Players’ new season includes Shakespeare, improv

Assistant to the Editor

The Hyde Park Community Players will kick off their fifth season with its classic Halloween-time performance this Saturday, Oct. 26.

The players will present for the fourth year a radio variety show in which actors perform spooky scripts onstage, “An Evening of Horror and Suspense: In the Old Time Radio Tradition.” The 8 p.m. show at Experimental Station, 6100 S. Blackstone Ave., includes adaptations of a poem by Edgar Allen Poe and two short stories by Ray Bradbury and H.P. Lovecraft, as well as a radio play by Eleanor Beeson, “Always Room at the Top.”

“We have regulars and we have people who just graduated high school,” said director Bill Hohnke, a substitute teacher at the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools, of the play’s cast. “It’s a pretty wide swath of people.”

The play includes 63 sound cues with effects made using objects including coconuts, glasses, chains, and doors.

The players’ upcoming season will also include two plays — Christopher Hamilton’s adaptation of Pierre Choderlos de Laclos’ “Dangerous Liaisons” in November and Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet” next April — as well as a May improvisational comedy show written by company member Dan Friedrich, “Drones, Clones and Phones: I Know What You Did Last Summer.”

“Last year there was an emphasis on comedy all the time. And this time we’re reasserting our right to do high drama,” said Paul Baker, president of the company.

Laura MacGregor is directing the 18th century drama, “Dangerous Liaisons.” She says she has been rehearsing regularly with cast members the “racy” play detailing the schemes of two aristocrats, both idle and manipulative ex-lovers. It was one of her first times directing love scenes.

“I was both nervous about that, and excited to try it,” MacGregor added. “It’s an uncomfortable thing to ask actors to do. And there’s a lot of blushing and giggling — on my part and their part, probably.”


This year’s season will be the first time the company performs improvisational comedy and Shakespeare. Baker will be co-directing “Romeo and Juliet” with player Corinna Christman, and with the help of the University of Chicago’s Classical Entertainment Society, a campus theater production group.

“I love Shakespeare myself, I’ve been chomping at the bit to direct Shakespeare,” Baker said.
Friedrich says “Drones, Clones and Phones” will examine the impact of new technology on our lives and privacy. “We really know what you did last summer,” Friedrich said, laughing.
The technology consultant by day calls his May show “intentional improvisation,”:

“It’s a themed show, we kind of know what the show is about every night, but the details are new, and sort of organic.” Friedrich plans to include guest actors during the show’s tour through the neighborhood.

“Dangerous Liasons” is scheduled to take place Nov. 16, 17 and 22 through 24 and Baker’s “Romeo and Juliet” between April 11 and 13, 19 and 20 and 26 and 27. The schedule for Friedrich’s comedy is to be determined.

Tickets to “An Evening of Horror and Suspense” cost $12 at the door. Advance tickets are on sale at What the Traveler Saw, 1508 E. 55th St., and 57th Street Books, 1301 E. 57th St., for $10. For more information and season updates, visit