Sunday, November 30, 2014

Casting News, Part Two: HEROES at Heartland

Director John Ficca has announced his cast for Heroes at Heartland Theatre. Heroes is a French comedy written by Gérald Sibleyras, adapted and translated into English by Tom Stoppard.

The original French production premiered at the Théâtre Montparnasse in Paris in 2003. It received four Molière nominations, including Meilleur Auteur, or Best Author. Subsequently, Heroes has been translated into English, German and Spanish and produced around the world, including productions in Germany, the United Kingdom, Uruguay and the United States. Stoppard's translation debuted in London in 2005, winning the Laurence Olivier Award for Best New Comedy. Its cast included Richard Griffiths (The History Boys, Withnail and I), John Hurt (The Elephant Man) and Ken Stott (Messiah, Broken Glass). Griffiths and Hurt both appeared in the Harry Potter movies, with Griffiths as evil Uncle Vernon and Hurt as Ollivander, the owner of the wand ship in Diagon Alley.

Heartland Theatre's production will feature some of Bloomington-Normal's own best actors, with Todd Wineburner, Joe Penrod and George Peterson-Karlan in the roles played by Griffiths, Hurt and Stott. Those characters are Henri, Gustave and Philippe, three veterans of World War I who find themselves living in a retirement home for old soldiers.

The play is set in 1959, somewhere in the French countryside, where the three gentleman while away their time on the terrace outside their veterans home. They do their best to ignore the nuns who try to boss them around as they gaze off into the distance where they can see a grove of poplars. Le Vent des Peupliers, or The Wind in the Poplars, was Sibleyras's original title, but Stoppard emphasized the military background of his characters when he renamed it Heroes in English.

The play is funny, sweet, a little irreverent and a bit sad, too, as Gustave, Henri and Philippe try to grapple with their own limitations and the vagaries of life in the slow lane. They occupy themselves with their pet, a stone dog who stands on their terrace, along with elaborate plans to escape their confinement to make it to Indochina, or perhaps just a hundred yards down the lane.

Heartland Theatre's production of Heroes will open February 12, with performances through March 1, 2015. Click here for more information or here for reservation info.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Casting News, Part One: OF MICE AND MEN at Community Players

John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men was published as a novella in 1937, but Steinbeck already had plans to put it on stage. By November, 1937, Steinbeck's own adaptation of his novel was playing at the Music Box Theatre on Broadway, with a cast that included Broderick Crawford and Wallace Ford as Lennie and George, a troubled pair of migrant ranch hands trying to eke out an existence in California during the Great Depression. Also in the cast -- Will Geer, Grandpa Walton himself. He played Slim, a mule-team driver and a leader in the ranch hierarchy. And Leigh Whipper, the first African-American member of Actors Equity, appeared as Crooks.

By 1939, Of Mice and Men was a movie, directed by Lewis Milestone for Hal Roach Studios, but without either Crawford or Ford. Whipper was the only member of the Broadway cast to appear in the film. A newcomer named Burgess Meredith played George, the smarter, smaller half of the pair, while Lon Chaney, Jr., who went on to play the Mummy, Frankenstein's Monster and the Wolf Man, took the role of Lennie, George's mentally challenged partner.

The play came back into the spotlight in 1974, in a Broadway production with James Earl Jones as Lennie, and in 1980 in Chicago, in a Steppenwolf production directed by Terry Kinney, with Gary Sinise and John Malkovich as George and Lennie. Sinise later directed Malkovich in a film version, too. Steinbeck's play was revived on Broadway earlier this year, with James Franco and Irish actor Chris O'Dowd.

Steinbeck's story is mostly a character study, an examination of the relationship between Lennie and George, whose lives are so inextricably linked. Lennie is large in stature, but his size and strength are at odds with his fondness for petting and holding soft things, including rabbits and puppies. As they travel from place to place, always one step ahead of trouble, George and Lennie dream of owning their own ranch instead of always scraping by working for other people. But, in the end, their conflicts with the sadistic son of their ranch boss and his flirtatious wife put everything in jeopardy.

Of Mice and Men is on the schedule for Community Players in January, with performances from January 16 to 25, 2015. Penny Wilson will direct Dave Krostal, who appeared in various roles in Spamalot with Players and as a photographer grappling with ethical and relationship problems in Time Stands Still at Heartland, as George, and Rick Clemmons, well-known locally as a stand-up comedian, as Lennie.

