Tag Archive | Steppenwolf Theatre

Why These Scandal Cast Members Should Be Nominated for an Emmy


 Well it’s that time of year again and now we have a real game changer. At the ABC Upfronts Shonda Rhimes announced that this would be the last year of “Scandal.” As members of the National Academy ofTelevision  Arts and Sciences are voting , me and the other fans would like them to remember a few names when they are casting their ballots. Joe Morton and Dan Bucatinsky have already  been acknowledged with the Emmy and Bellamy was acknowledged with a Critics Choice Award, but there are other members that should be standing proudly with their own award.


olivia as the happy bride

Kerry Washington as Olivia Pope…. Olivia has went on quite a journey in seven seasons. She has finally realized that the man she loves is Fitz. Jake is no longer in the picture. Her relationship with her parents is healed and she will be the Chief of Staff to Madam President Grant. She has the power that she wants and will be also running the evil organization that ruined her father. There is only one thing that is left for Livvy and that is happiness. We all want her to tell Mellie to take this job and shove it. She belongs in a big house in Vermont with her ex Presidential boyfriend. Kerry has had the nomination before , but never the big prize. So after you won the Oscar, Viola, can’t you let your girl take it home in her final year?


Tony Goldwyn as Former President Fitzgerald Thomas Grant the Third- Fitz has went through enough that any normal man could tolerate , let alone someone who is the leader of the free world. With three Veeps and three Chiefs of Staff, it is enough to drive anyone crazy. Adding to it , an assassination attempt , a son murdered, the first President divorced in office and the woman he loves kidnapped and tortured. Spacey can win the nominations and awards , but his Underwood doesn’t have half the heart that Grant does. Fitz is the ultimate romantic hero. President who will do anything for the woman he loves, including letting her go. It remains to be seen whether “Olitz” will get to be together, but we are hoping they will as we come to the end. So Academy members, nominate Tony Goldwyn for playing a man who knows how to love and has grown . (Plus he looks great without a shirt)


pres mellie grant

Bellamy Young as President Melody Margaret Grant- Mellie started her journey as the bitch who wanted Olivia to service her husband so she wouldn’t have to do it. But then jealousy reared it’s ugly head and she wanted her gone. She called Olivia every dirty name in the book, whore, homewrecker, can’t keep her legs together and christened her America’s Mistress. But then tragedy struck and Mellie and Fitz lost their  son. Bellamy has hit it our of the park with her story lines. We wondered what made her so bitter, and we got out answer when Mellie revealed she was raped by none other than her own father in law. It was no wonder she didn’t want to be touched by her husband and forced herself to conceive a child to save his Presidency. Everything she did, she did for him. Finally, Mellie steps up and becomes the woman to run the White House. People may think that this fictional couple mirrors the real life Clintons, but let it be known that Claire and Frank Underwood don’t have the same hootzpah as this Washington power couple. Can’t wait to see her in action with Liv as her COS.


Jeff Perry as Vice President Cyrus Beene- Perry is one of the founders of one of the most prestigious theatre companies in the country, the Steppenwolf Theatre in Chicago. Along with Terry Kinney, Gary Sinise, their theatre has nurtured such talent as John Mahoney, Laurie Metcalf, (his ex wife) , Gary Cole, and numerous others. Jeff has been on the scene for years, but people didn’t take notice until he took the role of the power hungry , homosexual Cyrus Rutherford Beene. Cyrus finally managed to hitch his wagon to rising star Grant to take him to the White House. He rigged an election, kept two people apart to save his place in the West Wing. Ultimately he found love and it looked like he was going to have his happy ending. But then tragedy struck and someone murdered the love of his life. Ever since, he did anything to keep his place in the White House. It looks like he has come full circle and he has been through hell. His prison scenes were the best he had done in seven seasons. These gritty scenes proved that he is one of the best actors on television. It is definitely time for this extraordinary actor to win the same award that so many of his own ensemble has also won.


