by Madison Fiedler
March 17 - May 1, 2022
April 21 - May 1, 2022
Thursdays at 8pm
Fridays at 8pm
Saturdays at 4pm and 8pm
Final Performance: Sunday, May 1 at 3pm
Discussion of opioid use, overdose and withdrawal
The show runs 90 minutes with no intermission.
Williamson, West Virginia has been aptly nicknamed “Pilliamson” as long as the Attridge sisters have called it home. In the wake of their mother’s overdose, the two sisters have taken very different paths. As Harper raises Noah’s child, vowing to tread new ground, Noah finds herself unable to break old cycles – until a stranger promises a way to do just that. Madison Fiedler’s provocative new drama SPAY interrogates the question of autonomy in small-town Appalachia.
Selected from a field of over 150 new plays, SPAY was one of six new plays featured in the 2019 National New Play Network’s Annual Showcase of New Plays in Atlanta, Georgia.
Review: ‘Spay’ by Rivendell Theatre is a powerful story about opioid abuse and families, as well as a real-world proposed remedy
Fiedler’s thought-provoking play, which addresses these daunting issues through the story of one family in a small Appalachian town, packs an emotional punch in Rivendell’s intimate venue. With no seat more than a few yards away from the cozy set (designed by Lindsay Mummert with lighting by Michael Mahlum), it almost feels like the audience is in Harper’s living room, watching the action unfold. Rivendell’s production of “Spay” provides a welcome reminder of the powerful experiences to be had in storefront theaters and why Chicago’s performing arts scene is all the better for their return."
The Drama of Addiction
"This work is a reminder that theater can spur audiences to do something to help in a meaningful way once they leave their seats. This is the kind of work that should be put on a pedestal, handed an overly generous budget, and set onto a path for greater things."
Sisters in Crisis: A Review of “Spay” at Rivendell Theatre Ensemble
When one in four Americans are directly affected by opioid addiction, any art we create on the subject will have a profound effect. We know that the opioid crisis in rural parts of the country is particularly bad while areas like the Appalachian Mountains have a greater struggle with it. West Virginia has the highest overdose death rate in the country. Why bring up these facts? Because they matter. And if you see “Spay” knowing these things you will have a greater appreciation for the work.
West Virginia woes
The opioid epidemic comes into focus in Rivendell’s Spay
Williamson, West Virginia, is in the heart of Hatfield-McCoy history, but the conflict driving apart a family in Madison Fiedler’s Spay, now in a world premiere at Rivendell under Georgette Verdin’s direction, is rooted in opioids, not moonshine. Fiedler’s play largely succeeds at creating a framework for two women’s domestic conflicts arising from a larger
national and generational problem (their mother became addicted and OD’d after a car accident) that nobody seems to know how to address successfully.”
The Dueling Critics on WDCB 90.9 FM
Jonathan Abarbanel calls SPAY a “heartfelt and thoughtful production” with a “terrific cast.” ––The Dueling Critics
Kerry Reid raves that Tara Mallen is “absolutely stellar” as Aubrey.
––The Dueling Critics
Review: 'Spay' at Rivendell Theatre
Spay” examines how America looks at the opioid crisis, or rather how America chooses to hide the opioid crisis. While some can argue voluntary sterilization could cut down on the amount of children being born addicted and burdening the foster care system. Fiedler’s gruesome title suggests how she feels about the procedure.
Rivendell Theatre Returns With the Harrowing and Haunting World Premiere of ‘Spay’
Krystel McNeil and Rae Gray ground the production in their lovingly combative relationship as the Attridge sisters. Harper is the maternal figure, a role that her mother’s death and sister’s addiction forced on her at an early age. McNeil commands the stage as the school teacher with a license to carry, her no-nonsense attitude steadily conceding to her growing exhaustion and perpetual concern.
Around The Town Chicago Review: Spay
With only a cast of 4, they deliver a hard punch on reality. The story about two sisters, the older one Harper played by Krystel McNeil a kindergarten teacher who is raising her younger sister’s child, and Noah played by Rae Gray the younger sister, who got pregnant at 15 and is in love with her heroin dealer. These two women were so convincing in their roles, their acting abilities were so fine in capturing the audience.