Spencer Powell will play Curley, the "handy" man who takes an instant dislike to Lennie, with Nicole Aune as his wife, Mae. Also in the cast are George Freeman as Curley's father, the boss of the place; Joe Culpepper as Candy, an aging ranch hand; Paul Vellella as "princely" Slim; Joe Strupek as Carlson; and Thom Rakestraw as Whit. No one has been announced yet for Crooks.

For more information or to order tickets, visit the Community Players website here.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Thanksgiving Week Entertainment

November has been stuffed with entertainment options, not unlike a Thanksgiving turkey. And it's not over yet. Yes, we've seen Falling, Meet Vera Stark, Rent, Viral, Walking with My Ancestors and Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, all pretty much on top of each other. ISU's Water by the Spoonful also dipped a toe into November.

We've made it to the 25th, so that means nothing is left for November but clean-up, right?

Au contraire!

On TV, you can use the Thanksgiving break to catch up with a firecracker of a season of The Good Wife (hint: things are not going well for Cory Agos), check in on who's advancing on The Voice or who wins the mirrorball (tonight) on Dancing with the Stars, watch New Girl's Thanksgiving episode (tonight) or tune in to the annual screenings of A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving and Welcome to America, Charlie Brown tomorrow night on ABC. You can also see the remaining episodes of Selfie, which was canceled, on Hulu, or wallow in the bright, sparkly excess of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade on NBC, with a host of performances from Broadway shows like A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder, Honeymoon in Vegas, Sting's The Last Ship, On the Town and Side Show. The usual holiday weekend marathons include Portlandia on IFC and Friends on TBS on Thanksgiving Day.

In movie theaters, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay -- Part 1 will keep you  warm, along with Birdman, Horrible Bosses 2, Interstellar and St. Vincent, all playing local screens this week.

If you prefer your movies classic, you can find a full night of road movies on Turner Classic Movies Friday, including Road to Utopia, Sullivan's Travels and It Happened One Night.

The Normal Theater echoes the road movie idea with Planes, Trains and Automobiles -- a road trip with Steve Martin and John Candy trying to make it home for the holidays -- on Thursday and Friday.

And if that's not enough to keep you busy, Bloomington Parks and Rec is hosting a Turkey Trot to help you run or walk off the pumpkin pie.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Suicide Goes VIRAL at ISU Next Week

Before he leaves Illinois State University, third-year MFA director David Ian Lee is taking on one last show. It's not just any show, either. Instead, Lee is directing a provocative piece from Mac Rogers, a play called Viral that deals with the right to die mixed together with the Youtube generation and a search for sexual satisfaction that comes from unorthodox places. Or, as the show's Facebook page describes it:

"Mac Rogers' Viral is a frank, humane and surprisingly funny look at some very complex issues -- assisted suicide, fetish, dignity and privacy in the age of viral videos, where there’s nothing so twisted that it doesn’t have an audience."

Lee is directing a cast that includes his wife, Karen Sternberg, as Meredith, a woman interested in ending her life for reasons she doesn't care to share. Garrett Douglas, Alex Levy and Katharine Rohrscheib are a trio of misfits eager to witness the moment Meredith shuffles off this mortal coil. And Pete Guither, Assistant Dean in ISU's School of Theatre and Dance, will play Snow, a mysterious "big daddy in the specialized entertainment field."

Plotwise, it's a collision of someone who wants to die, a small group of someones who want to videotape the perfect moment of death, and someone else who has experience with the medium.

David Ian Lee has made video (appropriate, yes?) interviews with his cast available on the Facebook page and lots more info on the show's website, where Lee promises "daily videos, music, essays, interviews, and other content to extend the theatrical experience." One piece of news: Playwright Mac Rogers will participate in a talkback via Skype following the Monday, November 17th performance of Viral. Again, technology and this play are a natural match!

If this edgy little play sounds like your cup of snuff, performances are scheduled for November 17, 18 and 19 at 9 p.m. in Centennial West 202 on the Illinois State University campus. To make reservations, leave a comment on the Viral Facebook page or visit

Tuesday, November 11, 2014


Heartland Theatre's production of Deanna Jent's Falling continues this week, with performances at 7:30 pm on Thursday, Friday and Saturday and a 2 pm matinee on Sunday. Although it's standard operating procedure for Heartland to do three weekends of performances, Falling stands out for Heartland in several ways.

