Duck for President

October 20 – November 25, 2012
Saturdays & Sundays at 11am & 1pm

“The script is delightful… The cast is outstanding and immensely likeable… If you have a child in your life, bring them. If you don’t, go anyway. You’ll have a blast.”  –Chicago Theater Beat

“Be kind to your web-footed friends by taking the family out to see Duck for President… My five year old daughter enjoyed this show as much as I did, and it completely kept her interest… With the 2012 election right around the corner, the show is, of course, both timely and educational.”  –Stage and Cinema

Life on the farm is hard: too much work, not enough sleep, and no time for swimming. And who put Farmer Brown in charge, anyway? When the chores get out of control, it’s time for a charismatic young Duck to run for office. And once he’s running the farm, it’s only a few more steps before he’s running the whole country. With Cow and Hen’s help — and with Pig as his campaign manager — nothing can stand in Duck’s way! The smash hit musical about the pitfalls of politics returns, just in time for the election.

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

Based on the popular bestseller by Doreen Cronin, illustrated by Betsy Lewin 
Adapted by James E. Grote
Music and lyrics by George Howe 
Directed by Shole Milos

Adapted from the book DUCK FOR PRESIDENT. Text ©2004 by Doreen Cronin. Illustrations ©2004 by Betsy Lewin. Originally published by Simon & Schuster. Used with permission of Pippin Properties, Inc.

Excerpt from Duck for President. Music & Lyrics by George Howe.

  • Heather Currie (Pig)

    Heather is thrilled to be back “on the farm” at Lifeline. Past Lifeline KidSeries shows include: Click Clack Moo (2010), Dooby Dooby Moo, the premiere of Duck for President in 2008, and she was seen last spring as Grandma, the Witch, and Jack’s Mom in How To Survive A Fairy Tale. Favorite past credits include: School House Rock Live!The TaffettasNunsenseSpinning Into ButterFrankie and Johnny In the Clare De Lune, and Cloud Nine. Heather holds an MFA in Acting from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and teaches in the Film Department at Columbia College and College of DuPage. Heather can also be heard singing every Saturday night in The Nitz and Howe Experience at Davenport’s Piano Bar and Cabaret.

  • Derek Czaplewski (Farmer Brown)

    Derek is pleased to return to Lifeline for another production! He was previously seen as Farmer Brown in Click, Clack, Moo (2010) and as the many “dads” of How To Survive A Fairy Tale. A graduate of the School at Steppenwolf, 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 (Hen)

    Amanda is so happy to be reprising her role in Duck for President. At Lifeline she has also performed in How To Survive a Fairy TaleDooby Dooby MooMrs. Piggle Wiggle, and Half Magic. She was the assistant director for Pride and Prejudice and will assistant direct the upcoming The City & The City. She is also a proud member of the Lifeline Storytelling Project. Other Chicago credits include work with Griffin Theatre, the side project, The Mill, The Anatomy Collective, Inconceivable Theatre, and Sandbox Theatre Project. She is a graduate of the Conservatory Program at Second City.

  • Amy Malcom (Cow)

    Amy is excited to be joining Lifeline Theatre for the first time! Some Chicagoland credits include: A Christmas Carol (Metropolis Performing Arts Centre), Barnum! (Quest Theatre Ensemble), Macbeth (First Folio Theatre), Nobody Likes Retsina (Stockyards Theatre Project), Antigoneand King Lear: A Radio Play (Framework). Amy also directs children’s theatre and teaches acting, musical theatre, Shakespeare, and improv workshops for companies such as Metropolis, Raven Theatre and The Viola Project.

  • Nathaniel Niemi (Duck)

    Nathaniel is thrilled to be back on the farm after playing Duck in Dooby Dooby Moo. Last year at Lifeline, Nathaniel played Jack in How to Survive A Fairy Tale and Wilbur in Naked Mole Rat Gets Dressed. Other recent credits include Phillipe in The Baker’s Wife at Circle Theatre and Jack in Into the Woods at Quest Theatre Ensemble. Other favorite roles include Pirelli in Sweeney Todd, Dewey in The Diviners, and Mortimer in The Fantasticks. Nathaniel also enjoys clowning and puppet making.

  • Kasey Alfonso (Understudy)

    Kasey is excited to be making her Lifeline debut in Duck for President. A recent graduate of the Chicago College of Performing Arts at Roosevelt University, she was seen in RentCrossing Crazytown, and various other musical showcases. She is currently performing in Smokey Joe’s Cafe at Theo Ubique through mid-November. She has also performed oversees at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in the European premiere of The Sounds of Plaid.

