Lions in Illyria

EXTENDED through March 1st, 2015!
Saturdays & Sundays at 11am & 1pm

“A marvelous take on a beloved show… [touching] lightly – yet effectively – on subjects of bullying, addictive behavior and being true to yourself while trying to love someone else, adds up to a show that kids and adults alike will adore.”  –Chicago Parent

“Dimond’s direction of this cleverly crafted script creates a world within which kids and parents alike can thoroughly revel in an hour of live theater.”  –New City

“One of the more ambitious projects I’ve seen from Lifeline Theatre’s KidSeries… It’s lots of fun and very silly, and [it] takes care to insert lessons about friendship, love, and the importance of being oneself.”  –Chicago Reader

Separated from her brother by a storm at sea, the young lioness Violet must brave an unknown country all alone. Disguised as a boy, she joins up with a preposterous peacock on a quest to claim the attentions of the most graceful gazelle in town. But soon Violet is torn between multiple masters and her adventure takes a turn for the absurd when she becomes entangled in the clownish antics of a wacky warthog and his featherbrained dodo sidekick. Travel to the weird and wonderful land of Illyria in a magical comedy loaded with music, monkeys, and mayhem.

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

A world premiere based on William Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night 
Adapted by Robert Kauzlaric 
Directed by Amanda Delheimer Dimond

Highlights from Lions in Illyria.

  • Bryan Bosque (Ensemble, Nov 10-Jan 10)

    Bryan appears for the first time with Lifeline, having previously understudied for The Three Musketeers. Most recent work includes Social Creatures (Tympanic), Harry and the Thief (Pavement Group), and The Deer at The Ruckus Theatre, where he is an ensemble member. Bryan is a teaching artist with Barrel of Monkeys and is currently understudying for Edith Can Shoot Things and Hit Them with First Floor Theatre.

  • Mykele Callicutt (Ensemble)

    Mykele is thrilled to be returning to the Lifeline Stage! Recent credits include The Velveteen Rabbit at Lifeline, SPARK at Adventure Stage, and Red Kite, Brown Box at Chicago Children’s Theatre. He is a BFA graduate of UIC’s School of Theatre and Music and proudly represented by Big Mouth Talent.

  • Brandi Lee (Ensemble)

    This is Brandi’s first show at Lifeline! She is currently studying at Columbia College, where she participated in an exchange program and collaboration with DIT (Dublin Institute of Technology), creating a devised piece called Terminal One. She also works as a teaching artist with groups like GTS (General Theater Studies) and Story Catchers. In her spare time she is an actress for FYI, which is a programing health collective.

  • Kate McDermott (Ensemble)

    Kate returns to Lifeline with a full heart after being part of Jane Eyre last fall. She is an ensemble member at Piccolo Theatre, where she performed in Blithe Spirit (Elvira), Bah! Humbug (Beggit), and as part of the clown duo Bubble & Trubble. Other Chicago area credits include Cymbeline at First Folio Theatre. Regional credits: OthelloAs You Like ItRomeo and JulietTwelfth Night (Illinois Shakespeare Festival). Kate holds an MFA in Classical Acting from Illinois State University.

  • Ryan Stajmiger (Ensemble, Jan 10-Feb 15)

    Ryan is very excited to be working on this wonderful adaptation of one of his favorite plays. Ryan recently graduated with a BFA in Musical Theater from The Chicago College of the Performing Arts at Roosevelt University. Though this is his first time working with Lifeline, Ryan has been with a few other Chicago area companies, including Fox Valley Rep (Eugene – Brighton Beach Memoirs), Porchlight (Rudolf – Fade Out/Fade In), Bailiwick (Carrie), Night Blue (Spamalot), Drury Lane (A Christmas Carol), and Circle Theater (Jimmy – Reefer Madness) for which he was nominated for a Non-Equity Jeff Award for Best Actor in a Musical.

  • Ryan Czerwonko (Understudy)

    This is Ryan’s first show at Lifeline! Happy to be back in town after the North American tour of Evil Dead: The Musical, his Chicago credits include Broken Fences (16th Street Theater), Cymbeline (First Folio Theatre), The Jewels (TUTA Theatre), and shows with Trap Door Theatre, Definition Theatre, and the side project. Regional: The Merry Wives of WindsorHamlet (Livermore Shakespeare); Romeo and Juliet (Orlando Shakespeare); Much Ado About Nothing, The Cherry Orchard (Monomoy Theatre). Film: WiggahVioletsThe Glass House.

  • Jaci Entwisle (Understudy)

    Jaci marks her Lifeline debut with this production. She has been seen in Chicago on stage at A Red Orchid Theatre, Broken Nose Theatre, and Collaboraction. Previous roles include Cressida (Troilus & Cressida), Jenny (The Threepenny Opera), Lady Anne (Richard III), and Bianca (Desdemona). She is proudly represented by Shirley Hamilton Talent.

