Middle Passage

February 14 – April 5, 2020

$25 Previews: February 14-24 (Fri at 7:30pm, Sat at 8pm, Sun at 4pm)

Regular Run: Feb. 27-Apr. 5 (Thu & Fri at 7:30pm, Sat at 4pm & 8pm, Sun at 4pm)

Rutherford Calhoun, a newly freed Illinois slave eking out a living in 1830 New Orleans, stows away aboard The Republic, an outbound rigger, to evade debtors enforcing marriage. But his clever escape backfires as the clipper turns out to be a slave ship bound for Africa. Calhoun must choose between a fanatical captain, a mutinous crew, and the Africans seeking escape. Building on a tradition of African American storytelling, this tale challenges perceptions of American identity using a Black aesthetic. We are at a critical historical moment in which issues such as racism, classism, poverty, and the meaning of freedom impact us all.

Lifeline Artistic Director Ilesa Duncan and David Barr III revisit Johnson’s epic tale, originally mounted at Pegasus Theatre in 2016 under the title Rutherford’s Travels, to share a tale of personal growth within a dark phase of American history. Of Middle Passage, the Chicago Tribune said, “Long after we’d stopped believing in the great American novel, along comes a spellbinding adventure story that may be just that.”

Based on the novel by Charles Johnson

Adapted by Ilesa Duncan & David Barr III

Directed by Ilesa Duncan

Special Performances:

Audio Description and Touch Tour
Saturday, February 29
   Touch tour: 2:30pm
   Performance: 4pm

Open Captioning
Sunday, March 1 at 4pm
Friday, March 27 at 7:30pm

Visit our Accessibility page for more information.

  • Shelby Lynn Bias (Isadora/Ensemble)

    Shelby is thrilled to be returning to Lifeline after finishing her time studying at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland in Glasgow. Her past credits at Lifeline include: Eleanor in Northanger Abbey, as well as understudying Miss Buncle’s Book. She has worked on several workshops around the city and has worked with Halcyon, Foundlings, and Unexpected Theatre Lab.

  • Patrick Blashill (Captain Falcon/Ensemble)

    Patrick has been an Ensemble Member with Lifeline since 1996 and has been performing at Lifeline since 1994’s Miss Bianca, where he played Bernard the mouse. Other favorite Lifeline roles include Towny in Midnight Cowboy, Old Bailey and the Earl in Neverwhere, and Bunter in Strong Poison (Non-Equity Jeff nomination: Ensemble). He is especially proud to have acted in all three of Lifeline’s Lord of the Rings trilogy, spanning The Fellowship of the Ring (Bilbo Baggins), The Two Towers(Frodo Baggins), and The Return of the King (Frodo Baggins). Patrick has worked with numerous other Chicago theatres, including Eclipse Theatre (Long Day’s Journey Into Night), Theatre Mir (The Sea), Backstage Theatre Company (A Number), Filament Theatre (Eurydice), Griffin Theatre (Journey’s End), and Reverie Theatre (Emma). Patrick has also appeared as Mickey on Chicago PD for NBC Universal.

  • Hunter Bryant (Jackson/Ensemble)

    Hunter is happy to be making his Lifeline Theatre debut. Recent Theatre credits include: Choupette (Museum of Contemporary Art), The Shipment (Red Tape Theatre), The Aristophanesathon (Hypocrites), Dontrell, Who Kissed The Sea (First Floor Theater). FILM: How Is This The World, First Dance. TELEVISION: Empire (FOX). MUSIC VIDEO: We Go High – Chance The Rapper. He graduated with a BFA in Acting and a BA in Creative Writing from The Theatre School at DePaul University in 2017 and is represented by DDO Artists Agency. @Behunting

  • Demetra Dee (Baleka/Ensemble)

    Demetra is extremely excited to be making her Lifeline debut in Middle Passage. A few of her credits include: Luanne in Be Here Now (Shattered Globe), Ernestine in Crumbs from the Table of Joy (U/S Performed) (Raven Theatre), Patrice in Comfort Stew (ETA Creative Arts), Neena in The Green Book (Chicago Dramatist), 2018/2019 Shattered Globe Program, and many others. She is represented by DDO Chicago. 

