The Genesis and Development of Windy City Productions®
Most of Susan’s writing was done during the years she was practicing law and touring and singing with Dan Hicks and the Hot Licks. In 2018 Windy City Productions® was confirmed as a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. Its mission is: to bring to theater audiences original plays with a dynamic range of characters to celebrate with humor and pathos human connections, family struggles, personal relationships, and compelling social issues.
Susan says she is driven to write with blunt humor. “Writing expands my understanding of the human condition. I write intentionally to make an audience laugh, even uncomfortably, to recognize our shared hopes, losses, embarrassments, bravado, ambitions, and dreams. We can laugh at ourselves because we are resilient. We are stronger and more joyful when we speak honestly and forge a genuine connection.”
Aunt Lakie’s Not Coming to Dinner - January 30 – February 14, 2015 - Phoenix Theatre, San Francisco.
Aunt Lakie’s Not Coming to Dinner is a comedy that tells the story of Iris and Claire - two elderly sisters in Skokie, Illinois. Iris escapes intermittent schizophrenia by cavorting with a young, hunky mailman who urges her to kill off Claire. Iris and Claire struggle with years-old resentments, betrayals, and secrets. Claire fears Iris’ outrageousness borders on insanity. For plot and character development, Susan researched mental illness, elder care, and U.S post office regulations – not generally the subjects of comedy.
Following a workshop performance of Aunt Lakie’s Not Coming to Dinner, the Company mounted its first full production of the work, directed by Jim McGunn. The play ran weekends from January 30 through February 14, 2015, at the Phoenix Theatre in San Francisco’s Union Square. On the Phoenix’s thrust stage appeared a full interior set for the Chicago surburban (Skokie) home of Iris (Zoe Connor) and Claire (Carolyn Ford-Compton). The Mailman (Scott Gessford) was authentically costumed as a postal worker. Susan and Dave ran the box office and sold refreshments during the three-weekend run. The production garnered excellent reviews particularly for a new play by an unknown playwright produced by a new company:
“A sweet comedy that blends familiar elements from 'The Odd Couple' with one woman's libidinous fantasies about her mailman, Susan Rabin's 'Aunt Lakie's Not Coming to Dinner' is one of the most enjoyable small-ensemble productions now running in San Francisco.”
— Barry Willis, President, SF Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle, February 6, 2015
“Provocative, funny & sexy. You'll love it! …Playwright Susan Rabin is a Winner.”
— Lee Hartgrave, Walkin’ Broadway, January 31, 2015
NOSEJOB - September 8 - 24, 2016 - Phoenix Theatre, San Francisco.
The comedy NOSEJOB first had a staged reading at the Dragon Theatre in Redwood City, February 15, 2016, with a cast that included notable TV and film actor Michael Sommers (Sense8 (2015), Chance (2016), Bandits (2001)). A fully staged production of NOSEJOB directed by Rich Sargent was mounted for three weekends from September 8 through 24, 2016 at the Phoenix Theatre in San Francisco’s Union Square.
The story follows Eleanor Shapiro (Laura Espino) who works as a weathercaster at a small cable station against the backdrop of a harsh Chicago winter. Eleanor gets fired for mouthing off when a joke is told on live TV about her ‘ethnic’ nose. She vows to resurrect her career and restore her self-esteem by getting a new nose - like that of her shiksahfashion-model roommate (Adrienne Dolan). Plastic surgeon Robert (Amir Hasan) finds her nose beautiful and refuses to operate. Eleanor’s cabdriver father Sammy (Kenneth Shaw) manipulates her with guilt and fear to get her to pay off his gambling debt with the mob. Derk, a rich but simple-minded suitor (Matthew Thomas Ward) haplessly tries to rescue Eleanor financially. Sammy pushes Eleanor that Derk is a cash cow and her salvation, which pushes Derk into the negative pile. Odes to weather forecasts mix with sarcastic comments about superficial beauty. Eleanor must navigate family responsibility and how to achieve perfection and a better pedigree.
The production and the play received a lengthy and positive write-up in the HUFFPOST, an excerpt of which follows:
“Two new plays that received their world premieres in San Francisco this month focused on women who suddenly found themselves severely compromised by someone they trusted. Each woman is faced with the need to make a tough decision about her future. When they turn to people they should be able to rely on for help, these women must go to extreme lengths to get the attention of superficial friends and family members who orbit around them. The lesson they learn is simple: Life is not fair, especially when you’re scared and vulnerable. Set against the harsh realities of a Chicago winter, Nosejob focuses on the plight of Eleanor Shapiro (Laura Espino), a nerdy young Jewish woman who has just been fired from her job as the weather forecaster for a local television station. Directed by Richard S. Sargent, Susan Rabin’s new romantic comedy follows Eleanor’s emotional roller coaster ride starting as she leaves her office screaming insults at the station manager. Painfully aware that she has a honker of a nose (as well as other issues which contribute to her low self-esteem), Eleanor can’t help wondering if life would be a whole lot easier if she were tall, blonde, and stupid. Rabin’s supporting characters have been carefully fleshed out, although some performances were stronger than others. I particularly enjoyed the work of Adrienne Dolan as the ditsy Valerie and Amir Hasan as the lovelorn Robert. Richard S. Sargent’s direction kept the comedy moving without letting Rabin’s script sag.”
