Brown Paper Box Co. Proudly Announces Their 10th and Final Season

After 10 years, 16 venues, 6 Jeff Award recommendations, 2 Performer in a Leading Role nominations, and hundreds of actors, collaborators, designers, staff members, donors, volunteers, audience members, & friends, Brown Paper Box Co. is proud to share the bittersweet announcement of their 10th and final season.“After heavy deliberation before the on-going developments surrounding Covid-19 and Illinois’ shelter-in-place order, Brown Paper Box Co.’s Executive Team and Board of Directors decided that 2020’s 10th anniversary season would [SA1] be our last,” says artistic director Kristi Szczepanek. “With staff departures and others on the team wanting to move forward with new projects, we felt a celebratory 10th and final season would be the best option for us. And with the company dissolving on our terms, BPBCo. gets to end its fantastic run on a high note, featuring a world premiere play from one of our founders and a celebratory cabaret highlighting 10 years of stories & song.”

“We were proud to go out on our own terms after 10 wonderful seasons as BPBCo. remains extremely mindful of the safety and well-being of our audience members, actors, and creative staff regarding shelter-in-place and large gatherings,” adds company co-founder M. William Panek. “So while we know plans might change & dates may alter, Prodigy and One More Time are the two celebratory events we plan to bring to Chicago when it’s safe & smart to do so.”

Brown Paper Box Co.’s 10th season begins with Prodigy: A Modern Family Portrait by Managing Director and company co-founder Anna Schutz and featuring Artistic Director Kristi Szczepanek. This world premiere play will run July 23-August 23, 2020 at the Athenaeum Theatre’s Studio Two. And in October, BPBCo. concludes its run with One Last Time: A Celebratory Cabaret, a 2-night cabaret event at Stage 773. Hosted by Marketing Director and company co-founder M. William Panek[SA2] , One Last Time: A Celebratory Cabaret comes to Lakeview on October 9 and 10, 2020 to celebrate 10 years of dedication, talent, heart, and music.

Additional information including cast, staff, designer, and on-sale date announcements can be found by visiting

World Premiere Play
by Anna Schutz*
Directed by Christina Casano
July 23-August 23, 2020 at the Athenaeum, Studio 2

Danielle and Emily’s 4-year-old daughter, Macie, shows a promising artistic gift, but when gallery owner Rebecca convinces the couple to start displaying and selling Macie’s paintings, playtime starts to get serious. Is Macie a prodigy, or just a kid who likes to paint? Can Danielle and Emily’s marriage weather Macie’s newfound fame? Mothers & partners grapple with these and other complicated questions as they traverse former loves, private elementary schools, and modern art in this world premiere play by BPBCo. co-founder & Managing Director Anna Schutz*. Prodigy: A Modern Family Portrait’s production staff includes Christina Casano (Director), Michelle Benda (Lighting Designer), Grace Burns (Assistant Director/Dramaturg), Blake Cordell (Electrician), Jeanine Fry (Costume Designer), Kaitlyn Guerrieri* (Front of House Manager), Nicholas Reinhart (Production Manager), and Gin To* (Visual Artist & Casting Directing), and features Kristi Szczepanek* (Emily).

2-Night Cabaret
One Last Time: A Celebratory Cabaret
October 9 and 10, 2020 – Stage 773, The Cab

This is it, folks! 10 years of showcasing some of the finest talent in Chicago, Brown Paper Box Co. is finishing its tenure with a 2-night celebration of stories and song. Old friends and new will take to Stage 773’s Cab stage exactly 10 years after our inaugural run of Reefer Madness! the Musical back in 2010. We’re going out on a high … note! Bring the tissues – One More Time is going to be a 2-night celebratory roller coaster down memory lane with the likes of Mary Jane, Mr. Bungee, Jo March, and more! Featuring performances from [title of show], Little Women, Reefer Madness!, Godspell, A New Brain, and more, One Last Time will celebrate 10 years of music, dedication, passion, and heart. Directed by BPBCo. co-founder M. William Panek*.


Christina Casano (Prodigy Director) is a theatre artist based in Chicago. Her training includes a BA in Theatre from Miami University and the Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey’s Summer Professional Training Program. She was selected for Victory Gardens Theater’s Directors Inclusion Initiative for the 2019-2020 season, and served as the Assistant Director for How To Defend Yourself. Selected directing credits include: Poison (The Plagiarists), Sleepy Hollow (GreatWorks), The Living Newspaper Festival (Jackalope Theatre) and the New World Play Festival (NWAC). Other favorite projects include Some Like It Red and The Epic of Gilgamesh, etc. (The Plagiarists), Bury Me (Dandelion Theatre), The Light Fantastic (Jackalope Theatre). A company member with The Plagiarists, she is the current Literary Manager and the incoming Artistic Director, beginning in the 2020-2021 season. (she/her)

Anna Schutz* (Prodigy Playwright) is a proud founding member of Brown Paper Box Co. She holds a BFA in Acting from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and is currently working to complete her master’s degree in nonprofit management at DePaul University. Anna has been seen on stage with BPBCo. in their plays, musicals, and cabarets. Her backstage work with BPBCo. includes production managing and stage managing various productions as well as creating, coordinating, and hosting special events. She has worked in Chicago as an actor, singer, & arts administrator for the last decade and is excited to announce her new nonprofit organization Chicago Artist Guide. Thank you for supporting new work! (she/her)

Kristi Szczepanek* (Emily, Prodigy) is an actor and singer who has been telling stories with Brown Paper Box Co. since 2016, when she performed as the understudy for Now. Here. This. Since then, she has taken on many roles including creator, coordinator, and host of “Positively Present: An Uplifting Cabaret” and “An Existential Cabaret”, Casting Director for Grace, or the Art of Climbing, and dramaturg for Little Women the Musical. She served as the Management and Development Assistant at Off-Off-Broadway’s Ensemble Studio Theatre, helping coordinate events like the Sloan Project and their annual Marathon of One Act Plays. A few Chicago companies she’d had the pleasure of working with both onstage and off include Theatre Evolve, Something Marvelous and Chicago Dramatists. (she/her)

M. William Panek* (One Last Time: A Celebratory Cabaret Director) is a proud BPBCo. founding member and graduate of the University of Illinois’ Theatre Department. Director: Little Women the Musical, Now. Here. This., [title of show], A New Brain, Aloha Say the Pretty Girls, Godspell, To Tree (world premiere), Reefer Madness! The Musical in 2010, 2011, and 2012. Casting Associate: EVERYBODY; The Baltimore Waltz; Julius Caesar; Spike Heels. Cabaret: “Come Rain or Come Shine: A Judy Garland Cabaret,” “Positively Present,” “Mary’z With a Z,” “Proud at Mary’s” at Mary’s Attic; “Spring Forward Fail Back” at Uncommon Ground; “BPB Yearbook” “Character Breakdown” at Davenport’s. He recently collaborated with Zach Zimmerman (Luke Babylon: Christian Magician and Spell) at iO Chicago, iO New York, The Duplex New York, and the Annoyance Theatre. William served as an artistic associate with The Orchard Project in Hunter, NY, a production assistant for the 24-Hour Musicals at Joe’s Pub, and the business management assistant at the Williamstown Theatre Festival. He can be found on Twitter and Instagram @mwilliampanek. (he/him)

* denotes Brown Paper Box Co. members