The One and Only Ivan

EXTENDED through May 17th, 2015!
Saturdays & Sundays at 11am & 1pm

“A captivating staging… With the 99-seat theatre filled to capacity with youngsters, it was clear by their rapt, unwavering attention that the show’s themes of family, friendship, and what defines a home, really resonated”  –Splash Magazines

“[Brings] together families to laugh, cry, and ask questions about this tale of a courageous gorilla name Ivan and his very good friends”  –Chicago Stage Standard

For 27 years, the world of Ivan the gorilla was a dull cage in a roadside shopping mall. But when he meets Ruby, a baby elephant captured in the wild, Ivan’s ambitions and imagination must grow to meet the challenge of rescuing his endangered new companion. Aided by Bob the scrappy dog and a young human ally, Ivan sets out to become the great silverback and protector he was always meant to be. Enter the mind of a remarkable hero in this unforgettable story of enduring friendship, drawn from true events. Based on the 2012 book by Katherine Applegate, a #1 New York Times bestseller and winner of the Newbery Medal.

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

A world premiere based on the powerful bestseller by Katherine Applegate,
   illustrated by Patricia Castelao 
Adapted by James E. Grote 
Directed by Dorothy Milne

The One and Only Ivan, published by HarperCollins, 2012
Used with permission of Pippin Properties, Inc.

The One and Only Ivan – Home 
Cast & Crew 

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Join us any Saturday or Sunday at noon during the run of The One and Only Ivan (following the 11am show, or before the 1pm show) for our Stories Come Alive! Hour. (No session Easter Sunday, April 5.)

An interactive storytelling session with on-your-feet theatre games exploring the book behind the play — all designed to make positive connections between your children and literature that will last a lifetime.

Only $5 per child! Reservations are recommended (though not required).

Contact the box office at 773-761-4477 for more information.

  • Allison Cain (Stella, Reporter, Maya)

    Allison received her training at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, PA and Columbia College in Chicago. As an actor, she has performed in over thirty productions in Chicago since 1992. At Lifeline she has been seen in Johnny TremainThe Mark of ZorroCrossing CaliforniaMariette in Ecstasy, and The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs. She was a proud ensemble member of the Factory Theater from 2000 to 2011 where she also served as Executive Director from 2001-2007. In 2009, she successfully made the leap to a full time job in not-for-profit theater administration as the Managing Director for Lifeline Theatre, where she remains committed to the production of new works.

  • Christian Castro (Ivan)

    Christian is thrilled to be working on stage with the beautiful people at Lifeline for this production of The One And Only Ivan. He was last on stage in Urban Theater Company’s winter production of Julia de Burgos: Child of Water. He started off his professional career as an ensemble member for the Chicago Dance Crash from 2002-2005 and has worked at Steppenwolf, Chicago Shakespeare, Goodman Theatre, Victory Gardens, About Face Theatre, The Den, TimeLine, Artistic Home, Teatro Vista, THEMASSIVE, and Illinois Theatre Center with the late Etel Billig. His TV credits include Chicago CodeMob DoctorChicago FireCrisisChicago PD, and Empire.

  • Tom Jansson (George)

    Tom returns to Lifeline where he has been seen in Lyle, Lyle, CrocodileBrave Potatoes; and Rikki Tikki Tavi & Other “Just So” Stories. He has also appeared with numerous other Chicago theatres, including Walkabout, The Building Stage, Splinter Group, Prologue, New Tuners, Emerald City, and Incurable. Tom is a graduate of the Dell’Arte International School of Physical Theatre in Blue Lake, CA.

  • Tiffany Oglesby (Ruby, Julia)

    Tiffany is happy to make her debut at Lifeline with such a wonderful cast and crew. She is a recent graduate from The Theatre School at DePaul University with an MFA in Acting. She received her BFA from the Savannah College of Art and Design. Her recent credits include Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry (Greatworks Theatre), Run Chris Run (Stone Soup Theatre Project). Her credits from The Theatre School include What Happened in Pinkville?Our TownTrustBlue Heart, and In the Red and Brown Water.

