Thursday, February 27, 2014

Chicago musician Andrew Belle performing hometown show at Lincoln Hall


In sitting down to make his sophomore album, "Black Bear," Chicago singer/songwriter Andrew Belle decided to take his music in a new direction.

The album, a reflection of his growing interest in electronic music, has enjoyed critical and commercial success. Belle,, will perform a hometown show March 5 at Lincoln Hall, 2424 N. Lincoln Ave., Chicago.

Diane Birch also is on the bill. The show starts at 8 p.m., and tickets are $15, available at

I had the chance to talk to Belle about the album and his other activities.

Q - Great to talk to you. Of course, you are touring in support of your sophomore album, "Black Bear," which debuted #1 on Billboard's Alternative New Artist Album chart. Did you expect such a good response to the album? 

I really was not sure what to expect, honestly. It had been over three years since I had last released a full-length album and so it was hard to know what to realistically expect. 

I did know however, that it was our strongest production effort to date and my best songwriting since I started out 10 years ago. I have developed this sort of internal mechanism over the years, that helps me know when something is good or not and throughout this entire process I felt like we were doing the right things.

So aside from a healthy or normal amount of anxiousness was a calm confidence in the work we had done.

Q - The album reflects your growing interest in electronic music. Were you afraid that taking your music in a new direction would turn off the fans you gained from your previous album, "The Ladder?" In making "Black Bear," what were your goals and do you think you accomplished them? 

I mean, a little bit but I really just got to a point where I was like, I gotta make the music that excites me if I am going to keep doing this. If I'm not doing that, then I should get a new job, ya know?

I like the idea of not being limited by a genre and I think that mentality will help my work be relevant beyond just this particular point in time. I've always set out to evoke emotion with my melodies and lyrics, but this time I wanted to achieve that with the music as well. 

I wanted to create layers of ambiance and electronic warmth; arranged on top of beat-driven percussion. I wanted people to still be moved by my words and melodies when they choose to - but also to be able to ignore those things and just let the music make them feel something on a more subconscious level. 

I listen back to my home demos versus what we ended up with and we absolutely surpassed the original vision; I couldn't be happier with the record.

Q - I understand that you have been back in the Chicago area for a couple of years after living for a time in Nashville. What made you want to move back to the area? How would you say the two music scenes are different and where do you yourself fitting into the Chicago music scene? 

I lived in Nashville for a couple of years but was touring a lot and so I never really felt like I was laying down permanent roots. And that was sort of on purpose too - I was always careful to reserve some anonymity because there are so many talented people there; it's easy to get lost in the shuffle. 

I really loved it there but I left to get married a few years ago and now I'm back in town several times a year to record or perform. So up here in Chicago, I don't really know much about or exist in the music scene. 

I work a lot from home on my own but I like to keep Chicago as my place to lay-low or hideout and Nashville is where I go to work, check back in with friends, maintain relationships, before coming back up home to my real life.

Q - You had started out your career by performing under your given name,  Drew Fortson, at open mics and Potbelly’s sandwich shops all over the Chicago suburbs near your hometown of Wheaton. What did that experience teach you about the music business? What made you want to change your name to Andrew Belle and how do you think it has helped you?

I made my first album in college - a collection of 12 songs I had written my senior year - and released it as Drew Fortson. When I set out to make the "All Those Pretty Lights" EP a few years after that, I had evolved so much musically that I really just wanted a clean slate to start under.

Also, the music business is sort of unique in that you yourself, just as much as the music, become a part of the overall final product and so I wanted to create some separation between my work and my personal identity. When I was first starting out, playing bars and restaurants for a living - I couldn't wait to graduate from that and get on to the next bigger and better thing. 

But it recently dawned on me that that time was so necessary for me to learn the simple things like how to sing live, how to perform in front of people, what my strengths and what my weaknesses are. I didn't realize it at the time but if I had been given everything I wanted when I was 23, I wouldn't have been prepared to do things like record music of a higher quality or perform on larger stages. 

