The Blue Shadow

March 13 – May 2, 2010

“This high-spirited, hour-long kids’ show by Nambi Kelley is all about our search for origins… Multiple, edifying source stories (Russian, African, Chinese, and Mayan) are exuberantly depicted… and Joe Plummer’s songs are instantly infectious”  —Lawrence Bommer, Chicago Reader

A Native American girl named Shadow feels blue because she knows nothing of her heritage. When she brings her neighbors together to share their friendship and storytelling traditions, Shadow learns to embrace who she is, and to celebrate the beauty of all cultures. Explore a whole world of mythology – including African, Chinese, Mayan and Russian traditions – in this new musical filled with folklore, laughter, and dancing, by award-winning playwright Nambi E. Kelley.

Recommended for kids 5 and up. Children under 2 are not permitted.

A new musical based on world folktales by Nambi E. Kelley, with Xavier Kelley 
Music & Lyrics by Joe Plummer 
Directed by Ilesa Duncan

  • Ben Chang (Wei)

    Ben is thrilled to work with Lifeline for the first time. In Chicago, Ben has appeared in an outreach production for Shaw Chicago, an episode of Television Reruns with ARFTCo, and will be performing the title role in The Man Who Turned Into a Stick for Geopolis Theatre this spring. Other credits include touring as Romeo for North Carolina Shakespeare Festival; and in Santa Barbara, California: The Paper Dragon for Ensemble Theatre, Twelve Angry Men for DIJO, and Red Herring for Circle Bar B Dinner Theatre. Ben is a graduate of Stanford University.

  • Susaan Jamshidi (Shadow)

    Susaan was most recently part of the Goodman Theatre’s New Stages Series as Yasmina in Yasmina’s Necklace by Rohina Malik, directed by Henry Godinez. This summer she played Sympathy the Learned in Mary Zimmerman’s The Arabian Nights at Lookingglass. Other Chicago credits include The Arab-Israeli CookbookTerman Vox MachinaSkin in Flames, and the World Premiere of Mia McCullough’s Spare Change. Susaan received her MFA in Acting from The Theatre School at Depaul University.

  • Mallory Nees (Roksana)

    Mallory is a recent graduate of The Theatre School at DePaul University. Some favorite roles include Pennywise in Urinetown (dir. Dexter Bullard), Florina in Mad Forest (dir. Carlos Murillo) and Lady Bracknell in The Importance of Being Earnest. Before coming to Chicago, Mallory performed at various venues in her home state of Wisconsin as Helena in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Gilda in Design for Living, and Sarah in Spinning Into Butter. Since graduation, she’s been blessed to have worked on FIVE shows with Lifeline Theatre! You may have seen her earlier this season in the KidSeries productions of Dooby Dooby Moo and The Last of the Dragons.

  • Miguel Nunez (Ernesto)

    Miguel is making his first appearance in a Lifeline production. Some of his latest Chicago credits include the stage reading of Salt for Teatro Luna; Lorca In a Green Dress and Heads for Halcyon Theatre; 12 Hungry Men for Chicago Fusion Theatre; Four Boxes for Epic Players. He has worked for Salsation! Theatre Company; Redmoon Theatre and many more. He was an ensemble member with New World Players in Indiana where he was seen in Cloud TectonicsCarthaginiansSadomasochism and more. Miguel studied at the National Theatre University in Caracas, Venezuela, and is currently a student at Black Box Acting Studio.

  • Dawn Pryor (Zuri)

    Dawn is native of Miami Florida with a B.A. in Theatre from the University of Central Florida. This marks her first appearance with Lifeline. Chicago credits include Dear President Obama and The Day Santa Cancelled Christmas (Studio One Productions), A Devil in God’s House (Tiny Production), Milk (MPAACT), This Far by Faith (ETA), Sarafina! The Music of Liberation (Fleetwood-Jourdain Theatre), and other local theatre/performance groups such as Black Ensemble Theatre and Chocolate Chips Theatre. Other credits include Once upon a MattressLittle Shop of HorrorsOnce on this IslandLysistrata, and Good Woman of Setzuan.

  • Scott Allen Luke (Understudy)

    Scott most recently performed the role of Prince Stanley of Tuscany in the Lifeline KidSeries production of The Last of the Dragons, and last year he appeared in the KidSeries production of Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle. Scott has worked extensively in the theatre scene around Chicago with companies like Next Theatre, Light Opera Works, Raven Theatre, Circle Theatre, The Mill Theatre Co., Keyhole Theatre, Chase Park Theatre, Lincoln Square Theatre, and Rubicon Theatre Project, which he co-founded.

