top of page

The Cake

By Bekah Brunstetter

Directed by Lauren Shouse


A Mid-West Premiere
Featuring RTE Founders Tara Mallen and Keith Kupferer

A Mid-West Premiere
April 8th-May 20th 2018

The Cake was originally produced by The Echo Theater Company, Los Angeles, California; Chris Fields, Artistic Director, and Jesse Cannady, Producing Director. The Cake received a developmental reading at The Alley Theatre, Gregory Boyd, Artistic Director, and Dean R. Gladden, Managing Director. The Cake was developed at The Ojai Playwrights Conference, by Robert Egan, Artistic Director/Producer.


The running time is 90 minutes with no intermission.



The Cake is Jeff Recommended. 

Jen lives in New York but has always dreamed of getting married in her small North Carolina hometown, so she heads down south with her partner to ask Della, her late mother’s best friend, to do the honors of making the wedding cake at her bakery. Della’s cakes are legendary, even earning her a spot as a contestant on the “Great American Baking Show.” She is overjoyed at Jen’s request until she realizes there’s not just one bride, but two, forcing her to re-examine some of her deeply-held beliefs, as well as her own marriage. Faith, family, and frosting collide in this touching and timely new play.





‘The Cake’ is a many-layered story of sympathetic people in conflict, Steven Oxman: Three Stars

“The play is sweet and never too blatantly sugary… director Lauren Shouse guides the proceedings with the right delicate touch. The set, from designer Arnel Sancianco, is spot-on perfect… Mallen is a treat to watch, particularly in the moments when the play gets a bit fanciful.”

Read more here


Photo Flash: First Look at THE CAKE at Rivendell Theatre Ensemble

“The play is sweet and never too blatantly sugary… director Lauren Shouse guides the proceedings with the right delicate touch. The set, from designer Arnel Sancianco, is spot-on perfect… Mallen is a treat to watch, particularly in the moments when the play gets a bit fanciful.”

Read more here

‘This Is Us’ writer’s drama covers intolerance, same-sex marriage, Catey Sullivan

“I didn’t want to demonize anyone. I think plays can get people talking about issues in a way that movies or articles or news reports can’t.” (Bekah Brunstetter)

Read more here


LAURA AND THE SEA with Rivendell Theatre Ensemble

" Mayo’s precise guidance was able to highlight the barriers that we put up between one another and how the line between protecting and hiding oneself is very thin. The blog that started as a way to ask why someone would commit suicide unraveled into an investigation without placing blame or coming to a definitive answer. Are you affected by someone’s death because you miss them or are you so affected by someone’s death because, in actuality, you are unaffected and you fear that your own death will be met with the same apathy from those around you?"

Read more here

Community EVENTS

Rivendell provides several opportunities throughout our runs to see the performance and also take part in additional access, entertainment, or insight. For THE CAKE these include:

Friday, April 20, 2018 – Planned Parenthood benefit night

See a show and support Planned Parenthood at the same time! $10 of every ticket sold will be donated to Planned Parenthood of Illinois.






Thursday, April 26, 2018, and Friday, June 1, 2018 – Open Captioned Performance

Join Rivendell for an 8:00 pm performance with open captioning. $15 Tickets are available with the code “ACCESS”.


Friday, May 4 – Mama’s Night / Ladies Night

Following the performance, please join us in our rehearsal studio for wine, cheese, and some great conversation!


Saturday, May 5, 2018 – Town Hall Discussion

During each Rivendell production, town halls happen after select Saturday matinees and are an essential touchstone for our organization to extend the conversation from the stage to the community. Panelists help field questions, present observations, and participate in supporting a thoughtful, in-depth dialogue for all involved. Audience participants need not be present for the Saturday matinee and are welcome to join the conversation following the performance.

Click here for town hall details. 

Saturday, May 12, 2018 – Rivendell Reads

Alongside each performance, Rivendell will offer a featured book that aligns with the themes of the production. Following a select matinee during the run, we invite readers to our rehearsal studio to join in a book club discussion of the book in relation to the show. For The Cake, we will be reading The Cake Therapist by Judith Fertig. 


