top of page

The firebirds take the field

By Julie Jensen

Directed by Jessica Fisch

April 18 - May 27, 2017



The Firebirds Take The Field is Jeff Recommended. 


It’s been 25 years since molecular neuroscientist Avery Kahn left Highland Falls, NY. But when 18 local girls, cheerleaders mostly, are stricken with a mysterious ailment, Avery reluctantly returns home to tackle what the locals derisively call the “girl disease.” As Avery becomes affected—and infected—by the girls, the case becomes more personal than she ever expected.



‘Firebirds’ tells the real-life story of cheerleaders afflicted by a mystery illness


“…the performances in Fisch’s supple staging are often deliciously on point. Gerachis finds the anguished center of doubt underneath Avery’s carefully constructed sarcasm.” – Kerry Reid


The Firebirds Take the Field

“Rivendell Theatre’s world-premiere production of Lynn Rosen’s play works both as a biting critique of how our society treats women and as an insightful rumination on the ways unfulfilled hopes and desires can haunt or even poison one’s life.”

Let It All Out: A Review of The Firebirds Take the Field at Rivendell Theatre Ensemble: Recommended

” “The Firebirds Take the Field” encompasses what Rivendell does so well: challenge preconceived notions and let them fight back. ” – Kevin Greene

Bad Blood: The Firebirds Take the Field  – Rivendell Theatre: Enthusiastically Recommended

“Rosen has crafted a twisty script that relishes its surprises, and clearly juggles a complex tangle of relationships, slights, intrigues, and unspoken fears without muddling the issue or losing sight of the medical mystery set for us to solve. She is also graced with a fine tuned sense of humor and the laugh-lines grow ripe and fall readily, particularly when wielding Avery’s barbed wit.” – Ben Kemper


Rivendell Theatre Ensemble AND THE FIREBIRDS TAKE THE FIELD Review – Cheerleaders Ticking All Over the Place

“The beauty of this script by playwright Lynn Rosen is that we too are hooked and want to get to the bottom of it all as much as Avery. That it’s based on real-world events hooks us all the more.” – Alexis Bugajski


THEATER REVIEW Firebirds Take the Field

“An adroit cast led by Meighan Gerachis and Rebecca Spence …with a brief, but important, an appearance by the always-commanding Margaret Kusterman.” – Mary Shen Barnidge


THEATER REVIEW The Firebirds Take the Field: Recommended

“This well-acted play is a combination of a medical mystery, personal character sketch, and family dynamic study. The resolution is plausible, leaving room for thought.” – Tom Williams

the-hawk-chicago (1).png

REVIEW: The Firebirds Take the Field @ Rivendell: Recommended

“Rivendell has made a full-fledged fan of me after presenting yet another innovative, female-empowered production. ​”

Screen-Shot-2017-03-21-at-10.15.07-PM (1).png

Town Halls

During the run of each performance Rivendell hosts town hall conversations with the audience and a small expert panel to extend the conversation from the stage to the community.

All town halls take place at approximately 6pm following the Saturday matinee performance. You are welcome to attend even if you are not seeing the 4pm matinee.

Town Hall schedule for The Firebirds Take the Field:

May 13, 2017: “Parts of the Whole – Examining the effects of shared trauma: multi-generational, community and mental illness.”

Moderated by ensemble member Megan Carney, panelists include Charlene McCord from the University of Chicago, and Wendy Kopald from The Women’s Circle of Evanston.

May 27, 2017: “Hysteria to Conversion Disorder: The Treatment of Women’s Mental Health”

Moderated by Firebirds dramaturge Tanya Palmer, panelist is Dr. Neelum Aggarwal a population health neurologist. Dr. Aggarwal will discuss her work with  the project “Superwomen in White Coats: What does the coat mean to you?”.


This discussion focused on the relationship and interplay between neurology and psychology, the existence of sex-specific illnesses, doctors dealing with social issues in interactions with patients, the impacts of research practices on women’s health, and mental health for physicians. Dr. Aggerwal was pleased by the medical accuracy of the play, and stressed to the audience that this was not an over-dramatization but a really accurate account of what this disorder looks like.



Special Mother’s Day performance

Bring your mom to the Saturday, May 13th 8pm performance and get $10 off your tickets with the code MOM. Champagne and a sweet treat are included with your ticket!