For one, this production features the same director (Lori Adams) and scenic designer (John C. Stark) as the productions in St. Louis (the play premiered at the Mustard Seed Theatre) and New York City (off-Broadway at the Minetta Lane Theatre).

For another, there are short talkbacks -- post-scripts -- after almost every performance, allowing audience members a chance to hear more about how families and society deal with autism, since that is the challenge for the family in Falling, and to allow a backstage look at how director Adams, scenic designer Stark and the cast and crew have brought Falling to life in Bloomington-Normal. The complete schedule of post-script topics and speakers is available here.

Deanna Jent
But the biggest news about Falling this weekend is that playwright Deanna Jent, an alumna of Illinois Wesleyan University who now lives in St. Louis, will be in town for a series of events grouped under the heading IWU WEEKEND WITH DEANNA JENT. Jent's visit has been made possible by Illinois Wesleyan University and Provost Jonathan Green.

As the mother of an autistic child, Jent balances her time with a thriving theatre career. She is artistic director of the Mustard Seed Theatre, a professor at Fontbonne University and also a working director and playwright. Jent acted as the commencement speaker at last spring's IWU graduation ceremony, when her son graduated, and she wrote a piece for the IWU Magazine in 2013 about some of her Falling experiences. 

On campus, Jent will speak to theater and psychology students about Falling and her life and career, and at Heartland, she will be in the audience for the Saturday night and Sunday afternoon performances of her play on November 15 and 16. She will also be present after the show on both Saturday and Sunday to speak to audiences and take questions. And she will be there on Sunday evening for a reading of her new play, Blood Lines, which takes place in a group home for adult autistic women. That reading will feature actresses from Illinois State University, Illinois Wesleyan University and from Heartland's pool of actors. Actors Olivia Candocia (ISU), Alexa Eldridge (IWU), Debra Madans (IWU), Melissa James Shrader (Heartland) and Jaimie Taylor (ISU) will take part under the director of Dr. John Ficca, Emeritus Professor from the IWU School of Theatre Arts.

The talkback sessions with Deanna Jent will follow the performances, with the Saturday night discussion beginning at approximately 8:50 pm and the Sunday session starting at about 3:20 pm. The Sunday night reading of Blood Lines will begin at 7:30 pm. Both post-show discussions and the reading of Blood Lines will take place at Heartland Theatre, and all three are free and open to the public.

For Heartland Theatre reservation information, click here. To read more about Deanna Jent and Falling, you will definitely want to check out this essay, written by Jent in 2013.

Monday, November 10, 2014

One Thousand Three Hundred Twenty Four Minutes of RENT at Community Players

Community Players' entry in November sweeps is Rent, Jonathan Larson's musical picture of Bohemian youth in New York's East Village in the early 90s, living under the shadow of addiction and HIV/AIDS as they struggle to make art, find a voice and connect to love. Based loosely on Puccini's La bohème, Rent tells a classic story of idealistic young people trying to make those ideals work when real life, in the form of things like paying the rent, finding a place to life and mortality smack them in the face.

When Larson, who wrote the score and the book, died of an aortic dissection the night before the show's off-Broadway premiere, Rent and its message of living for today took on a larger significance in the cultural landscape. It became one of Broadway's  biggest "cult" musicals, with fans -- many of them new to Broadway and to musicals -- coming back again and again to try for $20 rush tickets. It starred the likes of Taye Diggs, Jesse L. Martin, Idina Menzel, Adam Pascal, Anthony Rapp and Daphne Rubin-Vega, sending them to the top of the Broadway ladder.

Touring companies of Rent have played in Bloomington-Normal before, this is the first time it has come to Community Players. Brett Cottone directs a cast of about 20, with Aaron Wiessing as Mark, the videographer who serves as a narrator to the piece; Sean Stevens and Sammantha Bettis as Roger and Mimi, a musician and dancer who are both HIV-positive and trying hard not to fall in love; Chris Stanford as Angel, a drag queen with AIDS who nevertheless has a sunny outlook on life; Tony Gannaway as Tom Collins, a smart, philosophical professor who rescues Angel from the streets; Breann Dawson as Maureen, Mark's ex who is now in a relationship with Joanne; Felicia Jiardina as Joanne, the politically-connected lawyer Maureen is now with; and Matthew Henry as Benny, the group's former friend who is now their landlord.