Community partner Women and Children First will keep copies of The Cake Therapist available for purchase during the run of The Cake. Please support our neighbor and purchase your copy from their local store at 5233 N. Clark St., Chicago, IL.


Saturday, May 19, 2018 – Town Hall Discussion

During each Rivendell production, town halls happen after select Saturday matinees and are an essential touchstone for our organization to extend the conversation from the stage to the community. Panelists help field questions, present observations, and participate in supporting a thoughtful, in-depth dialogue for all involved. Audience participants need not be present for the Saturday matinee and are welcome to join the conversation following the performance.

Click here for town hall details. 


Sunday, May 6 and May 20 – Sunday 3 pm matinees 

Audiences have been asking for Sunday matinees – get your tickets while you can!


Tara Mallen (Della) is an actor, director, producer, and Artistic Director at Rivendell Theatre Ensemble. Tara was most recently on stage in Rivendell’s production of The Firebirds Take the Field. Other recent credits include Lynn Nottage’s Sweat at Arena Stage; Rivendell’s Jeff Nominated, world premiere productions of Look, we are breathing and Rasheeda Speaking; How Long Will I Cry: Stories of Youth Violence at Steppenwolf’s Theatre for Young Audiences; Rivendell’s World Premiere Jeff nominated production of The Walls, and Self Defense, or the Death of Some Salesmen—both productions part of Steppenwolf Theatre Company’s Visiting Theater Initiative. For Rivendell, Tara has both produced and acted in over thirty productions. She received a Joseph Jefferson award for “Supporting Actress” for her portrayal of Gwenyth in WRENS as part of that production’s Jeff-winning ensemble. She was nominated the following year for “Actress in a Principal Role” for her work in My Simple City. Screen credits include Steven Soderbergh’s film Contagion; Boss (STARZ); Chicago Fire (NBC); Chicago P.D. (NBC); FOOLS (Feature film); Sense8 (Netflix); and the CBS/Sony Pictures pilot Doubt. Tara co-conceived and directed the critically acclaimed World Premiere of WOMEN AT WAR, a theatrical exploration of women in today’s military that played to sold-out houses in the fall of 2014 and is now touring throughout the midwest. Tara is the 2017 recipient of the esteemed 3Arts William Franklin Grisham Award.



Keith Kupferer (Tim) is a founding member of Rivendell Theatre Ensemble where he was most recently seen in their critically acclaimed production of Cal in Camo. Other recent credits include The Mystery of Love and Sex (for which he received a Jeff nomination for “Supporting Actor”), Death of a Streetcar Named Virginia Wolf at Writer’s Theatre; The Legend of Georgia McBride at Northlight Theatre; The Qualms, Good People, and Middletown at Steppenwolf Theatre; The Humans at American Theatre Company, Men’s Support Group, God of Carnage,  and the Passion Play at the Goodman Theatre; Hillary and Clinton, Never the Sinner, and Appropriate at Victory Garden’s Theatre; Gypsy at Chicago Shakespeare Theater; and  Big Lake, Big City and Trust for Lookingglass Theatre. Film credits include the soon-to-be-released Widows; The Dilemma; Dark Knight; Public Enemies; The Express; Stranger Than Fiction; Road to Perdition; Finding Santa; Fred Klaus; The Last Rights of Joe May; and The Merry Gentleman directed by Michael Keaton. TV credits include Better Call Saul; Empire; Chicago P.D.; Betrayal; Crisis; Chicago Fire; and Detroit 187.




Krystel McNeil (Macy) is an ensemble member at RTE where she has performed in the production WOMEN AT WAR. Most recent credits include In The Next Room or The Vibrator Play (Timeline Theater Company), Bootycandy (Windy City Playhouse), The Compass (Steppenwolf SYA), and understudying and performing in Objects in the Mirror and Carlyle at Goodman Theater Company. Krystel also does voiceover work and appeared in an episode of Chicago P.D. She is represented by Big Mouth Talent.





Tuckie White (Jen) most recently appeared in Raven Theatre’s Red Velvet and The Play About My Dad. Over the years, she has been part of productions at Chicago Shakespeare, Steppenwolf, Cock & Bull, Lifeline, Victory Gardens, and Goodman Theatre. Film/TV credits include The Drunk, After Effect, and Chicago Med. She is a graduate of The Theatre School at DePaul University and an alum of iO and Second City. She is represented by Grossman & Jack Talent.