Darby Stanchfield as Abby Whelan- Abby has went the same route that Olivia has, she has gone from OPA to the White House and back again. She has forsaken love for power and been the only woman who has been immune to the charms of one Fitzgerald Grant. Well its because she knew deep down, that there would only be one for the President. She even accommodated his whims after Liv dumped him. Her lust for power almost cost her friend, Huck his life. She is also the one who contacted Steven when Liv had been kidnapped. Her biggest cheerleader proved to be Cyrus, and her best friend was Fitz. Now that the FTG 111  adminstration is out of the White House, she is back at OPA and ready to gladiate.

cyrus and james argue

Dan Bucatinsky as James Novak – Dan has already won an Emmy for this role, but considering the fact that his role as “Andy” is history he should be compensated by winning another one. James was the only deceased character that had made an appearance in the 100th. His character made such an impact on the AU storyline because Cyrus was in the closet but still wanted the power. His solution was to marry the ex Mrs Grant and then still see James. But he realized that he still loved James and couldn’t deny it. Alas Mellie Grant and him married for power and her ex, Fitz married for love. It proved one thing, Dan is still loved by the fans and respected by the cast and crew. Hmm, “24 Legacy ” is gone , maybe its time to resurrect him. Are you listening , Shonda?

zoe perry as evil bitch

Zoe Perry as “Samantha” Mystery Woman” or “Ponytail Bitch” -For someone with such a royal pedigree as Zoe, she definitely made her mark on the show. Her character was enough to bring down the royal evil character on this show and that is “Rowan” . She also managed to manipulate Abby to betray her friends.  She convinced the naive David Rosen to fall in love with her, yet he asked Abby if they could poke her head with chopsticks.  Like so many other characters before her, she was brought to her death by the formiddable Rowan.  She has definitely owned her place to accept the Emmy for best guest appearance.






Are We The Victims of Celebrity?” Marie Antoinette” Answers That Question

steppenwolfWe are a society that worships celebrities. It is a proven fact . Just look at all the magazines, television shows, and web sites. We spend our time tweeting in the hope that our favorite music or television star will answer us. For the first time in history, celebrities and their fans can actively participate in each others lives. We can’t get enough of them.

The latest play at Steppenwolf “Marie Antoinette” is a satire that will get the town talking. Its almost kismet that this play opens during NY Fashion Week. The costumes become characters in the show themselves. But for an actress to portray the “Butterfly Queen” with her own special opulence and style, then the costumer must have a special kind of creativity. Dede M Ayite uses pastels and curves to convey the character of Marie as the height of style. Her love of fashion and use of Louis Vuittons makes fun of the conception of celebrity and everybody worshipping her. This is the point that David Adjmi makes by taking the historical account of her and her husband, Louis XVI and giving it a modern twist.Adimi also takes the story and gives it a twist that reminded this author of the modern day sagas of Shonda Rhimes. It is interesting to note this since one of the founders of the theatre is currently appearing in one of these shows, Jeff Perry on “Scandal”

Alana Aranas makes the main character likable and fun. This could be a difficult task considering the amount of energy required to pull the character off. She captures the audience with her aura of glamour and can girl work it. Dressers help her make the necessary changes of costume. Her dear husband is played to comic perfection by favorite Tim Hopper. Louis is the weak wimp to the strong Marie. Both actors know how to pull it together as we see how fast things go downhill . Chaos becomes the order of the day when the citizens of France are tired of the opulent ways of their queen. Alan Wilder steals the show as the “Sheep”. He is the voice of reason and also could be interpreted as a foreshadowing of what is to come as well.

“Marie Antoinette” will be at Steppenwolf in the Upstairs Theatre  until May 10. One of the other features are the lively post show discussions following each performance. Audience members are encouraged to discuss the play and the discussions are always lively. For ticket information go to steppenwolf.org.


With hair and make up by Dave Bova and the fabulous costumes by Dede Ayite , “Marie Antoninette” is a treat for the eyes as well as the ears. Jeff Sugg marries the era of France with modern times with his projection design.

Take A Sentimental Journey on the” Airline Highway”

steppenwolf  logo

Microsms populate pop culture. Whether we are treated to the saga of a group of people who crash on a jet or seven people on a three hour tour, literature treats us to these examples  as an examination of the soul. The latest play at Steppenwolf , “Airline Highway” does just that.

This play written by Lisa D Amor struck me as a visit to a Tennessee Williams classic. It smacked of local colors and characters that lit up the stage. Carolyn Brauer adds life to the role of Zoe. Like “Alice” , Zoe has found her own version of Wonderland. Hers is a motel in New Orleans called the Hummingbird motel. Some of these residents are mad enough for the tea party. Mostly they have been people who are forced to live with the bad choices they have made in life.