Rivendell Town Halls
During each production, Rivendell facilitates informational panel discussions with professionals and advocates for the issues/subject matter raised in the show. The town halls will also have distribution of fentanyl test strip kits (5 per kit) provided by CDPH Office of Substance Use and Recovery.
Moderator: Brit Cooper Robinson
April 9th - "Families in Crisis, Community in Action"
Immediately following the 4pm performance
Stephanie Lagalo, LMSW, CAADC, part time instructor Western Michigan University
Lisa Martinez, MA, Adjunct Faculty, DePaul University, HIV Prevention Coordinator, Public Health Institute of Metropolitan Chicago
Chelsey Laliberte Barnes, LSW, Democratic Candidate for IL State Rep D-51
Narcan Training at Rivendell
Immediately following the April 9th town hall, a Narcan training will take place in the lobby, courtesy of Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital, The Potocsnak Family Division of Adolescent and Young Adult Medicine.
April 16th - "Harm Reduction in the Opioid Crisis"
Immediately following the 4pm performance
Jill Wolf LCSW, Executive Director, Wolf Pack Therapy
Laura Fry, Executive Director, Live4Lali
Jody Daitchman, Angel Moms Coordinator & Grief Group Facilitator, Live4Lali
Deya Friedman, Stage Manager
Deya Friedman is delighted to be working with Rivendell Theatre for the first time. Most recently, Deya served as Production Stage Manager for Porchlight Music Theatre’s Pump Boys and Dinettes. Pre-pandemic, Deya served as Stage Manager for Congo Square’s Day of Absence, and Miracle the Musical at the Royal George Theatre. Other Chicago credits include productions at Goodman Theatre, Court Theatre, Northlight Theatre, Teatro Vista, the Broadway Playhouse, and the Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire, where she also served as Production Manager for 2 seasons. Deya taught stage management classes at Loyola University Chicago, DePaul University, and was a part of the teaching faculty at the University of Tennessee Knoxville from 2008 to 2015. Regional credits include productions at the Children’s Theater of Minneapolis and twelve seasons at Peninsula Players in Door County, Wisconsin.
Lindsay Mummert, Scenic Designer
Lindsay Mummert is thrilled to be making her debut at Rivendell. Recent credits include Water By the Spoonful & A Wrinkle in Time (DePaul University). She assists Regina García and Jack Magaw on projects such as When Harry Met Rehab (the Greenhouse), Mrs. Harrison (Indiana Repertory), Peter and the Starcatcher (Oregon Shakespeare), and Relentless (Timeline). Upcoming projects include At the Vanishing Point (Gift Theatre) Two Trains Running (Court Theatre, Asst.), and A Raisin in the Sun (Guthrie, Asst.). Lindsay is a graduate of The Theatre School at DePaul University and resides in Chicago. More at lindsaymummertdesign.com.
Michael Mahlum, Lighting Designer
Michael Mahlum is based in Chicago and has designed lighting for dance, theatre and architecture all across the globe. This is Michael's third time doing lighting design for Rivendell Theater Ensemble, and he is thrilled to be working with such an amazing team. Recent theatre credits include: Year of the Hiker, Of Mice and Men, Death of a Salesman, A Night of Innocent Games, Dustbowl Gothic, Dracula, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Alias Grace, Winter, and Macbeth. A selection of other projects includes: The Fillmore – Minneapolis, The Echo Lounge - Dallas, House of Blues Restaurant – Las Vegas, Crayola Experience – Orlando.
Becca Duff, Costume Designer
Becca Duff is honored to be returning to Rivendell Theatre after her work on The Tasters. She is a Chicago based designer, creator, theatre artist, and actor. Most recently, she costumed Mamma Mia at Dominican University, completed a year of study in Alba Emotional Regulation, performed for an Erasing the Distance virtual storytelling event, and did a bunch of pandemic crafting in her home sewing studio. Love to Alli.
