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Cal in Camo

by William Francis Hoffman
Directed by RTE Member Hallie Gordon

A Mid-West Premiere

Featuring RTE Members Ashley Neal, Keith Kupferer & Eric Slater

January 5 – February 17, 2018

“ a vernacular, mystical cocktail of a play”
– Ben Brantley, The New York Times

Produced by special arrangement with Playscripts, Inc. (


The running time is 90 minutes with no intermission.




Cal in Camo is Jeff Recommended. 


Marooned in a sinking starter home in rural Illinois, Cal struggles to bond with her newborn daughter as her beer salesman husband struggles in vain to land accounts in unpromising new territory. Playwright William Francis Hoffman’s new play explores the intricacies of family ties with equal doses of penetrating humor and scorching revelation.



 Review: ‘Cal in Camo’, Chris Jones:


“This trio of actors, all of the Chicago school and with Neal the formidable standout, holds your attention…and the level of personal crises they embody is intense…”

Read more here


CAL IN CAMO Review, Irene Hsiao:

“[A] poignant play that oscillates between all-too-real and acid-washed mirage in a stellar production directed by Hallie Gordon.”

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In acting showcase ‘Cal in Camo,’ the stormy lives of damaged people, Hedy Weiss: Recommended

“A stunning piece of theater [and] a ferociously acted Midwest premiere.”

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Review: CAL IN CAMO at Rivendell Theatre Ensemble, Catey Sullivan:

“Intense and evocative…the four-person cast is sterling”

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Review: CAL IN CAMO (Rivendell Theatre Ensemble), Ryan Moore: Highly Recommended

“Incredibly strong acting and design… this production is not to be missed.”

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The Capacity To Connect, Rick and Brenda McCain: Recommended:

 “The play offers up doses of laughter and painful revelations of the truth. “

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 CAL IN CAMO these include:


Fridays, January 19 & 26 and February 2, 9 & 16 at 8:00 pm – Thank God It’s Friday ‘Cause it’s FBF&FT* at Rivendell!!!!


Join us every Friday during the run for a surprise performance featuring guest star cameo appearances by various Chicago theatrical luminaries then repair to the RTE rehearsal studio post-show along with the staff and artists for a Trivia night sponsored each week by one of Chicago’s own micro-breweries and hosted by said luminary!

Friday, January 19 at 6:30 pm – Poster Party

Join us in advance of the performance to make your poster for the Women’s March on January 20th. Posters and markers will be supplied in the rehearsal studio at 5775 N. Ridge in advance of the performance.

January 25, 2018 – Mama’s Night / Ladies Night

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

January 26, 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. 



February 1, 2018 – Open Captioned Performance

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


February 3, 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. 


February 10, 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, February 11th at 3:00 pm – Sunday 3 pm matinee 

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


Ashley Neal (Cal) is thrilled to be back at Rivendell Ensemble Theatre, where she is an ensemble member and most recently appeared in Alias Grace. Other Rivendell productions include WRENS, These Shining Lives; 26 Miles, The Walls, and Be Aggressive. Ashley most recently appeared in A Red Orchid Theatre’s The Nether where she also appeared in A Red Handed Otter. Other shows you may have seen her in include: London Wall, Men Should Weep and Stage Door with Griffin Theatre, The Life and Sort of Death of Eric Argyle with Steep Theatre, as well as work with Chicago Dramatists, Pine Box, Irish Theatre Company, Step Up, Jackalope Theatre, Victory Gardens, Strawdog, The Greenhouse Theatre, and others. Ashley is a graduate of Columbia College Chicago and The School at Steppenwolf. She is represented by Big Mouth Talent. 


