How To Survive A Fairy Tale

January 7 – February 26, 2012
Sat at 1pm, Sun at 11am & 1pm

“It’s hard to imagine a company with richer production values and consistent attention to detail… Take the kids or the adults to see this, and banish cabin fever for a while!”  –Chicago Theater Beat

“A fun, meta-farcical take on classic fairy tales that makes sure everyone, young and old, leaves the theatre satisfied.”  –Centerstage

“Best of all, Fairy Tale tosses a few clever curveballs to its younger audience members by twisting the stories that they already know, to embed little life lessons.”  –Time Out Chicago Kids

Even though his dad is a frog and his mom claims to be a princess, Jack grew up in a house without fairy tales. So when he is thrust into a mysterious forest, threatened by bears and witches and trolls, he must find a way to survive without any knowledge of the “rules” of traditional folktales. Travel with Jack on a madcap quest to rescue children lost in the woods, escape from some extremely gruff billy goats, and help his parents find their Happily Ever After, in a world premiere fractured fairy tale.

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

Based on popular fairy tales and nursery rhymes, from the Brothers Grimm and beyond 
By James E. Grote 
Directed by Shole Milos

Excerpt from How To Survive A Fairy Tale

  • Heather Currie (Jack's Mom, Red's Grandma, Mama Bear, Witch, Goat Mom)

    Heather is thrilled to be back at Lifeline! She spent the last three years “on the farm” in Click, Clack, Moo; Cows That TypeDooby Dooby Moo; and before that as Pig in Duck for President. Favorite past credits include School House Rock Live!The TaffettasNunsenseSpinning Into ButterFrankie and Johnny In the Clare De Lune, and Godspell. Heather currently teaches in the Film Department at Columbia College and College of DuPage, and can be heard singing every Saturday night at Davenport’s Piano Bar and Cabaret.

  • Derek Czaplewski (Jack's Dad, Woodsman, Papa Bear, Hansel & Gretel's Dad, Goat Dad)

    Derek returns to Lifeline after appearing as Farmer Brown in last year’s remount of Click, Clack, Moo. Derek has also worked with Northlight Theatre, Stage Left Theatre, Piven Workshop, Circle Theatre, TimeLine Theatre, Pegasus Players, and Emerald City, among others. He is also an ensemble member with Handbag Productions. By day, Derek is the Associate Artistic Director for Imagination Theater.

  • Amanda Link (Little Red Riding Hood, Goldilocks, Gretel, Little Goat)

    Amanda is thrilled to be back at Lifeline ,where she has been seen in Dooby Dooby MooMrs. Piggle WiggleDuck for President, and Half Magic. She is also a proud member of the Lifeline Storytelling Project. Next at Lifeline she will assistant direct Pride and Prejudice. She recently performed in Assignment #403 at High Concept Laboratories. Other Chicago credits include work with Griffin Theatre, the side project, The Mill, The Anatomy Collective, Inconceivable Theatre, and Sandbox Theatre Project. A proud graduate of the Conservatory Program at Second City, she has also performed in many sketch shows at Donny’s Skybox.

  • Jacquis Neal (The Wolf, Baby Bear, Hansel, Beanstalk Jack, Troll)

    Jacquis is very happy to be working with Lifeline Theatre again, after being the understudy for The 13 Clocks. Jacquis has worked with various theatres here in Chicago, including Adventure Stage Chicago, American Theatre Company, Halycon Theatre, and numerous others. He can also be seen in a few national commercials, including State Farm, Hasbro, and Airheads Candy. He’s a proud alumnus of Columbia College, and also proudly represented by Big Mouth Talent.

  • Nathaniel Niemi (Jack)

    Nathaniel is excited to be back at Lifeline after playing Duck in Dooby Dooby Moo. Other recent credits include Phillipe in The Baker’s Wife at Circle Theatre and Jack in Into the Woods at Quest Theatre Ensemble. Other roles include Pirelli in Sweeney Todd, Dewey in The Diviners, and Mortimer in The Fantasticks. Nathaniel is also a clown and performs in various revues around Chicago. This Spring, Nathaniel will be playing Wilbur in Naked Mole Rat Gets Dressed here at Lifeline.

  • Peter J. Hegel (Understudy)

    Peter is thrilled to be making his Lifeline debut with How to Survive a Fairy Tale. A recent graduate of Northwestern University and The School at Steppenwolf, he can be seen in Buzz22’s upcoming production Residue. Other Northwestern credits include The American PilotA Streetcar Named DesireThe Cherry OrchardArsenic and Old LaceTartuffe, and Copenhagen.