  • Jennifer Young (Understudy)

    Jennifer is delighted to be working with Lifeline on such a beautiful story as The Blue Shadow. As both an actor and musician, Jennifer was last seen up the road in Theo Ubique’s Man of La Mancha and down the road in the orchestra of Quest’s Evolution/Creation. Other delightful roles have been Sally in You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown; Bloody Mary in South Pacific; and Gertrude McFuzz in Seussical, The Musical.

  • Nambi E. Kelley (Playwright)

    Nambi’s projects include plays for the Steppenwolf and Goodman Theatre in Chicago and Lincoln Center in New York. Recent awards/nominations: The Friends Fellowship (Ragdale Foundation), the 3 Arts Fellowship, TCG Candidate for Playwriting: Goodman Theatre, the Eugene O’Neill Playwrights Conference nomination and honors at the Black Ensemble Theatre for playwriting. Kelley guest lectures at Lake Forest College. An accomplished award-winning stage actress whose work has entertained nationally and internationally, Ms. Kelley holds a B.F.A. from The Theatre School at DePaul University and is currently an M.F.A. candidate at Goddard College in Vermont.

  • Xavier Kelley (Writer/Adaptor, The Muddy Foot)

    Xavier is a 3rd grader at Decatur Classical Elementary School. He likes Pokemon, Transformers, chess, and lives with his family on the North Side.

  • Joe Plummer (Composer & Sound Designer)

    Joe is also a playwright and an actor. He was a Jeff nominee and a BTA Award nominee for his portrayal of Louis Armstrong in Apple Tree’s production of Jammin’ With Pops and a Jeff nominee and a BTA Award winner for Best New Writing of a Play and a Jeff nominee for Choreography for Get Ready at Victory Gardens. Other sound design credits include The State of Missippi vs. Emmett Till (Pegasus Players); Black Nativity (Congo Square), for which he won a BTA award both times for best sound design; BTA award nominee for Stick Fly (Congo Square); Layla’s Dream and Seven Guitars, also for Congo Square; Heat and Hove VI (Chicago Dramatists).

  • Ilesa Duncan (Director)

    Ilesa has worked for such theatres as Victory Gardens, Chicago Dramatists, Writer’s Theatre, Pegasus Players, Rivendell, Prop Theater, Black Ensemble, ETA, Chicago Theater Company, and the Goodman. Some Chicago credits include the Jeff Nominated The Shape of a Girl and Tick Tick Boom! for Pegasus Players, Hope Six for Chicago Dramatists (written by Nambi Kelley), Waiting to be Invited at Victory Gardens, Aloha Say The Pretty Girls and F**king A for the Theatre School/DePaul. She also directed Red Rain for Lincoln Center Theatre’s Director’s Lab/HERE, and the hit dark comedy Love Child at Chicago Theater Co., Theatre on the Lake and Live Bait Theater. Additional regional credits: CrownsLady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill and A Raisin in the Sun (CATCO), and Shakin’ The Mess Outta Misery (Indianapolis’ Phoenix Theatre). A member of Lincoln Center Theatre’s Director’s Lab, Ilesa is a NEA/TCG directing fellow and an Associate Artist at Chicago Dramatists.

  • Jennifer Aparicio (Stage Manager)

    Jennifer Aparicio (Stage Manager) is excited to be back at Lifeline where she just finished stage managing The Last of the Dragons. She also stage managed their 2008 production of Snowflake Tim’s Big Holiday Adventure. She has worked with The Second City, etc., Metropolis Performing Arts Centre, New World Repertory Theater and 16th Street Theater. She graduated from Columbia College with a BA in Theater.

  • Sarah Hughey (Lighting Designer)

    Sarah is returning to Lifeline for a second KidSeries production this season, because she had so much fun on The Last of the Dragons. She also designed lights for Mariette in Ecstasy on Lifeline’s MainStage last season. Recent Chicago credits include Wilson Wants It All (House Theatre of Chicago), Dancing at Lughnasa and Mojo Mickybo (Seanachaí Theatre Co.), Girls vs. Boys (House Theatre of Chicago with American Musical Theatre Project/Northwestern University), Little Brother and On the Shore of the Wide World (Griffin Theatre), and Parlour Song (Steep Theatre). Sarah earned her MFA from Northwestern University.