Director Cottone is joined on the technical side of the Rent equation by Bridgette Richard (assistant director), Rusty Russell  (musical director), Wendy Baugh (choreographer), Alan Wilson (producer and costumer), Tony Meizelis (lighting), Rich Plotkin and Eli Mundy (sound), Dorothy Mundy and Carol Plotkin (props), stage manager Judy Stroh and house manager Wendi Fleming.

Rent opened last weekend, but it has two more weekends to go, with performances November 13, 14, 15, 16, 20, 21, 22 and 23. Thursday, Friday and Saturday performances are at 7:30 pm, while Sunday matinees start at 2:30 pm. For more information, check out Rent's Facebook page. To buy tickets, click here.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

WALKING WITH MY ANCESTORS Takes the Stage at New Route Theatre Tonight

Tonight's the night when shows are opening left and right. New Route Theatre joins the action with Walking with My Ancestors by Ama Oforiwaa Aduonum, Associate Professor of Music in the College of Fine Arts at Illinois State University. Kim Pereira directs this exploration of an African-American ancestral journey told through song, dance and the spoken word, with an ensemble cast that includes Leola Bellamy, John Bowen, Jajwannica Johnson, Cynthia Senefianso-Amedoda and Claron Sharrieff along with Ama Oforiwaa Aduonum herself.

Ama Oforiwaa Aduonum
Walking with My Ancestors centers on the experiences of Africans imprisoned in dungeons in Africa before being thrown onto slave ships and sent to the Americas. Aduonum visited her native Ghana and the slave caves there to conduct her research, and that research inspired her to write this piece, which was supported by Illinois State’s University Research Grant program; Center of Teaching, Learning and Technology; School of Music; and College of Fine Arts.

Performances at New Route's new space at 814 Jersey Avenue in Normal are scheduled for November 6, 7, 8, 13, 14 and 15 at 7:30 pm, with matinees at 2:30 pm on November 9 and 16. General admission is $10, with student and senior tickets priced at $8.

Email or call 309-827-7330 to reserve a ticket to Walking with My Ancestors.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Heartland's FALLING, Opening Nov 6, Spotlights a Family Dealing with Autism

When Heartland Theatre opens Falling, Deanna Jent's play about the challenges of living inside a family with a profoundly autistic son, it will represent Step 3 in the journey director Lori Adams has taken with this play. Adams directed the show's world premiere at the Mustard Seed Theatre in St. Louis as well as its Off-Broadway production at the Minetta Lane Theatre. And her husband, scenic designer John C. Stark, designed both productions, along with a return stand at the Mustard Seed.

What made Falling rise above all the other new plays that pop up regionally, enough to send it straight to New York? The fact that it is in part based on Jent's real life as the mother of an autistic son certainly makes it stand out. And the rising profile of autism, along with larger and larger numbers of children diagnosed somewhere on the spectrum, makes it timely and compelling.

Adams and Stark are once again on board for Heartland's take on the family drama, bringing everything they learned about Jent's script back home for the benefit of local audiences who may not have been able to get to New York or St. Louis to see it there.

For this production, Karen Hazen and Rhys Lovell, who appeared together at Heartland in Middletown in 2013, will appear as Tami and Bill Martin, the couple whose marriage is tested by the demands of their older child. Daniel Esquivel, an ISU student in the School of Theatre and Dance, will play Josh, the child in question, while fellow Redbird Ashley Pruitt will play his younger sister Lisa. The family's fragile balance begins to falter when Grammy Sue, played by Ann B. White, arrives for a visit.

Playwright Deanna Jent will add to the Falling experience with a visit to Bloomington-Normal for what Illinois Wesleyan University is calling an "IWU Weekend with Deanna Jent" over November 15, 16 and 17, including events at Wesleyan as well as Heartland Theatre. Jent will stick around after Heartland's performances on the 15th and 16th to answer questions and give the inside scoop on Falling. These after-show discussions will be free and open to the public. To cap off her weekend in B-N, Jent will be present for a reading of her brand-new play Bloodlines at Heartland at 7:30 pm on Sunday the 16th.

In addition to Jent's appearances for post-show discussions, Heartland has arranged "post-scripts" involving various issues raised in the play, from daily life and employment opportunities for people with autism to bridging the gap between theater and disability. Lori Adams, John Stark and the cast of Falling will also be available after certain performances to give their perspective on the process. For the complete list of discussions scheduled, check Heartland's Show Times page here.