I've learned it's a good thing that we don't always get what we want right away.

Q - How would you say that your music has evolved since receiving the John Lennon songwriting award in 2009?

I've always been really cognizant of my words and making sure that they have depth or meaning to them but I'm even more careful about that now. Typically, music mostly recounts romantic highs and lows but lately I have been incorporating more themes of faith and God; existential and philosophical themes that actually lend themselves quite nicely to the same time of writing that I would use to describe a human relationship. 

I find that my relationship with my wife, for better or for worse, serves as an accurate depiction of my relationship with God as well and so I will intertwine the two now and again. 

In my marriage, there exist the same themes of imperfection, forgiveness and unconditional love that I find in my relationship with God and so I feel like my writing is staying the same in lyrical approach but the subject matter is broadening.

Q - Your music has been featured in a number of television shows, including "Grey's Anatomy" and "One Tree Hill." Do you view that as a way to get your music out to more people? Do you think your music is well suited for TV?  

Well, you can never really plan on TV or film to use your music so I sort of look at it as very helpful, unexpected promotion. For example, one of my songs, "In My Veins," was on ABC's "Castle" the other night and I saw that some 11,000 people used Shazam to find out who the artist was afterward. 

That's unbelievable! So yes, it's a huge part of why we've been successful thus far, but we also can't expect it to always be there and so we really have to look at it as a gift every time we are lucky enough to be asked to license a song. 

I've always been attracted to - and try to create - thematic, emotive music and so I think for that reason my songs have always lent themselves nicely to dramatic television shows. I hope that continues to be the case!

Q - You are going to release an acoustic version of "Black Bear" later this year. Are you looking forward to playing these songs in an acoustic format? Do you think some of the songs will be better suited to the format than others?  

I would actually say that we are releasing a version of the album in a "stripped down" format rather than acoustic. There will still be an electronic, hip-hop element to it but it will be chilled out, slowed down, and less going on so that you can hear my voice and the words more clearly. 

I've had to rearrange the entire live set and I am very excited about all of the new things that I get to do live - I'll be playing/triggering all my own drum samples and playing the keyboard rather than an acoustic guitar. 

I've always seemed to thrive in a more stripped down setup, live, and so I am really looking forward to seeing what sort of evolution this brings about for the live show this year.

Q - Do you have any dream projects or collaborations?

I don't really like to co-write but I would love to co-produce something with someone like Chris Martin, Justin Vernon of Bon Iver, or Earnest Greene of Washed Out.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Chicago band Mutts continues to energize crowds


For those who haven't heard enough of Chicago band Mutts this month, you're in luck.

The band,, will perform again on Feb. 24 as part of its month-long residency at Township, 2200 N. California Ave., Chicago.

Wedding Dress along with Vic and Gab also are part of the bill. The show starts at 8 p.m. and tickets are $5, available at

I had the chance to talk to Mutts frontman Mike Maimone about the band's latest activities, which include working on a new album.

Q - Great talking to you again. How is the residency going? How did you go about choosing the bands which are performing with you as part of the residency? 

Despite the merciless polar vortices, the residency has been outstanding. I think it's a testament to how tough the city of Chicago is, that we've seen such great turnouts even though the past three Mondays have either been sub-zero or snowing. 

It's really exciting that our friends and fans have shown so much support for the new music, but most of the success has to do with the lineups. We invited some of our favorite bands from in town, and some of the ones we've met on the road, and the result has been pretty incredible. 

Every night has been one of those shows where I get so caught up in the first two bands that I forget I'm even playing.

Q - Through the shows, you are raising money for "Chicago HOPES," which provides after school activities for homeless youth. How did you hook up with the organization?

A good friend of Bob Buckstaff works for them. We all feel blessed to have had exposure to music and other activities growing up.

Kept us out of trouble and opened our eyes to how broad our world really is. And personally, I still apply lessons I learned from mentors in after-school programs to challenges that come up in my 30's. 