Eric Slater (Tim) has been a company member of RTE since 2006 and has appeared in productions of Winter, Rasheeda Speaking, Self-Defense, Expecting Isabel, Silence, and most recently Alias Grace. Chicago: Hand To God (Victory Gardens), Kill Floor (American Theatre Co.), Diary of Anne Frank (Writers Theatre), Feathers & Teeth and Smokefall (Goodman) among many others. Off & Off-Off Broadway: Juvenal Players (The Kitchen), The Dudley’s: A Family Game! (Theatre for a New City), Our Greatest Year (Kraine & The Brick), Original Cast Gloryana (The Public Theater & The York Theatre Co.), Cyanocitta (The Becket on Theatre Row). Regional: Fornicated From The Beatles (American Repertory Theatre), Experiment America (ICA Boston), Hunchback (DIA Detroit), Permanent Collection (Madison Rep.), Our Greatest Year (Dobama Theatre). Film/ TV: Widows, Coming to You, and Chicago Fire. Eric is a founding member of the immersive theatre company The New Ensemble based in NYC and has written extensively for The Neugents Project as a member of the North Carolina Writer’s Group. He has also written and produced two short films and a number of theatrical experiments.



Keith Kupferer (Flynt) is a founding member of Rivendell Theatre Ensemble where he was most recently seen in their critically acclaimed production of How the World Began. Other Chicago credits include The Qualms, Good People, Middletown, South of Settling, Of Mice & Men, Carter’s Way, Men of Tortuga; Things Being What They Are; Jesus Hopped The A Train and Tavern Story at Steppenwolf Theatre; The Humans at American Theatre Company, Men’s Support Group, God of Carnage, High Holidays, Passion Play and The Old Neighborhood at the Goodman Theatre; The Mystery of Love and Sex (where he received a Jeff nomination for “Supporting Actor”), and Death of a Streetcar Named Virginia Wolf at Writer’s Theatre; Hillary and Clinton, Never the Sinner, and Appropriate at Victory Garden’s Theatre; Gypsy at Chicago Shakespeare Theater; End Days at Windy City Playhouse; Execution of Justice with About Face Theatre; Cat Feet and The Old Neighborhood at Northlight; Desire Under The Elms, a co-production between Philadelphia’s Freedom Theatre and Chicago’s Court Theatre; The Unseen, The Meek, Canus Lunis Balloonis, (nominated for a 1998 Joseph Jefferson award for Best Ensemble), and The Physicists for A Red Orchid Theatre; and Big Lake, Big City, Trust and Hillbilly Antigone 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; The Merry Gentleman directed by Michael Keaton, Resurrecting McGinn; and Open Tables. TV credits include Better Call Saul; Empire; Chicago P.D.; Betrayal; Crisis; Chicago Fire; Detroit 187; The Beast; Prison Break; The Jamie Kennedy Experiment and Early Edition.



Philena Gilmer (Cal Understudy) is excited to be understudying at Rivendell Theatre Ensemble! She is a recent graduate of The ACADEMY at Black Box Acting and is an Artistic Associate of Organic Theatre Company. Recent credits include Wounds to the Face (Runcible Theatre Company); The Sundial, The Gilded Age (City Lit Theater); Savage in Limbo (The Poor Theatre); Picasso at the Lapin Agile, The Diviners, Rhinoceros, Theophilus North (Organic Theatre). She holds a BA from the University of Richmond and is also an alumnus of the Barter Players in Virginia.

Ben Page (Tim Understudy) is very excited to work with the good and talented people at Rivendell Theatre for the first time. Recently, he’s worked with A Red Orchid, Prop Thtr, Jackalope, Shattered Globe, Citadel, and Mercy Street Theatre. Originally from Utah, Ben is a graduate of the School at Steppenwolf and Dartmouth College.


Matt Rosin (Flynt and Bar Owner Understudy) is humbled to be a part of this amazing cast and crew for Cal in Camo. After a recent move to Chicago from Arizona, Matt has just completed his studies at The ACADEMY at Black Box Acting. After more than two decades as a comedic improviser, Matt switched to the traditional theatre stage, appearing in Southwest Shakespeare Company productions of Richard III, Merchant of Venice, Much Ado About Nothing, The Comedy of Errors, and A Christmas Carol. He is represented by Lily’s Talent.



William Francis Hoffman (Playwright) was born and raised in Oakville, Missouri, a mile from the Mississippi River. He is a member of The Actor’s Gym in Los Angeles, California, and was an ensemble member at Rivendell from 2001 until he moved to Los Angeles in 2007. His play Cal in Camo, a co-production between The Rattlestick Playwrights Theater and Colt Coeur, received its world premiere in New York City. His play Drift is currently being workshopped in Los Angeles.


