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Photos: Refuge Theater Project Presents THE LAST SESSION

Refuge Theater Project is proud to announce the cast and production team for its first production in its 2018 - 2019 season, The Last Session, October 26 - December 2, book by Jim Brochu, with music and lyrics by Steve Schalchlin, additional lyrics by John Bettis and Marie Cain directed by Refuge Theatre Project's Artistic Director Christopher Pazdernik and music directed by Erik Pearson. The Last Session runs Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 7 p.m. at Atlas Art Studio, 4809 N Ravenswood Ave. Previews are Friday, Oct. 26 and Saturday, Oct. 27 at 8 p.m. with opening/press night Sunday, Oct. 28 at 7 p.m. There are two additional performances Monday, Nov. 12 and 26 at 8 p.m. Preview tickets are $15, regular run tickets are $30 each and available at RefugeTheatre.com.

Nominated for Best Musical by the New York Drama League and the New York Outer Critics Circle and written as musical therapy, in real time, to songwriter Schalchlin's own AIDS diagnosis and subsequent battle on the deathbed, The Last Session, an off-Broadway hit in its original run in 1997, reunites a group of singers, friends and band mates to record one final album, except for the unexpected arrival of a guest singer who spoils what was supposed to be a nice, quiet goodbye party. All of them are deeply connected, yet, unaware that their host carries a big secret: he plans to end his struggle with AIDS after the session.

The New York Times called this gospel/rock/pop infused musical "Exquisite" and The Los Angeles Times named it a "Critics Choice" and raved, "screamingly funny, yet love is everywhere. Written from the heart, Schalchlin's gospel tinged pop tunes exert a rare emotional pull and Brochu's story telling allows them to emerge realistically out of the action. Again and again, a fierce drive takes overtakes the tunes melodic strains. It's life taking hold again - hope rising on powerful wings."

"As an artist living with HIV, I feel compelled to share stories from the early days of the HIV/AIDS epidemic" Artistic Director Pazdernik said. "We have to make sure we don't lose the stories of those who fought and died so today's generation of HIV patients could live longer. It's too easy to take modern medicine for granted--we need to also honor the debt we owe to those who were on the front lines of this unfathomable plague."

Refuge Theatre Project will be partnering with several Chicago social service agencies during the run of the production to bring awareness and support to organizations that continue the fight against HIV/AIDS in our communities today including AIDS Foundation of Chicago, Howard Brown Health and Season of Concern.

The cast of The Last Session includes Ryan Armstrong, "Buddy;" Erik Pearson, "Gideon;" Benjamin Baylon, "Jim;" Darilyn Burtley, "Tryshia;" Liz Bollar, "Vicki;" Britain Gebhardt and Josiah Haugen, swings.

The production team includes Chris Pazdernik*, director; Erik Pearson, music director; Rueben Echoles, assistant director; Lewis Rawlinson*, assistant music director; Collin Helou*, lighting designer; Jeremy Hollis, production manager; Leslie Halverson, stage manager; Evan Frank*, set dressing/props coordinator; Isaac Mandel, sound designer/audio engineer and Amanda Vander Byl, costume designer.

*Denotes Refuge Theatre Project company member

Photo Credit: Rob Riddle of Ghost Light Foto

high res photos

Photos: Refuge Theater Project Presents THE LAST SESSION
Liz Bollar

Photos: Refuge Theater Project Presents THE LAST SESSION
Darilyn Burtle

Photos: Refuge Theater Project Presents THE LAST SESSION
Ryan Armstrong as “Buddy�; (back, L to R) Darilyn Burtley as “Tryshia� and Liz Bollar as “Vicki"

Photos: Refuge Theater Project Presents THE LAST SESSION
Erik Pearson

Photos: Refuge Theater Project Presents THE LAST SESSION
Darilyn Burtley as “Tryshia," Liz Bollar as “Vicki� and Ryan Armstrong as “Buddy�

Photos: Refuge Theater Project Presents THE LAST SESSION
Erik Pearson as “Gideon� at piano (L to R);behind piano (L to R) Darilyn Burtley as “Tryshia," Liz Bollar as “Vicki� and Ryan Armstrong as “Buddy�


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