Especially in Chicago it seems like there are many kids who don't have these opportunities, and Chicago HOPES is working hard to provide them.

Q - On your last album, "Object Permanence," you decided to go in a different direction and unplugged your sound. What made you want to do that and did it take your fans by surprise?

When I started playing music I learned on the piano. So it's always been my choice for expression - no effects, no amplifiers, just my hands on that beautiful beast of an instrument.

Early on in Mutts, Bob got us a residency at Reggies, where they have a piano on stage. So he suggested bringing his upright and playing it acoustic.
We re-worked out originals, dusted off some of my old solo tunes, and started writing new music in the process. It was so refreshing that we wanted to cut an album in that vein.

And so far it seems to be our best-received album yet. I think all music listeners like a change of pace, and as performers and writers, we do too. 

So it worked out for everyone.

Q - The album was the band's third independent release to make it on the CMJ Top 200 Radio Airplay Chart. Why do you think your music connects with so many people?

I guess because we're very honest. And that's not to say that other bands aren't, I just think we're overly transparent about it.

We don't spend a lot of time in the studio. Everything is immediate - the lyrics, the emotion, the tempo fluctuations and happy accidents (a.k.a. mistakes). 

And of course there's percussion and some ear candy overdubs, but for the most part our records sound like the three of us playing in a room together, because that's how we created them. And although music seems to be going increasingly digital, it's interesting how EDM now incorporates more 'human' characteristics. 

Quick example: triplets. Computers don't just do triplets. They like standard sub-divisions. 

But now there's all kinds of songs out there, where clearly no humans played any instruments, but you've got these lagging triplets all over the place that aren't quantized at all. It's like... Skynet... is going... self-aware... and it likes to dance.

Q - Do the pros of being an independent band outweigh the cons? How have you tried connecting with your fans in this ever-changing world of social media?

I go back and forth on this a lot. Sometimes I envy my friends on labels who have a team helping them out and in some cases get paid monthly. 

But I do remember playing in a band like that, and yeah it was great to be able to focus on the music, but also there were frequent clashes over creative and business decisions. In Mutts we can theoretically do whatever we want, but in reality we're constrained by a very limited budget and tight time constraints because we all work a couple jobs each. 

For example, I'm writing to you from a glass repair shop while they replace a window someone smashed on our tour van. Wouldn't it be nice to not be wondering how we'll be able to afford our studio time tonight? Yup.

Q - The band is now working on its fourth CD. What direction will you be going with this album? What should people expect?

This will be our muttiest album yet. We've got the amps back a-blazing, but we've learned a ton from our acoustic record, and some of that intimacy is carrying over. 

We're back with Dan Smart, who recorded the first LP, and once again we're weaving songs together. So while this album will be all over the map stylistically, it'll play like a cohesive narrative.

Q - Your song, "God, Country, Grave" was featured in the Cinemax series "Banshee." Do you see this as just another way to get your music out to more people? What did you think about the placement of the song in the episode? Did it work well?

Definitely. And I thought the way they used it was incredible. 

As they opened season 2, it played as they rehashed some of the action from the first season. And while I'm new to the show, it was clear that the themes of helplessness and regret went hand-in-hand. 

That's really the best a songwriter can hope for in this situation, that the visual artist will latch onto the words and use the song to make that connection on film. I was impressed and honored that they were so thoughtful with it. 

And then it came back in a sex scene towards the end. It was pretty surreal to see people fucking to our music.

Q - Last year, the band performed more than 150 shows in 16 different states. Do you see the band as more of a live band than a studio band, or do you need both in your life? Are there any venues or states that you are looking to play this year?
We really need both. We initially came together as a side project from our session gigs, so we've all got that love of the studio and the process of making records.

But hitting the road and sharing the music in person is such a passion as well. We're heading to SXSW in March, I think we're all looking forward to getting back to Austin. 