Hallie Gordon (Director) last directed Rivendell’s productions of Dry Land and Eat Your Heart Out. She is thrilled to be back with Cal and Camo. Hallie has directed for Steppenwolf theatre, where the last productions included: HIR, The Rembrandt, and Monster. Hallie is currently the Artistic Director for Steppenwolf for Young Audiences and an Artistic Producer for Steppenwolf Theatre Company. She is the recipient of The Helen Coburn Meier & Tim Meier Achievement Award.

Production Team


Jenniffer Thusing (Stage Manager) happily returns to Rivendell. She previously stage managed 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.


Joanna Iwanicka (Scenic Designer) is a Chicago-based designer and scenic artist. Cal in Camo is her third collaboration with Hallie Gordon and her fifth set design realized at Rivendell (WRENS, The Electric Baby, Dry Land, The Firebirds Take the Field). Her most recent theatre projects include Yerma at Theatre Y, Into the Beautiful North, and Yasmina’s Necklace at the 16th Street Theatre. Joanna is currently working on Anna Karenina at Lifeline Theatre and Suddenly Last Summer at the Raven. She is an artistic associate of RTE and of the 16th Street Theatre in Berwyn. She is also a proud member of IATSE locals 476 and 829. More information can be found at


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, and Grizzly Mama. 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.


Charles Cooper (Light Design) returns to Rivendell where he previously designed Dry Land. Recent: Boeing, Boeing (Indiana Repertory Theatre) Woody Sez, and Gutenberg! The Musical (Milwaukee Rep); A Wrinkle in Time (First Stage Children’s Theatre); Slowgirl (Milwaukee Chamber Theatre); Good for Otto and The Grapes of Wrath (The Gift Theatre); Old Jews Telling Jokes (Chicago Company); Bye Bye Birdie, Hairspray, Curtains, and Sleeping Beauty (Drury Lane), Sunday in the Park with George, Dial M for Murder, The Mystery of Irma Vep, Chicago, A Few Good Men and Around the World in 80 Days (Peninsula Players), The Clean House and Creditors (Remy Bumppo); The Tall Girls, The Rose Tattoo, Mill Fire (Jeff Nomination) and Orpheus Descending (Shattered Globe); Love, Loss, and What I Wore (Asolo Rep, Philadelphia Theatre Co, San Jose Rep, Broadway in Chicago,1st National Tour, second national tour) Do the Hustle, and Old Glory (Writers’ Theatre), Of Mice and Men, and First Look Repertory of New Work (Steppenwolf); Eclipsed, and She Stoops to Conquer (Northlight Theatre) 16 productions for TimeLine Theatre (Associate Artist). Charles has been nominated for seven Joseph Jefferson Awards, winning one in 2016 for Murder Ballad at Bailiwick Chicago. He lives in Oak Park, Illinois with his wife Angela and children Ethan and Gavin. Member: United Scenic Artists.


Victoria Deiorio (Sound Design and Original Music) is a founding member of RTE; she is a critically acclaimed sound designer and composer for theatre and film, based in Chicago. She is the head of Sound Design at DePaul University’s The Theatre School, and is a founder and on the Executive Board of the Theatrical Sound Designers and Composers Association ( She is the first woman honored with 13 Joseph Jefferson Award nominations—winning 7—and she has received 2 After Dark Awards and a SALT award. Her compositions and sound design have been heard in many theatres across the country over the past 20 years. For more information visit: www.victoria-sound–


Blake Leo Burke (Properties Design) Other properties design credits include: Winter and Firebirds Take The Field (Rivendell Theatre Ensemble); Giggle Giggle Quack (Lifeline Theatre); AfterLove (Chautauqua Theatre Company); Spamalot, Anything Goes, and Oklahoma (McLeod Summer Playhouse); She Loves Me, Arsenic And Old Lace, and The King And I (The Monomoy Theatre); A Streetcar Named Desire, Dracula, and Return To The Forbidden Planet (ECU/Loessin Playhouse) Blake graduated from East Carolina University with a BFA in Theatre Design and Production with a dual concentration in Costume Design and Theatrical Properties, and currently works in Chicago as a freelance Costume and Properties Designer.