  • Rick Smith (Mack, Bob)

    This is Rick’s first show at Lifeline Theatre. In the past he has performed at Metropolis Theater, IO Theater, The Playground, and Donny’s Skybox at Second City. Currently he works in the commercial field having done spots for Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Kansas City, Fabreeze, and Bo Jangles (featuring Dale Earnhardt Jr.). Rick is an alumni of West Virginia University (BFA) and University of Nebraska (MFA).

  • Linsey Falls (Understudy)

    Linsey is pleased as punch to be returning for his second production with Lifeline Theatre, after appearing in Lyle Finds His Mother. His past work includes Chicago productions such as Hotel Aphrodite and Namosaur(Factory Theater); Slaughter CityDrumming in the Night, and Debris of the Prophet (Prop Thtr); A Summer’s Day and Blue Planet (Akvavit Theatre); The Sign of the Four and Frankenstein (City Lit); Ghosts of Treasure Island (Adventure Stages Chicago); She Sings for You and See You Soon (Commedia Beauregard).

  • AJ Kepka (Understudy)

    AJ is joining Lifeline Theatre for the first time with this production. He is currently a company member for the “Whose Line…” show at The Comedy Shrine in Aurora, IL, and the Windy City Rejects web sketch comedy series. Recent Chicago credits include Rough for Theatre II(Asuza Productions), Absolution (Polarity Ensemble Theatre), It’s Beginning to Look A lot Like Christmas (Steel Beam Theater), and Chair of Hammurabi (Gorilla Tango Theater). Other credits are: company member of New Haven Theater Company’s Funny Stages Improv, the Lion in The Wiz for Playhouse on the Green in Bridgeport, CT, and a handful of Off-off Broadway productions. AJ holds an MFA in Acting from The New School for Drama and a BFA in Dance Performance from NIU.

  • Rachel Van Marter (Understudy)

    Rachel is so excited to be performing in her first show at Lifeline. She was last seen in Ramona Quimby at Emerald City Theatre. Rachel graduated with her BFA from Roosevelt University where she was seen in Almost, MaineA Streetcar Named Desire; and Our Town.

  • James E. Grote (Adaptor)

    Jim joined the Lifeline artistic ensemble in 1999. He has adapted five books in the Click, Clack, Moo: Cows That Type series, which have been produced all across the country. He has also adapted Daniel Mason’s The Piano Tuner, C.S. Lewis’ The Silver Chair, and Amy Timberlake’s The Dirty Cowboy for Lifeline. As an actor, Jim has appeared at Lifeline in Lyle, Lyle, CrocodileAround the World in 80 Days; and The Killer Angels(2004), among other shows.

  • Dorothy Milne (Director)

    Dorothy has been the Artistic Director of Lifeline Theatre since 1999, an ensemble member since 1992 and has directed over twenty productions here — most recently Jane Eyre in Fall 2014. Dorothy leads the Lifeline Storytelling Project and co-curates the annual Fillet of Solo Festival at Lifeline as well. She directs occasionally for Griffin Theatre and for 2nd Story Theatre and has been writing and performing with the collective Sweat Girls for over 20 years.

  • Katie Messmore (Stage Manager)

    Katie is excited to be back at Lifeline for The One and Only Ivan. Katie’s previous shows at Lifeline Theatre include The Three MusketeersThe Mystery of the Pirate Ghost, and Lyle Finds His Mother. Katie has also stage managed for Titanic and The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee (Griffin Theater). Katie has a BA in Technical Theater from Columbia College Chicago.

  • Jesse Gaffney (Properties Designer)

    Jesse is happy to be back at Lifeline after creating props for Click, Clack, Boo!A Tale of Two CitiesThe City & The CityPride and Prejudice; and Hunger. Elsewhere in Chicago, Jesse is the resident props designer with Silk Road Rising, and an Artistic Associate at 16th Street theatre. She has created props for productions at Depaul University, Remy Bumppo, Victory Gardens, Theatre Wit , Route 66, Immediate Family, Chicago Children’s Theatre, and Congo Square among others. Outside of Chicago, Jesse worked for Peninsula Players (WI), Stages St. Louis (MO), Allenberry Playhouse (PA), The Arrow Rock Lyceum (MO), and Notre Dame Shakespeare (IN).