  • Jeremy Myers (Understudy)

    Duck for President marks Jeremy’s Lifeline debut. Recently, he has been seen in Hell in a Handbag’s Sexy Baby and Pussy on the House. Around Chicago, he has also worked with Circle Theatre, Bailiwick Rep, Light Opera Works, American Girl Theatre, and will appear in City Lit’s upcoming production of Peyton Place. Jeremy holds a BFA in Musical Theatre from the Chicago College of Performing Arts at Roosevelt University.

  • Mike Ooi (Understudy)

    Mike is pleased to return to Lifeline after last appearing in Naked Mole Rat Gets Dressed. Other Kidseries productions include The 13 ClocksThe Last of the Dragons, and the upcoming The Mystery of the Pirate Ghost. Other Chicago credits include Neverwhere and The Mark of Zorro (Lifeline Theatre); Ren Faire! A Fistful of DucatsBlack & Blue1985, and Mop Top Festival (Factory Theater); Sinbad: The Untold Tale and Ghosts of Treasure Island (Adventure Stage); Three Penny Opera (The Hypocrites at Steppenwolf Garage); Old Town (Strawdog Theatre); Curse of the Crying Heart and Cave with Man (House Theatre of Chicago). Mike is the Operations Manager for the Factory Theater, where he is also a company member.

  • Eliza Shin (Understudy)

    This is Eliza’s debut with Lifeline. Other Chicago theater credits include The Jammer (Pine Box Theatre), Marvin’s Room (Circle Theatre), The Ghost is Here (Vitalist Theatre), Jade Heart (Chicago Dramatists), The Patriots (The Neo-Futurists), Voyaging (Walkabout Theatre/Lucky Plush Dance), Sketchbook 2008 (Collaboraction), and Family Devotions(Halcyon Theatre). TV credits include Chicago Fire. She also performs as a classical soprano at St. Vincent de Paul, a solo pop acoustic cover artist, and as a keyboardist with the children’s music band Super Stolie and the Rockstars.

  • Sally Beck Wippman (Understudy)

    Sally is happy to be working with Lifeline Theatre! Her most recent credits include: As You Like It (Harper Theater), The Wind in the Willows(Theatre-Hikes), and The Rocky Horror Show (Underscore Theatre). Sally earned a B.A. in Drama from Wash.U. in St. Louis, where her affinity for children’s theater was born. Every year, she participated in children’s musicals as part of the world’s largest annual student-run carnival, Thurtene.

  • James E. Grote (Adaptor)

    Jim joined the Lifeline artistic ensemble in 1999. Along with George Howe, Jim has adapted four plays in the Click, Clack, Moo: Cows That Typeseries. The plays have been produced all across the country, from Portland (Oregon) to Dallas to Orlando, and many points in between. Last season, Lifeline produced his first original work, How to Survive a Fairy Tale. Additionally, Jim has adapted C.S. Lewis’ The Silver Chair, Daniel Mason’s The Piano Tuner, and Amy Timberlake’s The Dirty Cowboy for Lifeline. 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.

  • George Howe (Music & Lyrics)

    George is an award-winning composer/lyricist and a familiar face at Lifeline Theatre. He has written the songs for many Kidseries shows, including the four musicals in the Click, Clack, Moo series; Lyle, Lyle, CrocodileSomebody Loves You, Mr. Hatch; and 2011’s hit Arnie the Doughnut, which went on to be performed at the 2012 New York Musical Theatre Festival (NYMF). His musical Queen Lucia premiered at Lifeline and received a Non-Equity Jeff Award for Best New Musical 2006. He recently wrote a song for Perez Hilton which will be featured on the CD Carols for a Cure, which benefits Broadway Cares/Equity Fights Aids. George can be heard belting out showtunes and pop songs at Davenport’s Piano Bar and Cabaret.

  • Shole Milos (Director)

    Shole is a Lifeline ensemble member who has directed more than twenty KidSeries productions, including last season’s world premiere of How To Survive A Fairy Tale. Shole directed the original Duck for President and all of the adaptations in the Click, Clack, Moo series; he directed A Long Way From Chicago on the MainStage, and has appeared onstage in Mariette in Ecstacy and The Piano Tuner, among many others.