This will be the first time we've made the trip together although we've all been there in other bands.
In general, this year is already looking great tour-wise. We've got a couple festivals and some support dates that'll be really fun, and we're heading back to our favorite friendly cities, too.

Q - What do you think of the Chicago music scene and how do you see the band fitting into it? What advice would you give to a band just starting out?

The Chicago music scene is quite possibly the most talented and diverse of any city we've played. It's so vast that it's hard to think of it as one scene; it's more like several overlapping ones.

I feel like we fit into this great rock/blues/indie part of it, playing lots of shows with friends, sharing advice for venues and bands to check out on the road, and contributing to each other's records. But there are so many more great artists doing everything from hip-hip to folk to ambient music that we see doing their thing, and just don't get a chance to interact with as much.

It's very inspiring.

For bands just starting out: go play, have fun, repeat. Play in Chicago every week until people are sick of you.

Then start hitting the road... a weekend at a time, building up to bigger tours. Don't head to California or New York on your first tour. Start small.

Just keep playing. Out. In front of people.

Interact with other humans who will judge you and walk out on you. Keep playing.

Find the people who love what you do, and talk to them. Play more. Out there.

Yes, you need to practice at home, but you need to get outside that comfortable space and away from people you know. It's the only way to find yourself, your sound, your crew, and your goals.

You'll hit road bumps. You will hear 'no' a thousand times... and you just won't hear anything ten thousand times.

Band members will quit. Car windows will get smashed. Bills will become overdue.

But as long as you keep playing, getting better, learning to perform your songs instead of just reciting them, and that part of it is still fun, you'll be able to put up with all that other junk and figure out where to go next.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

St. Louis band Kentucky Knife Fight coming to Chicago

Photo by Joshua Black Wilkins


The music and energy that St. Louis band Kentucky Knife Fight creates cannot be summed up in just a few words.

The band roams through a frenetic blend of blues, rock and other genres to create a sense of excitement that would be hard to match.

Kentucky Knife Fight,, will perform Feb. 21 at Martyrs,' 3855 N. Lincoln Ave., Chicago. Secret Colours and The Great Crusades also are on the bill.

The show starts at 9:30 p.m. and tickets are $10, available by going to

I had the chance to talk to lead singer Jason Holler about the upcoming show.

Q - Great talking to you. Sorry to hear about your van being stolen and then being found later at a scrapyard. But I'm glad you were able to find a loaner vehicle to tour with. Were you always hopeful that the tour would continue on?

Canceling the tour was never really an option. That would have disappointed too many people. 

Once we heard the condition our van was found in, we went straight to Plan B mode. 

Q - Of course, the band is touring on its latest album, "Hush Hush." In sitting down to make the album, what were your goals and do you think you accomplished them?

We asked ourselves, "What do we normally do with a song like this or a part like this?" Then we did the exact opposite. 
Also, we kept saying, "Let's not worry about how we are going to pull this off live. Let's just make the best record we can." We definitely accomplished our goals. 

It's our best record to date. 

Q - The song "Love the Lonely" was used in the movie "23 Minutes to Sunrise" and the band spent the winter writing music that will be featured in the new PBS series "America: From The Ground Up!" Why do you think your music translates so well to other media? Do you see it as another way to get your music out to more people?

Our music has a little something for everybody. If you're into musicianship, if you're into storytelling, if you're into twangy music, if you're into moody music, or if you just want to dance. 

We've got you covered. Our new album seems cinematic to me, so it being used in movies is a natural fit.

Q - It seems like there should be a story behind the band's name. Is there? Do you think your name draws people to your music?

At this point I've lied about the origin of our name so many times I'm not sure what the truth is anymore. I do know our name sticks around in people's minds.

Q - How would you say St. Louis' music scene compared to other music scenes? How would you say Kentucky Knife Fight fits into the scene?

It's hard for me to say. My understanding of what other cities are doing might be slightly skewed. 