  • Andrés Enriquez (Peter Cringle/Ensemble)

  • LaQuin Groves (Santos/Ensemble)

    LaQuin is a Chicago based actor born in Los Angeles and raised there and Chicago. This is his 4th production with Lifeline Theatre where he was last seen as Vandemar in Neverwhere [2018].  You may have seen him as Edmond in Miss Holmes or as John Savage in Her Majesty’s Will.  In the last year he has performed for TAI at The California Theater in San Bernardino for productions of Tarzan as Kerchick, CATS as Old Deuteronomy, and Beast in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast. He has also played Father in Children of Eden at Performance Riverside and Bullfrog/Turkey in Honk! at Music Theater Wichita and San Gabriel CLO.

  • Christopher Hainsworth (Josiah Squibb/Ensemble)

    Christopher has been an ensemble member since 2010. Past Lifeline roles include Oliver in Talking It Over, Israel Hands in Treasure Island, Marquis De Carabas in Neverwhere [2010], Edmond Dantes in The Count of Monte Cristo, Dhatt in The City and The City, Athos in The Three Musketeers, Buford/Taylor in The Killer Angels, Evermonde/Barsad in A Tale of Two Cities, Mycroft in Miss Holmes, Islington in Neverwhere [2018 Ext.], Alphonse/Creature in Frankenstein, and Bob/Mack in The One and Only Ivan (Tour 2019). He has also penned the adaptations of Hunger, Monstrous Regiment and Midnight Cowboy and the KidSeries show Fable-ous! He has also been seen onstage at The House Theatre of Chicago, Strawdog, Uma, WildClaw and Seanachai. He is represented by Big Mouth Talent.

  • Michael Morrow (Rutherford Calhoun)

  • Jill Oliver (Tom/Ensemble)

    Jill is delighted to be making her Lifeline Theatre debut! She was last seen in Killing Game at A Red Orchid Theatre. Jill spent 9 years as an ensemble member of The Factory Theater where she produced, directed, wrote, and acted in over a dozen shows. In addition to the Factory, Jill has worked around Chicago with Artistic Home, Irish Theatre of Chicago, Shattered Globe and Wayward Productions. Jill is represented by Hayes Talent Agency.

  • David Stobbe (McGaffin/Ensemble)

    David is happy be working with Lifeline and this cast of artists. A graduate of Columbia College Chicago, he was recently seen in Nashville Children’s Theater’s world premiere of Auntie Claus, another recent credit includes the world premiere of Bury Me by Brynne Frauenhoffer. He worked across Chicago with companies such as Peninsula Players, Porchlight Theater, Dandelion Theater, Theo Ubique, A Red Orchid Theater, The Black Ensemble Theater, Steep Theater, Metropolis Performing Arts Center, and Jackalope Theater. A founder of the Bittersweet Arts Co. which had an award winning run with their production of Forsythian Dweller’s Club in which he played “Celeb-Jay”.

  • Andrew Bosworth (u/s Josiah Squibb/Ensemble)

    Andrew is joining Lifeline for the first time. A recent transplant to Chicago, he will be teaching Demidov Technique this year with associates from the Rose Valley Theatre Group and Akvavit Theatre. He received his MFA from the FSU/Asolo Conservatory for Actor Training and has worked in Wisconsin, Iowa, Texas, North Carolina, and Florida. andrewbosworth.weebly.com.

  • Carter Caldwell (u/s Josiah Squibb/Ensemble)

    Carter (he/him/his) is thrilled to be a part of the Middle Passage team. Chicago credits include: Red Bowl at the Jeffs and Neil and Shelly Try Something (The Sound,) The Black Keys Live In Concert (The Boxcar at Steep Theatre,) and May the Road Rise Up (The Factory Theater.) Next up is All-One! The Dr. Bronner’s Play (The Passage Theatre.) Other acting credits include: The Many Deaths of Nathan Stubblefield, Dracula, and Home Invasion (Actors Theatre of Louisville.) Carter is also a freelance producer and works with the film collective Means Of Productions. www.cartercaldwell.com

  • Chelsea Dàvid (u/s Tom/Ensemble)

    Chelsea is thrilled to be working with Lifeline for the first time! Other Chicago credits include: Macbeth (The Arc Theatre), The Rogue Aviator (Otherworld Theatre), Everybody (Brown Paper Box Co.), The Fly Honey Show [9 & 10] (The Inconvenience); Michael Glover Smith’s indie films COOL APOCALYPSE (2015) and Rendezvous in Chicago (2018) to name a few! She’s proud to be represented by BMG Talent Chicago. You can catch her on stage at Drunk Shakespeare Chicago several times a week performing improv and sketch comedy.