  • Ellen Willett (Stage Manager)

    Ellen is glad to be herding the animals on Farmer Brown’s farm once again. Her previous Lifeline Theatre credits include How to Survive A Fairy TaleClick, Clack, MooDooby Dooby MooDuck for President (2008); Mrs. Piggle-WiggleTalking 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)

    Jana returns to Lifeline, where she designed Duck for PresidentDooby Dooby Moo; and Click, Clack, Moo (2010), among other KidSeries productions. Prior to coming to the U.S., Jana designed for classical opera productions at the National Theater in Bratislava, Czechoslovakia. For the last decade she has been designing throughout the Chicagoland area and has collaborated with numerous theatre groups (including the Lyric Opera, Collaboraction, Porchlight, Theatre at the Center, Light Opera Works, and Redmoon) and some of the finest theatre schools (including Loyola, DePaul,and Northeastern, to name a few). Jana works at Roosevelt University, where she supervises the student costume construction crews. She also has loyal clientele in U.S. and Europe for whom she makes unique haute-couture garments.

  • Anthony Ingram (Sound Designer)

    Anthony is very happy to be back at Lifeline after having most recently designed sound for How To Survive A Fairy Tale. As the resident Sound Designer and Production Manager at Signal Ensemble Theatre, Tony 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 the Technical Associate.

  • Joanna Iwanicka (Scenic & Properties Designer)

    Joanna returns to Lifeline, where she designed set for Naked Mole Rat Gets Dressed and The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs!, and designed masks/puppets for Dooby Dooby MooThe Last of The DragonsThe Blue Shadow, and Watership Down. Her recent credits include designing puppets for Chicago Children’s Theatre’s production of Harold and the Purple Crayon, sets for Rivendell Theatre Ensemble, The Division Theatre Company, and Teatr Arlekin in her native Poland. Joanna graduated from UIUC (BFA) and Academy of Fine Arts in Poznan, Poland (MA). She will return to Lifeline this spring to collaborate on the MainStage production of Bridge of Birds.

  • Jordan Kardasz (Lighting Designer)

    Jordan is excited to be lighting her third kid’s show at Lifeline, having worked on How To Survive A Fairy Tale and Naked Mole Rat Gets Dressedlast season. Jordan has worked with Strange Tree, Sideshow, Factory, Theatre Seven, and more. Recent credits include assisting on The Woman in White (Lifeline MainStage) and designing Neighborhood 3 and Pontypool(Strawdog). Jordan is a proud ensemble member at Strawdog Theatre.

  • Joe Schermoly (Technical Director)

    Joe is a set designer, technical director, and painter. His design work has been seen at Lifeline Theatre (The Count of Monte Cristo, props for The Moonstone) and around Chicago at Griffin Theatre (Punk RockNo More Dead DogsPortConstant Wife), Strawdog Theatre (Duchess of MalfiThe Master and MargaritaRichard III), Sideshow Theatre (IdomeneusThe Ugly One), Eclipse (Beyond the HorizonTrestle 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. You can see his work later this year at Lifeline in The City & The City.

  • Benjamin W. Dawson (Production Manager)

    Ben received his MFA in Technical Design & Production Management from Florida State University. He served as the Production Safety Coordinator with The Santa Fe Opera and as Art Director for several television series with networks like Discovery, PBS, MTV and VH1. In Chicago, Ben has served, among other things, as Production Manager for Zombies Attack Chicago; as Technical Director for Remarcable Theatre’s Lips Together, Teeth Apart; and as the Scene Shop Foreman at Goodman Theatre. He is also currently a Company Member and the Production Manager for Sideshow Theatre Company and the Technical Director for American Theater Company.

From Chicago Theater Beat

‘Duck’ wins by a landslide!
October 25, 2012
By Joy Campbell


Farmer Brown has a problem: he’s worn out from running his farm alone. He assigns chores to Pig, Hen, Cow, and Duck so that they can help pull their weight, but this does not go over well, so the animals decide to vote on who gets to run the farm. Duck wins with a platform of giving everybody what he wants, and so begins his political journey and education on the hard job of leadership and keeping promises.

In adapting the children’s book by Doreen Cronin and Betsy Lewin, Jim Grote injected an educational element, using the story as a vehicle for informing kids about political process and civic duty. “It was very important to me to teach that to kids,” Jim told me.

In the current political season, it could not be better timed.

An extremely witty, fast-paced script and catchy songs help tell the story of slacker Duck’s increasingly burdensome struggles as he goes from leading the farm to running for governor (I may never be able to hear the word “gubernatorial” again without giggling), and finally, running for president. He is encouraged all along by Rasputin-like Pig, eager to be the power behind the power, whose explanations to Duck about leadership provide many of the lessons learned. Keeping it fun and interesting, the animals teach Duck, and by extension, us kids, why people vote in a democracy, and what happens in a campaign, and why. In a segment that I particularly liked, Hen gives a darling explanation of why every vote counts. (OK, they avoid the whole electoral-college discussion, but that’s probably for the best.)

