Raven Theatre’s 30th season opens with The Big Knife

Raven Theatre’s 30th season opens with The Big Knife, directed by Michael Menendian. Opening is Monday, September 17 at 7:30 p.m. at Raven Theatre, 6157 N. Clark, with a reception following in Raven’s lobby. Tickets and information are available at www.raventheatre.com or 773-338-2177.
Charlie Castle, a top movie star and idealist, has a dream Hollywood career, but artistic and moral compromises have resulted in the slow destruction of his personality. When efforts to force his hand with a studio contract turn sinister, Charlie is faced with the biggest decision of his life. The Big Knife is based on Odets own caustic experience in Hollywood.
Director Michael Menendian states, “Odets’ take on the sordid side of Hollywood fascinated me when I first read the script. I was especially drawn to the theme of a man who seemingly has everything that most Americans dream about: fame and fortune; but who also possesses a fatal flaw that ultimately proves to be his downfall. I want to explore the psychological and emotional consequences of what happens to a man who self-destructively paints himself into a corner with no honorable way out.”
Clifford Odets was the leading dramatist of the theater of social protest in the United States during the 1930s. In 1931 he joined the influential Group Theatre as one of its original members. Waiting for Lefty (1935), a plea for labor unionism, was his first great success. His other notable works include Awake and Sing, Golden Boy, and The Country Girl. He moved to Hollywood in the late 1930s to write for motion pictures, including the screenplay for the acclaimed Sweet Smell of Success (1957).
Director Michael Menendian is a founding member and the Producing Artistic Director of Raven Theatre, where he has directed and designed sets for many productions, earning numerous Joseph Jefferson and After Dark awards. He received a 2010 Jeff nomination for his direction of Raven’s Death of a Salesman. Other productions include Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Hedda Gabler, Jesus Hopped the ‘A’ Train, The Night of the Iguana, Dancing at Lughnasa, Golden Boy, Marvin’s Room, A Streetcar Named Desire, A View from the Bridge, and Glengarry Glen Ross.
The cast of The Big Knife includes: Jason Huysman (Charlie Castle) who is a new Raven ensemble member where he has been seen in Dating Walter Dante, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and The Cherry Orchard; Liz Fletcher (Marion Castle) who has been seen in Raven productions including Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Golden Boy andStreetcar Named Desire and Marvin’s Room; Greg Caldwell (Smiley Coy) who has been seen in Raven productions including Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, The Odd Couple,Laughter on the 23rd Floor, and Death of a Salesman; Ian Novak (Hank Teagle) who was last seen at Raven in Hedda Gabler and has performed with Oak Park Festival, Lifeline, Chicago Shakespeare and the Goodman; Chuck Spencer (Marcus Hoff) who has been seen in Raven productions including The Price, Death of a Salesman, The Exonerated and A Few Good Men and has also performed with Red Twist, Steppenwolf, Eclipse and Gift Theatre; Mike Boone (Buddy Bliss) who is a new Raven ensemble member and has been seen in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, A Clean Well-Lighted Place, The Room, and Talk to Me Like the Rain; Jen Short (Connie Bliss) who was recently seen in Raven’s Bang the Drum Slowly and Bus Stop and has stage managed several Raven productions; Ron Quade (Nat Danziger) who has been seen in Raven productions including The Cherry Orchard, Twelve Angry Men, Death of a Salesman and A Few Good Men; Jennifer Dymit (Dixie Evans) who makes her Raven debut and has performed with Steppenwolf, Buffalo Theatre Ensemble and First Folio; JoAnn Montemurro (Patty Benedict) who is a co-founding member and Co-Artistic Director of Raven where she has been seen in The Cherry Orchard, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Death of a Salesman, Dancing at Lughnasa, and Marvin’s Roomamong many others.
The Big Knife staff includes: Ray Toler (Set Designer), JoAnn Montemurro(Costume Designer), Kurt Ottinger (Lighting Designer), Mary O’Dowd (Properties Designer), Melissa Schlesinger (Sound Designer), Andrei Onegin (Technical Director), Justin Castellano (Master Electrician), Kristen Williams (Dramaturg) andAmanda Rozmiarek (Scenic Artist). Kristin Collins serves as Assistant Director andKiley Morgan serves as stage manager.
About “Out at Raven”
Raven Theatre continues to reach out to the LGBTQ community through their event series, “Out at Raven”. Now in its third year, this series shows Raven’s appreciation of and commitment to the LGBTQ community, providing an opportunity to mingle and network during one Friday night performance of each show. Tickets for each “Out at Raven” performance include a preshow wine and appetizer reception and post-show discussion with the cast and director.
30th Anniversary ‘Raise the Curtain!’ Benefit Performance
Join Raven’s Board of Directors for an exhilarating evening featuring a full performance of Clifford Odets’ searing drama The Big Knife.
Tickets – $50, General Admission
Space is limited, reservations are recommended
Subscribers: Can use their season tickets and pay only an additional $30 per ticket surcharge
The evening’s events:
Act I 6:00 p.m. Pre-play libations provided by Broadway Cellars, Castle Food and Liquors and Fritzy’s Tavern
Act II 7:00 p.m. Raise the Curtain! Performance of The Big Knife begins
Act III 9:00 p.m. Post performance appetizers provided by Ann Sather’s Restaurant and Catering
Final Act 9:30 p.m. A champagne toast to the opening of the 30th season and chat with the cast and director. Cake provided by Swedish Bakery.
Raven Theatre
Founded in 1983, Raven Theatre is dedicated to breathing new life into American classics and exploring other works that illuminate the American experience, with occasional forays into world classics. In addition to its regular season, Raven produces a Workshop Series of new plays, as well as Take Flight, an Educational Outreach program, including teaching partnerships with various Chicago Public Schools, summer youth classes and original children’s shows performed at Raven Theatre.
Raven Theatre Company is funded in part by the Illinois Arts Council, a state agency, Polk Bros. Foundation, Yates-Feldman Foundation, The Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation, The Alphawood Foundation, The MacArthur Fund for Arts and Culture at the Richard H. Driehaus Foundation, S & C Electric Company, City of Chicago, Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events, The Allstate Foundation, The Chicago Community Foundation, The Ream Foundation, James S. Kemper Foundation and The Kinder Morgan Foundation.