Falling opens tomorrow night at Heartland Theatre with a special Pay What You Can preview performance, followed by ten performances from November 7 to the 23rd. To see the complete schedule of performances, click here. For reservation information, click here.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

A Playwright and a Movie Star in Normal: BY THE WAY, MEET VERA STARK at ISU

By the Way, Meet Vera Stark, opening tomorrow night at Illinois State University's Center for the Performing Arts, is part of a pleasantly female-playwright-centric season launched this fall by ISU's Department of Theatre and Dance. With Sarah Ruhl and Quiara Alegria Hudes already represented this season with In the Next Room (or the Vibrator Play) and Water by the Spoonful, putting Lynn Nottage and By the Way, Meet Vera Stark on the bill seems like a perfect progression.

In case you're keeping track, Ruhl was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Drama for The Clean House in 2005 and again for In the Next Room in 2010, and Hudes was a Pulitzer finalist for Elliot, a Soldier's Fugue in 2007 and for the the book she co-wrote with Lin-Manuel Miranda for the musical In the Heights in 2009, picking up the win for Water by the Spoonful in 2012. Nottage edged out Hudes in 2009, taking home the coveted Pulitzer for Ruined. Ruhl and Nottage have also been awarded MacArthur Fellowships (sometimes called Genius Grants), Ruhl owns a Susan Smith Blackburn Prize, and Nottage took home a Guggenheim Fellowship. What's interesting about the pile of hardware is not that it was accumulated by female playwrights, but that the body of work it represents is so eclectic, combining comedy and drama with issues of war, family, gender, sexuality, love, career and ambition.

By the Way, Meet Vera Stark is satirical, amusing piece, looking into the mysterious history of a black actress in Old Hollywood. While she dreams of breaking into the movies in the early 30s, Vera is employed as a ladies' maid by a neurotic diva named Gloria Mitchell who has the reputation of being "America's Little Sweetie Pie." When a role (as a slave) is available in a melodrama where Gloria is playing a quintessential Southern belle, Vera jumps at the chance to get on screen. Yes, it's a slave. But it's a slave with lines. And even in a small role, Vera stands out. In fact, she is incandescent and unforgettable on screen, whether or not she is limited to the maids and mammy roles available to someone like her.

Vera achieves a certain level of stardom, but her story isn't happily-ever-after. By the 70s, she has disappeared from the screen, leaving a panel of scholars in Meet Vera Stark's second act to debate what happened to her and what kind of footnote to movie history she represents.

Don LaCasse directs Vera Stark for ISU, with MFA actress Faith Servant as Vera, Mary DeWitt as Gloria Mitchell, Brianna Haskell and Gabrielle Lott-Rogers as Vera's wannabe actress friends, Dan Machalinski and Wesley Tilford as major players in the film industry, and La'Mar Hawkins as a romantic interest. When the action jumps forward, Haskell, Hawkins, Lott-Rogers, Machalinski and Tilford play the academics and TV talking heads putting together the pieces that make up the real and the imagined Vera Stark.

Playwright Lynn Nottage is coming to Illinois State University as part of this Vera Stark experience. Nottage will speak to students and audience members after the November 8 evening performance and before the Sunday matinee on the 9th. Click here to see the details of Nottage's visit.

By the Way, Meet Vera Stark opens November 6 with a 7:30 pm curtain, with evening performances on November 7, 8, 12, 13, 14 and 15, and a 2 pm matinee on November 9. For more information, click here. For ticket info, try this page.

Monday, November 3, 2014

November Openings, November Shows

There are certain days of the year when everybody wants to schedule everything, all on the same day. November 6 is one of those days. Four different shows bow on the 6th, all (I'm guessing) to fit their complete runs in before Thanksgiving. The good news it that you have a lot to choose from if you are so inclined. The bad news is that you will probably miss something good every time you choose something else.

Alphabetically, the first show of the cluster opening on the 6th is Illinois State University's By the Way, Meet Vera Stark, a thought-provoking comedy about a black actress in Old Hollywood, when performers like Vera and her friends were stuck playing maids and mammies, no matter how often they stole scenes or dominated the screen.Vera Stark comes from Pulitzer Prize winning playwright Lynn Nottage, who is coming to Illinois State University this weekend to talk to students and audience members after the November 8 evening performance and before the Sunday matinee on the 9th. Click here to see the details of Nottage's visit. The play itself jumps from Vera as an aspiring actress and real-life maid in the 1930s, her path to screen fame, and then her disappearance. In Act II, we see a TV panel put together to solve the mystery of whatever happened to... Vera Stark is directed for ISU's Center for the Performing Arts by Don LaCasse and stars MFA actress Faith Servant in the title role. You'll have eight chances to catch Vera between November 6 and 15.

