Photo Flash: Raven Theater Closes Season With THE CHERRY ORCHARD

Raven Theatre closes the 2010-2011 season with The Cherry Orchard, directed by Michael Menendian. Opening is Sunday, June 5 at 7:00 p.m. at Raven Theatre, 6157 N. Clark, with a reception following in the Raven lobby. Tickets and information are available at or 773-338-2177.

It is the eleventh year of a new century. Money is tight. The mortgage is due or the estate will be sold at auction. Is this America circa 2011? No, it's Russia in 1911. Some things never change!

Chekhov's final play, cleverly mixing comedy and tragedy, tells the tale of the Ranevskayas, a Russian family of wealth and history whose estate faces financial ruin unless strong measures are taken to save it. With the structure of their way of life crumbling, money has run dry and options are few. When the family matriarch returns from the arms of her freeloading lover, a devoted former servant provides a solution. As the sun sets on their family estate, will the family take action or or will they be condemned by their own arrogance and inertia?

Director, Michael Menendian, states, "The Ranevskayas are the definition of the stubborn blindness of the dying aristocracy, borrowing to maintain their standard of living. This is a family whose financial structure has been pulled out from under them while being simultaneously apathetic to solutions presented. It is sadly reminiscent of much of American society prior to the current recession of 2008. Our production will draw on the historic parallels of post-emancipation Russia and America, with an emphasis on the class differences that so define one's place in society."

Russian playwright, Anton Chekhov, gained initial success as a writer of short, humorous sketches and vignettes of contemporary Russian life, before transitioning into a successful playwright. A physician by trade, Chekhov injected equal doses of humor and pathos into all of his masterful plays. His work emphasizes mood and text that continues to challenge audiences and actors alike.

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 recently received a 2010 Jeff nomination for his direction of Raven's Death of a Salesman. His other productions include Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, The Odd Couple, Hedda Gabler, Jesus Hopped the 'A' Train, The Night of the Iguana, The Sea Gull, American Buffalo, Dancing at Lughnasa, Golden Boy, Marvin's Room, A Streetcar Named Desire, A View from the Bridge, and Glengarry Glen Ross.

The cast of Cherry Orchard includes: David Adams (Firs), who returns to Raven after appearing in Radio Golf and has worked with ETA Creative Arts Theatre Company and has also worked with Lifeline, Steppenwolf, and Congo Square; Fernando Albiar (Yepikhodov), who returns to Raven after appearing in Twelve Angry Men and has worked with Steep Theatre; Manny Buckley (Yasha), who has performed with The Kennedy Center and The English Language Theatre Festival as well as regional performances with Next Theatre, Victory Gardens, Steppenwolf, Mary Arrchie and Gift Theatre; Carthy Dixon (Ensemble), who returns to Raven after appearing in Twelve Angry Men and has performed with Victory Gardens and Nothing Special Productions; Liz Fletcher (Ivanovna), who was last seen in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof at Raven Theatre where she is an ensemble member and has received Jeff Citations for her work in A Streetcar Named Desire and Golden Boy; Frederick Harris (Lopakhin), who is a member of Barrel of Monkeys and has also performed with American Theatre Company and Nightblue Theatre; Jason Huysman (Simeonov-Pishchik), who was last seen in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof at Raven Theatre where he is an ensemble member and has also performed with BackStage, Greasy Joan and Trap Door; Sophia Menendian (Anya), who makes her Raven Theatre acting debut after several years of helping out behind the scenes; JoAnn Montemurro (Ranevskaya), who is a co-founding member and Co-Artistic Director of Raven Theatre and was last seen in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof; Michael Peters (Trofimov), who returns to Raven after appearing in Columbinus and has also performed with TimeLine Theatre, The Hypocrites, Victory Gardens and Chicago Dramatists; Ron Quade (Gavev), who returns to Raven Theatre where he was last seen in Twelve Angry Men and has also performed with Chicago Dramatists, Pegasus Theatre, Pyewacket, and Mary Arrchie; Kelli Strickland (Dunyasha), who is the Director of Education and Outreach at Raven and has also worked with Bareboned Theatre Co, Bailiwick Repertory, Mary Arrchie, Women's Theatre Alliance, 20% Theatre Co. and Avenue Theatre Co; Helen Young (Varya), who has performed with Goodman, Steppenwolf, Halcyon, Artistic Home and Stage Left.The Cherry Orchard staff includes: Andrei Onegin (Set Designer); Amy Lee (Lighting Designer); Joelle Beranek (Costume Designer); Melissa Schlesinger (Sound Designer); Mary O'Dowd (Props); Leif Olsen (Composer); Jen Reinhardt (Dramaturg) and Brigitte Ditmars (Choreographer), Cathy Bowren serves as stage manager and Carthy Dixon serves as Asst. Stage Manager.

About "Out at Raven"
Raven Theatre reaches out to the LGBTQ community through their new event series, "Out at Raven". 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 mainstage show. Tickets for each "Out at Raven" performance include a post-show wine and appetizer reception and discussion with the cast and director.

About Guest Speaker Dr. Irwin Weil
Dr. Irwin Weil is Professor Emeritus in the Department of Slavic Languages and Literature at Northwestern University, where he has been teaching for more than 40 years. He earned his B.A. and M.A. at the University of Chicago and his Ph.D. at Harvard University.
Professor Weil has received several teaching awards, including the Northwestern University College of Arts and Sciences Award for distinguished teaching, the University Alumni Award for excellence in teaching, and the Gold Pushkin Medal from the International Association of Teachers of Russian and Russian Literature for outstanding teaching and research. He was awarded an honorary doctorate from the prestigious St. Petersburg Nevsky Institute for the Humanities.

Professor Weil is published widely in the field of Russian literature and culture, with special attention to the classics of 19th-century Russian literature and the Soviet Period. His principal focus has been on the connections between Russian literature and music. One of the most popular teachers at Northwestern, his classes in Russian literature attract hundreds of students each year.

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 and experimental productions, as well as 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 Arts Engagement Exchange through The Chicago Community Trust, The MacArthur Fund for Arts and Culture at the Richard H. Driehaus Foundation, The Saints, S & C Electric Company, The Department of Cultural Affairs, CityArtsII, a city agency, and The Kinder Morgan Foundation.

Photos by Dean LaPrairie

Photo Flash: Raven Theater Closes Season With THE CHERRY ORCHARD

Photo Flash: Raven Theater Closes Season With THE CHERRY ORCHARD
Sophia Menendian, Helen Young

Photo Flash: Raven Theater Closes Season With THE CHERRY ORCHARD
Michael Morgan Peters, Helen Young, JoAnn Montemurro, Frederick Harris, Sophia Menendian, Ron Quade

Photo Flash: Raven Theater Closes Season With THE CHERRY ORCHARD
Manny Buckley, Frederick Harris, Helen Young, JoAnn Montemurro, David Adams, Sophia Menendian, Ron Quade, Jason Huysman

Photo Flash: Raven Theater Closes Season With THE CHERRY ORCHARD

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