Bekah Brunstetter (Playwright) hails from Winston-Salem, North Carolina, and currently lives in Los Angeles. Her plays include The Cake (Ojai Playwrights Conference), Going to a Place where you already are (South Coast Repertory), The Oregon Trail (Portland Center Stage Fall 2016, O’Neill Playwrights Conference; Flying V) Cutie and Bear (Roundabout commission), A Long and Happy Life (Naked Angels commission), Be A Good Little Widow (Ars Nova, Collaboraction, The Old Globe), Oohrah! (Atlantic Theater, Steppenwolf Garage, Finborough Theater/London), Nothing is the end of the World (except for the end of the world) (Waterwell productions), House of Home (Williamstown Theater Festival) and Miss Lilly Gets Boned (Ice Factory Festival). She is an alumna of the CTG Writers Group, Primary Stages Writers Group, Ars Nova Play Group, The Playwright’s Realm, and the Women’s Project Lab. She is currently a member of the Echo Theater¹s Playwright’s Group. She has previously written for MTV (Underemployed; I Just Want My Pants Back,) ABC Family’s Switched at Birth, and Starz’s American Gods. She is currently a Co-Producer on NBC’s This Is Us. She received her B.A. from UNC Chapel Hill and her M.F.A. in Dramatic Writing from the New School for Drama.


Lauren Shouse (Director) is the Artistic Associate and Literary Manager at Northlight Theatre. Her recent directing credits include The Legend of Georgia McBride at Northlight Theatre, Nice Girl and Betrayal at Raven Theatre, Rapture, Blister, Burn; Superior Donuts; and A Christmas Story at Nashville Repertory Theatre, the world premiere of Long Way Down with 3Ps productions; the world premiere of Religion and Rubber Ducks with Ovvio Arte; Parallel Lives, The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, The Last Five Years and Chess in Concert with Street Theatre Company; the world premiere of Rear Widow at Chaffin’s Barn Theatre, In The Next Room or the Vibrator Play and Eurydice at Wirtz Center for Performing Arts. In Chicago, Lauren has also worked with Steppenwolf, Goodman, Lookingglass, Stage Left, Route 66, The Gift, Sideshow, and Chicago Dramatists.  Lauren holds an MFA in theatre directing from Northwestern University.

Production Team


Jenniffer Thusing (Stage Manager) happily returns to Rivendell. She previously stage managed Cal in Camo, Alias Grace, Grizzly Mama, and Winter. Jenniffer has stage managed for SoloChicago, Chicago Dramatists, Chicago Commercial Collective, Noble Fool, Nuns for Fun, Emerald City, and Light Opera Works. Her work as a set designer with her partner Robert Groth has been seen at Irish Theatre of Chicago, Mary Arrchie, The Royal George, Metropolis Performing Arts, The Broadway Playhouse, The Apollo Theater, and Emerald City’s Little Theater. Jenniffer is a proud member of Actors Equity Association.


Arnel Sancianco (Scenic Design) studied drama with honors in design at UC Irvine and received his MFA in Scenic Design from Northwestern University. He has designed shows in Philadelphia, Washington D.C., Milwaukee, and Chicago. He’s designed the sets for Boy (Timeline Theatre); The Belle of Amherst (Court Theatre); The Crucible (Steppenwolf); The Wiz, Little Fish, (Kokandy Productions); Hang Man, Pilgrims (The Gift Theatre); Hookman, Earthquakes in London (Steep Theatre); Peerless (First Floor Theatre); How We Got On (Haven Theatre); You on The Moors Now (The Hypocrites); Carousel, Titanic, Rock of Ages (Timberlake Playhouse); and Xanadu (American Theatre Co.) For more information visit