  • Blake McKay (Understudy)

    Blake is grateful to be a part of such a fun production here at Lifeline. A few months ago, she graduated from Northwestern University where some of her favorite moments included performing in productions of TartuffeThree Sisters, and North Star. She also has been lucky enough to work with Steep Theatre and Dog & Pony Theatre Company here in Chicago.

  • Jeffrey Rubin (Understudy)

    Jeffrey graduated from Illinois State University with a B.S. in Acting and is terribly excited for this opportunity with Lifeline Theatre. Past performances include Proteus in The Two Gentlemen of Verona, Gremio in Taming of the Shrew, and Father Flynn in Doubt.

  • James E. Grote (Playwright)

    Jim joined the Lifeline artistic ensemble in 1999. This is his eleventh play for Lifeline, and his first original non-adaptation. His adaptation of Click, Clack, Moo: Cows That Type (music/lyrics by George Howe) has been produced around the country, most notably at Oregon Children’s Theatre in Portland and Dallas (Texas) Children’s Theatre. He has also adapted three of the sequels in the Click, Clack, Moo series, as well as C.S. Lewis’ The Silver Chair, Daniel Mason’s The Piano Tuner, and Amy Timberlake’s The Dirty Cowboy. Jim is also an actor, and has appeared at Lifeline in Lyle, Lyle, CrocodileAround the World in 80 Days; and The Killer Angels, among other shows.

  • Shole Milos (Director)

    Shole is a Lifeline ensemble member who has directed more than twenty KidSeries productions including last season’s Click, Clack, Moo: Cows That Type (and the original production as well); Doobie Doobie MooDuck for President; and many others. For the MainStage, he has directed A Long Way From Chicago and has appeared in Mariette in Ecstacy and The Piano Tuner.

  • Ellen Willett (Stage Manager)

    Ellen is glad to be “surviving” yet another KidSeries show. Her previous Lifeline Theatre credits include Click, Clack, MooDooby Dooby MooMrs. Piggle-WiggleDuck for PresidentTalking It OverHalf MagicCrossing CaliforniaSophie’s Masterpiece; and Strong Poison. In addition, she has worked with Adventure Stage Chicago, The Inconvenience, Eclipse Theatre Company, Steep Theatre, Strawdog Theatre Company, and many more. She also serves on the board of the International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE), a unique and vibrant music ensemble dedicated to advancing the music of our time.

  • Jana Anderson (Costume Designer)

    Prior to coming to the United States, Jana made elaborate costumes for classical opera productions at the National Theater in Bratislava, Czechoslovakia. She graduated from Fine Arts University where her interest in working on period pieces originated. For last decade she has been designing throughout the Chicago area, collaborating with numerous theatre groups and schools, including the Lyric Opera, Porchlight, Theatre at the Center, Light Opera Works, Redmoon, Loyola, and Northwestern University, to name a few. Jana supervises costume construction students at Roosevelt University and has loyal clientele in U.S. and Europe for whom she makes unique haute-couture garments.

  • Alan Donahue (Scenic Designer & Properties Designer)

    Alan is a Lifeline ensemble member and veteran scenic designer for Lifeline’s MainStage and KidSeries, having most recently designed Click, Clack, MooWuthering HeightsNeverwhereTreasure Island; and Dooby Dooby Moo. When not designing scenery or props he does the occasional lighting design (The Killer AngelsThe Talisman Ring [2005]) or adaptation (Trust Me on ThisCrossing CaliforniaBongo Larry & Two Bad BearsSophie’s Masterpiece). Recent designs elsewhere include An Enemy of the People for Stage Left Theatre and Carmilla for WildClaw Theatre. After How to Survive a Fairy Tale his attention shifts to The Fisherman for Stage Left Theatre at Theatre Wit.

  • Jordan Kardasz (Lighting Designer)

    Jordan is excited to be working on her first kid’s show at Lifeline, having last assisted on Neverwhere and currently assisting on Hunger. Jordan has been designing lights around town with lots of folks including Strawdog Theatre, Sideshow Theatre Co, Urbantheatre, Factory, and Matter Dance. She has also assisted on shows with The Hypocrites, Next Theatre, and Adventure Stage. Recent credits include The Spirit Play with the Strange Tree Group and We Live Here with Theatre Seven. Jordan is an artistic associate with Sideshow and recently became an ensemble member with Strawdog.

