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falling: a wake

Written By Gary Kirkham


Directed by Rivendell founding member Victoria DeIorio

A MidWest Premiere!

What the critics are saying…
“Rivendell’s gorgeous Falling: A Wake is really about how difficult it is to mourn and to know when Ecclesiastes might say it’s once again time to laugh. As the husband and wife facing the loss of their son, Jane Baxter Miller and Mark Ulrich illustrate beautifully how love can be battered by grief, yet sometimes survive it…This inaugural show flows as if the company had been at home on this stage for years.” – Kelly Kleiman, WBEZ

“The dialogue snaps with enough wit, especially from the mouth of the ex-professor husband Harold (played with a nice bit of country-gentlemanliness by Mark Ulrich) and enough interior action guided by his wife Elsie (in an equally strong performance from Jane Baxter Miller) to prevent it.” -New City

“Linda Buchanen provides a simple yet striking set design. Director Victoria DeIorio’s sound design makes excellent use of the theater’s booming sound system.” – Time Out Chicago

“Long may this handsome new theater thrive.” – Chicago Tribune

“Falling: A Wake is a quirky love story that makes me go ahhhhhh.” –

“…genuinely moving and bittersweetly humorous….” –


Harold and Elsie live quietly on an isolated farm outside an unnamed town. When a commercial jetliner explodes high above their land scattering wreckage and debris across the region, their lives are forever changed. A haunting and at times surprisingly funny play inspired by the actual events surrounding the 1988 Pan Am tragedy over Lockerbie, Scotland. Featuring Rivendell ensemble members Mark Ulrich and Jane Baxter Miller



Jane Baxter Miller* (Elise) Jane Baxter Miller’s RTE credits include Self-Defense, or the death of some salesmen (After Dark award for Best Ensemble); Silence; Faulkner’s Bicycle; The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole, Aged 13 ¾; and WRENS. Additional Chicago credits include Dandelion Wine with Chicago Children’s Theatre; The Love Song of J. Robert Oppenheimer with Next Theatre; Mr. Kolpert with A Red Orchid Theatre; The Irish and How They Got That Way at the Mercury Theatre, Cowgirls with Northlight Theatre, Pump Boys and Dinettes at Theatre at the Centre as well as many shows with Lifeline Theatre.

Jane is a singer and songwriter appearing on many recordings through Bloodshot Records. She composed the children’s musical Dirty Cowboy (with follow RTE ensemble member Victoria DeIorio) for Lifeline Theatre. Look for her recently released solo CD Harm Among the Willows in fancy places like Bloodshot Records and iTunes.



Mark Ulrich* (Harold) Mark Ulrich has been a Rivendell Theatre Ensemble member since 2008. RTE acting credits include Silence; the Ottawa, Illinois, production of These Shining Lives, and the Jeff-nominated The Walls. Mark worked as assistant director on Rivendell’s Psalms Of A Questionable Nature, and he directed their Jeff Award- and After Dark Award-winning Mary’s Wedding. Mark has appeared locally at The Goodman, Northlight, Writer’s Theatre, and Chicago Dramatists, among others. This year Mark directed A.R. Gurney’s Sylvia, at Millwaukee’s Next Act Theatre. There, he also appeared in their production of Vigil. Mark appeared in Abigail’s Party at A Red Orchid Theatre, The Sins Of Sor Juana at The Goodman, Four Places at Next Act Theatre, In The Next Room (The Vibrator Play) at Forward Theatre. Upcoming credits include Mauritius at Artist’s Ensemble, and a return to Madison, Wisconsin, for a production of Moonlight And Magnolias.



Will Crouse (Boy) Will Crouse is extremely excited to work for his first time in Chicago at Rivendell Theatre Ensemble. He’s never played a dead boy before, but he’s found that it gives him lots of extra time to practice his zen yoga – which is sweet. All his love to his friends, family, and the wonderful Mary Poole.



Production Team


Victoria DeIori0+ (Director & Sound Designer) Victoria (toy) DeIorio is a founding member of RTE. She began her Rivendell career as an actor in WRENS, Holy Days (performing US), Factory Girls (performing US), and the staged reading of On Clarion. Her sound design for RTE productions include: Holy Days; Ghosts in the Cottonwoods; The Clink; Factory Girls; Faulkner’s Bicycle; Silence; Knowing Cairo; Expecting Isabel; Fighting Words; the NY version of Elliot, a Soldier’s Fugue; and Mary’s Wedding (Jeff Award).Off-Broadway sound design: Cassie’s Chimera at Joe’s Pub (The Public); The Bluest Eye with Steppenwolf at The Duke Theatre; Ophelia at the NYC Fringe Fest; The God of Hell at the Actor’s Studio (Associate); Dedication or the Stuff of Dreams at Primary Stages (Associate); Live Girls at Urban Stages (Associate); Luminescence Dating at Ensemble Studio Theatre (Associate); and Boy at Primary Stages (Associate). For Victoria’s complete bio, please click here.