Monday evening performance

There is a special performance on Monday, May 15th at 8pm. 

Young professionals performance

Current college students and recent alumni are encouraged to bring a headshot or resume and join us after the performance for a conversation with Artistic Director and Founder Tara Mallen, Firebirds Director Jessica Fisch, and RTE Casting Director Ashley Neal on new play development and the process in/around creating Firebirds!
Special Discount with box-office code: INDUSTRY for $20 tickets



Jessica Ervin (Penelope) was last seen at Rivendell in Dry Land (Ester) and currently understudies their touring production of WOMEN AT WAR. As one of their newest ensemble members, she is very proud to call RTE home. Other Chicago theatre credits include Erasing the Distance, Herculaneum (Blue Goose Theatre Ensemble), the Night Out in the Parks production of The Wild (Walkabout Theater Company), 12 Ways to Play Festival (The Public House Theatre), and Collaboraction’s final Sketchbook Festival. Jessica completed Chicago Shakespeare’s Folio I and Folio II courses and can also be seen in the upcoming feature film Princess Cyd. She is a graduate of Ball State University with a B.F.A. in Acting, and is proudly represented by Gray Talent Group.

Meighan Gerachis (Avery) Rivendell credits include: The Electric Baby, Precious Little, The Walls, Elliot: A Soldier’s Fugue, Indulgences at the Louisville Harem, Factory Girls, My Simple City, Wrens, andTen Tiny Fingers, Nine Tiny Toes. She has also appeared in Blue Skies Process (Goodman), Domesticated, Our Town, The House on Mango St. (Steppenwolf), Seven Homeless Mammoths Wander New England (Theater Wit), Solstice (A Red Orchid Theater), Measure for Measure (Chicago Shakespeare), Cloud Nine (About Face),Cigarettes and Moby Dick, Che Che Che (Latino Chicago), The Underpants (Noble Fool), The Road to Graceland (Lifeline Theatre). Regional credits include: Charm (Mixed Blood Theatre) Elliot: A Soldier’s Fugue (Stageworks/Hudson); A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Contact Theatre-Manchester,UK). Film: Batman v. Superman, At Any Price,  Television: Chicago PD, Crisis, Bobby & Iza (NBC), Sirens (USA), Battleground (Hulu).


Margaret Kusterman (Cynthia) played Mrs. Donovan in The Luck of the Irish and Polly in Great God Pan at Next Theatre. She understudied Patricia in The Herd at Steppenwolf where she was also in the Ensemble of No Place Like Home. At Seanachai she was part of the Jeff Nominated Ensemble of The Big Picture. She played Madame Pernelle in Tartuffe at Remy Bumppo and was in Uncle Vanya at Strawdog. After understudying Meg in The Beauty Queen of Leenane at Steppenwolf she played the role at Northern Stage in Vermont. Margaret has worked with Jackalope, The Gift, Defiant, Livebait, Lifeline and Center Theatre. She holds a Masters Degree in Theatre from Northwestern University.

Tara Mallen (Kathy) an actor, director, producer and the Artistic Director at Rivendell Theatre Ensemble, Tara was most recently on stage in Rivendell’s production of Grizzly Mama. Other recent credits include Lynn Nottage’s Sweatat 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 mid-west.

Josh Odor (Mark) most recently performed in Griffin’s Winterset, The Hypocrites’ You On the Moors Now, Haven Theater’s The Distance and The Time of Your Life with the Artistic Home. Josh has also worked at Steppenwolf, The Goodman, TimeLine, Steep, Teatro Vista, The Inconvenience, The House, The New Colony, Collaboraction, LiveWire, Buffalo Ensemble and as a member of Pine Box. Josh’s television work includes Chicago PD, Chicago Fire, Betrayal and Boss.

Aurora Real de Asua (Lucia) Past Chicago credits include Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead (Metropolis), You On the Moors Now (u/s Hypocrites), Twelfth Night (u/s Chicago Shakespeare in the Park), as well as work with the Goodman Theatre and American Myth Project. She recently graduated from Northwestern University.