The second contender on November 6 is Heartland Theatre's riveting family drama Falling, Deanna Jent's semi-autobiographical look inside a family struggling to keep up with the demands of a severely autistic son. Jent is an IWU alum and she, too, will be visiting Bloomington-Normal. We don't often get playwrights here, so two in two weeks is pretty remarkable. Jent is the Artistic Director of St. Louis's Mustard Seed Theatre, where Falling premiered. From there, the show, with director Lori Adams and scenic designer John Stark on board, moved off-Broadway, to New York's Minetta Lane Theater, where it played to sold-out audiences and garnered a host of Drama Desk nominations. Adams is back at the helm for Heartland Theatre, with a cast that includes Karen Hazen and Rhys Lovell as Tami and Bill Martin, parents of big-and-getting-bigger Josh, played by Daniel Esquivel. Ashley Pruitt plays little sis Lisa, while Ann B. White, as grandmother Sue Martin, upsets the family applecart when she arrives for a visit. While Jent is in town November 15 to 17, she will visit the IWU campus, answer questions and share the inside scoop on Falling at Heartland after the Saturday, November 15 evening performance and the Sunday, November 16 matinee, and watch a reading of her new play, Bloodlines, also at Heartland, on Sunday night at 7:30 pm.

During the run of the show, Heartland has scheduled short "postscripts" after almost every performance, with Julie Calmes of AutonomyWorks and Kim Williamson of Circles Behavior Consultation Services first up on the 6th. For the full schedule of talkbacks and discussions, check here.

We're halfway through the 6th! Let's celebrate with Rent, that musical callback to the late 90s, about Bohemian youth in the Village who want to make art in the midst of conflict with landlords, addiction and HIV/AIDS. Brett Cottone directs a cast of about 20, with Sean Stevens and Samantha Bettis at the top of the card as star-crossed lovers Roger and Mimi. Rent's preview on the 6th is followed by performance November 7 to 9, 13 to 16 and 20 to 23.

New Route Theatre officially christens its new space at 814 Jersey Avenue in Normal with the world premiere of Walking With My Ancestors by Ama Oforiwaa Aduonum, directed by Kim Pereira and featuring Leola Bellamy, John Bowen, Jajwannica Johnson, Cynthia Senefianso-Amedoda and Claron Sharrieff along with Ama Oforiwaa Aduonum herself. Email or call 309-827-7330 to reserve a ticket to this exploration of the African-American journey in America told through song, dance and the spoken word.

The new film Birdman, starring Michael Keaton as a formerly famous action/super hero, comes to Champaign's Art Theater Co-op on November 7th. The Art goes to 11 with one of my favorite movies, This Is Spinal Tap, showing on November 14, and another fabulous piece of filmmaking, Stanley Kubrick's war film, Paths of Glory, on the 17th. They'll finish up the month with another new film, The Theory of Everything, starring Eddie Redmayne as Stephen Hawking, showing on November 28.

The Ides of March, a "powerhouse rock and roll band" known primarily for their hit song Vehicle, will take you anywhere you want to go, as long as it's the Bloomington Center for the Performing Arts on November 15. I have two connections to this band. Some iteration of it (or perhaps a tribute band to it) played at my prom in 1974. And I once worked with the brother of Ides band member Larry Millas. Does that make me one degree of separation from the Ides of March? Or none?

Illinois Wesleyan University School of Theatre Arts enters November sweeps with the Broadway musical Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, beginning November 18 at McPherson Theatre. The madcap musical, with book by Jeffrey Lane and music and lyrics by David Yazbeck, is based on the Pedro Almodovar movie about women in Madrid being driven crazy by the men in their lives. On Broadway, Women on the Verge starred Sherie Rene Scott, Patti LuPone, Laura Benanti and Brian Stokes Mitchell, with the score, LuPone and Benanti nominated for Tony Awards. The show was nominated for eight Drama Desk Awards, with Benanti taking home the hardware. That's the Broadway Playbill you see at left. Watch for Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown at IWU from November 18 to 23.