Stephanie Hurovitz* (Stage Manager) Stephanie Hurovitz has been stage managing in Chicago since 2003 and she is very happy to have found a home with Rivendell Theatre Ensemble. She has stage-managed Rivendell’s productions of Precious Little; Mary’s Wedding; The Walls; These Shining Lives (all four incarnations); and assistant stage-managed Elliot, A Soldier’s Fugue with Teatro Vista at the Steppenwolf garage. Other theatres that have been lucky enough to have her pass through include: SuzBo Productions (a staged reading of One Is One; Two Is Math at Steppenwolf); Route 66 Theatre Company (A Twist of Water); Pegasus Players (Continental Divide); Lifeline Theatre (Lyle, Lyle Crocodile; The True Story of the Three Little Pigs!; Gaudy Night; Giggle, Giggle Quack; A Long Way From Chicago; and Deep In The Jungle); Bailiwick Reparatory (Sunday on the Rocks); and ASM (Naked Boys Singing); Theatre Building Chicago, where she worked with Hancock Productions (The Brother and ‘Night Mother); Walk-About Theatre Company, in conjunction with Lookingglass (The Coast of Chicago); Collaboraction Theatre Company (Casanova); the (since re-named) International Theatre of Chicago (Safe); Brown Couch Theatre Company (Tempting Fate and Defying Gravity); Reverie Theatre Company (All’s Well That Ends Well); and (since-dissolved) Pywackett Theatre Company (Misery).



Patrick Fries (Production Manager) Pat Fries is perhaps the most handsome Rivendell Ensemble Member. Pat has production-managed the RTE productions of These Shining Lives, The Walls, Mary’s Wedding, and 26 Miles. Previous credits include The UN Inspector, Dying City, Boom, End Days, War With The Newts, The Piano Teacher, and Madagascar (Next Theatre); Generic Latina 2010 and Lunatic(a)s (Teatro Luna); and Welcome Yule! 2009 and 2010 (Chicago Symphony Orchestra).



Linda Buchanan+ (Set Design) Linda Buchanen is a Chicago-based Scene Designer who has designed hundreds of stage productions at regional theatres throughout the country and abroad. She has received the Merritt Award for Design and Collaboration, Jefferson Awards for Scene Design for HOUSE (Goodman Theatre), BLACK SNOW (Goodman Theatre), and I HATE HAMLET (Royal George), and a Helen Hayes Award for DANCING AT LUGHNASA (Arena Stage). Recent design work includes RACE (The Goodman Theatre), LOMBARDI (Milwaukee Repertory Theatre), THE 39 STEPS (Cleveland Playhouse, Syracuse Stage, and Indiana Repertory Theatre), and THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO JAMES (Indiana Rep and Victory Gardens Theatre). Notable past projects include the American Premiere of HOUSE AND GARDEN at the Goodman, the musical adaptation of WINGS (Goodman, NY Public Theatre), and the premiere production of MARVIN’S ROOM and 10 subsequent regional productions, and commercial productions in New York and London. Buchanan was Resident Designer at Court Theatre (1976-1984), and Design Director of R.D. Design Associates (l985-1989) where her work included the State of Illinois Center dedication ceremony and over 100 environments for corporate theatre and special events. Buchanan is Associate Dean for Curricular Development at The Theatre School at DePaul University, where she is also Head of the Scene Design program. She has also taught at the University of Chicago and Columbia College. Her work has been published in Interior Design, Contract, Exhibit Builder, American Theatre and TCI (Theatre Crafts International), and ED (Entertainment Design).



Janice Pytel+ (Costume Design) Janice Pytel has been living and working in the Chicago area since she moved here to attend Lake Forest College in 1989. She also attended Northwestern University from 1993-1996, finally earning her MFA in costume design in 1999. Over the years she has worked with dozens of theatre companies in various capacities, including brief stints as a stage manager and in a box office. Janice was the costume shop manager for Steppenwolf Theatre from 1996-2002, and also worked briefly at the Court Theatre while she was transitioning into full-time freelance costume design. She’s been living the freelance dream (sometimes a nightmare) since 2004. For Rivendell Theatre Ensemble she has designed costumes for Falling: A Wake, Precious Little, Psalms of a Questionable Nature and Mary’s Wedding. Additional costume design credits include: Broadway: 33 Variations; I Am My Own Wife. Chicago: The Long Red Road (Goodman Theatre); The Seafarer, Sonia Flew, The Last of the Boys, The Pain and the Itch, and The Drawer Boy (Steppenwolf Theatre); The Caretaker, The Detective’s Wife, A Streetcar Named Desire, and Picnic (Writers’ Theatre); Our Town (Lookingglass Theatre Company); Fences and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (Court Theatre); Pulp (About Face Theatre). Regional: The Farnsworth Invention (Alley Theatre); Winesburg, Ohio (Kansas City Rep); The Glass Menagerie (Kansas City Rep.); 33 Variations (Arena Stage and La Jolla Playhouse); Lombardi: the Only Thing (Madison Rep.); Rembrandt’s Gift (Madison Rep.); Agnes of God (Indiana Rep.). Los Angeles: The Seafarer (Geffen Playhouse). Multi Media: Catherine Sullivan’s Triangle of Need (Walker Art Center, Vizcaya Musuem and Gardens, Metro Pictures Gallery). Janice has designed costumes for over a dozen world-premieres, and as a result has become interested in new play development. She is very excited to be one of the newest members of Rivendell Theatre Ensemble and to embark on this new phase in her career.