Stephen Louis Crush captivates the audience as “Bait Boy” . He is a kept man who returns to the Hummingbird to visit his friends. He is caught between two worlds , the world where he is a success and the happy place he found at the Hummingbird.

Ensemble casts are always great . They give the audience and actors a chance to examine a wide range of characters and allow the actors to give their best performances. Kudos to casting a play with such a diverse range of characters. As an actor it almost makes me jealous to see some of the juicy roles in this play.From K Todd Freeman’s portrayal of the hapless drag queen to the delicious Miss Ruby, we see people at different stages in their life trying to just survive. Not an actor is wasted on stage either, they all make up the colorful picture which we call theatre. If theatre truly touches the soul, then this play is definitely one to experience.

Airline Highway will be at Steppenwolf until February 8. For information about times and performances go to steppenwolf.cloudtix.com

airline highwayCome join the celebration on stage… “Airline Highway” at Steppenwolf

Theatre Comes Alive at Steppenwolf

steppenwolf theatre logo

Recently I got the chance to see a wonderful production at Steppenwolf. I always tell people if they want to experience good theatre with world class actors, see a play at Steppenwolf. In this case, the play was Conor McPherson’s “The Night Alive “

Tommy (so beautifully played by vet Francis Guinan} is a man who wears his heart on his sleeve. He goes out of his way so much that he is rich in friends, but cash poor. He thrives on get rich schemes and he usually gets into them with the help of his friend, Doc.(Doc is played by Tim Hopper , a longtime favorite that I have seen in many productions.) Doc seems to be a little on the naive side. With his run of bad luck, he has had to take a a room in his uncle’s house. The uncle is played by M. Emmmet Walsh. Maurice is a little bit on the blustery side and very tired of having to bail out Tommy and his pal all the time. Tommy’s life seems to change when he helps a young woman who is attacked (Helen Sadler) .She is soon brought into all of their lives.

Irony plays a part in this drama as we mirror the relationship that Tommy has with Aimee compared to the one he has with his own estranged wife and daughter. Perhaps he is trying to make amends for this troubled relationship. And the final irony is that Tommy tries to take care of the people in his life when he can’t even take care of himself. But in the end he comes to a painful truth. This compels him to change his life.

One of the things that i marvel at when I see a play , movie , or tv show is how the cast works as a team. There was definitely a sort of working rhythm with this cast. This is what makes a play come to life. Each actor seemed to connect with each other. Each character represented a different facet of each of us. Tommy represented compassion, Doc represented naivete. Aimee represented love and her boyfriend represented reality staring everyone in the face. Maurice proved to be the one most changed and it was wisdom that changed him.

Great acting and thought provoking revelations is what awaits the audience . You can still catch the last days of the production at Steppenwolf  The show also includes Dan Waller as Aimee’s boyfriend Kenneth. Following the performance , join in a thought provoking discussion of the play with audience members moderated with theatre personnel. For information call 312-335-1650 or steppenwolf.org

the night alive

Happy Birthday Cyrus ! A Birthday Tribute to Steppenwolf Founder Jeff Perry

jeff perry hs

Today we celebrate a very special birthday to everyone in the Chicago theatre community. It is one of the founders of the world famous Steppenwolf Theatre, Jeff Perry. Jeff is a world class and world famous actor. Currently he can be seen on ABC’s smash hit “Scandal” as Presidential henchman , Cyrus Beene. Join us as Chitownstarconnections celebrates the actor and one of our favorite “gladiators.”

Born August 16,1955 in Highland Park , Illinois. Jeff’s father was a teacher at Highland Park High School. He had an early interest in drama. One day, his late sister , Jo took him to the Ravinia Festival here in Chicago where he auditioned for a ACT production of “Six Characters in Search of an Actor” . He nailed the audition and got the role.  This also initiated what would be the start of the award winning Steppenwolf Theatre Company. Few people know the humble beginnings of Steppenwolf. It was founded by Gary Sinise, Terry Kinney, and Perry and the first plays were done in a corner of the Highland Park HS cafeteria and later in the Immaculate Conception Church also in Highland Park.