Catherine Allen (Production Manager) is thrilled to be working with RTE for the first time! Recent production management credits include Significant Other (About Face Theatre), Violet and Ragtime (Griffin Theatre), Invisible Hand, Hookman, and Bobbie Clearly (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 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.


Abby Armato (Assistant to the Director/Box Office Manager) joined the Rivendell team in the summer of 2017 as a Production Intern. After graduating from Kenyon College where she studied Drama and English, she is thrilled to work at RTE and be a part of its empowering and thoughtful community. She is honored by the opportunity to support the artists of Cal in Camo as an associate producer. She has a background in directing, dramaturgy, and events, and hopes to continue to be an active part of Rivendell’s mission.


Jasmine Manuel (Assistant Technical Director) is excited to join Rivendell’s production team for Cal in Camo. She is a recent graduate of Kenyon College, where she studied and earned her BA in Drama, intensely focusing on theatre. She has done over-hire carpentry work for Chicago Shakespeare Theatre, Lookingglass Theatre, Lifeline Theatre, and The Hypocrites. She hopes to learn from and contribute to Rivendell’s mission and is happy to be a part of the community.


Audrey Kleine (Assistant Stage Manager) is thrilled to be back at RTE after previously sub-ASM’ing on Alias Grace. Previous credits include Continuity (Goodman Theater, SM Intern) and This (Windy City Playhouse, ASM). She is a graduate of Columbia College, Chicago, where she earned her BA in Technical Theatre. Her college credits include Little Shop of Horrors, Death and the King’s Horseman, and M. Butterfly.


Playscripts, Inc. (Licensor) is an independent publisher of new plays and musicals, established in 1998 by brothers and playwrights Doug and Jonathan Rand. Playscripts’ plays and musicals represent a great diversity of voices, styles, and stories, and have been enjoyed in over 100 countries. We license amateur and professional productions, and publish standard acting editions, binder books, collections, and eScripts. Our commitment to innovation has made Playscripts an industry leader. Our marketing reach extends beyond traditional channels and focuses on connecting new plays with audiences. The Playscripts website provides a unique and extensive suite of services for playwrights and customers. Visitors can search for plays that fit their specific needs, read lengthy script samples for free, and buy books and performance rights online with ease. Playscripts is also the creator of, a free service for locating plays in the catalogs of all major play publishers.


Tara Mallen (Rivendell Artistic Director / Producer) is the founder and Artistic Director of Rivendell Theatre Ensemble. An actor, director, and producer, she was most recently on stage in RTE’s world premiere The Firebirds Take the Field. Prior to that she appeared in Lynn Nottage’s Pulitzer-prize-winning play Sweat at Arena Stage and Steppenwolf’s How Long Will I Cry: Stories of Youth Violence written by Chicago Journalist Miles Harvey. Other notable productions at Rivendell include Jeff Nominated, world premiere productions of Look, we are breathing; Rasheeda Speaking; The Walls; and Self Defense, or the Death of Some Salesmen. Tara has produced and/or acted in over thirty productions at Rivendell and received a Joseph Jefferson award for “Supporting Actress” for WRENS as well as being part of that production’s Jeff-winning “Best Ensemble.” She was nominated the following year for “Actress in a Principal Role” for My Simple City. 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 mid-west; she also directed the Jeff nominated Midwest premieres of The Electric Baby, 26 Miles (in co-production with Teatro Vista); Fighting Words; Psalms of a Questionable Nature; and the co-production of Elliot, a Soldier’s Fugue with Stageworks/Hudson. Screen credits include Steven Soderbergh’s film Contagion, Boss, Chicago Fire, Chicago P.D., Sense8, the CBS/Sony pilot Doubt, the FOX pilot Doubt, and the independent feature film Fools.


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.



Cal in Camo production photos ncourtesy of Michael Brosilow Pre-production photos by Nathanael Filber
Video: Cal in Camo trailer by Brent Eickoff.
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