  • Alison Sweat (Understudy)

    Alison is a first-timer at Lifeline and could not be more excited about it! Most recently, Alison was a part of El Stories: New in Town with Waltzing Mechanics. Other recent credits include The Golfball (The Bridge), The Visit (CCPA), and Dog Sees God (Fearless Theatre Collaborative). Alison holds a BFA in Acting from Chicago College of Performing Arts.

  • Robert Kauzlaric (Adaptor)

    Robert is a proud member of Lifeline’s artistic ensemble. He has written over a dozen theatrical adaptations which have been produced all across the U.S., as well as in England, Ireland, and Canada. For Lifeline, he wrote the MainStage adaptations of The Island of Dr. Moreau (Non-Equity Jeff Awards: Best Production-Play and New Adaptation), The Picture of Dorian Gray (Non-Equity Jeff Nomination: New Adaptation), Neverwhere (Non-Equity Jeff Award: New Adaptation), The MoonstoneThe Woman in White, and The Three Musketeers; and the KidSeries adaptations of The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs!Flight of the DodoThe 13 Clocks, and Naked Mole Rat Gets Dressed.

  • Amanda Delheimer Dimond (Director)

    Amanda was thrilled to be invited to join the Lifeline Ensemble in 2013, and her Lifeline credits include directing The 13 Clocks (2011) and The Three Musketeers (2013). She currently serves as the Artistic Director of 2nd Story, a position she has held since 2007. As a director, choreographer, and teaching artist, she has had the pleasure of working with Steppenwolf, Goodman Theatre, Court Theatre, Next Theatre Company, Redmoon, Collaboraction, Strawdog Theatre, Teatro Vista, and Adventure Stage Chicago, among others. She was also an inaugural recipient of the Leadership U: One-on-One Fellowship program, funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and administered by the Theatre Communications Group, which placed her in residence at Lookingglass Theatre Company, working with their Artistic and Executive Leadership on visioning and long-term planning.

  • Clare Roche (Stage Manager)

    Clare returns to Lifeline where she previously worked as the Stage Manager for The 13 Clocks and Master Electrician for The Woman in WhiteDuck for PresidentHungerPride and PrejudiceHow to Survive a Fairy Tale, and Naked Mole Rat Gets Dressed. Clare is the Production Stage Manager/Company Manager for Lakeside Shakespeare Theatre. Ms. Roche has stage managed with numerous other companies in Chicago including 500 Clown, Lucky Plush Productions, Strawdog, the side project, the Hypocrites, and Blindfaith. Clare is the Lighting and Sound Supervisor at Loyola University Chicago where she also manages special events for the Dance and Music department.

  • Mikhail Fiksel (Sound Designer & Composer)

    Mikhail is delighted to be back at Lifeline, having designed The 13 ClocksThe Last of the DragonsWatership Down, and Neverwhere. Other recent endeavors include projects with Goodman Theatre, The Old Globe Theatre, PlayCompany, Chicago Children’s Theatre, The New Victory, Long Wharf Theatre, American Conservatory Theatre, Dallas Theatre Center, Berkeley Repertory Theatre, The Geffen Playhouse, Second Stage Theatre, Writers Theatre, TimeLine, The Seldoms, Lucky Plush, the Hypocrites, and Redmoon Theatre. Recent film work includes scores for feature films GlitchThe Wise Kids, and In Memoriam. He has received several Joseph Jefferson Awards, a Lucille Lortel Award, and the Michael Maggio Emerging Designer Award. He is an Artistic Associate with TimeLine Theatre, Teatro Vista, and Redmoon, and on the faculty at Loyola University Chicago and University of Chicago.

  • Izumi Inaba (Costume Designer)

    Izumi returns to Lifeline, where she designed The City & The City. Her recent works include costume design for The Season On The Line (The House), Animal Farm (Steppenwolf for Young Adults), The Hundred Flowers Project (Silk Road Rising), and The Mousetrap (Northlight Theatre). She is an ensemble member at Red Tape, a resident designer at Albany Park Theatre Project, and a long time staff/faculty member at National High School Institute. She holds M.F.A. in Stage Design, Northwestern University.

  • Jordan Kardasz (Lighting Designer)

    Jordan is thrilled to be back at Lifeline after having been the Assistant Lighting Designer for Jane Eyre. Previous assists include The Woman in WhiteHunger, and Neverwhere. She has also lit Click, Clack, Boo! A Tricky TreatDuck for President; and How to Survive a Fairy Tale. Around town, she has worked with Strawdog (where she is an ensemble member), Sideshow (where she is an Artistic Associate), Factory, Strange Tree, The Arc, and many more. Her most recent work includes Fail/Safeand Desperate Dolls, both at Strawdog, where she will also be designing The Sweeter Option. When not working in theatres around the city, Jordan works for the Student Union at Northeastern Illinois University.