  • Whitney Dottery (u/s Baleka/Isadora/Ensemble)

  • Grant Lewis (u/s Rutherford Calhoun)

    This is Grant’s first time working with Lifeline Theatre. He has previously worked with The Jacobins, where he played Cortez in their world premiere of The Book of Sebastian, and with Windy City Playhouse as an understudy for The Recommendation. He also made a brief appearance on this current season of Chicago Med. Grant graduated from Northwestern University in 2018 with a degree in Theatre and Linguistics.

  • Shole Milos (u/s Captain Falcon/Ensemble)

  • Noah Thomas (u/s Santos/Papa Zerinque/Ensemble)

    Noah is grateful to join the Middle Passage cast and is even more thrilled to be a part of Lifeline Theatre. He graduated from the University of Wisconsin Platteville with a double major in Psychology and Theatre, but also took roles in shows like: Estragon in Waiting for Godot, The Ghost of Christmas Future in A Christmas Carol Ballet, Aldolpho in The Drowsy Chaperone, and J.B Biggley in How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying.

  • Becky Bishop (Stage Manager)

    Becky is frequently found at Lifeline Theatre, where she previously stage managed Frankenstein, Neverwhere [2018], Miss Holmes, Miss Buncle’s Book, Jane Eyre, Monstrous Regiment, and The City & The City. She most recently managed the Plagiarist’s Choose-You-Own Adventure play Season Pass: Deaux Over. Other productions in Chicago include: Some Like it Red (The Plagiarists); Prowess (Jackalope); The Dead Prince, The Half Brothers Mendelssohn, Funeral Wedding: The Alvin Play (Strange Tree); Robber Bridegroom, Letters Home, and Stage Door (Griffin Theatre). Additional productions have been with Steep, Caffeine Theatre, and The Gift. She has been a non-equity stage manager in Chicago since 2006.

  • David Barr III (Co-adaptor)

    David is the author of several published works for the stage including Death Of The Black Jesus, Ev’ry Time I Feel The Spirit, The Face Of Emmett Till (Dramatic Publishing), and Black Caesar (PerformInk). His stage works around Chicagoland have been produced at Goodman Theatre, Pegasus Theatre, Chicago Theatre Company, Black Ensemble Theatre. Nationally, his plays have been produced in Los Angeles, St. Louis, Buffalo, Louisville, and New Orleans. He is a three time recipient of the Illinois Arts Council Fellowship for Playwriting, a two time winner of the National Play Award sponsored by Unicorn Theatre in Kansas City (1995 and 2000), recipient of the 2000 Festival Of Emerging American Theatre (FEAT) National Playwriting Award, winner of the 1998 Theodore Ward Playwriting Award, the 2000 recipient of the Donahue-Tremaine Trust Award for excellence in playwriting, co-winner of the first annual David Ofner Prize (2000), the 1998 Edgar Award for Best Play from Mystery Writers Of America, and the winner of the 1993 Mixed Blood Versus America National Playwriting Contest.

  • Ilesa Duncan (Director/Co-adaptor)

    Ilesa became Lifeline’s Artistic Director and joined the ensemble in January 2019, where she directed Neverwhere (Jeff Recommended 2018), and Blue Shadow (KidSeries). A producer, director, writer, educator and theater-maker, Ilesa is an avid collaborator on new work. Other directing credits include Eclipsed (Jeff Recommended), Shakin’ The Mess Outta Misery (Jeff Nominated), Rutherford’s Travels (Jeff Nominated, co-adapter), The Green Book, For Her as a Piano, and Blacula: Young, Black & Undead at Pegasus Theatre; Broken Fences at 16th Street Theater; The Nativity (Congo Square; Jeff nominated); and the Jeff Award-winning Jar the Floor at ETA Creative Arts. Ilesa has also worked with The Goodman, Writers Theatre, Victory Gardens, Rivendell Theatre Ensemble, Stage Left, and Chicago Dramatists, as well as Contemporary American Theatre Company (Ohio), The Alliance Theatre (Atlanta), Arena Stage (Washington DC), and Lincoln Center Theater (New York). As an educator, Ilesa has led youth development and arts education programs in Chicago for over thirteen years. She is a past awardee of an NEA/TCG Directing fellowship and a 3Arts Ragdale Fellowship. She is member of the Lincoln Center Theatre Director’s Lab and the Chicago Director’s Lab, and is an associate artist with Chicago Dramatists (where she previously served as education and community engagement director).

