Breathe It, and his tattoo can be seen in the logo.


Chicago Welcomes a New Theatre Company – The Ruckus Theater


The Ruckus Theatre, formerly from Kalamazoo Michigan, joins Chicago striving storefront theatre scene.  The Ruckus is composed of actors, directors, playwrights, musicians, casting directors, publicity managers, grant writers, baristas, grad students, poets, computer fixers, appointment-makers and census-takers who aim to create a new kind of company—a casteless theater that blends the lines between playwright and actor, audience and company member.  The Ruckus Theater is led by Artistic Director Allison Shoemaker and Managing Director Ryan Dolley.

The Ruckus also launches a new artist outreach initiative called The Dramaturg Army. When a new play is submitted to the company, a playwright has the option to be paired with an experienced member of The Ruckus Literary Team for one year to assist in the development of their work in whatever form they prefer—research, schedule development, feedback, organization of an informal reading, etc. 

(how cool is this !?!)

For more information about The Dramaturg Army, please visit……


“Chicago is home to a great many talented artists and companies—but more unusually, it is also home to a community of artists who challenge each other, better each other and are devoted to working together to make theater, and all art, a vital and vibrant aspect of this city,” said Artistic Director Allison Shoemaker. “We of The Ruckus are thrilled to be joining this community, and look forward to collaborating with the remarkable artists who embody it.”

The Much Anticipated “Blackbird” at Victory Gardens


Wanting to Escape Past Sins and Wishing to Continue Them


By:  Timothy McGuire


The much anticipated “Blackbird,” staring William Peterson and Mattie Hawkinson is disturbing giving humanity to both a child molester and his victim as their characters are presented on stage un-judged by the author David Harrower.  Fifteen years after an illegal relationship Una (Mattie Hawkinson) finds and confronts Ray (William Peterson,) the man who took advantage of her when she was twelve years old.  In Ray’s empty office cafeteria the emotional confrontation between them goes in unexpected directions as the molester and victim meet, or possibly it is past lovers meeting again.

blackbird meetingDavid Harrower has written a soul stirring play that shows the complexity of human emotions and the struggle we have with guilt and being honest with ourselves.  David Harrower does not try to justify Ray’s action or is in favor of abolishing the age limit for sexual maturity, he sees his work as more of a metaphor for questioning other social norms.  Harrower lets the characters stumble through their emotions, not demonizing or giving false purity to either character.  Both characters show their humanity, with flaws and wrongful desires along with kindness and love.  How horrible a crime was committed is left to the audience to think about and decide, Ray and Una struggle on stage to find that out for themselves.

Blackbird won the Olivier Award (Britain’s equivalent of a Tony Award) for best new play in 2007 beating out tough competition with plays such as Peter Morgan’s “Frost/Nixon” and Tom Stoppard’s” Rock and Roll.”  Making its Chicago premier at Victory Gardens, Director Dennis Zacek allows the unique text and talented actress/actor to carry the one act conversation. 

blackbird_confrontThe cold cafeteria was designed by Dean Taucher and he presents a simplistic setting, very detailed and desolate.  The remains of coworkers’ lunches are left strewn about, just another mess in the typical unfinished cleaning-up that takes place in a cafeteria.  The room that earlier in the day was busy with people and filled with life is now completely empty until the next morning, like the void that fills both Una and Ray’s heart since their earlier relationship.  The setting never leaves the office cafeteria and the time of the day expels a creepy lonesome feeling.  It seems strange a victim of a sexual crime would meet her predator there.

Fifteen years ago when Ray was in his forties, he befriended a twelve year old girl Una.  After serving three years in prison for child abduction, he has painfully put together a new life.  After seeing a picture of Ray in a magazine at her doctor’s office Una has come to confront her past assailant.  William Peterson sucks the life out of his character to portray a beat-down Ray just fighting to get from day to day.  Peterson’s ability to darken his emotions and stumble with the confidence to express himself is extraordinary.  The choices Ray made in his past were absolutely wrong, but what was his motive?  How did he let himself form a relationship with a twelve year old girl?  William Peterson captures Ray’s inner struggle with the guilt of his actions and the justifications he believes means something. 

William Peterson is a star, but this show belongs to Mattie Hawkinson.

blackbird_mattie&williamMatti, capturing her character’s poised and nervous state, came on to the stage as Una and through out her personal conversation with Ray kept the audience glued to her with their attention.  With just two characters in most the play, Mattie proved that she belonged on stage with the best of them.   After watching my favorite actor (William Peterson) the first comment I had when I left the theatre was “Get ready for Mattie Hawkinson.”  This should be a break out performance to a great career.

Blackbird posses that unique quality found in theatre which is to present a topic that forces the audience to an uncomfortable edge, as their skin crawls with the thought of empathizing with ideas that go against their moral core.  It forces you to question the most looked down upon actions in society, leading you to question personal crimes you have committed and how it would play out if you were confronted with the past fifteen years later.


blackbird_arguingHighly Recommended

Where:  Victory Gardens Theatre

Through:  August 9th

Chris McNulty’s “One Year in June”


Gorilla Tango Theatre Presents “One year in June”


Chris McNulty’s Chicago directorial debut heats up this summer with his first written full-length in over six years with the unflinching world premiere ONE YEAR IN JUNE, previewing Wednesday July 15th at 8pm and performing Fridays at 10pm, July 24 – August 21, 2009 at Gorilla Tango Theatre, 1919 N. Milwaukee Ave.