  • Joanna Iwanicka (Puppet Designer)

    Joanna is thrilled to be back at Lifeline, where she first exhibited her passion for puppets in The True Story of 3 Little Pigs. She recently graduated from The Academy of Fine Arts in Poznan, Poland with a MA degree in Scenic Design. Upon returning to the United States, she showcased some of her acquired skills in Lifeline’s recent production of Dooby Dooby Moo (talent show judges) and The Last of the Dragons(dragon puppet). Joanna has also designed sets for Congo Square Company, Chopin Theatre, The Library Theatre, Vintage Theatre Collective and Metropolis Performing Arts Centre, worked for Santa Fe Opera, Denver Center Theatre Company, Williamstown Theatre Fesival, Des Moines Metro Opera, and most recently Redmoon Theatre.

  • Camille Kuthrell (Choreographer)

    Camille is a dancer and actress from Chicago, IL. She currently dances with the Joel Hall Dancers; dances/choreographs for A Long Walk Home’s production of S.O.A.R.S. (Story of A Rape Survivor); and recently choreographed Trap Door Theatre Company’s 12 Ophelias. A graduate of Indiana University-Bloomington, where she earned a degree in Public Policy, Camille was member of Indiana University’s African-American Dance company. This is Camille’s first production with Lifeline Theatre.

  • Christine Pascual (Costume Designer)

    Regional Credits: Joe Turner’s Come and Gone (Centerstage Baltimore); The House on Mango StreetElliot: A Soldier’s Fugue (Steppenwolf Theatre); The Piano LessonThe First Breeze of SummerFlyin’ West ( Court Theatre); The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity – world premiere, Relatively CloseThe Romance of Magno RubioSymmetry (Victory Gardens Theatre); SanctifiedSt. James InfirmaryJoe Turner’s Come and GoneSeven GuitarsBlack NativityThe Talented TenthStickfly – world premiere (Congo Square Theatre); Our Lady of the Underpass – world premiere, Breakfast, Lunch and DinnerAnother Part of the House,Living Out (Teatro Vista); Our Enemies: Lively Scenes of Love and Combat (Silk Road Theatre Project); Ten Cent Night – world premiere (Chicago Dramatists); Capriccio Barocco (Yale Baroque Opera Project); DefianceFabulation (Next Theatre); Topdog UnderdogTrue West(American Theater Company). She is an artistic associate of Teatro Vista. Upcoming projects: Welcome to Arroyo’s at ATC, The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity at Second Stage in NYC, and Sizwe Bansi is Dead at the Court Theatre.

  • Ian Zywica (Scenic & Props Designer, Technical Director)

    Ian has been freelancing in Chicago as a Scenic Designer and Technical Director for the past three years. He recently designed Miracle on 34th Street (Porchlight Music Theatre), Under Milk Wood (Caffeine Theatre), and The Foreigner (Triton College).

  • Cortney Hurley (Production Manager)

    Cortney is excited to be kicking off her fourth season with Lifeline after working on such productions as The Island of Dr. Moreau and The Mark of Zorro. Previous production management positions include the last three seasons at Strawdog Theatre, Ellen Under Glasswith the House Theatre of Chicago, and One False Note with Plasticene. She currently serves as the Production Manager and General Manager at Strawdog Theatre, as well as the Assistant Production Manager at Theater on the Lake since 2004.

From the Chicago Reader

March 16, 2010
By Lawrence Bommer

Like Silk Road Theatre Project’s The DNA Trail, this high-spirited, hour-long kids’ show by Nambi Kelley is all about our search for origins. Shadow, a Native American girl, discovers her connection to the world by finding out who she is and where she comes from. Multiple, edifying source stories (Russian, African, Chinese, and Mayan) are exuberantly depicted by Ilesa Duncan’s hyper cast and Ian Zywica’s tradition-lite props, masks, and shadow puppets. The very predictability of the tale-spinning delivers a kind of organized wonder, and Joe Plummer’s songs are instantly infectious–their goofy fun keeping it, if not real, at least not pretentious.




March 15, 2010
By K.D. Hopkins

There are so many tests in life. As children, some of the first we have occur on the play lot and then later in school, ranging from how to make friends to how to make it off of the playground without being teased. Back in the day, there weren’t many guides for this kind of stuff; if a child was not popular then the dice often fell the same way your entire life. These days, we are encouraged to celebrate our differences and somehow find common ground. It was from this premise that I took my niece Lexie and my nephew David to see The Blue Shadow at the Lifeline Theatre.