Duck learns that being in charge is a lot more hard work and responsibility than it seems; it is not all “sparkle ponies and rainbows dipped in sunshine.” Pig — well, no spoilers here.

The script is delightful. In writing the book and the songs, Jim Grote and George Howe seemed to have as much fun creating the work as we do enjoying it. They never talk down to the kids (there are words like “quadruped” and “tympani”), and they remember that about half of their audience will be the adults who accompany the children. As with all truly brilliant kids’ entertainment (hello, Muppets), the material entertains thoroughly on more than one level. So when Duck does his Nixon impression and the animals spoof the famous “phone call in the night” from the last presidential race, and Duck’s profound comment on the economy is “the economy is stupid,” the adults understand the cleverness of it all, and the kids — well, the kids just think it’s funny.

The cast is outstanding and immensely likeable. As Duck, Nathaniel Niemi is sweet and earnest, the kid in all of us who just wants to play, and who gets in over his head. In a nod to another animal farm, Heather Currie’s Pig is the brains behind the scheming, and is the funniest sow ever. Amy Malcolm’s Cow is the dryly amusing cynic, and Amanda Link’s Hen is the sincere centrist who votes for Farmer Brown, bucking popular pressure. Derek Czaplewski plays Farmer Brown as well as other, minor human characters, and is the perfect straight man to the animals’ naively misguided zeal for change. As an ensemble, the cast members have terrific chemistry, impeccable comic timing, and fantastic singing voices.

Joanna Iwanicka’s simple but effective set looks like a huge coloring-book Farmer’s Almanac, and pays tribute to the book’s author and illustrator. Simple props echo the cartoonish nature of the story.

I watched the kids in the audience, including a few who were particularly antsy before the show, and to a child they were enrapt. If you have a child in your life, bring them. If you don’t, go anyway. You’ll have a blast.



From Time Out Chicago Kids

October 31, 2012
By Jonathan Messinger

The election is just a week away, which means our airwaves are consistently befouled by that nefarious fall creature: the political ad. I can remember being a kid and watching the ominous commercials, feeling bewildered by the divide between the sleazy aura of a political ad and the general importance and reverence people held for political offices. Hey, I was a naïve kid. Still, the political process has to be befuddling maze to the young.

As far as political primers for the lunchbox set go, a kid could do far worse than catch Lifeline Theatre’s Duck for President, written by Lifeline ensemble member James E. Grote, adapted from Doreen Cronin’s book of the same name. In it, a duck named Duck (Nathaniel Niemi) decides he’s fed up with the chores Farmer Brown demands of his animals, so he mobilizes a pig, a hen and a cow to vote him in as farmer. Once he’s ascended to the throne, however, he discovers that being a farmer is a difficult job — so he runs for governor, squeaking out a victory at the state level. Again, confronted by the demands on his time, the lazy duck instead runs for president.

Cronin’s book is a pleasant little comedy fairly devoid of any lessons about politics (except that playing the sax on late-night TV might help a guy’s chances). Grote, however, adds heft to the comedy, slipping in civics lessons with a light touch, along with songs extolling the virtues of working hard. And unlike most political campaigns, there is charisma among Duck’s staff, with the scheming Pig (Heather Currie), the energetic Cow (Amy Malcolm) and the moral Hen (Amanda Link). The songs are catchy, and the for-parents one-liners Grote slips in amid short lessons on how to vote had me laughing. The general pattern of story wears a little thin toward the end, but Grote recognizes that, so each progression up Duck’s political ladder is shorter than the one before. The play is for ages five and up, and given the general silliness of the animals, I’d say it caps out at about seven years old.



From Stage and Cinema

October 23, 2012
By Sally Jo Osborne

All aboard! Duck is hitting the campaign circuit so be kind to your web-footed friends by taking the family out to see Duck for President; meanwhile, don’t forget to vote. Based on the popular 2004 bestseller by Doreen Cronin and Besty Lewin, Lifeline brings the farm to life in this quirky and quacky show adapted by James E. Grote from the children’s book of the same name by Doreen Cronin; directed by Shole Milos, with music and lyrics by George Howe.

When the animals in Farmer Brown’s (Derek Czaplewski’s) barn decide to protest their daily chores, a democracy is formed and an election is soon underway. “Why does Farmer Brown have to be in charge?” a devilishly charming duck named Duck demands to know. Duck (Nathaniel Niemi) decides he will become get himself elected head farmer and dispense with all these tedious chores. One of his campaign promises is that there will be a pizza night every Tuesday.