  • Anthony Ingram (Sound Designer)

    Anthony is very happy to be back at Lifeline after having most recently worked on the great and fun Click, Clack, Moo. Tony is the resident Sound Designer and Production Manager at Signal Ensemble Theatre and has worked on a majority of their productions since 2004, including East of Berlin & The Russian PlayAces1776AftermathThe Ballad Of The Sad Cafe, and Seascape. He has also worked with other companies in the Chicagoland area including Shattered Globe Theatre, (The Old) Bailiwick, Deeply Rooted Dance Theatre, and The Right Brain Project. On a day-to-day basis Tony can be found at The Dance Center of Columbia College Chicago where he is a Technical Associate.

  • Cortney Hurley (Production Manager)

    Cortney is thrilled to join the Lifeline team for the sixth season in a row. Previous production management positions include the last five seasons at Strawdog Theatre, where she PMed a variety of shows including The Master & MargaritaRed NosesCherry OrchardLie of the Mind, and Marathon ‘33Ellen Under Glass with the House Theatre of Chicago; and One False Note with Plasticene. She currently serves as the General Manager of Strawdog Theatre.

  • Joe Schermoly (Technical Director)

    Joe is a set designer, technical director and painter. His design work has been seen around Chicago at Lifeline Theatre (The Count of Monte CristoThe Moonstone), Griffin (No More Dead DogsPortThe Constant Wife), Strawdog (Master and MargaritaRichard III), Sinnerman Ensemble (Sweet Confinement), Eclipse (The Trestle at Pope Lick Creek) and more. He has also designed and built shows in London for The Finborough, Bush, and Gate theatres among others. Joe studied set design at Northwestern University and has received two After Dark Awards for his design work in Chicago.

From Time Out Chicago Kids

January 27, 2012
By Web Behrens

Known for its adaptations of children’s tales, Lifeline’s KidSeries presents an original story this time around: How to Survive a Fairy Tale, a whimsical, metafictional look at fables. Ensemble member and playwright James E. Grote serves up a cute story about a kid named Jack, whose childhood is bereft of fairy tales. What’s more, Jack doesn’t even know what he’s missing; his dad reads to him from manuals at bedtime. (Among funny touches that help keep adults engaged: Jack is especially fond of a how-to-assemble instruction booklet from IKEA.) Young Jack is a bit suspicious of his parents, however, as well he should be: His mom is a princess, and Dad’s a giant frog.

Therein lies the crux of this family’s problem: Jack’s parents were cursed by a witch but they can’t figure out how to undo the spell. Meanwhile, Jack is whisked off to a magical land of talking wolves and bears and billy goats gruff when a strange book bonks him on the head.

Whaddya know: It’s a book of fables! Which gives Jack an advantage — he can read ahead to find out what’s about to happen — as he tries to navigate this dangerous new world, filled with wink-wink updates on classic characters. Little Red Riding Hood, for example, can’t be bothered to take off her headphones and stop watching TV. If she did, then she’d realize that Granny’s in Big Bad Wolf-related danger.

Director Shole Milos and his game cast of five, all playing multiple roles except Nathaniel Niemi, precocious as Jack, have fun with Grote’s script, adding exaggerated accents for extra helpings of silly. Goldilocks is a Southerner; Hansel and Gretel are German.

Best of all, Fairy Tale tosses a few clever curveballs to its younger audience members by twisting the stories that they already know, to embed little life lessons. Thanks to Jack’s help, Goldilocks learns a thing or three about hospitality. The Witch relinquishes her diet of Child Stew to become a vegetarian. Jack discovers that the troll is actually a good guy, and that the goats gruff are jerks who torment him for no good reason. The troll’s name is Gurblet, and actor Jacquis Neal plays him with hilarious, Redd Foxx-esque verve.

If you’ve never been to one of Lifeline’s KidSeries shows before, Fairy Tale offers a fine introduction. While not a big-budget production, it emphasizes imagination and enthusiasm. The show features some great lighting and sound effects, and costumes by Jana Anderson. Alone worth the reasonable price of admission is a madcap chase sequence for Little Red, Granny, the Wolf and Jack, which brings the energy of Looney Tunes cartoons to life before your very eyes.



From Chicago Theater Beat

A delightful tale for all ages
January 8, 2012
By K.D. Hopkins

I am of the opinion that children are a lot smarter than we presume. I always questioned the logic of stories like “Goldilocks and the Three Bears” or “Jack and The Beanstalk.” Those Goldilocks and Jack always seemed to be troublemakers with no respect for grown folks. You never ate at a stranger’s house much less with a family of bears! Lifeline Theatre’s production of How to Survive a Fairy Tale tells the story from more of a real world perspective with a knowing wink to the adult audience.