  • Anthony Ingram (Original Music & Sound Designer)

    Anthony is very happy to be back at Lifeline after having most recently designed sound for The Velveteen Rabbit. Previous designs for Lifeline include The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs! (2014); Click, Clack, Boo! A Tricky TreatDuck For President (2012); How To Survive A Fairy Tale; and Dooby Dooby Moo. As the resident Sound Designer and Production Manager at Signal Ensemble Theatre, Tony has worked on a majority of their productions, including PlainsongLascivious SomethingAftermathThe Ballad Of The Sad Cafe, and 1776. He has also worked with The Factory Theatre, Shattered Globe Theatre, Fox Valley Rep, Deeply Rooted Dance Theatre, and The Right Brain Project.

  • Joanna Iwanicka (Puppet Designer & Costume Co-Designer)

    Joanna is thrilled to work again at Lifeline, where she designed the sets for The True Story of 3 Little Pigs! (2007 & 2013), Naked Mole Rat Gets DressedDuck for President, and Monstrous Regiment; masks/puppets for Dooby Dooby MooThe Last of The DragonsThe Blue Shadow, and Watership Down; and managed props for A Room with a View. Her recent puppet design credits include Hansel and Gretel (Emerald City Theatre), Avenue Q and Barnum (Mercury Theatre), and Szary Chlopiec (Teatr Lalek Arlekin) in her native Poland.

  • John Kelly (Lighting Designer)

    John makes his lighting design debut at Lifeline Theatre with The One and Only Ivan. He studied lighting design at Columbia College Chicago and has been working in the city for 6 years. As a lighting designer, he has worked with numerous companies, including Sideshow Theatre, The New Colony, Theatre Wit, Prologue Theatre Company, Strawdog Theatre, WildClaw Theatre, and Eclipse Theatre Company. In 2014 he was nominated for a Non-Equity Jeff Award for his lighting design of Great Expectations at Strawdog Theatre Company, where he is also an ensemble member.

  • Joe Schermoly (Scenic Designer & Costume Co-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.

From Splash Mazagines

Lifeline Theatre’s KidSeries Launches Captivating Premiere of #1 New York Times Bestseller
March 23, 2015
By Rachel Greene

Now through April 26, Lifeline Theatre in Rogers Park is presenting a captivating staging of “The One and Only Ivan,”a world premiere adaptation based on the bestselling book by Katherine Applegate about the true story of a remarkable gorilla who became a national symbol for animal welfare.

With the 99-seat theatre filled to capacity with youngsters, it was clear by their rapt, unwavering attention that the show’s themes of family, friendship, and what defines a home, really resonated and gave rise to quiet contemplation.

Based on a true-life story, the real-life Ivan was a silverback gorilla, exhibited in a Washington State shopping mall for more than half a century until public outrage moved him to better conditions at a zoo. Because the show is recommended for ages 5+, the production removed the darkest details from the original book and provides just the right level of emotional challenge for the younger set.

Adapted by Lifeline Theatre ensemble member James E. Grote, the newest show in Lifeline’s KidSeries line up is directed by Artistic Director Dorothy Milne. The show is based on the 2012 book published by HarperCollins which was a #1 New York Times bestseller and winner of the Newbery Medal. The show runs for a comfortably paced one hour with no intermission.

As for the plot, Ivan the gorilla is seen living out a long, lonely life as a sideshow attraction in a shopping mall. Upon meeting Ruby, a baby elephant captured in the wild and brought to his domain, Ivan evolves into the leader and protector he was always meant to be.

Similar to “Charlotte’s Web,” where Wilbur the pig famously and heartbreakingly delivers on a promise to the ailing Charlotte, “The One and Only Ivan,” focuses on Ivan’s valor in keeping a deathbed promise to a mother-figure elephant to baby Ruby. The audience is buoyed as Ivan leads the young Ruby (and himself) to a better place where nobody has to live out their lives as the one or the only of their kind, anymore.

For a multi-media, immersive experience, the show makes imaginative use of puppetry in the form of Bob the exuberant dog, as well as shadow puppetry used for poignant flashbacks of unfortunate first entanglements with mankind in the central African jungle that Ivan’s family called home.

The rich performances delivered by fine actors draw in the audience while making the adult theatre-goers completely forget they are watching a show staged with children in mind. Everyone leaves the production feeling like a fuller, richer human being conscious of our strengths and frailties, which is a nod to Lifeline’s mission of delivering big stories, up close, with passion.