Joyce Ciesil, Sound Designer
Joyce Ciesil is a Chicago based Sound Designer, Composer, and Engineer. Upcoming sound design credits include: Head Over Heels (Columbia College), Seven Days at Sea (Light and Sound Productions), Hurricane Diane (Theater Wit). In addition to her freelance work, Joyce is also the Audio Manager for Theatre and Performance Studies at the University of Chicago.
Rowan Doe, Props Designer
Rowan Doe (they/he) is a Chicago-based Props Designer, carpenter, electrician, artist, and freelancer. They received their degree in 2021 from DePaul University in Theatre Technology, with a minor in Film Production. SPAY is their first production with Rivendell Theatre Ensemble. Other Props Design credits include My Way (Metropolis Performing Arts Centre), The Bluest Eye (Chicago International Puppet Theatre Festival), Once Upon A Mattress (Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre), and Passage (Remy Bumppo Theatre Company). They have also assisted with Props for When Harry Met Rehab (Greenhouse Theatre), and Little Shop Of Horrors (Metropolis Performing Arts Centre).
Sammi Grant, Dialect Coach
Sammi Grant (she/her/hers) Dialect Coach- Sammi is a Chicago-based dialect/vocal coach and has worked at Goodman Theatre, timeline Theatre, Drury Lane, Porchlight Music Theatre, Gift Theatre, First Folio Theatre, Windy City Playhouse, and many more. Film/TV Credits: RESCUED BY RUBY (Netflix); PATRIOT(Amazon Prime; THE EXORSIST (Fox). Sammi is a voice/speech teacher for The Theatre School at DePaul University and Access Acting Academy. Sammi holds an MFA with Distinction in Voice Studies from The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama.
Catherine Yu, Dramaturg
Catherine Yu is a writer of plays and librettos. She has been a 2016 NYSCA/NYFA fellow, a MacDowell Colony Fellow, a Soho Rep W/D Lab writer and a New York Theatre Workshop Emerging Artist of Color. Her short plays have been commissioned by 52nd Street Project, Two Headed Rep and Planned Parenthood among others. Her one-act “A Sand Romance” was a 2016 Heidman Award finalist. Her arts writing has been published by Hyperallergic. She has served as a grants panelist for the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council and Brooklyn Arts Council. As an educator, she has been a volunteer GED tutor for prison inmates, an ESL tutor in China and is currently a tutor to elementary school children. In her spare time, she volunteers at the Ronald McDonald House and script reads for regional theaters. BA: Stanford University. MFA: New York University.
Erik Strebig, Production Manager, COVID Safety
Erik is beyond grateful to be working with Rivendell for the first time! A graduate of Roosevelt University (CCPA), Erik is a multi-hyphenated theatrical artist, nomad, and devotee of The Artists Way. Chicago credits include: Lookingglass Theatre Co, The Auditorium Theatre, The Empire Room (Palmer House), About Face Theatre, The MCA, The CSO, and Davenports Piano Bar and Cabaret (6 years, Technical Director). New York Credits include: Shades of Buble: Live Onstage National Tour (Production Stage Manager), Don’t Tell Mama (4 years, Technical Direction), and 3 fabulous years at Club Cumming (by Alan Cumming).
Claire Yearman Fight Director and Intimacy Choreographer
Claire Yearman is excited to be working with Rivendell Theatre Ensemble for the first time. Claire is an actor, fight director, intimacy choreographer, SAFD certified teacher, and an ensemble member with Interrobang Theatre Project. Some theatres she's worked for include: Williams Street Repertory, Buffalo Theatre Ensemble, Interrobang Theatre Project, Aston Rep Theatre Company, Red Tape Theatre, WildClaw Theatre and Oil Lamp Theatre.
Denise Yvette Serna, Community Engagement
Denise Yvette Serna (she/her) is Rivendell's new Associate Artistic Director, a theatre practitioner and arts activist raised in San Juan, Texas. She has facilitated international workshops and productions with Global Hive Laboratories and its partners, as well as readings, fundraisers, panels, and festivals to raise awareness and promote activism about racial equity, accessibility, climate justice, gender-based violence, immigration, land sovereignty, literacy, community collaboration, and collective joy.