What I have noticed is the quality of bands in St. Louis. There are a lot of really solid bands in this city and a lot of excellent players.

Q - You've probably heard the band's music described in many ways. How would you describe your music and who are your biggest influences?

I refer to it as smoke and shadow music, but that's not exactly a section at your local record shop. A friend called it "noir-blues" which I enjoy. 

I've heard people say we're a mix of The Gun Club, The Replacements, and 16 Horsepower. I would say that's pretty accurate.

Q - Kentucky Knife Fight was named best rock band in St. Louis three years in a row by the Riverfront Times. Was that humbling? What are some other bands out there, from St. Louis or elsewhere, that you admire?

It is humbling. We've been very lucky in St. Louis. 

We have a loyal and dedicated fan base here. Some of them have been with us from the beginning.

As far as other local acts, Pretty Little Empire is a great band who just put out the best local album I've heard. Beth Bombara is amazing as well. 

She just released several sharp looking music videos. Oh, and Brotherfather! Check them out for sure. 

Outside of STL, we've been listening to a lot of Telegraph Canyon, Water Liars, Christian Lee Hutson, Savages, and Jason Isbell.  

Our drummer listens to what can only be described as "R&B for the grown and sexy" and we love him for this reason.  

Friday, February 14, 2014

Chicago musician Shawn Maxwell expands musical vision with new CD


Chicago musician Shawn Maxwell's musical vision continues to get bigger.

Maxwell,, who has been playing with his quartet for 10 years now, elicits even more musicians for his latest project/CD, "Shawn Maxwell's Alliance," which features 10 of the best jazz musicians in Chicago.

The CD will be released Feb. 18 and in celebration of its release, the group will perform Feb. 20-23 at Jazz Showcase, 806 S. Plymouth Court, Chicago. Tickets are available at

I had the chance to talk to Maxwell about his latest musical project.

Q - Great talking to you. Of course, your new CD, "Shawn Maxwell's Alliance," will be released soon. How did you go about assembling the musicians on the album? Was it difficult making the adjustment from playing with your quartet to playing with such a large group of musicians?

I’ve been performing with my quartet for ten years now and have recorded four albums with them. I wanted to change things up and experiment with a new sound. 

I knew I wanted to involve different, or “odd,” instrumentation so I started looking at friends that I didn’t get a chance to perform with as much as I’d like. Chris Greene, a great Chicago saxophonist, was at the top of the list.

Unless we’re in a big band, or some kind of larger combo, he and I don’t usually end up on the same band stand because we’re both saxophonists. My quartet focuses on the tonal center of a piano providing the chordal structure so I wanted to change that entirely and use good friends and great musicians, including Stephen Lynerd on vibraphone and Mitch Corso on guitar. 

Marc Piane and Stacy McMichael are two bassists that have subbed in my quartet over the years and I wondered how we could pull off having two bassists in the same band. With writing a mixture of walking/comping and composed lines for each, both bassists straddle the line between a standard jazz bass and a solo classical instrument. 

I wanted to use a vocalist on this project but (a) didn’t want to write lyrics and (b) wanted the vocals to be more of a “horn like” instrument. I didn’t want it to be the main focus, but something that was on equal footing with other lines. Keri Johnsrud was an easy choice because not only is she a great singer but is an old friend who I don’t see as much nowadays. 

Paul Townsend is a fantastic drummer who I’ve been working with for the last 15 years. I wanted the group to have a sense of jazz but wanted to do much more straight/funk/rock rhythms. 

Paul is one of my favorite drummers who can go easily back and forth between these grooves, sound great and still keep the time together. Lastly I was looking at one more addition to top things off. I wanted one more part of instrumentation that would offer a classical or chamber music vibe. 

My wife, Rachel Maxwell, is an educator and French horn player as is her colleague, and friend, Meghan Fulton. I knew that with this last addition we would have a large, different group who could do great things.

It has been an adjustment going from a quartet to the Alliance. With a 10 member band, we need to have very tight arrangements and make sure everything stays under control. 

