Today, a young girl presents a school project. An advertising executive is pitching a new client. A stand-up comedian prepares for a tour. Everyone is feeling it, but no one wants to talk about it. Collaboraction explored mental illness in THE MARS ASSIGNMENT.

“People with depression are usually placed in exploitative roles in theatre and film,” says Hiltner, who was inspired to start the process to create The Mars Assignment. “We specifically set out to create a show that showed realistic characters living with depression in the way that millions of people do. Living the 'everyday' and navigating stigmas, without leaning on the stigmatizing tropes of suicide and addiction.”

Every performance also featured an open discussion with co-creator Elsa Hiltner and various Community Partners including NAMI (National Association on Mental Illness)

WRITTEN AND DIRECTED BY:

RONAN MARRA

CO-CREATED WITH: 

ELSA HILTNER

RAN OCTOBER - NOVEMBER OF 2016

Guests at the following performances:

THE ENTIRE RUN

October 20 - November 20

NAMI

National Alliance on

Mental Illness

NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, is the nation’s largest grassroots mental health organization dedicated to building better lives for the millions of Americans affected by mental illness. NAMI works to raise awareness and provide support and education that was not previously available to those in need.

Erasing the Distance

ETD collects true stories from people whose lives have been impacted by mental health issues, and we sculpt their actual words into monologues and scenes. Our ensemble of professional actors then brings these stories to life onstage before a live audience. Every performance is followed by a moderated, interactive dialogue with the audience that explores the play’s themes and, when appropriate, identifies mental illness signs, symptoms, recovery options, and community resources.

COMMUNITY PARTNERS

For The Mars Assignment, Collaboraction is proud to have partnered up with several incredible organi-zations that provide ​support and resources to families and individuals living with depression or other mental illnesses as well as raise awareness, acting as allies and advocates. After every performance, there will be a discussion about the play and its themes and will feature a representatives from one (or multiple) of our community partners. By connecting with these organi-zations, we can become more informed and therefore better equipped to be effective friends and allies. Learn more about these amazing groups and how to engage with them by clicking on any of the slides to the left.  

CAST
 

ERIC/JAXSON- JOE MCCAULEY

AMY/JENNIFER - KRISTIN E. ELLIS

ALISON - MCKENZIE FRANKLIN

JEFF/CRAIG - JUSTIN WADE WILSON

CHRISTOPHER - JOSEPH GALIZIA

DIANE/KATIE - GEORGANN CHARUHAS

ALISON UNDERSTUDY - ZOE LUCAS

AMY/DIANE UNDERSTUDY - SCHOEN SMITH

ERIC/JEFF UNDERSTUDY - DUANE DEERING

Kristin E. Ellis

Amy, Jennifer

Kristin has played roles from Pearl Cleage (What I Learned in Paris - Congo Square Theatre, nominated for a Black Theatre Alliance Award for Best Featured Actress), Lydia Diamond (The Inside - MPAACT Theatre, nominated for a Black Excellence Award for Best Theatre Actress), and Christina Anderson (Black Top Sky - Steppenwolf Garage Rep). Kristin’s work in independent films has premiered at film festivals such as: Black Harvest Film Festival, Bronzelens Film Festival in Atlanta, Chicago’s Comedy Film Festival, Chicago’s Ethnographic Film Festival, Chicago’s Global Mixx Music and Film Forum, and the Studio Movie Grill Theater. Kristin received her BFA in Acting from The Theatre School. Kristin has studied under Larry Yando in First Folio classes at Chicago Shakespeare Theatre, and with the Acting Studio for TV/Film. Kristin is a passionate teaching artist, and an acting consultant for AMTC. Currently, Kristin can be seen in the two highly anticipated short-films Side Effects and WIAR, making their rounds in film festivals. For more information visit www.kristin-ellis.com.

