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Opus 1861: The Civil War in Symphony
City Lit Theater
Chicago, IL
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Opus 1861: The Civil War in Symphony
Opus 1861: the Civil War in Symphony, the second production of City Lit Theater's ongoing series of annual productions commemorating the sesquicentennial of the Civil War and the third show of City Lit's 2011-2012 season, begins previews at City Lit Theater on Friday, April 13, and opens for the press at 7:00 pm on Tuesday, April 17. The production, devised by Elizabeth Margolius and Terry McCabe and directed by Margolius, runs through Sunday, May 13.
Opus 1861, a world premiere music theatre piece built from twenty Civil War songs and a selection of letters from 21st-century soldiers, depicts six American servicemen and -women serving in Afghanistan who find strength and solace in the songs of the Civil War.  The show includes songs known by all, such as "When Johnny Comes Marching Home," "Michael, Row the Boat Ashore," and "John Brown's Body," as well as such less well-known numbers as "The Vacant Chair," "All Quiet Along the Potomac Tonight" and "Give Us a Flag."  
The cast of six accompanies each other on various instruments, including guitar, clarinet, trumpet, banjo, two ukeleles, pump organ, penny whistle, and percussion.  Music director Gary Powell also accompanies, on piano from offstage.
"One of the richest bodies of literature to emerge from the Civil War was its songs.  We want to connect that material to today and not be trapped into a standard historical music revue," Margolius said, "which is why our characters are U. S. soldiers today, stationed in Afghanistan.  It emphasizes the political--not just the historical--context of the songs."  
The cast for Opus 1861 is Stephen Barker, Erin Baumrucker, Ryan Gaffney, Varris Holmes, Elizabeth Morgan, and Tyler Thompson.  The design team is Liz Cooper (lighting) and John Zuiker (set).
Elizabeth Margolius is a stage director whose primary focus is the development and direction of new music theatre and opera.  She has worked in many capacities with theatres including the Santa Fe Opera, Encompass New Opera Theatre in New York, Silk Road Theatre Project, Steel Beam Theatre, Bohemian Theatre Ensemble, and the Center for Cultural Interchange.  Earlier this season she directed Violet for Bailiwick Chicago (where she is artistic advisor).  An alumna of the Lincoln Center Theater Directors Lab in New York, she is co-founder and artistic director of DirectorsLabChicago, a forum for emerging nationally and internationally based stage directors now in its eighth year.
Every April through 2015, through its Civil War Sesquicentennial Project, City Lit Theater is commemorating the Civil War with a series of productionsmost of them world premieresthat explore the legacy of the war.  The first was last year's Jeff-recommended first revival in fifty years of Augustus Thomas's The Copperhead.  Future years of the Project will see the world premieres of two historically based dramasComrades Mine: Emma Edmonds of the Union Army by Maureen Gallagher, about a woman who served as a soldier for two years disguised as a man; and The Bloodhound Law by Kristine Thatcher, about the effect of the 1850 Fugitive Slave Law on Chicago's African American populationand the world premiere City Lit adaptation of the best-selling book Confederates in the Attic by Tony Horwitz.
  Opus 1861 will perform on the following schedule:
Previews: Friday and Saturday, April 13 and 14 at 8 pm, Sunday, April 15, at 3 pm.

Regular run: April 20- May 13: Fridays at 8 pm,
           Saturdays at 5 pm and 8 pm, Sundays at 3 pm
           plusThursday, May 10, at 8 pm

 Press opening is Tuesday, April 13 at 7:00 PM.  
Ticket prices are $18 for previews and $25 after opening.  Discounts are available for seniors, military personnel, students and groups of ten or more. Tickets can be reserved by going to or by calling (773) 293-3682.
City Lit receives funding from the Alphawood Foundation, the Elizabeth F. Cheney Foundation, the Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation, the Richard H. Driehaus Foundation, City of Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs CityArts program, and the Illinois Arts Council, a state agency. Its outreach program is sponsored in part by A.R.T. League.
    City Lit specializes in literate theatre, including stage adaptations of literary material.  City Lit Theater is located in the historic Edgewater Presbyterian Church building at 1020 West Bryn Mawr Avenue, one block west of Sheridan Road and a block and a half east of the Bryn Mawr Red Line L stop. The 84 Peterson bus, the 147 Lake Shore Express bus, and the 151 Sheridan bus all stop near City Lit. Valet parking is available for theatre customers through the valet service at Francesca's Bryn Mawr restaurant across the street from City Lit.  Discounted parking is available for theatre customers, with validation from the Edgewater Beach Café, in the Edgewater Beach Apartments' underground parking lot located one block east of the theatre.  A limited amount of free parking is available for theatre customers who dine before the show at That Little Mexican Café, located one block west of the theatre.



City Lit Theater (View)
1020 W. Bryn Mawr
Chicago, IL 60660
United States

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Arts > Performance
Arts > Theatre
Music > Americana

Dog Friendly: No
Non-Smoking: Yes!
Wheelchair Accessible: Yes!


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