  • Barry Bennett (Sound Designer)

    Barry is pleased as punch to return to Lifeline after composing music and sound designing last season’s, Frankenstein.  He is a Jeff nominated maker of theatrical music and sound with over 40 world premieres, a multitude of albums under his own name, and as a band leader with the seminal trance outfit MiLkBabY and the art rock group he currently leads, GRAPE JUICE PLUS. Other companies he has worked include: The Goodman, Victory Gardens, Chicago Dramatists (former associate artist), Writers’ Theatre, The Aardvark, Steppenwolf, The Art Institute, Emerald City, National Pastime, Cindy Brandle Dance Company, PROP THTR, Chicago Moving Company (former composer in residence), and others. He is an artistic associate and resident composer for 16th Street Theater, Winifred Haun & Dancers, and the director of Impending Behavior Orchestra. barrybennettsounds.com

  • Kyle Bricker (Asst. Stage Manager)

  • Simean "Sim" Carpenter (Co-Lighting Designer)

    Sim is a young African American lighting & stage designer originally from Baltimore. He has been based in Chicago designing theatre, dance and concerts for nearly 5 years. He has had a passion for creative design since the age of 13.  Design credits include: Eurydice, Dutch Masters, Hannah & Martin, Hoodoo Love, A Darker Mine: Installation, Xavier Omar World Tour. simcarpenter.com

  • Paul Deziel (Projections Designer)

    Paul practices projection design out of Chicago and Washington D.C. Selected credits include: P.Y.G. or the Mis-edumacation of Dorian Belle (Jackalope Theatre), Crystal Creek Motel (Flying V Theatre), X and Tilikum (Sideshow Theatre Company), The Color Purple (Drury Lane Theatre), Photograph 51 (Court Theatre), The Vagrant Trilogy (Mosaic Theatre Company), United Flight 232 (The House Theatre of Chicago), and Twisted Melodies (Congo Square Theatre). Paul holds an MFA in Projection & Multimedia Design from the University of Maryland, is an artistic affiliate with American Blues Theater, and the recipient of a Joseph Jefferson Award for Projection Design.  Pauldeziel.com

  • Alan Donahue (Scenic/Properties Designer)

    Alan adds to his nautical resume having previously designed the Lifeline productions of Treasure Island (2009) and Around the World in 80 Days (2002). Other seaboard designs include Rupert’s Swashbuckling Adventure (2019) at Silver Dollar City in Branson, Mo; Anything Goes (1992) at the Drury Lane South;  and Transit! (1983), a Panama Canal oil tanker musical —I kid you not!—at Texas A&M University. He designed Whose Body?, which was definitely landlocked, earlier this season.

  • Christian Helem (Asst. Director)

  • Elise Kauzlaric (Dialect Coach)

    Elise has been a member of Lifeline’s artistic ensemble since 2005 and has coached numerous productions (The Killer Angels, The Moonstone, The Picture of Dorian Gray, The Mark of Zorro, The Piano Tuner, et al). She has also coached for Steppenwolf, Marriott Theatre, TimeLine, Irish Theatre of Chicago, Griffin Theatre, the Hypocrites and others. Twice nominated for Non-Equity Jeff Awards for her dialect work (Busman’s Honeymoon at Lifeline and Punk Rock at Griffin), she also directs and acts around town and has received NE Jeff nominations for her direction of Northanger Abbey and Mariette in Ecstasy (Lifeline) as well as a Supporting Actress nomination for her work in On the Shore of the Wide World (Griffin). Elise also teaches at CCPA at Roosevelt University.

  • Jocelyn Prince (Script Supervisor)

    Jocelyn is thrilled to be working with Lifeline for the first time. Other dramaturgy credits include Court Theatre, Steppenwolf Theatre Company, Writers’ Theatre, Juilliard School of Drama, Lookingglass Theatre, and eta Creative Arts Foundation. Jocelyn has worked on the artistic staff of The Public Theater and Yale Repertory Theatre and was a co-founding artistic director for The New Black Fest. She teaches theater and performance studies at Northwestern University. Jocelyn is an alumna of Bradley University (BA) and Northwestern University (MA). Visit jocelynprince.com.