Jason Fassl+ (Lighting Designer) This is Jason’s Inaugural production for Rivendell, and he couldn’t have asked for a better team of collaborators to work with. For the last ten seasons, Jason has designed lighting for over three hundred theatrical productions across the state of cheese. He is an Artistic Associate for First Stage Children’s Theatre and the Resident Designer for The Fireside Dinner Theatre. Jason’s designs have been seen on the stages of The Milwaukee Ballet, The Milwaukee Repertory Theater, Skylight Opera Theatre, American Players Theatre, Peninsula Players, Renaissance Theaterworks, Next Act Theatre, Milwaukee Chamber Theatre, The Madison Repertory Theatre and Youngblood Theatre Company, among many others. Jason is a proud BFA graduate of UW – Stevens Point and a member of United Scenic Artists Local 829. Many thanks to Toy for bringing me to the edge of nowhere. Please visit for more information.



Joanna Iwanicka (Props Design) Joanna is thrilled to reconnect with Rivendell Theater Ensemble on this special occasion. Joanna is a Chicago-based scenic, props and puppets designer, who often paints her own sets and makes her own puppets. She strives to combine her experiences from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign’s scene design BFA program and her tenure at The Academy of Fine Arts in PoznaÅ (Poland) graduate studies to create unforgettable theater experiences for the audiences of all ages. Her local credits include Chicago Childrens’ Theatre, Lifeline Theatre, The Division, Vintage Theatre Collective, Congo Square and Metropolis Performing Arts Centre. She has also realized shows at the Williamstown Theatre Festival, the State Theatre Academy’s Department of Puppetry Arts in BiaÅ‚ystok, The BiaÅ‚ystok Puppet Theatre and Teatr K3 in her native Poland. Please visit for more about Joanna.



Ann Shanahan (Dramaturg) Ann Shanahan is pleased to return to Rivendell where she worked as dramaturge for Mary’s Wedding, also as a directing artist for The Trojan Woman Project, and as adaptor of Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own for Fresh Produce 2010. Ann has also worked as a dramaturge on Red Twist’s production of A Delicate Balance, Appletree Theatre’s productions of Third and the remount of The Mistress Cycle at the Auditorium Theatre, as well as the original Chicago and nationally touring productions of Angels in American Parts 1 and 2 directed by Michael Meyer. Ann is an associate professor of Theatre at Loyola University, where she teaches acting, directing and text analysis courses. Ann holds a M.F. A. in Directing from Northwestern University. Her professional directing credits include: The Vagabond and The Turn of the Screw for City Lit Theatre and Lies and Legends, Wasp, Warrior, The Living, and On Golden Pond for Buffalo Theatre Ensemble. In addition, she has directed numerous productions at the university and college level in the Chicago area. Favorites include Ibsen’s Ghosts, A Doll’s House, and Hedda Gabler, Brecht’s Mother Courage, an original adaptation of Charlotte Perkin’s Gillman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper,” Loves’ Labours’ Lost and Maria Irene Fornes’ Abingdon Square. Ann is currently working with RTE artists Janice Pytel and Bernadette Raspante and on a site specific production of Fornes’ Fefu and Her Friends with Women’s and Gender Studies faculty at a mansion on Loyola’s Lakeshore Campus.



Gary Kirkham (Playwright) Gary is honored to have his play open Rivendell’s new theatre. Falling: A Wake was premiered by Lost & Found Theatre and has had several productions in Canada and the US. His play, Pearl Gidley premiered at the Blyth Festival and directed by Miles Potter. His play, Queen Milli of Galt, won the Samuel French Playwriting Competition and has had several productions including Theatre Aquarius, Theatre & Company, Rosebud Theatre, and Chemainus Festival. Gary has worked in collaboration with The MT Space on several shows including Seasons of Immigration, Body 13, and the critically acclaimed production The Last 15 Seconds. The play was inspired by the death of a Syrian/American who was killed in the hotel bombings in Amman Jordan. The play toured the Middle East (Damascus, Amman, and Beirut). Gary is an ensemble member of Lost&Found Theatre.

* Denotes Member of Actors Equity Association
+ United Scenic Artists Association.

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