  • Joe Schermoly (Scenic & Properties Designer)

    Joe has been the Technical Director at Lifeline for four seasons, during which time he has designed sets for The Mystery of the Pirate GhostA Tale of Two CitiesThe City & The City, and The Count of Monte Cristo. Joe is also an ensemble member with the Griffin Theatre, where he has designed and built many sets including TitanicSpelling BeeFlare PathPunk RockPort, and Constant Wife. His other design work includes productions with Theatre Wit (Seven Homeless MammothsCompleteness), Sideshow (Stupid F***ing BirdIdomeneusThe Ugly One) and Irish Theatre of Chicago (The SeafarerLay Me Down Softly). Joe studied set design at Northwestern University and has received two After Dark Awards and two Jeff Nominations

  • Milo Bue (Assistant Scenic & Properties Designer)

    Milo is a third year Theatre Design student at Columbia College Chicago. He works at Columbia College Chicago as a carpenter, Redbox Workshop as a part time carpenter, and Ravenswood Event Services as a crew lead/carpenter. His past credits include Bent and Arcadia at Columbia College. He is looking forward to his upcoming show, Spirits to Enforce, at Columbia College as well. He is very excited to be working with Lifeline Theatre.

  • Liz Rice (Assistant Director)

    Liz is the Education Programs Associate at Goodman Theatre. As a firm believer in theater as art and art as visual story, she is excited to work with Lifeline and Amanda Delheimer Diamond and the cast and crew of Lions in Illyria. Previously, she has worked with 2nd Story, City Lit Theater, (re)discover theatre, The Whiskey Rebellion, and is a board member of Mercy Street Theatre Company. In her free time, she likes to feed people, cook, and eat. Always in that order.

From Chicago Parent

January 23, 2015
By Keely Flynn

Few classic staged comedies are as pitch-perfect as The Bard’s “Twelfth Night or What You Will.” With its themes of mistaken identities, pigeonholed gender roles, and debaucherous love affairs, however, it’s not exactly the first Shakespearean show you plan on taking your children to – right? The newest production at Lifeline Theatre might just change that. “Lions in Illyria” (part of their popular KidSeries and penned by Robert Kauzlaric), is a marvelous take on a beloved show which features animals, gentle humor and a surprising commitment to more of the original story than I’d thought possible.

Violet and her twin brother Sebastian – both lions – are separated in a storm at sea and land independently of each other on the shores of Illyria. Fearing for her own safety, Violet assumes the guise of a man and calls herself Cesario, secures herself a job in the court of Duke Orsino (a peacock), and attempts to deliver his declarations of love to the long-mourning Lady Olivia (a gazelle), who in turn finds the messenger rather attractive – and then it gets really interesting.

This show (under the direction of Amanda Delheimer Dimond) is one of the smartest adaptations of Shakespeare for kids that I’ve ever had the pleasure of seeing. What could easily have fallen into overly simplistic explanations or cloying storytelling was a strong play-within-a-play with a few notable moments of dramatic license. (Sir Toby Belch, Twelfth Night’s raging drunkard, is a warthog with a hard addiction to candy in this version. Which actually makes complete sense.) The color and gender-blind casting of twins and sea captains alike was refreshing to me – and completely unnoticeable to my three- and five-year-olds. On opening weekend, understudy Ryan Stajmiger joined hardworking ensemble members Mykele Callicut, Brandi Lee and Kate McDermott, and I’ll say this much: if this was a typical understudy performance then Lions in Illyria is one of the tightest productions anywhere in Chicago, regardless of intended demographic.

It’s not hard to make children’s theatre funny. It’s also not hard to make theatre that teaches a lesson. But a successful combination of both, that touches lightly – yet effectively – on subjects of bullying, addictive behavior and being true to yourself while trying to love someone else, adds up to a show that kids and adults alike will adore.

From New City

January 12, 2015
By Christopher Kidder-Mostrom


The publicity materials for “Lions in Illyria” boast that it is a “brand new comedy for the whole family,” and Robert Kauzlaric’s new adaptation of William Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night” lives up to the claim. While the play is part of Lifeline’s series of children’s shows that run as matinees on the weekends, it isn’t just entertainment for kids. Amanda Delheimer Dimond’s direction of this cleverly crafted script creates a world within which kids and parents alike can thoroughly revel in an hour of live theater.