From Chicago Stage Standard

“The One and Only Ivan” is a terrific show…thank you Ivan for becoming a new hero in our lives!
March 23, 2015
By Sally Jo Osborne


Lifeline Theatre KidSeries Presents “The One and Only Ivan”, a World Premiere Based on the #1 New York Times Bestseller and Newbery Medal-Winning Book by Katherine Applegate, Illustrated by Patricia Castelao.

I don’t think I was the only adult in the audience using tissues incessantly throughout this thought provoking show. The opening of “The One and Only Ivan” on Sunday afternoon at Lifeline Theatre in Rogers Park, brought together families to laugh, cry, and ask questions about this tale of a courageous gorilla name Ivan and his very good friends Bob, Stella, Ruby and Julia.

Scenic designer Joe Schermoly sets the stage for us in a simple yet effective storefront where Ivan the gorilla lives. The terrific puppet designer Joanna Iwanicka brings to life the characters that create this memorable story. Directed by Dorothy Milne and adapted by James E. Grote; their thoughtfulness and creativity shines through the darkness and into the light of a new day.

Ivan (Christian Castro) is a survivor and a hero. He doesn’t much think about his life back in the jungle because he has become accustomed to his glass cage and performing for his fans in the shopping mall. Bob (Rick Smith) the dog is a survivor being the only one of his litter that is still around after being thrown onto a busy highway by his owner. He is Ivan’s pal and nap buddy-Bob enjoys sleeping on Ivan’s tummy. He has a terrific sense of humor and loves Ivan very much. Stella (Allison Cain) the elephant is a performer in the mall too and she is very wise and mature. She got kicked out of the circus because she was injured and couldn’t perform anymore and so she is Ivan’s friend who also lives and performs at the mall. This is what they do and this is what they are used to doing.

One day, there is a new arrival name Ruby (Tiffany Oglesby) an adorable baby elephant. Ruby learns to perform in the show and loves Stella and Ivan very much. She looks up to Ivan a great deal and shares with her stories about her family. Ivan never thought about his family much because he was busy performing. That is until Ruby wants him to share stories with her and after a while he starts to remember what it was like with his sister and mom and dad when they lived in the jungle. Ruby and Ivan tell each other stories every day and become very close.

George (Tom Jansson) is Julia’s dad who cares for the animals and works in the mall. He is a kind man and does everything he can to make the animals feel comfortable. Julia is the daughter of George she is a young art student who visits Ivan all the time. Julia gave Ivan his first set of finger paints to create pictures and to express his thoughts. Julia and Ivan are very connected through their artistic interests. Ivan’s paintings become very popular among the visitors and Mack, the owner of the mall, sells them for a lot of money. People love to buy gorilla art especially created by the beloved Ivan.

It is Ivan’s mission to make a better life for Ruby the baby elephant and wait until you see how he does it!

This show is a story of the importance of love, loss, friendship, kindness and not so kind beings that exist out there in the world. It teaches a lesson to all theatre goers no matter what age that no matter where you are today there is still hope for tomorrow.

I find it fascinating that the story of Ivan the great silverback is based on real events. This adaptation created by Ms. Applegate allows us to enter the mind of Ivan and allows us to see into his world and experience the transition to become the hero that he was always meant to be. This is truly a heartwarming story and you should not miss it. My daughter and I purchased the book and are looking forward to reading it. I made a new friend this weekend and I found a new hero-Ivan, the great silverback gorilla, was absolutely one of a kind.

From the Chicago Reader

March 24, 2015
By Suzanne Scanlon


Ivan, a silverback gorilla, wants to be a hero, but that’s hard when you’re a washed-up attraction in a roadside circus. When he’s joined by baby elephant Ruby, he gets his chance, and with the help of a canine sidekick and a young girl (we’re not all bad), he works out a way for them to make it to “a good zoo” where “humans make amends.” James E. Grote’s adaptation of Katherine Applegate’s best-selling children’s book doesn’t shy from the sad—I wasn’t the only one in tears—though it can feel a little exposition heavy at times. But Dorothy Milne’s clean, simple staging for Lifeline Theatre’s KidSeries moves things along, as do Joanna Iwanicka’s puppets and the minimally costumed actors (especially Christian Castro as Ivan), who convey their animal natures through physicality alone.