That said, it’s been great to write and arrange for such a larger, ensemble with odd instrumentation. I’ve been able to flesh out chords and lines that I just can’t with only four musicians.

Q - The new CD roams through a number of genres, including jazz, rock and funk. In sitting down to record the album, what were your goals and do you think you accomplished them?

When I wrote tunes for this band/CD, I wanted it to be “different.” I’ve recorded four CDs of original music that, perhaps with debate from some, pretty easily fits into the “jazz category.” 

While I’ve always like to write more rock-like tunes with angular melodies and time signatures, you wouldn’t confuse [those with] anything outside of jazz. I wanted it to be different with this group. 

The Alliance was created to be an ensemble that could perform at a jazz club/festival as well as in a concert hall, rock venue and/or any other type of musical setting. Also, while we’ve all studied music and most of us are full time jazz musicians, we wanted to incorporate more of the music that we grew up with.

There is a long list of bands, from the 70’s to today, who come from the genres of rap, rock, funk and more that have influenced us as musicians and people. It seems odd to not incorporate that into what we’re doing, even if it is jazz. I wanted this group to allow everyone to be themselves and allow ALL influences to come out. Yes, I feel that I accomplished writing tunes/arrangements that allow us to step out of the jazz world, while still being close by, and showcasing individual musician’s personalities and influences beyond the genre of jazz.

Q - How did the fact that you had multiple players, including two French horn players and two upright bass players, add to the recording process?

It made things a bit more challenging than a standard quartet. Often times with the quartet we were in the same room, or perhaps the drummer would be in an isolation booth. 

Nick Eipers did a great job of recording and isolating all instruments to receive an excellent sound. We still recorded everything live but each bassist had his/her own isolation booth and the French horns were in their own little part of the main studio recording room.

Q - Who are your main influences and how do you think they have influenced your music? How do you think your music has evolved since you formed The Shawn Maxwell Quartet?

I have too many influences to list here, but a person who has influenced me as a performer and writer would have to be Kenny Garrett. I love the way he plays and his approach to soloing. 

He may have the best alto saxophone tone I’ve ever heard. There isn’t one thing about his playing that I don’t like, and didn’t try to copy/emulate for most of my twenties. 

Along with that, Kenny is also a fantastic composer. I think that he might not receive all the credit he deserves in this category because his tunes are just great.

When I started the Maxwell Quartet my goal was to be a Kenny Garret clone. As I’ve performed more, composed more and grown as a musician and individual, I have maintained my Kenny Garret influence but also added to it. 

I’ve picked up other little things from other musicians/composers that I dig while all the time putting much more of me into it. I have learned that it’s great to be influenced by others and, especially as a younger musician, you need to study and try to emulate those before you, but at some point you need to let your inner voice come out and become your own person/musician. 

I believe that I’ve very much created my own “voice” although it has influences from many others.

Q - What do you think of the Chicago music scene and where do you see yourself fitting into it?

The scene is a very delicate ecosystem that has several layers. Even the jazz scene has about a hundred sub-structures to it and even little cliques. 

I’ve always tried to avoid the cliques and embrace all aspects of the music, even outside of jazz. That said, while I do believe the Chicago scene is very strong, and one of the best in the country, I wish that we as musicians could work more together. 

I have always tried to be open and supportive of all other musicians, regardless of genre. Unfortunately I don’t find that [to be] the case with everyone. 

As far as my role in the Chicago scene…. that’s not for me to define. I’m just trying to be myself and let my voice be heard. If I can do that successfully, my role in the scene will be defined at that point.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

The Public House Theatre bringing innovative works to Chicago theatre scene


Chicago's The Public House Theatre continues to bring an innovative twist to the theatre scene. 

