Babes With Blades Theatre Company's FIGHTING WORDS FESTIVAL Will Celebrate New Works at Stage 773

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Babes With Blades Theatre Company's FIGHTING WORDS FESTIVAL Will Celebrate New Works at Stage 773

Babes With Blades Theatre Company's (BWBTC) 22nd year continues with the Fighting Words Festival, Saturday, Feb. 29 and Sunday, March 1 at Stage 773, 1225 W. Belmont. The Festival, which is free and open to the public, features readings of three scripts in the development process. After each reading, the audience has an opportunity to provide feedback for the playwright and Babes With Blades. Complimentary tickets may be reserved at and more information is available at

"Script development has been a necessary part of who BWBTC is as a company since we first started producing regular seasons back in 2005," states Artistic Director Hayley Rice. "Combining that with Chicago being a continual beacon for new play development, the process has gone from living room reads of new scripts to launching Joining Sword & Pen (BWBTC's international playwriting competition) and now to this multi-day festival of new works."

BWBTC moved to a two-day festival format in 2018 and the company has maintained free access to all readings, an approach that has been a staple to the program since its infancy.


Saturday, February 29 and Sunday, March 1

Stage 773, 1225 W. Belmont Ave.


Refreshments and a talkback follow each reading

Saturday, Feb. 29:

4 p.m.

Nina the Hellhound

Written by Sander Gusinow

Directed by Angie Forshee

Fight Choreographed by Polly Cooney

A sleepy town in 1620s England gets a taste of modernity when gifted fencer Nina Broach begins fighting duels on behalf of mistreated women everywhere.

Appalled by the town's new liberty, a vainglorious lord becomes obsessed with Nina's destruction, and blackmails a legendary war hero in hopes of bringing her down. To save her city, her sister, and her, Nina must not only fight for her life, but also confront, and forgive, the painful compromises her mother made to see her reach her potential.

7:30 p.m.

Plaid as Hell

Written by Cat McKay

Directed by Christina Casano

Fight Choreographed by BWBTC Ensemble Member Maureen Yasko

Cass's annual camping trip is off to a rough start with her best friend Emilie sniping at Cass's new girlfriend Jess. The serial killer loose in the woods isn't helping matters, either.

Sunday, March 1:

4 p.m.


Written by Mia Vera

Directed by BWBTC Ensemble Member Kathrynne Wolf

Fight choreographed by BWBTC Ensemble Member Jillian Leff

Inspired by Valerie Solanas's "SCUM Manifesto," three people with wildly different agendas take up art, activism and potentially arms as they ponder how to dismantle the patriarchy (and cope with a break-up).

ABOUT SANDER GUSINOW, playwright of Nina the Hellhound

Sander Gusinow received his MFA in playwriting from Columbia University and has held residencies with the Amoralists Theatre Company and the TENT foundation. His plays include Ruth and Naomi at Signature Theatre Company; The Fairer Sex at Theatre Row and Lovehack at Amoralists Theatre Company and Old Opera House Theatre. His on-screen work includes "Nerd Love" and "Mirage." He lives in Portland with his wife Amy and their fearless Chihuahua, Sadie.

ABOUT ANGIE FORSHEE, director of Nina the Hellhound

Angela Forshee is a Chicago-based director who has worked with several companies including Interrobang Theatre Project, The New Colony, Broken Nose Theatre, Walkabout, The Cuckoo's Project and Raven Theatre. She is an alumnus of Ball State University where she studied Directing.


After years of effort, Cat McKay has more roles on her resume playing queer women than playing aliens. You may have spotted her last year as "Jesse" in WildClaw's Hell Followed With Her. She is represented by BNB Talent. Plaid as Hell is her second play as a playwright.


Christina Casano is a theatre artist based in Chicago, focused on directing and acting, with an interest in developing new work. She earned a BA in Theatre from Miami University and completed the Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey's Summer Professional Training Program. Recent directing credits include: The Living Newspaper Festival at Jackalope Theatre; New World Play Festival at Nothing Without A Company; Beyond the Curtain Festival at Theatre Evolve and a staged reading of Richard III with Stone Soup Shakespeare. She has also assistant directed Bury Me at Dandelion Theatre; The Light Fantastic at Jackalope Theater and Ulysses at The Plagiarists. Next spring, she will direct the world premiere of Poison by Dusty Wilson with The Plagiarists, where she also serves as the literary manager.


Mia Vera is an actor, writer and freelance teaching artist throughout the Midwest. She's a proud SAG-AFTRA member, represented by Heyman Talent and personally held together by a lifetime of love and the biggest hope that the world only spins forward. She's honored to be apart of the Fighting Words process with the BWBTC.

ABOUT Kathrynne Wolf, director of SCUM

Kathrynne Wolf is a Chicago storefront theatre (and BWBTC) veteran, appearing onstage and helping to develop new work, with many companies over the years. She has directed a variety of items for stage and screen, as well as teaching voice and stage combat in various corners of the globe. Wolf has a particular passion for developing new stories and reimagining the classics.


Fighting Words sprang from the very clear need to increase the canon of female+ fighting roles. By running a development series for new works, we not only support the creation of plays that meet our mission that we can produce, but plays that go beyond Chicago to increase the visibility of fierce women+ on stage.

Each year, since 2005, BWBTC selects three scripts for development that have the potential to grow into the kinds of plays that fit its mission. Several of the Fighting Words selections have been seen as full productions with BWBTC, as well as other theatre companies: most recently Women of 4G, 180 Degree Rule, Patchwork Drifter, L'Imbecile, Promise of a Rose Garden (Jeff Recommended) and Bo Thomas and the Case of the Sky Pirates.

Each 2019-20 script has undergone two reading-and-feedback sessions with the ensemble and invited guests. BWBTC is presenting the final reading of each script in a festival format: The Fighting Words Festival.


Gender parity is a hot topic, with articles after news clips after reports documenting how women, and women's stories, are still underrepresented. Babes With Blades Theatre Company's response - now, for the past 20 years, and moving forward - is to develop and present scripts focused on complex, dynamic (and often combative) characters that are underrepresented based on gender.

In each element of their programming, they embrace two key concepts:

Women, nonbinary folx, and other underrepresented communities are central to the story, driving the action rather than responding or submitting to it.

Everyone is capable of a full emotional and physical range, up to and including violence and its consequences.

The company offers participants and patrons alike an unparalleled opportunity to experience every person as heroes and villains; rescuers and rescues; right, wrong and everywhere in between: exciting, vivid, dynamic PEOPLE. It's as simple and as subversive as that.

BWBTC's 2019-20 programming is partially made possible by the kind support of The Gaylord & Dorothy Donnelley Foundation, The Paul M. Angell Family Foundation, The Illinois Arts Council Agency, and a CityArts Grant from the City of Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs & Special Events.

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