Janice Pytel (Costume Design) has been a Rivendell ensemble member since 2010 and also serves on Rivendell’s literary committee. Throughout her 20-year career as a costume designer, she has had a special interest in new play development and has designed costumes for numerous world premiers by noted playwrights such as Bruce Norris, Moises Kauffman, as well as the Tony Award and Pulitzer Prize-winning I Am My Own Wife by Doug Wright. With Rivendell, she has designed costumes for the world premiers of Psalms of a Questionable Nature, WOMEN AT WAR (core artist), Look, we are breathing, Body/Courage, and Alias Grace. Additional Rivendell credits include Mary’s Wedding; Precious Little; Falling: A Wake; Crooked; The Electric Baby; How the World Began, Dry Land, Grizzly Mama, and Cal in Camo. Recent costume design credits include The Book of Will (Northlight Theatre); Booty Candy (Windy City Playhouse); Queen, Hand to God, Hillary and Clinton, Cocked and Never the Sinner (Victory Gardens) and Song from the Uproar (Chicago Fringe Opera). In Chicago, Janice has worked with Steppenwolf, Court Theatre, Goodman Theatre, Chicago Opera Theater, Writers’ Theatre, TimeLine Theatre, Next Theater, About Face Theater, Lookingglass, Chicago Shakespeare, Silk Road Rising, Piven, and others. Her Broadway credits are 33 Variations and I Am My Own Wife. Regionally she has worked with The Alley Theatre, Kansas City Rep, Geffen Playhouse, Milwaukee Rep, Madison Rep, Alliance Theatre, Williamstown Theatre Festival, Centerstage, Arena Stage, Center Theatre Group, La Jolla Playhouse, and others. She has designed costumes for opera, dance, film, and performance art, and her work has been seen in numerous cities across five continents. Janice also works as a personal wardrobe consultant with her company Wardrobe Solutions, Inc.


Cat Wilson (Lighting Design) is a Chicago-based lighting and projection designer. She recently worked with companies such as Goodman Theatre, Chicago Shakespeare Theater, TimeLine Theatre, Joffrey Ballet Academy, Chicago Children’s Theatre, Kokandy Productions, Irish Theatre of Chicago, Jackalope Theatre, Hell in a Handbag Productions, and many others around the country. She received her MFA in Lighting Design from Carnegie Mellon University.


Shannon Marie O’Neill (Original Music and Sound Designer) is a sound designer, composer, and teacher based in Baton Rouge Louisiana. She teaches sound design at Louisiana State University. Shannon has worked as a designer/composer across the country and her compositions have been heard internationally. Prior to her position at LSU, Shannon taught sound design at Illinois State University. She holds an MA from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where she sounds designed and wrote original music for The Time Traveler’s Wife, and an MFA from the University of Georgia. Shannon currently serves as a Central Region Representative for the Theatrical Sound Designers and Composers Association (TSDCA).


Danielle Myerscough (Properties Design) is excited to be working on her first show with Rivendell! A freelance props designer and electrician from Dearborn, Michigan, her work has been seen with 20% Theatre Company (SPARK), Emerald City Theatre (Magic Tree House: Showtime with Shakespeare), Chicago Opera Theatre (The Consul), and City Lit Theatre (The Picture of Dorian Gray). 


Erin Martin  (Cake Choreographer) is the owner of ECBG Cake Studio. ECBG is a specialty bakery on the north side of Chicago that uses only high-quality and organic ingredients to create custom-designed cakes, cupcakes, cookies, and sweets tables that are worthy of your celebration. Martin works with you to create a delicious and beautiful piece that captures the vision and style of your event. From wedding cakes to smash cakes, you won't believe how sweet it is. Celebrate love, celebrate friendship, and celebrate life. Celebrate the moments that matter with ECBG Cake Studio.


Catherine Allen (Production Manager) is thrilled to be back at Rivendell Theatre Ensemble where she last production managed Cal in Camo. Recent production management credits include Time Is On Our Side and Significant Other (About Face Theatre), Violet and Ragtime (Griffin Theatre), Hinter and Invisible Hand (Steep Theatre), A Funny Thing Happened… (Route 66 Theatre Company), and many circuses with Actors Gymnasium where she is the staff Production Manager. She has also worked with Congo Square Theatre, Pegasus Theatre Chicago, Haven Theatre, Chimera Ensemble, and Step Up Productions where she was an Artistic Associate. She is a graduate of the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, where she received a BFA in Acting.