The theatre's current production, "Dead Broads Yapping," is no exception. Broadcasting from beyond the grave, co-hosts Amelia Earheart, Jackie Kennedy and Joan of Arc examine news and trends of today, from twerking to twitter and beyond, with special guests including Henry VIII, Mark Twain, Mary Todd Lincoln and Rasputin. 

Stacey Smith, who recently was named one of Chicago’s top nine improvisers, directs the ensemble, which includes writers/Dead Broads Courtney Crary, Marie Maloney and Caroline Nash, who perform regularly at Studio BE with the musical improv group, MINt, and separately around the city. 

"Dead Broads Yapping" will be presented Feb. 6 to Feb. 27 at The Public House Theatre, 3914 N. Clark St. (at Byron Street), Chicago. 

Shows are at 8 p.m. every Thursday through the month of February. Tickets are $10, available by calling 1-800-650-6449, or at 

I had the chance to talk to Smith and Maloney, who helped conceive and write "Dead Broads Yapping," about the show.

Stacey Smith 

Q - Great to talk to you. What was your goal in creating "Dead Broads Yapping" and what do you hope the audience gets out of the show? 

Stacey - The girls had come to me after they had an idea of what type of show they wanted to put up. Our goal is to do something different than your average sketch show.

It's more of an interactive talk show. It's silly and playful and it involves a lot of different improvisers /performers in the community.

Q - Last year, you were named one of the nine major players in Chicago comedy to watch out for in 2013. What have you tried to do with your comedy and what do you see as your contributions to the Chicago comedy scene? 

I always strive to choose projects that I'm passionate about. Whether it's the people involved, the material that rings true or something I'm afraid of and want to try.

I put up material that I love in hopes that others will see the joy it brings me in my performance. As far as contributions go, I'd like to think I'm a big advocate of my peers. 

There's so many talented people in this community and I want them all to succeed. In addition to creating my career path, I always strive to support friends and heroes in their comedic endeavors.

I think that's the most important thing you can contribute in this type of group-oriented art.  

Marie Maloney 

Q - What was your goal in creating "Dead Broads Yapping" and what do you hope the audience gets out of the show? 

Our goal was really just to create a fun show about historical people and topics that we love, and to portray these figures in a smart, comedic way. The three of us (me along with Courtney Crary playing Joan of Arc and Caroline Nash playing Amelia Earhart) are big history buffs and we all love reading up about influential women in history.

Ever since I was a little kid I've been obsessed with Jackie O, and once we started talking about playing historical figures, "The View" style format just kind of came naturally.  We hope that the audience has some laughs and also enjoys our take on these women, while also remembering some fun historical facts they may have forgotten since grade school social studies class. 

Q - I understand that each week will feature a different theme and different historical guest stars. How did you go about picking the themes and guest stars? 

We decided early on that we wanted each week's show to have a theme.  We wanted the themes to be timeless and relatable, so we eventually settled on Innovation, Sex, Power, and Gurls.

As we were brainstorming historical figures we wanted as guest stars, we realized the guests were just naturally falling into the categories we chose, so we organized the show from there.   

Q - How did you go about choosing the cast and what do you think they bring to their roles? 

We're lucky enough to be a part of such an amazing comedy community here in Chicago and we have wonderfully talented friends, so we basically brainstormed historical guests we wanted then thought of other talented performers we already knew to fill those rolls. 

We chose them because we know each person as a performer and imagining them each as their character made us actually laugh out loud, so we knew the result of them really playing their historical figure would be such a blast to watch.

We think they'll also bring a unique spin on the character they play. Our guests are: Keenan Camp, playing Teddy Roosevelt each week; Eli Whitney (Ben Larrison); Mark Twain (Chelsea Norment); FDR & Eleanor Roosevelt (Jenna Steege and Rob Speer); Rasputin (Alex Manich); JFK (Mike Schminke); Henry VIII (Charles Petitt); Cleopatra (Ali Barthwell); Jesus (James Dugan); Mary Todd Lincoln (Julie Marchiano); andThe Unsinkable Molly Brown (Maggie Goodman).