We are introduced to Jack and his parents, who just happen to be a Princess and a Frog. Nathaniel Niemi is thoroughly charming and appealing as Jack. It seems perfectly normal that his mom wears a tiara and pink tulle and that his dad has a big green scaly head. Jack’s parents keep him away from fairy tales to protect him from the truth about the world. Heather Currie, playing Jack’s Mom, Grandma, Mama Bear, and several other characters, is side-splittingly funny, using her body and voice for full comic effect. It is worth the price of the ticket to see her as Red Riding Hood’s Grandma in red Dr. Denton skivvies and a night cap. The chase that ensues with the Huntsman, Red, Jack, and the Big Bad Wolf is beautifully timed and punctuated by a pitch perfect damsel in distress scream from Currie.

Playwright James Grote takes neorealist approach to the characters’ portrayals — but with some modern touches. Grandma has the ‘rheumatiz’ and watches ‘The Real Princesses of the Enchanted Forest’ in an arch nod to the public fascination with so called reality television. A sound bite of Snow White dissing Cinderella is heard in the background. It is a nice shout out to ‘Real Housewives’ fans (me included). In fact, the play gives a satirical elbow in the side to how female characters have always been written and continue to be portrayed. Amanda Link takes on the Herculean task of bringing some childhood favorites to vivid and almost surreal life. Her Goldilocks, Red, and Gretel are a double-entendre delight. Goldilocks is a ditzy Scarlett O’Hara who runs the gamut from fiddle-dee-dee to a snoring nap on Baby Bear’s bed. One of the biggest laughs comes from Jack questioning the sanitary consequences of using the same spoon to snarf down Baby’s porridge.

Link’s Red is a blithe mixture of naiveté and modern smarty pants. The kids in the audience really enjoyed Red’s response to Grandma’s suddenly wolfish breath. The interplay between Link and Jacquis Neal is priceless as Hansel and Gretel. The candy stealing moppets are right out of a Jolie/Farrow adoption brood. Link dons a milk maid wig and Neal is a Black Hans in lederhosen. Neal is also a perfectly grouchy Bridge Troll who is really misunderstood and actually has a name — Gerblet.

In another fairytale turn, Jack realizes that the Billy Goats Gruff were the trouble makers and not the fluffy innocents of lore. The Gruffs are portrayed as a bit tarter than the petting zoo variety. Gerblet is just trying to live in peace in the shelter of the bridge, and the goat hooves are like thunder overhead. They stomp over the bridge and tap dance and jeer at Gerblet. The goats are like thugs destroying a crabby man’s lawn. It is a good lesson about respecting others and co-existence as well as standing one’s ground. Jack points out that the stories don’t have to end with lurid violence. This re-visioning doesn’t pander to saccharine kumbayas but the scarier characters like the Troll and the child-eating Witch are rehabilitated quite nicely. It’s the happily ever after of modern times.

The wonderful cast also includes Derek Czaplewski as Jack’s amphibious Dad, the Huntsman, and one of the Gruff Gang who ends up in the river from a well-aimed book of fairy tales.

Having reviewed many of Lifeline Theatre’s productions over the years, it’s hard to imagine a company with richer production values and consistent attention to detail. With Fairytale, the set design is simple but still plays an integral part of the story with this exquisite ensemble. Costume designer Jana Anderson weaves sumptuous colors and textures to give this whimsical journey a fantasy look that is essential for a fairy tale. This story has enough of the moral edge of the really not-so-jolly stories. Fairy tales are often dark with really grisly violence. There are evil women with their heads literally put to the grindstone, self- dismemberment (Cinderella’s stepsisters were a trip), and weird relationships (read anything by Hans Christian Anderson).

Nathaniel Niemi as narrator and common sense savvy kid is the perfect hero for this fairy tale. He is the best Jack of them all. Forget Be Nimble, Little Jack Horner and the plum, or that dork with the beanstalk. Jack and Gerblet have franchise potential. Take the kids or the adults to see this, and banish cabin fever for a while!



From Centerstage

January 17, 2012
By Alex Huntsberger

Lifeline Theatre’s “How to Survive a Fairy Tale” is a fun, meta-farcical take on classic fairy tales that makes sure everyone, young and old, leaves the theatre satisfied.