Chicago directing and curating credits include productions with MCA Chicago, The Latinx Theatre Commons, Steppenwolf Theatre Company, Prop Thtr, Strawdog Theatre Company, Pop Magic Productions, The Neo-Futurists, Victory Gardens Theater, Writers Theatre, Goodman Theatre, El Semillero, and Steep Theatre Company. Producing Credits include Dreams Beyond Borders: New Roots at Howard Area Community Center, Pop Magic’s salon series HOMESET, and The Syndicate’s FIRST READ. Denise is committed to supporting arts organizations as they champion equity, diversity, access and inclusion, and move forward as transformative Anti-Racist forces in their communities. deniseyvetteserna.com.
Brit Cooper Robinson, Community Engagement (She/Her)
Brit Cooper Robinson is a theater maker and writer living on the stolen land of the Kickapoo, Peoria, Potawatomi, Miami, and Očhéthi Šakówiŋ peoples. The power of storytelling and the necessity of compassionate witness drive her work as she seeks personal and systemic change. She is co-producer of the storytelling series Unearthing Our Fire and co-devised the Folded Map Play. She is a contributor for Sixty Inches From Center, Our Bible App, Understory Quarterly, and runs digital storytelling for How Men Cry.
Tara Mallen, Rivendell Artistic Director/Producer
Tara Mallen is an actor, director, and the Producing Artistic Director at Rivendell Theatre Ensemble. She is the 2017 3Arts William Franklin Grisham Awardee and the 2014 Volunteers of America Silver Star Awardee. Most recently Mallen was seen onstage in The Cake for which she was won the 2018 Jeff Award for “Actor in a Principal Role”. In 2016, she performed in the world premiere production of Lynn Nottage’s Sweat at Arena Stage. Prior to that she was in Rivendell’s world premiere productions of Look, we are breathing and Rasheeda Speaking. Tara appeared in the Steppenwolf for Young Audience’s production of How Long Will I Cry: Stories of Youth Violence written by Chicago Journalist Miles Harvey. One of Rivendell’s founding members, Tara has now produced and acted in over thirty productions. She received a Joseph Jefferson award for “Supporting Actress” for work 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; Empire (Fox); Boss (Starz); Chicago Fire (NBC); Doubt (CBS/Sony Pictures pilot); Chicago P.D. (NBC); Sense8 (Netflix) and the independent feature FOOLS.
Tara co-conceived and directed the world premiere of WOMEN AT WAR, directed the Jeff nominated Midwest premieres of The Electric Baby, 26 Miles (co-production with Teatro Vista); Fighting Words; Psalms of a Questionable Nature; Elliot, a Soldier’s Fugue (co-production with Stageworks/ Hudson); and the brief and brilliant Shady Meadows by Lisa Dillman as part of the 2007 Chicago Humanities Festival.
Catherine Painter, Rivendell Managing Director
Catherine Painter, after serving as Rivendell’s grant writer for six years, joined the company as Managing Director in 2020. She is also Executive Director of Cerqua Rivera Dance Theatre and Development Consultant to Praize Productions Inc. She is a member of the faculty at the University of Illinois – Chicago Certificate in Non-Profit Management Program where she teaches classes on Individual Giving and Strategic Leadership. Previously, she consulted with the American Indian Association, Trinity Irish Dance Company, and independent artists, and worked with Victory Gardens Theater, Merit School of Music, Northlight Theatre, and Latin School of Chicago. She holds Bachelor and Master of Science degrees from Northwestern University.
Spay production photos are courtesy of Michael Brosilow and feature ensemble members Rae Grey, Krystel McNeil, Tara Mallen with Spencer Huffman.
Video: Spay playwright Madison Fiedler speaks to Vince Gasarole of CBS Chicago about writing the play.
Video: Associate Artistic Director Denise Yvette Serna talks to Spay playwright Madison Fiedler about writing the play.
Check here throughout the production for important info to discover and share.
We've created a list of suggested readings related to themes and topics of Spay by Madison Fiedler.
Explore the list here: https://bookshop.org/lists/spay-reccomendations
Chicago Tribune article:
Public libraries are stepping up to save lives amid the opioid epidemic