A very smart and clever Pig (Heather Currie) is all for it. She is a big believer, and eventually becomes Duck’s campaign manager. In “Hitch Your Wagon to a Star,” a snappy song, she explains how not only Duck, but she (Pig) will get into the spotlight, which is where she wants to be. Hen (Amanda Link) on the other hand doesn’t get her feathers too ruffled; she thinks Farmer Brown is doing a fine job. Cow (Amy Malcolm) is the cynic of the herd and doesn’t hold back on her opinions. In fact she makes the rules about voting: No kids (or calves, chicks, ducklings, etc.), a valid ID is necessary, and all voters must live on the farm.

Duck claims to be an honest politician, and is even heard to insist, “I am not a crook!” I think we have all heard that before. There are a lot of funny references made throughout the show that the kids won’t get, but the grownups will laugh out loud. (My personal favorite is: “Read my beak.”)

Duck wins the election and becomes head farmer, but soon finds out the grass is not always greener on the other side, so he moves on to even greener pastures by running for governor and later for president. There are a lot of lessons for our future voters contained within this show. What is an election? What is a democracy? What is a debate? Why does every vote matter?

Czaplewski plays multiple roles, and is quite entertaining, especially as a woman governor who is Duck’s running mate. The songs are upbeat and at times a bit reminiscent of Will Roger’s Follies. The set is simple and is completely utilized; the costumes are clever enough for us to believe and identify which all the characters.

My five year old daughter enjoyed this show as much as I did, and it completely kept her interest. Anyone younger than five would probably be better served staying at home to watch The Wiggles. With the 2012 election right around the corner, the show is, of course, both timely and educational. There may be just a bit more understanding about why we vote (and how to decide who to vote for) in our household. As duck said during his campaign speech, “Vote for me because the economy is stupid.” He might just have something there.



From Time Out Chicago Kids

Duck for President | Interview with writer James E. Grote
October 23, 2012
By Jennifer Suh

With the final presidential debate in the bag and the election just a couple weeks away, tiny political junkies will have to hit Lifeline Theatre to get their fix of the political stage. Lifeline has opened its anniversary season with a KidSeries musical based on Doreen Cronin’s award-winning 2004 book, Duck for President. Ensemble member James E. Grote adapted the book, updating the Clinton-playing-sax jokes to make it more contemporary. We sat down with Grote to talk politics, ducks and the politics of theatre.

Tell me a little bit about Duck for President.
First of all, it’s just fun. Duck, the one who runs for the president, is a troublemaker. With Duck for President, I wanted to really put in, in a fun sort of way, civics lessons about what an election is, how do we go about it, and how do we keep elections fair. There are lessons in the show, but it’s not an educational filmstrip. A large part of it is [thanks to composer] George Howe. His music is really great in the show. He’s a terrific composer and lyricist.

How did you deal with political references in the original book?
In one of Duck’s TV advertisements, he says, “And don’t forget that economy is stupid.” You know, it doesn’t make fun of anyone. It’s just referencing back to that slogan. It was important for me not to insult either side of the aisle, but just to have some jokes for the parents who remember previous elections.

Is it difficult to expand a short children’s book into a 45-minute show?
It’s a challenge. When I first brought [Cronin’s] Click, Clack, Moo to the ensemble in 2001, we all reviewed the books and talked about it. They were not confident that I could adapt it, but I was able to. Children’s books often start with the problem, whereas in plays, I need to spend some time doing the set-up, introducing the characters — the introductory stuff.

You worked as a part of the artist-in-residence program at Kilmer Elementary School as a theater/drama teacher. How was that experience for you?
What I love about it is that you’re the “fun teacher.” I oftentimes was working with English-as-second language students, which in Rogers Park is not just Spanish-speaking students. It’s Eastern European students, African students — the schools that we teach at in Rogers Park are very multicultural. The joy of it is watching the kids, especially the shier kids, just come out of their shells, getting excited to stand in front of the class and perform.

The U.S. Department of Education recently reported that availability of theater classes has decreased within the past 10 years. What do you think about this trend, and why do you think theater education is important?
Unfortunately, the arts are often seen as extra, as an elective. I think that when it comes to budgets, the arts are the first thing to go. One important thing about theater education is getting kids ready to perform in front of a group of people for whatever reason — whether that’s public speaking, actually being in a play or appearing in a reality show. Standing in front of a group of people speaking, performing or presenting is an important skill for everyone to learn in many, many jobs they may have.