A neurotic male comedic playwright and an out of focus female photographer must confront their polarizing attraction after they become roommates and struggle with the effects of their significant others in this energetic two person pot-boiler.

Set in the living room of a Wicker Park apartment and crackling with an acute sense of wordplay and characters that are primed to explode, ONE YEAR IN JUNE observes the dynamics of a complicated romance through briskly paced scenes covering the days and nights in June.

Chris McNulty

Chris McNulty

Chris McNulty (Writer/Director): Chris McNulty started his first production company when he was still a junior in high school writing and performing at the local coffee house in his home town of Rogers, Arkansas. Later that year he single handedly organized a town-wide theater festival that gained country-wide attention. The festival opened just four days before he turned eighteen. After graduating high school in 2000, he studied theater by traveling the country and working on various productions while absorbing writing techniques from everything from Miller to Mamet, from Shakespeare to Shepard. He launched his second theatre company in 2003 with the wildly successful HOLY SHIP! which was later adapted into a screenplay and swam around desks in Hollywood for a time. In 2005, he moved back to Chicago and enlisted into the famed Second City writing program where he graduated and was instrumental in mounting two shows for the Donny’s Skybox stage. This is Chris McNulty’s third show at the Gorilla Tango Theatre following last year’s smash sold out hit, “Nachtkabarett.”

Goodman Theatre and Chicago Outdoor Film Festival Aim to Break a New Record


Be a Part of the Guinness Book of World Records


Goodman Theatre has teamed up with Chicago Outdoor Film Festival to create a memorable event at showing of the Marx Brothers film Duck Soup on July 21 in Grant Park.  Goodman Theatre is working together with the Mayor’s Office of Special Events to break the Guinness Book World Record of “the most people wearing Groucho Marx glasses” at the same time at this screening.

grouchogalssesCome, have fun and be a part of history.

Another Extension for “The Arabian Nights”

Arabian1Lookingglass Theatre Announces

Second Extension of

“The Arabian Nights”


Due to record-breaking box office demand, Lookingglass Theatre Company extends The Arabian Nights for a second time. The smash hit production must close August 30, 2009.

Tony Award-winning Ensemble Member Mary Zimmerman returns to the Water Tower Water Works with her Lookingglass Original adaptation of one of the world’s most enduring works of literature. When he discovers his wife in the arms of another man, King Shahryar vows to ruthlessly murder every virgin in the kingdom. His brutality is interrupted only when he encounters the clever maiden Scheherezade, whose captivating stories may just save her life. This boldly re-imagined visual feast celebrates the redemptive power of storytelling.

Arabian2The cast features Ensemble Member Andy White (Abu al-Hasan through Aug 4), Evan Zes (Abu al-Hasan Aug 5 through closing) with Stacey Yen (Scheherezade), Emjoy Gavino (Dunyazade and Aziza), Barzin Akhavan (Harun al-Rashid), Usman Ally (Mad Man), Ryan Artzberger (Shahryar and Aziz), Minita Gandhi (The Other Woman), Allen Gilmore (Ishak of Mosul), Alana Arenas (Sympathy the Learned), Ronnie Malley (Musician), Ramiz Monsef (Sage), Nicole Shalhoub (Perfect Love), Louis Tucci (Jafar, Musician) and Anthony Flemming III (Greengrocer, Robber).

Designers include company members Andre Pluess (composer/sound designer) and Mara Blumenfeld (costume design), Daniel Ostling (scenic design), Alison Siple (associate costume designer); T.J. Gerckens is the lighting designer. The production stage manager is company member Sara Gmitter.

arabian3Tickets can be purchased online,; by phone, (312) 337-0665; or at the box office, Water Tower Water Works, 821 N. Michigan Ave.

Signal Ensemble Theatre’s “The Ballad of the Sad Cafe”

Ballad 1“The Ballad of the Sad Café” at Chopin Theatre

Signal Ensemble Theatre opens its seventh season with Edward Albee’s take on the Carson McCullers novella “The Ballad of the Sad Café,” directed by Co-Artistic Director Ronan Marra.  Albee’s signature piercing dialogue propels this 1963 dramatic adaptation that centers on the question: is it better to be the loved, or the beloved? 

Amelia Evans (Simone Roos) is the despotic proprietor of The Sad Café, located in a small Georgia towns’ center in the 1930s.  Lymon (Aaron Snook) a strange hunchback that turns out to be a relative Amelia’s, becomes the target of her unlikely affection, forming an unusual love triangle when her estranged husband Marvin (Philip Winston) returns.  When Marvin threatens to leave (with Lymon) if Amelia doesn’t acquiesce to his demands, she refuses, and the husband and wife settle the matter violently – and in front of the entire town – with their bare hands.

Ballad 2Opens Sunday, August 9, 2009, 7 p.m.

Closes Saturday, September 12, 2009

Runs Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m., and Sundays at 3

For tickets call 773-347-1350, or visit