Chicago's Lucky Plush Receives National Theater Project Award

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Chicago's Lucky Plush Receives National Theater Project AwardLucky Plush Productions is thrilled to announce it has been awarded a National Theater Project Creation and Touring Award from the New England Foundation of the Arts (NEFA) to support Rink Life, the newest dance/theater work by Lucky Plush.

The National Theater Project (NTP) is known for promoting the development and touring of artist-led, ensemble and devised theater works. The program is modeled on NEFA's National Dance Project, but to be clear, Lucky Plush received a National Theater Project Award, underscoring the company's growing, national reputation for creating hybrid works of live theater and contemporary dance.

Lucky Plush is one of just eight NTP grantees nationwide this year and the only Chicago company to receive an award, which comes with significant creation support and touring subsidies to presenters, totaling over $100,000.

"We are over the moon about this national recognition for our work," said Julia Rhoads, Founder and Artistic Director, Lucky Plush Productions, and creator, director and choreographer of Rink Life. "Lucky Plush is proud to stand shoulder to shoulder with our fellow NTP grantees, each creating amazing and important projects that reflect the diversity of artists and issues in today's theater."

Chicago audiences have two chances this fall to see sneak peeks of Rink Life on Saturday, November 10 and 17 at 5 p.m. These work-in-progress showings of Rink Life, which nods to the visual aesthetics and social dynamics of 1970's roller rink culture, will be presented in Steppenwolf's 1700 Theatre, 1700 N. Halsted St., Chicago, as part of Steppenwolf's LookOut series. Tickets are $25. For tickets and information, visit or call (312) 335-1650.

Or, take advantage of a discounted Lucky Plush Saturday double feature both dates with Rink Life at 5 p.m., and the signature Lucky Plush work The Better Half at 8 p.m. Tickets for both shows are $60. The Better Half, a wildly inventive dance theater spin on director George Kukor's 1944 psychological thriller Gaslight, will enjoy a three-week run, November 2-17 at Steppenwolf's 1700 Theatre. For tickets, show times and information, visit or call (312) 335-1650.

In Rink Life, Lucky Plush brings its highly integrated brand of dance-theater into a communal space that nods to the visual aesthetics and social dynamics of 1970's roller rink culture. Launching from a collision of plot points in several one-act plays, the script-turned-libretto is both spoken and sung by the ensemble and builds upon fragments of everyday aural input-passing conversations, intimate exchanges, distant whispers, pop song ear-worms. These source inspirations come together in the delightful and moving world of Rink Life, where people navigate relationships, self-expression and rejection in real-time.

Rink Life builds upon Cadence, a work that Lucky Plush artistic director Julia Rhoads created for Hubbard Street Dance Chicago in 2017 with music collaborator Bethany Clearfield (Grant Park Chorus, Chicago Symphony Chorus, and the band Outertown). A developmental performance of Rink Life was also part of Tab Show, a Lucky Plush performance last April at the Harris Theater for Music and Dance. The Chicago Tribune wrote "Rhoads is a master of comedic timing and physical humor; she expertly tugs at the idiosyncrasies of human nature and seamlessly blends dance, theater and music. Her best works easily place her on the short list of our city's strongest and most successful choreographers."

Concept, direction and choreography for Rink Life are by Julia Rhoads. Leslie Danzig joins as a collaborating director and production consultant. Bethany Clearfield is vocal arranger and vocal coach. Lighting design is by Heather Gilbert. Costume design is by Patrick Burns.

Reinventing contemporary dance with humor and storytelling Lucky Plush Productions ( is a Chicago-based dance theater company led by founder and artistic director Julia Rhoads. Lucky Plush is committed to provoking and supporting an immediacy of presence - a palpable liveness - shared by performers in real-time with audiences. A unique hybrid of high-level dance and theater, Lucky Plush's work is well-known for its carefully crafted dramatic and rhythmic arcs, pushing its artists to move beyond the predictable by earning the exciting slippage between - and surprising coherence of - technical choreography, casual dialogue, and humor. Though rigorously composed, much of the company's work feels like it is generated spontaneously.

Since its founding in 2000, Lucky Plush has created 30 original dance-theater works. In addition to performing in Chicago, the company has presented in over 55 US cities from Maine to Hawaii, and its international partners span from New Zealand to Cuba. Commissioners include the Harris Theater for Music and Dance, Krannert Center at the University of Illinois, Flynn Center for the Performing Arts (VT), Links Hall Chicago, Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center (MD) and Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago. Lucky Plush has also collaborated with Lookingglass Theatre, Redmoon, Walkabout Theater and M5.

Lucky Plush Productions is the first and only dance company to receive the prestigious MacArthur Award for Creative and Effective Institutions, a recognition of the company's exceptional creativity and impact. Other awards include creation, residency, and touring awards from National Endowment for the Arts, National Dance Project, and National Performance Network; exchange awards from the MacArthur Foundation International Connections Fund; a presentation award from MetLife Foundation; and an achievement award from the Lester and HopeAbelson Fund for the Performing Arts at The Chicago Community Trust.
Lucky Plush performances have been cited in many "Best of Year" performance round-ups including in the Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun-Times, Chicago Reader, Time Out Chicago, Chicago Public Radio and Boston Globe.

Lucky Plush Productions is a Harris Theater for Music and Dance resident company where its staff and sustainability initiatives are housed under the leadership of Managing Director Kim Goldman. ? About the New England Foundation for the Arts (NEFA)

The New England Foundation for the Arts (NEFA) invests in the arts to enrich communities in New England and beyond. NEFA accomplishes this by granting funds to artists and cultural organizations; connecting them to each other and their audiences; and analyzing their economic contributions. NEFA serves as a regional partner for the National Endowment for the Arts, New England's state arts agencies, and private foundations.

NTP functions as a full system of support for devised theater. In addition to funding, NTP animates an informed, interactive network of producing theaters, presenters and ensembles. Since the first round of NTP grants in 2010, NEFA has infused over $6.31 million into the field through the program. To date, 57 new theater works have been supported through Creation and Touring grants; touring of those works has reached 43 different states across the U.S. NTP projects have toured to large and small arts presenters, military bases, universities, regional theaters and festivals.

NEFA's National Theater Project is made possible with lead funding from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and with additional support from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation.

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