The story is that of “Twelfth Night” and all the regular characters are present, save one (there’s no Malvolio). The rest of the characters are all represented through the efforts of four actors telling the story as if it were an animal tale. Mykele Callicutt is both Orsino and Sir Toby Belch. Brandi Lee is Viola (here altered to Violet) and Maria. Ryan Stajmiger portrays Sebastian, as well as Sir Andrew Aguecheek (who is the butt of the cross-gartering hijinks usually aimed at Malvolio). And Kate McDermott plays Olivia and Antonia. Each actor shifts in and out of their characters and even adopts the narrator’s voice from time to time, and it works seamlessly, never creating confusion, thanks to rapid costume changes and creative staging.

The humor within the script is smart, wicked and silly. There’s just the right mix of puns, sibling rivalry jokes and jests about flinging poo (Antonia is a monkey, after all). The twins that drive the tale are the titular lions, and their manes are made of tutus. Fans of the original work will appreciate that Orsino is a peacock and Sir Toby Belch is a warthog.

There is truly nothing I do not like about this show. If you have children, you should take them to it. If you are still in touch with your inner child, you should take him or her to see this. And even if you’re a grumpy old codger with no connection to children in any way, you should go see this play. It has the fun and feisty attitude of an episode of “The Animaniacs” or the classic “Muppet Show.” It is self-aware without being meta and it makes a centuries old classic story new again.

From Splash Mazagine

January 25, 2015
By Noel Schecter


Playing at the Lifeline Theatre, Lions in Illyria (Robert Kauzlaric’s clever adaptation of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night), opens with a gazelle, Lady Olivia (Kate McDermott), grieving the loss of her older brother. Burdened with grief, she declares that she will remain in mourning for seven whole years before returning to the vibrant life she once knew. This declaration saddens Duke Orsino (Mykele Callicutt), a peacock known for his colorful preening, who greatly pines for the lady’s attention. At the same time Lady Olivia’s other brother, Sir Belch, a brutish warthog with a thing for candy, hopes that his sister will marry his wealthy and none-too-wise friend Sir Andrew Aguecheek (a silly dodo who provides much of the comic relief here). Coming unexpectedly to this strange land are the fraternal twin lions Violet (Brandi Lee) and Sebastian (Ryan Stajmiger), who survive a shipwreck and are then separated from one another. Violet disguises herself as a man and finds herself working for and in love with Orsino while Sebastian mostly remains off stage until the comedic closing of the play.

Although methinks Shakespeare never imagined Sir Toby Belch cast as a warthog, it makes perfect sense (after all, Toby does have that certain “Hakuna Matata” air about him made famous by that other warthog, Pumbaa). In fact almost all of Robert Kauzlaric’s touches work well in this very ambitious and well realized adaptation. More surprising actually than the characters being cast as animals, is the naked emotion present in many of the opening scenes. This may be primarily meant for children, but I suspect more than a few parents will be touched by the young lioness reaching out to Olivia in her time of need.

Also worth noting is Director Amanda Delheimer Dimond’s careful attention to the little things. Many productions, for example, would have been content just to have a monkey pirate on stage (as one character says, “How cool is that?”). Here the monkey pirate goes as far as to absentmindedly pick a friend’s scalp in search of a bug to eat. And while Dimond does makes good use of music, silly dancing, and a few flirtations with the fourth wall (all staples of children’s theater), she never allows these antics to distract from the story. Helping her immensely in this endeavor is the very talented and enthusiastic cast who seem the best of friends on stage. Their energy and devotion to the work is contagious and all but guarantees a good time.

The sweet spot for this production might be the eight to twelve year old range. Some of the plot twists, as well as the actors playing multiple roles, might confuse some of the younger audience members although my nieces (age four and seven) both greatly enjoyed the play. As for myself, I left the theater impressed with this new, but old, offering.

From the Chicago Reader

January 12, 2015
By Suzanne Scanlon


This is one of the more ambitious projects I’ve seen from Lifeline Theatre’s KidSeries, which typically adapts popular children’s books for the stage. By contrast, this is an original work by ensemble member Robert Kauzlaric, based on Shakespeare’s great comedy Twelfth Night. Kauzlaric turns the Bard’s characters into animals: Violet (Brandi Lee) and Sebastian (played by understudy Ryan Stajmiger at the show I attended) are brother and sister lions, while Toby (Mykele Callicutt) and Sir Andrew (Stajmiger) are a warthog and a dodo bird, respectively. It’s lots of fun and very silly, and while the plot may be a bit much for young children to follow completely, they should enjoy the story’s weirdness. Its wisdom too — Kauzlaric takes care to insert lessons about friendship, love, and the importance of being oneself (even when you’re an actor dressed as a lioness disguised as a lion) that feel neither forced nor superfluous.