— George Heymont, HUFFPOST, September 20, 2016.
JIVE - July 7 to 14, 2018 - Second Stage, Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts, Mt. View, CA.
Dragon Theatre again welcomed a staged reading of Susan’s work and presented the multi-ethnic play, JIVE, on September 19, 2016. Engaging in further development and research, Susan visited with pal, Michael Krasny, host of Forum on KQED, at the KQED studios. Outreach was necessary to secure the multi-racial and ethnic casting the play required. A full production was then mounted at the Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts Second Stage for seven performances, July 7 through 14, 2018. The Center provided able tech and crew support. Susan directed the large cast with help from stage manager, Elyssia Tingley, and Tom Gough of Foothill College Drama Department for fight choreography.
JIVE is an edgy comedy that uses local politics and talk radio to frame the story of Chet Williams, an outrageous white ‘shock- jock.’ Recently divorced from his wife Sara (Suzanne Nason), and fired from his Chicago radio program under a cloud, Chet (Andy Cooperfauss) gets rescued by old friend, Reverend Preston Taylor (James Creer), owner of San Francisco radio station, K-JIVE, which has a largely black audience. Friction immediately rises between Chet and black deejay Noreen Roosevelt (Leslie Ivy) as Noreen struggles against the glass ceiling. When Reverend Taylor runs for mayor, political correctness is stretched thin during apolitical debate between the Reverend and three inept candidates (Seton Chiang, Jaime Melendez, Siddarth Mathur) held live on the air. Young multi-racial engineer Raoul (Ajay Prater) digs up shocking revelations about Chet, and numerous callers (Lauren Garrick, Paul Goldberg, Jeremy Marquis, Ann Singer, Tiffani Amber Williams) struggle to make sense of Chet’s provocative personality. The Reverend risks losing his radio station as well as his mind over the bickering between Chet and Noreen and the sexual harassment allegation leveled by a parishioner. Zany and verging out of control, Chet dedicates himself to finding the real honesty and acceptance he desperately needs.
MAKS & the Flying Smirnovs – Development Events - 2019 – 2020 - Menlo Park and Burlingame, CA
Susan prepared the foundation for a production of her musical comedy play, MAKS & the Flying Smirnovs by writing music and lyrics, creating music charts and lead sheets, and developing arrangements with jazz pianist and teacher, Patrick Morehead. Source material for Russian customs and language was drawn from Susan’s friendship with Lana Tsarikaeva, who emigrated from Russia as a young adult and transitioned from a small village girl to a hip and stylish Silicon Valley realtor. Susan and Patrick recorded songs from the show with singers Lorin Rowan, Jennifer Schemke, Jessica Schatz, and Kristin Hall at Bellboy Studios in Richmond owned by Susan’s pal from Dan Hicks’ band days, Dave Bell.
Workshop - May 18, 2019 - Arrillaga Center, Menlo Park, CA
Under the direction of musical director Louis Lagalante, a cast of singer-actors (Branko Glad, Jennifer Schemke, Tim Reynolds, Molly Thornton, Kristin Hall, Rebekah Houy-Ghadosh, Christina Gluszczak, Bryan Munar) presented a workshop performance of MAKS & the Flying Smirnovs for a select audience.
GALA performance - October 12, 2019 – Burlingame, CA
The Company created its first Gala fundraiser, with James Creer serving as the bigger-than-life Emcee, along with talented stand-up comedienne Jennifer Schemke. A few songs from Maks & the Flying Smirnovs were performed by Cameron LaBrie, Jennifer Schemke, Molly Thornton, James Creer, Susan Rabin, and Pam Schemke.
Workshop - February 12, 2020
A second Workshop performance was held February 12, 2020, at the Arrillaga Center in Menlo Park with musical direction and keyboard accompaniment by Patrick Morehead and guitar accompaniment by Dave Bell. The singers (Andrew Cope, Jennifer Schemke, Tim Reynolds, Molly Thornton, Carla Befera, Dakota Baker, Tiffani Amber Williams, Ajay Prater) played to a select audience of theater professionals.
Negotiations with potential co-production companies are on-going for a 2021 staging of the musical.