Jeff has been a pillar in the Chicago theatre committee . He has been nominated for two Jeffy awards. (local Chicago theatre award) He has also acted in such plays as “True West” , “August Osage County” and “The Grapes of Wrath.

jeff in august osage county  tracy lettsHere is Jeff in rehearsal for” August Osage County” before it went to Broadway in 2008. The play originated at Steppenwolf.

founders-of-steppenwolfHere is Jeff , Terry Kinney, and Gary Sinise formerly of CSI NY , the founding members of the Steppenwolf Theatre Co. They have also opened a Steppenwolf West in LA as well. The company boasts such actors as John Mahoney, Gary Cole, John Malkovich, Joan Allen, and Laurie Metcalf. (Perry was married to the Roseanne actress and they have one daughter, Zoe. Currently he is married to the casting director of “Grey ‘s Anatomy”Linda Lowy  and has another child by her.

nash bridges

Jeff has appeared on many series in the course of his career. They include “The West Wing”, “Prison Break”, “The Practice”, “Thirtysomething” “ER” and “Chicago Hope” Here he is on the former CBS show “Nash Bridges” as Inspector Harvey Leek

my so called lifeHere he is in the late ABC series “My So Called Life” as  gay drama teacher, Richard Katinski. He also directed an episode of the series.

america-dadJeff has also been immortalized in cartoon form. Here he is on an episode of the Fox series “American Dad”  Doesn’t that really look like him?

greys-bailey-mer-lexieHere is one of Jeff’s best known roles. He has come back to the halls of the Seattle hospital several times as Thatcher Grey, the father who left Meredith . In the episode “PYT” , he has returned with a twenty something girl friend much to the dismay of his two daughters.

scandal  jeff tony and kerryBut here is the role he is currently known for Cyrus Beene, President Grant’s Chief of Staff on “Scandal” Here he is with stars Kerry Washington as Olivia and Tony Goldwyn as President Fitzgerald Grant as they endure another stressful day in the White House

cyrus-james-and-ellaHere is Cyrus with the love of his life , James and their daughter,Ella on the day of her christening. Tragically James was shot while on the trail of exposing corruption. Now Cyrus must raise their daughter alone. Will Cyrus love again?

jeff-todaySo lift your wine glass , grab some popcorn and join us as we say Happy Birthday Jeff!!! Chitownstarconnections is so  proud of our hometown boy!!

Note: This is a repost of a previous article from August…

James Novak ..With Love We Say Goodbye

dan bucatinsky

Note: This is a repost of an article last Spring when Dan’s character on Scandal was killed by that no good Jake. Dan has been quite busy with NBC’s Marry Me and also which premieres next Tuesday and also he will be returning with his dear friend , Lisa Kudrow as The Comeback returns to HBO on Nov 9.

Instead of my usual musings about Olitz and the Gladiators, I thought it was more fitting and proper to write my own tribute to the warm, funny James Novak played so brilliantly by Dan Bucatinsky. With this Emmy award winning role now in the history books, there is no doubt that it won’t be long before we see Dan again. James was White House Press Secretary to President Grant, Spouse to Grant Chief of Staff Cyrus Beane, and Father to Ella Novak Beane. He will be missed….

cy kisses james

On the Grant campaign trail is where James first met Cyrus. Cyrus was not that comfortable with coming out , but James was the first person to make him feel that he didn’t have to be ashamed to be gay

washingtons gayest couple

Life would not be easy for Washington’s hippest gay couple. Living a life in the shadow of the scandal ridden Grant Administration,  the two would constantly be at odds about something.


Trust would also be an issue as James dug deeper to find out the truth about Defiance. This was to show Cyrus that he could be trusted and he wasn’t wearing a wire. Both men bared their souls that night.


Even though he couldn’t be brought to the Inauguration , Cyrus made up for it by inviting  James to the first Grant State Dinner. They may have drawn stares , but Cyrus showed he was definitely in love.

james and ella

James just wanted to have it all. He finally realized his dream when Cyrus and him adopted a little ebony princess by the name of Ella. She was their angel and her godparents were none other than Olivia and Cyrus’s  best friend , Fitz.

cyrus heart at

Cyrus couldn’t take all the lies and deceit anymore, so he had a heart attack in the middle of Washington. James begged him to not die and never left his side.

david and james

But it all ended one night as James sought to find out the truth about the death of Daniel Langston. He met with David Rosen about the case and then Jake Ballard shot him. He lingered with James until the bitter end.

cy and fitz

Cyrus had gone in front of the press to announce the death of his beloved. In the middle of the press conference , he broke down and was comforted by his true brother, Fitz. Bravo to Steppenwolf’s Jeff Perry for an award winning performance last night.

the happy family

You will forever be in our hearts and minds,  James.