McKenzie Franklin

Alison

McKenzie is a film, television, commercial, and voice-over actress, is thrilled to join the cast of The Mars Assignment. McKenzie’s stage credits include WastWater (Steep) Shrek The Musical (The Potters House), Into The Woods JR (CPS Drama Dept), Wizard of OZ With A Wicked Twist (Wixom), Disconnected (Lookingglass Young Ensemble) and SitaRam The Musical (Harris Theatre For Music & Dance). You can catch McKenzie in Annie Warbucks (Theatre At The Center) this Fall. McKenzie would like to thank her parents for believing in her talent, her agents at Gray Talent Group and Collaboraction Theatre Company for giving her this wonderful opportunity! www.mckenziejfranklin.com

Joe McCauley

Eric, Jaxson

Joe is an ensemble member of Eclipse Theatre where he recently performed in The Lisbon Traviata, Bedroom Farce, and Long Day’s Journey Into Night. Other recent Chicago credits include The Consultant, Red Bud, Lascivious Something, and MOTION (Signal Ensemble), Concerning Strange Devices from the Distant West (Timeline Theatre), Unnecessary Farce (Fox Valley Rep), The Clean House (Bluebird Arts), and Days to Come and Juno and the Paycock (The Artistic Home). Other companies worked with include Theater Wit, City Lit, American Theater Company, and The Annoyance Theater. Joe is a graduate of Minnesota State University, Mankato with a B.S. in Theatre Arts and a veteran of the U.S. Navy…much love to Isabelle.

Georgann Charuhas

Diane, Katie

Georgann feels blessed to be returning to Collaboraction in this world premiere production of The Mars Assignment. Georgann recently earned an M.Ed. in Youth Development from UIC and is a graduate of the School at Steppenwolf. Favorite roles include Karen/Ensemble in Collaboraction’s tour of Crime Scene: Breathe Life by Anthony Moseley and Adam Seidel; Liza in Lascivious Something by Sheila Callaghan; Diane in the world premiere of Landslide by Ronan Marra; and Sarah in Seascape by Edward Albee. Georgann wishes to thank Ronan and Elsa for opportunity to be part of this journey. She is forever grateful to Randy and Nick for their unwavering love and support.

Justin Wade Wilson

Jeff, Craig

Justin is thrilled to be working with Collaboraction. He was last seen as Tim in Ashton Rep's production of The Black Slot and Antwon in the production of #Lovestories at Fleetwood Jourdain Theatre Company. He would like to thank Collaboraction for this opportunity and his family for the tremendous support.

Joseph Galizia

Christopher

Joseph is ecstatic to be a part of Collaboractions production of The Mars Assignment! Since his graduation in 2011, he has been fortunate enough to be working consistently in Chicago as an actor, circus performer, and performance artist. His theatre credits include: Sita Ram (Lookingglass), Trial of Moses Fleetwood Walker (Black Ensemble Theatre), Pulcinella & Beyond The Score (Chicago Symphony Orchestra), Prodigal Daughter (Arc Theatre), The Comedical Tragedy of Mister Punch (House Theatre, U/S), Lolita De Lares (UrbanTheatre Company), and numerous shows at Spartan Theatre where he is an ensemble member. A big thank you to the cast for their fantastic work, and for letting me be a part of the mayhem. Love to friends, family, and Marissa.

Zoe Lucas

Alison u/s

Zoe is new to the theater stage but has worked with BonTon Studios to produce a national commercial for Carson’s Department Store. She has also worked on a national commercial for 5 Below Stores and a local commercial/billboard for Parkview Hospital. She’s had the opportunity to work with the cast of Chicago PD on a recent episode, which was a wonderful experience for a new actor. When Zoe is not working on her craft, she enjoys reading books on Greek Mythology and singing. Zoe has an enormous love of music and is also a dedicated student, who maintains an Honor Roll status throughout the school year. Currently Zoe is ecstatic to be working as the understudy for the role of Alison in The Mars Assignment.

Schoen Smith

Amy/Diane u/s

Theater credits include (LA) Southern Girls (LA Weekly Recommended), Actors Nightmare/Sister Mary…It All, and Walk With Me, (NYC) This is Our Youth, Gray Guitars (Best One Act Play nomination - Spotlight On Festival), Enigma, Cain by Lord Byron, and The Green Dragon. Schoen most recently appeared on screen in Chicago Fire.  Film credits include Assassins (Action on Film International Film Festival), In My Pocket (Audience Award at The Palm Beach International Film Festival), and Mirror (LA Shorts Fest and Pan-African Film Festival). Schoen has studied in New York at NYU, Stella Adler Conservatory, The Atlantic Theater Company, and in Los Angeles at The Victory Theater, Lesly Kahn, and Improv Olympic West. Schoen is very grateful to be a part of The Mars Assignment and would like to thank her agents at Shirley Hamilton for their dedicated support, and Ronan and Elsa for creating this important work.             