Rebecca Spence (Helen) joined Rivendell Theatre Ensemble after appearing in These Shining Lives for which she received a Jeff Nomination in 2009. Other RTE credits: Wrens and How the World Began (Jeff Nom). Her most recent work was originating the role of Mary Page Marlowe 40/44 at Steppenwolf where her previous credits include: The Crucible, Our Lady of 121st Street and Pacific. Other theatre credits include: In The Garden (Lookingglass Theatre Company); Concerning Strange Devices from the Distant West (TimeLine Theatre Company); This (Theatre Wit); The Voysey Inheritance, Les Liaisons Dangereuses (Remy Bumppo – Equity Jeff Nom.); Dracula (Defiant Theatre); Cyrano (Milwaukee Repertory Theatre). Film Credits: Kingfisher, Recke, Not Welcome, Bloomin’ Mud Shuffle, Man of Steel, Fools, Tiger Tail in Blue, One Small Hitch, Contagion, The Dilemma, Audrey the Trainwreck, Earthling, Public Enemies, Grace is Gone and The Break-Up. Television Credits: Easy (Netflix), Chicago Fire (NBC), Crisis (NBC), Betrayal (ABC), Boss (STARZ), The Mob Doctor (FOX), Detroit 1-8-7 (ABC), The Chicago Code (FOX), The Beast (A&E) and Prison Break (FOX).

Hannah Toriumi (Agatha) has performed with such theaters as The Gift, Goodman Theatre, Silk Road Rising, Step Up Productions, and TOTC. She has also made appearances in commercials, film, and television. Hannah is represented by Paonessa Talent. She is a graduate of The School at Steppenwolf Class of 2015 and holds a BA in Theatre Performance from North Central College.



Lynn Rosen (Playwright) has had plays produced or developed with: New Georges, TheatreWorks (Silicon Valley), Actors Theatre of Louisville, Women’s Project, Ensemble Studio Theatre (three EST/Sloan commissions), Centerstage (Baltimore), Studio Theatre, Working Theater, Barrington Stage, The New Group, The Lark, terraNOVA Collective, New Harmony, GEVA, Fault Line Theatre, The Brick Theater, Red Bull Theatre, Todd Mountain Theater Project, The Lark Development Center (Writing Fellow), and 52nd Street Project, among others. She is also a Resident Playwright at New Dramatists. Lynn was commissioned in 2016 by UCSB for her new play Bernhard which was then produced in their acclaimed Launch Pad series. She also co-writes and co-created the award-winning web series Darwin, directed by Carrie Preston, with whom she is developing two TV pilots. Darwin was named one of the “Top Ten Best Web Series of 2015” by Paste Magazine and season two is currently in production. Her short play I Love You was just recorded for Playing On Air starring Bill Irwin, Steve Boyer, directed by David Auburn, and her one-act The Opulent Complex was recently published in Red Bull Shorts. Coming up: Washed Up On the Potomac with The Pool, NYC; continued development of Gurley!—a musical about Helen Gurley Brown– at TheatreWorks Silicon Valley, along with rock band, The Kilbanes. Lynn currently lives in NYC but she’s originally from Gary, Indiana, and trekked into Chicago everyday to attend high school at the Lab School.

Jessica Fisch (Director) Recent credits: Straight White Men (Associate Director, Steppenwolf), Trudy, Carolyn, Martha and Regina Travel to Outer Space (Actors Theatre of Louisville, Humana Festival), Fefu and Her Friends (Goodman Theatre/Rivendell Latina/o Celebration) Opulent Complex and That Thing That Time (Actors Theatre of Louisville, The Tens), The Rosenkranz Mysteries: An Evening of Magic (Royal George Theatre), Psychodramatic (A Red Orchid, Incubator Series), Traces (Feast Productions/ Jackalope Theatre), Far Away (SITE Festival), 42 Stories (Raven Theatre, [Working Title] series), Machinal, Spike Heels (Northwestern University). Selected New York credits: The Realm (The Wild Project), strive/seek/find (Abingdon Theatre), the 2009 Playwrights Horizons Stories on 5 Stories Benefit, Personal History (Ensemble Studio Theatre), The Redheaded Man (Barrow Street Theatre/Down Payment Productions/FringeNYC/FringeEncores), Dressed In Your Dreams (Public Theater/Emerging Writers Group), an adaptation of the cult 1960’s gothic vampire soap opera Dark Shadows (Williamstown Theatre Festival). Jessica was a resident director at Ensemble Studio Theater, the Playwrights Horizons Directing Resident, a member of the Lincoln Center Directors Lab, and the founding Artistic Director of Down Payment Productions. MFA: Northwestern University.