  • R&D Choreography [Victor Bayona and Richard Gilbert] (Violence Design)

    R&D Choreography is Victor Bayona (he/him) and Rick Gilbert (he/him). We are as proud as punch to be back at Lifeline for our 16th show here! R&D was founded in 1997 for the purpose of improving the power and effectiveness of Chicago area theatre through the art of violence design – choreographing better fights for better shows!  We have designed violence and/or intimacy for over three hundred productions and films. Our work has been seen at dozens of Chicago area theatres, including 16th Street, ATC, Chimera, Factory, Goodman, Haven, Lookingglass, Metropolis, Oak Park Festival, Pride Films and Plays, The Paramount, Piven, Steep, Strawdog, and Theo Ubique.

  • Maren Robinson (Dramaturg)

    Maren is pleased to be working with Ilesa Duncan again after having been dramaturg for both productions of Neverwhere.   As an ensemble member, she has also served as dramaturg at for Emma, Northanger Abbey, Pride and Prejudice, The Moonstone, Hunger, The Woman in White, and Miss Holmes. She also has worked in Chicago with Court, Strawdog, Eclipse, Caffeine, Greasy Joan and Camenae theaters. Maren is also a company member and resident dramaturg at TimeLine Theatre where she has been dramaturg for over thirty plays.  She holds a MA in Humanities from the University of Chicago. She is an instructor at The Theatre School at DePaul and Associate Director of the Master of Arts Program in Humanities at the University of Chicago. Maren is the Chicago VP of the Literary Managers and Dramaturgs of the Americas.

  • K.T. Shivak (Puppet Designer)

  • Nicole Clark-Springer (Choreographer)

    Nicole is currently the newly appointed Artistic Director for Deeply Rooted Dance Theater. She began formal training under the guidance of Claudette Soltis (Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo and Joliet Ballet Society) and the Indianapolis Ballet Theatre. She has set ballets on Deeply Rooted Dance Theater, Collage Dance Collective (Memphis, Tennessee), and Flatfoot Dance Company (South Africa), as well as toured Turkey, South Africa, and Bulgaria; worked with Congo Square, Black Ensemble Theater, and Pegasus Theater; and choreographed the opening number for the nationally syndicated Steve Harvey Show-Halloween Celebration. She teaches and choreographs throughout the country and has been on faculty as an Adjunct Professor with Chicago State University, Western Kentucky University, and, currently, Northwestern University.

  • Scott Tobin (Co-Lighting Designer)

    A proud Michigander, Scott’s previous credits include the Michigan Shakespeare Festival (Master Electrician), NFL Hall of Fame Enshrinement Weekend (Intern), and various designs for The Theatre School at DePaul University, including: One Flea Spare, The Witness, Honey Girls, and Our Lady Of Kibeho, and Brooklyn Bridge. Scott was also the recipient of the 2019 Michael Merritt Academic Award for Collaborative Design. For more information, visit ScottTobinDesign.com.

  • Shawn Wallace (Composer/Music Director)

    Shawn is excited to make his Lifeline Theatre debut with Middle Passage! Arrangement and composition for theatre include: Ifa Bayeza’s Amistad Voices (Chicago Shakespeare Theatre), Kid Zero (Chicago Center for Performing Arts), and Charleston Olio (National Black Theatre Festival), Shepsu Aakhu’s Warm on the Cooling Board (MPAACT 2014) and Carla Stillwell’s Lawd the CVS is Burning…a Gospel Musical Stage Play (MPACT 2015), When Good Broccoli Goes Bad (MPAACT), Rutherford’s Travels (Pegasus Theatre Fall 2016) and Shakin’ the Mess Outta Misery (Pegasus Theatre Fall 2017).  A native of Chicago’s Beverly/Morgan Park neighborhood and proud alum of Morgan Park High School, Shawn studied Music Theory and Composition at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and is currently serving as Music Director for The Emmaus Center and as a Music Director and Composer for Storycatchers Theatre.

  • Anna Wooden (Costume Designer)

    Anna is excited to return to Lifeline. Recent theatre credits include: The Man Who Was Thursday (Jeff Nom) and Whose Body? (Lifeline), Footloose (Marriott), Pinocchio (The House), Second Skin (Wildclaw), Strange Heart Beating and Another Jungle (Cloudgate Theatre), and The Walls of Harrow House (Rough House). Film credits include: First Dance (Project Blue Light), The Shepherd (Vertical Church), and costume coordinator on the pilot of Showtime’s The Chi. She is co-founder of the crafts company Craftiga Ltd and an artistic associate of Cloudgate Theatre Company. She is adjunct faculty at DePaul University, and received her MFA from Northwestern University.  annawoodendesign.com

Tickets, https://boxoffice.diamondticketing.com/lifelinetheatre/events/Middle,

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