The Side Project Theatre Presents WHAT TO LISTEN FOR & HELLO FAILURE, Now thru 7/6

The Side Project Theatre Presents WHAT TO LISTEN FOR & HELLO FAILURE, Now thru 7/6

Kathleen Tolan ("Memory House") has granted the side project the world premiere rights to her exploration of memory, history and music, What to Listen For, opening June 3, 2014. The company will also present the Midwest premiere of Washington State-based playwright/performer Kristen Kosmas' Hello Failure, commencing June 15, as it continues its 2013-14 season of repertory plays. Overall, the June Rep, featuring two of America's most fascinating female playwrights, will explore themes of loss and the search for lasting connections.

The rep will also redefine expectations of the production scales that can be achieved in a 29-seat black box storefront theater. Artistic Director Adam Webster says, "There is a magical expansion of the universe in each of these plays, while also being so extremely intimate, that I thought our small black box space would be an amazingly transporting experience for actor and audience alike."

The June repertory will open with the world premiere of What to Listen For, by the Milwaukee-born, Brooklyn-based playwright Kathleen Tolan, whose plays have been produced by leading regional theaters all over the U.S. In What to Listen For, middle-aged divorcée Margaret tries to build a new relationship with a music-loving librarian while struggling to deal with her estrangement from her daughter, Hannah, a concert violinist. The two seeks solace and advice in imaginary conversations with deceased musicians of the past - Margaret with composers Gustav Mahler and Arnold Schoenberg, Hannah with conductor Arturo Toscanini and pianist Glenn Gould - only to learn these giants had much to learn about human relationships themselves. A cast of eight actors and numerous puppets will bring these historical personages to the side projectstage.

This first fully staged production of What to Listen For, following a 2007 staged reading at Theater J in Washington, D.C., will be directed by Adam Goldstein. Artistic Director Webster says "I am so thrilled to have the opportunity to present the world premiere of a long-gestating Kathleen Tolan play that just needed to find the right home. Further, I am so excited to have Adam (Goldstein) at the helm. I saw his production of South of Settlingas part of Northwestern University's graduate MFA series and knew he was the one to guide the actors and designers through such a delicate and powerful script. His creativity and passion, and Northwestern's penchant for instilling toy theatre sensibilities in their graduates, all spoke to how well a fit What to Listen For was for us, even though it's definitely one of the largest shows to appear in our space."

Kathleen Tolan received the 2005 McKnight Fellowship, which prompted her to writeWhat to Listen For. Other plays include Memory House (Playwrights Horizons, Actors' Theatre of Louisville, Victory Gardens, Seattle Rep, Trinity Repertory Theatre and multiple other productions); Kate's Diary (Playwrights Horizons and the Public Theatre); A Girl's Life (Trinity Rep); The Wax (Playwrights Horizons); and A Weekend Near Madison(Actors Theatre of Louisville, Astor Place Theatre). Her play Chicago Boys had a workshop production at the Goodman Theatre in 2011. Her new play is called The Cottage. Tolan is Associate Professor of Playwriting at Purchase College SUNY and is the Interim Chair of MFA Playwriting at Rutgers.

Adam Goldstein directed South of Settling for Steppenwolf's Next Up Series and was assistant director for Orlando (Court Theatre), A Parallelogram and Detroit (Steppenwolf) and I Am My Own Wife (Hartford Stage). He holds an MFA in Directing from Northwestern University and a BFA in Acting from NYU's Tisch School of the Arts.

The cast of What to Listen For will include Holly Allen (Margaret), Julia Duray (Hannah/Soprano), David Prete (Glenn Gould, Doctor), Robert Oakes (Herman, Critic), James Munson (Schoenberg), Aram Monisoff (Mahler), Andrew Bailes and Spencer Meeks (ensemble and various roles). The production team, in addition to Goldstein, includes Sarah Watkins (scenic design), Sally Dolembo (costume design), Matt Wills, (sound design), Becca Jeffords (lighting design), Casey Peek (stage manager), Alyssa White (assistant director) and Leah Platt (dramaturg).

Another large play, this one featuring 11 characters, also including a conjured up historical figure, will open two weeks later (June 15), and run in rep with What to Listen For through July 6.

Hello Failure, by New York and Washington State-based playwright/performer Kristen Kosmas premiered in New York City in 2008 andthe side project's mounting will be its Midwest premiere. A neo-realist whimsical comedy of loneliness and isolation, it deals with the seven members of a support group for women whose husbands are away at sea in submarines. One day when Rebecca decides to stay home from the group, she is visited by the ghost of Horace Hunley, the Civil War-era inventor of the submarine. A hairdresser and a potted plant also figure into the action.

"As always, I was first and foremost drawn to the language of the piece," Webster said. "It is poetry on the page, and in the air, and while absurdity abounds, it ends up in a very grounded place. Beautifully, magically, slowly, and quickly."

Fellow playwright and magician with words, Will Eno praised the play, stating, "The play opens quietly, more or less, on the Eastern Seaboard and then closes, more or less miraculously, somewhere else altogether, achieving on its happy and troublous way all the things a reader or audience member could hope for- distance, speed, heart, submersion, emergence, truth, mystery, and more. By the end, in a plain and simple and fairly sad way, everything stands for everything else, nothing is not filled with mystery, and to be a living human being is seen to be- despite the drawbacks- the most enviable thing of all."

Kristen Kosmas is a solo performer, playwright and co-founder of New York's Obie-Award-winning Little Theater.

The cast of Hello Failure will include Dean Beever (Tim), Julia Daubert (Kate), Kirsten D'Aurelio (Gina), Meg Elliott (Rebecca), Jen Goode (Netta), Amy Johnson (Karen), Amanda Lipinski (New Girl), Meredith Lyons (Valeska), Michael Shields (Shlomy), Mari Uchida (The Japanese), Nate White (HL Hunley).

The production team will be Adam Webster (director), Sarah Watkins (set and props design), Becca Jeffords (lighting), Allison Smith (costume design), Nate White (sound design), Michael Manocchio (assistant director), Rebecca Butler (stage manager), Brian Ruby (production manager).

What to Listen For will have preview performances tonight, May 31 at 7:30 p.m., Sunday, June 1 at 3 p.m., and Monday, June 2 at 7:30 p.m. It will open Tuesday, June 3 at 7:30 p.m. and run June 5 - July 6, 2014. Performances are Thursdays through Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 3 p.m.

Tickets are $10 for previews, $20 General Admission, $15 for Seniors and Students, and $10 Rogers Park Rush (all unsold tickets at the door with 60626 or 60645 ID). Group discounts are available. Call 773-340-0140 for information and reservations or visit

Hello Failure will have preview performances Wednesday, June 11 at 7:30pm and Saturday, June 14 at 3pm and
opens Sunday, June 15 at 7:30pm. It will run June 15-July 6, 2014. Performances are Sundays through Wednesdays at 7:30 pm.

Tickets are $10 for previews, $20 General Admission, $15 Seniors and Students, and $10 Rogers Park Rush (all unsold tickets at the door with 60626 or 60645 ID). Group discounts are available. Call 773-340-0140 for information and reservations or visit

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