Duane Deering

Jeff u/s

Hailing from Dallas, Texas, Duane’s stage credits include A Lie of the Mind (Second Thought Theatre), Melancholy Play (Upstart Productions), Picasso at the Lapin Agile (Runway Theatre), and Mauritius (Harlequin Productions). Recent Chicago credits include PEACEBOOK (Collaboraction), Jerusalem (Profiles Theatre), Fugue and School of Life (Theatre Momentum), and a handful of short films. He also performs on various comedy stages, works as a composer and sound designer, and often tours with platinum-selling rock band, The Toadies, as a roadie and sometimes as musician. Duane is represented by Shirley Hamilton Talent, and is very grateful and proud to be a part of Collaboraction and The Mars Assignment.

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PRODUCTION TEAM

RONAN MARRA  - PLAYWRIGHT/DIRECTOR

ELSA HILTNER* - CO-CREATOR/ASST. DIRECTOR

SARAH MOELLER* - PRODUCER

MICHELLE ROTH - STAGE MANAGER

CAITLIN BODY - ASST. STAGE MANAGER

BECCA VENABLE - TECHNICAL DIRECTOR

ASHLEY ANN WOODS* - SET DESIGNER

ANTHONY P. INGRAM - SOUND DESIGNER

CAITLIN R. DALTON - COSTUME DESIGNER

MAYA MICHELE FEIN - LIGHTING DESIGNER

DOMENIC LAURY - MASTER ELECTRICIAN

HOLLY MCCAULEY - PROPERTIES DESIGNER

KELLY BUTLER- PRODUCTION MANAGER

*designates company member*

Ronan Marra

Playwright, Director

Ronan is a director, playwright, and Artistic Director of Storefront Theatre of Indianapolis (opening Fall 2017) and is the former co-founder and Co-Artistic Director of Signal Ensemble Theatre in Chicago. He directed almost thirty productions at Signal including This is War and East of Berlin by Hannah Moscovitch, Successors and Aces by Jon Steinhagen, Hostage Song by Clay McLeod Chapman and Kyle Jarrow, Lascivious Something by Sheila Callaghan, his own Aftermath and Landslide; The Ballad Of The Sad Cafe, 1776, Waiting For Godot and many more. He has received three Joseph Jefferson Nominations, an Illinois Arts Council award, is a Woodward/Newman Award Finalist, and New City named him one of the "Fifty People Who Really Perform in Chicago" in 2012. Ronan would like to thank Elsa, Anthony, and Collaboraction for the invitation to work with them on this vitally important and personal subject. Feel free to email him at marraronan@gmail.com

Elsa Hiltner

Co-creator, Assistant Director

Elsa is so proud of what The Mars Assignment has become. This is the first time Elsa has worked to create, or assistant direct, a show. She is a Chicago-based costume designer and a Collaboraction company member. Aside from many shows for Collaboraction, she has also designed for Silk Road Rising, Steppenwolf, Next Act Theatre, First Folio Theatre, Walkabout, Eclipse, American Blues Theater, Teatro Vista, and Signal Ensemble Theatre, among others. Elsa would like to thank Anthony Moseley for giving her the opportunity to create this show, Ronan Marra for joining her on this journey, and the many people she interviewed for the production.

Michelle Roth

Stage Manager

Michelle is excited to be working with Collaboraction for the first time! Previously a member of Signal Ensemble Theater, her credits include Stage Management for The Consultant, Drowning Girls, Devils Day Off, Plainsong, Lascivious Something, and Hostage Song. Other Chicago Stage Management credits include We Are Not These Hands, My Filthy Hunt, Halfshut, Pretty Penny, and The Modern Prometheus at The Right Brain Project as well as The Gas Heart with The Nine. Thanks to Ronan for the opportunity and to Colby for his patience and support. 

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PHOTOS
 
VIDEOS
 
BONUS CONTENT
 

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The first reading of THE MARS ASSIGNMENT in The Salon at Collaboraction Studios on May 21, 2016.

 

The reading featured a script written by Ronan Marra (in collaboraction with Elsa Hiltner), stage directions read by Anie Svarz, and a cast that included Justin Dietzel, Ebony Joy, Georgann CharuhasNat Swift, McKenzie Franklin, and Justin Wade Wilson.

The official trailer for The Mars Assignment. Shot by Louis and edited by Joel Maisonet.

© 2019 by Collaboraction

All rights reserved

COLLABORACTION   |   Offices: 1579 N. Milwaukee, 3rd Floor    (312) 226-9633     info@collaboraction.org

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Winner of a 2018 Otto Award for groundbreaking political theatre