Production Team


Katherine Scott (Choreographer) is a choreographer, dancer, and teaching artist. Choreography credits: Fuente Ovejuna, Hair: An American Tribal Love-Rock Musical, Jump Rhythm Jazz Project’s Getting Down, Going Forward (Northwestern University), The Great and Terrible Doctor Faustus (The Athenaeum Theatre), and Splendour Without Diminishment (Chicago Fringe Festival). Katherine has danced as a company member with Striding Lion Performance Group, and she will be performing as a part of Synapse Arts New Works this spring. Katherine regularly teaches, directs, and choreographs at Mudlark Theater, and she instructs a dance class for individuals with developmental differences at Dovetail Studios. Katherine studied dance, psychology, and theatre at Northwestern University, and she will be pursuing her M.A. in Dance/Movement Therapy & Counseling at Columbia College of Chicago this fall.

Andra Sturtevant (Stage Manager) Recent Chicago area credits include The Hundred Dresses, The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane, Wonderland: Alice’s Rock & Roll Adventure, Frederick,The Selfish Giant, Mr. Chickee’s Funny Money, and A Year With Frog and Toad at Chicago Children’s Theatre; Life Sucks at Lookingglass Theatre Company; Short Shakespeare: Twelfth Night! at Chicago Shakespeare Theater; and productions with the Evanston Dance Ensemble. Andra is a graduate of Northwestern University. She also teaches creative drama and theatre classes for young artists.

Tanya Palmer (Dramaturg) is the director of new play development at Goodman Theatre, where she coordinates New Stages, the theater’s new play program, and has served as the production dramaturg on a number of plays including the world premieres of 2666 by Roberto Bolaño, adapted by Robert Falls and Seth Bockley, Smokefall by Noah Haidle, Carlyle by Thomas Bradshaw, The Happiest Song Plays Last by Quiara Hudes and the Pulitzer Prize–winning Ruined by Lynn Nottage. Prior to her arrival in Chicago, she served as the director of new play development at Actors Theatre of Louisville, where she led the reading and selection process for the Humana Festival of New American Plays. Originally from Calgary, Alberta, Canada, she holds an MFA in playwriting from York University in Toronto.

Joanna Iwanicka (Scenic Design) previously designed sets for Rivendell’s productions of Dry Land, WRENS (2012 remount), and The Electric Baby. She is a Chicago-based theatre artist with design credits from 16th Street Theatre (Into the Beautiful North, Carroll Gardens, Merchild, Pinkolandia), Jackalope (Rolling), Lifeline (Monstrous Regiment), The Oracle (President, Romulus), Trap Door (No Matter How Hard We Try, Balcony) and Steppenwolf for Young Adults (Monster) among others. Joanna has also realized shows at the Williamstown Theatre Festival, the State Theatre Academy’s Department of Puppetry Arts, The Białystok Puppet Theatre, Teatr K3, and Teatr Lalek Arlekin in her native Poland. For more info on previous, current and upcoming projects please visit her online portfolio at Her professional affiliations include IATSE local 476 and 829.

Stephanie Cluggish (Costume Design) has many recent projects including: Winter (Rivendell Theatre Ensemble), Betrayal (Raven), How We Got On (Haven), Phillip Glass’ In The Penal Colony (Chicago Fringe Opera), Posh (Steep), Good For Otto (The Gift), The Marriage of Figaro (Wolf Trap Opera), and Melancholy Play (Piven Theatre Workshop). She was the Associate Costume Designer with Mara Blumenfeld on One Man, Two Guvnors and The Secret Garden (Court Theatre), East of Eden (Steppenwolf), Into Shadowland (Disney Tokyo, Japan) and the recent production of Rusalka at the Metropolitan Opera directed by Mary Zimmerman. See more at