Robert Groth (Technical Director) is excited to return to RTE where he recently worked on Cal In Camo and Alias Grace. He has been a freelance technical director, scenic carpenter, and designer for over 15 years. Robert has also worked as a scenic designer for several theater companies with his partner Jenniffer Thusing including Mary Arrchie, Pinebox, Emerald City and most recently Chicago Theatre Workshop’s production of Little Miss Sunshine. Their design work was recognized in 2011 with a nomination for an Equity Wing Jeff for Best Scenic Design—Midsized Theater.


Jess Minogue (Assistant Stage Manager) is thrilled to be working at Rivendell for the first time. She is receiving her second BA in Theater from Columbia College – she received her first BA from DePaul University. Her most recent Assistant Stage Manager credits include Dog Act, I’ll Call That Living, and Elephant Man from Columbia College. She was also the Assistant Stage Manager for Saint Sebastian Players' production of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead.


Skyler Gray (Dramaturg) is the Director of New Play Development at Victory Gardens Theater. Before joining Victory Gardens, he was the Literary Manager at the Tony Award-winning Alley Theatre in Houston, TX. He was the dramaturg on the world premiere of The Cake with the Echo Theater Company and has developed new work with the Williamstown Theatre Festival, South Coast Repertory, Alley Theatre, Chance Theater, Rogue Artists Ensemble, UC Irvine, Columbia University, Children’s Musical Theaterworks and Artists at Play. Gray served as the Artistic Director of Children’s Musical Theaterworks and The Underground @ CMT in Fresno, CA from 2010-2012. He has worked in the literary departments at the Alley Theatre, South Coast Repertory, Williamstown Theatre Festival, and William Morris Endeavor in New York City. Gray holds a BA in Theater from the University of California, Irvine with Honors in Directing and Stage Management.


Kristen Osborn (Assistant Director) is a Chicago-based director who is passionate about sparking compassion through storytelling. Directing credits include Eugene O’Neill’s Fog, JoyistLA’s First Embrace, and an original adaptation of the Orpheus and Eurydice myth, Lift. Assistant Director credits include The Scene (Kimberly Senior, Writers Theatre) Sex With Strangers (Kimberly Senior, Geffen Playhouse) Relativity (BJ Jones, Northlight Theatre,) Threesome (Jason Gerace, Other Theatre Company,) Choir Boy (Trip Cullman, Geffen Playhouse) Fighting Shadows (Robert Egan, Inner-City Arts.) Kristen was the Associate Director of Intersection: Across the Divide at the 2016 Ojai Playwrights Conference and Artistic Associate at the 2017 Ojai Playwrights Conference where she co-directed Intersection: Truth Will Out. Kristen is the Artistic Assistant at Northlight Theatre and is a graduate of UCLA’s School of Theater, Film and Television.


Lucinda Allen (Assistant Director) is thrilled to be working with Rivendell Theatre Ensemble for the first time. She previously assistant-directed One Endless Night Night (Mari DeOleo, Mudlark Theater). Lucinda is a graduate of Northwestern University pursuing directing and producing. She works at Mudlark Theater as the Administrative Coordinator and Box Office Manager.



Jackie Banks-Mahlum (Rivendell Managing Director / Producer) is an arts manager, producer, and educator based in Chicago. She was thrilled to join the Rivendell Theatre Ensemble as the Managing Director in March 2014. Jackie is also the Membership and Development Associate at Arts Alliance Illinois, and the Co-Producer for Theatricum Botanicum. Previously Jackie was in the Los Angeles area where she worked with Center Theatre Group’s P.L.A.Y., the Los Angeles Philharmonic, and Theatricum Botanicum. She has also freelanced regionally where she has had the opportunity to work in a variety of performing arts including opera, ballet, modern dance, improv, and theatre. She is a member of Actors’ Equity Association, has a Bachelor of Science in Theatre Production and Business Management from Bradley University, and a Masters of Fine Arts in Producing from the California Institute of the Arts.



The Cake production photos are courtesy of Michael Brosilow & Nathanael Filbert
bottom of page