I grew up on shows like “Captain Kangaroo” and “Garfield Goose.” Questions of national origin were never addressed (although I suspected something subversive about Mr. Green Jeans). By the time “Sesame Street” and “Zoom” came along, I was well into junior high and getting plenty of doses of cold reality thanks to the world seemingly getting smaller via the evening news.

The Blue Shadow, by playwright Nambi E. Kelley, is lovingly adapted for the stage from a book written with her nephew Xavier Kelley. When walking up the to theatre, there was a gaggle of excited kids racing us to the door. I got the book and CD for my young guests (which I recommend as a fine way to continue the positive energy of the production after going home). I introduced Lexie and David to Ms. Kelley and her nephew Xavier, who both autographed the book. It was a good example to set for the children – something to aspire to in perhaps writing their stories.

When we were ushered to our seats, it wasn’t long before members of the cast, in character, filtered through the audience. Dawn Pryor sat down in the aisle next to my nephew and introduced herself as her character Zuri. Her exuberant smile and bouncing braids immediately enthralled David. Ms. Pryor engaged him in a conversation and I admit to being charmed as well. When Miguel Nunez introduced himself as Ernesto, I scoffed at his claim of being ten years old. Mr. Nunez retorted with a very convincing “uh-huh I’m ten!” It was a clever means of involving the young audience and then focusing them on the stage.

Ben Chang plays the role of Wei – a cool kid wearing headphones who launches into an audience participation rap. Wei is joined onstage by Africa (Pryor), Meso-America (Nunez), and the European Roksana (Mallory Nees). A teacher is heard in a booming voice-over, telling the children to take their seats and welcome the new student Shadow (Susaan Jamshidi). Jamshidi plays Shadow with perfectly awkward rebellion and tentative shyness at the same time. Bursting onstage wearing a heavy metal tee shirt and dark glasses, the other schoolkids immediately make negative presumptions about her. But the students warm up to her as Shadow impresses them with her Wikipedia knowledge. As the children introduce themselves, they share their origins on a giant inflatable globe. Shadow does not know how to explain her ancestry so easily as the other kids and becomes quite blue. The song “Shadow’s Blues” is funny and forlorn as the audience is reminded that one does not have to get their heart stomped on to have the blues – the blues can come from a yearning to recognized and to belong. (The music and lyrics by Joe Plummer are a welcome respite from the bleating bubblegum drivel usually peddled to children.)

What follows is a colorful array of tales from the human diaspora. The cast brought my Rand McNally childhood memories to life, traversing the globe with folktales and songs familiar yet new. I admit to a love of the story of Baba Yaga featuring Vasilisa (Nees), the put-upon stepchild in the Russian version of the Cinderella story sans Prince Charming. The entire cast is involved in each tale but this was a wonder of identity switching and snappy dialogue with a great gross-out depiction of Baba Yaga’s meal request. I bow to the props department on getting an ‘ewww!’ from everyone.

Each story is told to discover Shadow’s origins. After hearing tales from around the globe, she recalls a tale from her childhood of how moccasins were fashioned from buffalo skins. It is a story of mud and bunions with a great cameo by a buffalo that will delight all age groups.

The performances are full of such childlike exuberance that one forgets that these are adults on the stage performing as children. The cast embodies a frenetic energy that sincerely enjoys the material. The musical performances are broadly drawn; designed to remain in a child’s mind well beyond the production’s close. The use of shadow puppets and great papier mache masks lends a wonderful live cartoon vibe that draws one further into each folktale; inspiring flights of imagination.

At the play’s conclusion, all sections of the globe are filled in and everyone has a story of discovery. The writing inspired curiosity for learning about other cultures for my niece and nephew. There is a trip to the Field Museum in my near future as well as a tour through the family tree and photo albums.

Ms. Kelley, the playwright, has an impressive theatre resume here in Chicago as well as on both coasts. I have fond memories of her performances and am very excited to see her coming accomplishments on the writing side. I’m also looking forward to following the blossoming talents of Kelly’s nephew, Xavier, who adapted “The Muddy Foot” – the pivotal story in finding Shadow’s cultural identity. Xavier is all of ten years old and quite an impressive young man.

Director Ilesa Duncan has staged a flowing and fast paced production with The Blue Shadow. Never once does the direction condescend to the young audience, which ranges from four years old and up. I am always amazed at the stagecraft of the productions at Lifeline Theatre. This is but one of the reasons that Chicago is America’s theatre leader.