Paul Toben (Lighting Design) Chicago: Electra (Court Theatre), The Mystery of Love and Sex (Writers’ Theatre), Regional: Circle Mirror Transformation, Peter and the Starcatcher, 4000 Miles, and many others at Actors Theatre of Louisville, and designs for four seasons of the Humana Festival including Airness, The Grown-Up, The Roommate, This Random World.  NSFW (Roundhouse), Silent Sky, Triangle, Upright Grand (TheatreWorks), Fly by Night, Medea, School for Wives (Dallas Theater Center), The Who and The What (Kansas City Rep), Daddy Long Legs (New York, regional and international premiers), Another Way Home (The Magic Theatre), Caravan Man, Demon Dreams (Williamstown Theatre Festival). Broadway: The Story of my Life. Off-Broadway: The Judy Show (DR2), Saturn Nights (Incubator Arts Project), Electra in a One Piece and The Realm (The Wild Project), Romeo and Juliet (Columbia Stages), When in Disgrace (Examined Man), The Redheaded Man (Fringe Encores), and many more.

Sarah D. Espinoza (Sound Designer) has recently sound designed The Woman in Black (Wildclaw), Romeo and Juliet (Loyola University Chicago), Diamond Dogs (The House Theatre), Thumbelina (Lifeline), You On the Moors Now (The Hypocrites), Farewell My Friend ((re)-discover), Douglass (American Vicarious), Dating and Dragons (The Factory), Midnight Cowboy (Lifeline), Mr. Popper’s Penguins (Lifeline), The Revel (The House Theatre), Motel 666 (Wildclaw), A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Two Pence), fml: How Carson McCullers saved my life (Loyola University Chicago), Deathscribe 2014 (WildClaw), co-sound designed The Last Defender (The House), and won the non-Equity Jeff award for her sound design for The Arsonists (Strawdog).

Blake Leo Burke (Properties Design) other Props Master/Designer credits include: Winter (Rivendell Theatre Ensemble). AfterLove (Chautauqua Theatre Company). Spamalot, Anything Goes, Oklahoma (McLeod Summer Playhouse). She Loves Me, Arsenic And Old Lace, The King And I (The Monomoy Theatre). A Streetcar Named Desire, Dracula, Return To The Forbidden Planet (ECU/Loessin Playhouse), and more! Blake graduated from East Carolina University in Greenville, NC earning her BFA in Theatre Design and Production with a dual concentration in Costume Design and Theatrical Properties.

Sam Moryoussef (Production Manager) is currently the Interim Assistant Technical Director for Lookingglass Theatre, and also serves as the Master Electrician/AV Supervisor at Lifeline Theatre. He moved to Chicago summer of 2015 from North Carolina where he worked at Elon University as the Assistant Technical Director for Performing Arts and Cultural Programs. He graduated in 2010 from the University of North Carolina Greensboro with a BFA in Drama concentrating in Technical Production.

Joan Sergay (Assistant Director) assistant directed Scott Weinstein’s production of Upright Grand at Citadel Theatre in Lake Forest and Joanie Schultz’s production of Hand to God at Studio Theatre in Washington, D.C. She also served as the directing intern for Barbara Gaines’ marathon production of Tug of War: Foreign Fire at Chicago Shakespeare Theater. Joan is graduating from Northwestern University in June, where she has directed Grounded by George Brant, Cock by Mike Bartlett, Stupid Fucking Bird by Aaron Posner, and several staged readings of student written work. Joan’s play At These Gates, about two female Syrian refugees, was commissioned by Piven Theatre in Evanston and will receive a staged reading directed by Devon de Mayo in the spring.

Dr. Heather Berlin (Scientific Advisor to Playwright) is a cognitive neuroscientist and Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, and Visiting Scholar at the New York Psychoanalytic Society and Institute. She explores the neural basis of impulsive and compulsive psychiatric disorders with the aim of developing novel treatments. She is also interested in the brain basis of consciousness, dynamic unconscious processes, and creativity. Passionate about science communication, Berlin is a committee member of the National Academy of Sciences’ Science and Entertainment Exchange, and host of the PBS series Science Goes to the Movies, and the Discovery Channel series Superhuman Showdown. She co-wrote and stars in the critically acclaimed off-Broadway and Edinburgh Fringe Festival show, Off the Top, about the neuroscience of improvisation. Dr. Berlin has made numerous media appearances including: BBC, History Channel, Netflix, StarTalk with Neil deGrasse Tyson, and TEDx. She received her doctorate from the University of Oxford and Master of Public Health from Harvard University.



The Firebirds Take The Field production photos are courtesy of Michael Brosilow & Nathanael Filbert
bottom of page