The Birth of a Hit Show

Richard Engling

Artistic Director Richard Engling

by Richard Engling

It’s two weeks before we open Bill Jepsen’s Never the Bridesmaid and we’ve already sold more tickets than many of our other shows sold during their entire run. You can never be sure before it happens, but this gives every indication of turning into a hit.

I’d seen what a crowd-pleaser the script was when we presented it in the 2011 Dionysos Cup Festival of New Plays. Bill has a rare gift for writing characters that audiences love. Credit also goes to Dionysos director Mary Ellen O’Hara and her wonderful cast. They brought out the rich, warm flavors of the play–but they could not have done that if Bill hadn’t embued the script with that richness in the first place.

Development Heaven

The greatest pleasure for me is seeing the play grow and improve throughout the development process into production. Never the Bridesmaid first had some development work with our friends at Chicago Dramatists, then it went through the six-month process in our Dionysos Cup, and then back into development again once we had selected it for this season. I invited Richard Shavzin to direct, which has proved to be one of my better moves as the producer of the show. Richard is an artistic associate at Chicago Dramatists and had worked with Bill on the first round of development. When I saw first hand their working relationship and the resulting improvements in the script as Bill worked with Richard and with the cast, making final rewrites to his script, I was really delighted.

Richard and Bill Draw Them In

Publicity Photo Shoot

Click the image above to view our publicity photo shoot video.

Having a director of Richard’s stature has other benefits, as well. Richard Shavzin is a Jeff award-winning director, and his reputation draws a high calibre of actor to auditions. Given the multiple attractions of script, company and director, we’ve been able to assemble a truly awesome cast. It’s a pleasure to watch them work.

However, it’s Bill’s reputation that is mainly to thank for the brisk sales of advance tickets. Bill’s last play was the best-selling production in the thirty-four year history of Chicago Dramatists. Bill has an eager following who are purchasing their tickets early to witness this new outing from their favorite playwright.

When things start coming together like this, I feel like a lucky artistic director.

Meanwhile, there are more new plays brewing…


Southbridge by Reginald Edmund

The finalist playwrights for our 2013 Dionysos Cup Festival of New Plays are Darren Callahan, Reginald Edmund, Chuck O’Connor and Steven Simoncic. While they are at work with their dramaturgs and directors, Dionysos playwright Reginald Edmund also has a world premiere currently playing at Chicago Dramatists. The show is SOUTHBRIDGE, directed by Russ Tutterow, playing through March 3rd with a very impressive cast doing deeply emotional work. “A white woman has been brutally killed and an angry mob is at the jailhouse door demanding the sheriff lynch the accused murderer. The only way to untangle the truth is for the accused, a young black man called “Stranger” to relive the events that lead him to the hangman’s tree in Athens, Ohio, in the year 1881.” Highly recommended.

Plus a special event!

The Thursday, March 7th performance of Never The Bridesmaid will be followed by a panel discussion on new play development featuring playwright Bill Jepsen, director Richard Shavzin, artistic director Richard Engling and 2012 Dionysos Cup winning playwright Ron Hirsen. Ron will be awarded the Dionysos Cup for his play Land Where My Fathers Died on this occasion. And our friends at DAVIDsTEA will provide their custom teas for the event. February 28 and March 7 will be our only Thursday performances. Get tickets now.

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