Jack (a wide-eyed Nathaniel Niemi) has never read a fairy-tale; he’s grown up being read to from cookbooks and Ikea assembly manuals by his parents, the Princess (Heather Currie) and the Frog (Derek Czaplewski). So when Jack happens upon a book of fairy tales and is magically transported to the Enchanted Forest, he must travel through Red Riding Hood, Goldilocks and other fairy tales until he can find a way home. Luckily for him, he still has the book, which allows him to predict, avoid and alter the tales’ outcomes.

The script, by James E. Grote, is a good-natured commentary on fairy tale norms that invigorates the original stories even as it winkingly undermines them. Each of Jack’s tips for surviving a fairy tale offers a tidy lesson for the play’s ethically impressionable target demo and the play goes light enough on the pop culture references that when they do come, they are surprising and welcome.

The cast, rounded out by Amanda Link and Jacquis Neal, is a game lot, with everyone but Niemi playing multiple roles. Some of the performances can blend into one another, but there are many notable highlights, like Czaplewski’s Brawny Man Woodsman, Link and Neal’s Teutonic Hansel and Gretel, and a delightfully WASPy take on Goldilocks’ three bears.

Lifeline’s production is pretty bare bones, with Alan Donahue’s basic, versatile unit set staying out of the way but not doing much to enhance any individual scene, Meanwhile, Jana Anderson’s costumes are right on target: the characters look exactly how one pictures them. However, the real standout for this production is Anthony Ingram’s enchanting, pervasive soundscape, which does a lot of heavy, but subtle, lifting.

When the show was over and the audience was filing out, I heard a child thank their grandparent for taking them to the show. If you bring your children to see “How to Survive a Fairy Tale” I’m sure they’ll tell you the very same.



From the Chicago Sun-Times

Fairy tales have plenty to say at Lifeline
January 4, 2012
By Jennifer Burklow

Lifeline Theatre’s Kid Series steps out of its comfort zone — producing literary adaptations for families &mdash: with “How to Survive a Fairy Tale” opening Jan. 7 at the Rogers Park venue. “Fairy Tale” is not an adaptation. It’s the first original play written by one of Lifetime’s go-to adaptors, ensemble member Jim Grote, who first started doing adaptations in 2000. Grote figures he’s done eight or nine Lifeline adaptations since then, for both adults and families.

Known for his collaborative musical productions created with composer/lyricist George Howe — “Click, Clack Moo: Cows That Type,” “Dooby Dooby Moo” and “Duck for President” — this time Grote is flying solo. “Fairy tale” is not a musical.

“It is my first original work,” Grote said. “And that really is the challenge. The flipside of not doing an adaptation is cool, because you can do what you want — but terrifying because you can do anything you want… So it’s been a challenging process because I don’t have an outline,” which literary adaptations provide.

“How to Survive a Fairy Tale” is about a kid named Jack whose parents are a princess and a frog. Because their fairy tale did not turn out as it should have, they shield Jack from fairy tales. Although well-read — the family library contains tomes on all manner of subjects — Jack knows nothing about fairy tales. In his home they are verboten.

One night Jack’s parents go out and a book that Jack has never seen before beckons to him from the bookshelf. As Jack reaches for the book it bonks him on the head, sending him into a deep sleep. He awakens in a forest in the middle of the “Red Riding Hood” saga. The play evolves into a madcap romp through fractured versions of “The Three Bears,” “Three Billy Goats Gruff” and “Hansel and Gretel.” Jack learns a survival tip or two in each fairy tale, and in the end those tips allow him to solve his parents’ dilemma.

Grote’s script was inspired by the Neil Gaiman poem “Instructions,” which he heard during a Lifeline ensemble meeting. The poem explores the mythical worlds of fairy tales and nursery rhymes.

“It just kind of got the wheels going in my head,” Grote said. He thought, “Wouldn’t it be interesting if you had a kid who had no knowledge of fairy tales and was suddenly thrust into that world and how would he deal with it?”

Grote’s biggest goal is for his audience to simply enjoy the show and its subtle message.

“I hope [the kids] giggle their heads off,” Grote said. “We’ve got some great physical comedy. I think it’s going to be fun for them to see fairy tales in kind of a different light. The actor who is playing Jack is very charming and I think they’re going to be able to identify with him and be like, ‘Oh, how would I survive these fairy tales? What would happen if I were thrust into this world?’ I think there is a bit of an empowerment to it of you know — Jack does survive all of these things and he helps out his parents at the end of the story by being creative and using some of these things that he learned.”