OFFBEAT: Lansing actress starring in new stage true drama in Chicago

Phil Potempa's daily entertainment news column
2013-08-25T00:00:00Z OFFBEAT: Lansing actress starring in new stage true drama in ChicagoBy Philip Potempa, (219) 852-4327

Step Up Productions is kicking off its 2013-14 season with Richard A. Roberts' touching Chicago drama "The BenchMark," directed by Tara Branham, and featuring actress Tricia Rodriguez, who hails from Lansing.

It's playing Sept. 13 to Oct. 20 at The Athenaeum Theatre, 2936 N. Southport Ave. in Chicago.

Based on a true story, this poignant play chronicles the life of Mark, a charming, eloquent homeless man who calls a lonely, little Chicago park bench his home. As he journeys through the summer, autumn and winter seasons, he seeks solace in alcohol and literature in order to escape the harsh realities of his life and the world around him. Combining social commentary, pathos and biting humor, this bittersweet satire is an elegy to the misfit in us. Rodriguez is in the chorus.

"After Chicago's theater community and audiences alike embraced our inaugural production of 'Sweetest Swing in Baseball,' we knew it was time to produce a full season and we're excited to call The Athenaeum Theatre our resident home for 2013-14," said Step Up Artistic Director and Founder Elizabeth Antonucci.

"Mr. Roberts' beautiful and haunting play 'The BenchMark' struck a powerful chord a it completely altered my perspective on the homeless people we, as Chicagoans, encounter nearly ever day. Similarly, I hope this production challenges and inspires our audiences to look further beyond what they see on the outside."

The play also features AJ Froeber, Amy Geist, Daniel Houle, Raymond Jacquet, Annie Neal, Andrew Sellar and Robert Wilson.

Rodriguez was last seen in "The Reckless Ruthless Brutal Charge of It or The Train Play" last fall with Oracle Theatre in Chicago and directed by Andrew Jordan. That production was about a young scientist played by Scottie Caldwell preoccupied by a 12-year-old girl (played by Rodriguez) who escapes into a superhero persona and embarks on a discovery of her superpower.

Proceeds from "The BenchMark" will also benefit the Chicago Alliance to End Homelessness. As part of its mission, Step Up Productions donates a portion of its proceeds to organizations in and around Chicago that support issues often highlighted in its productions.

The Athenaeum Theatre is located at 2936 N. Southport Ave. in Chicago. Performances are at 8 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays. Tickets for previews are $15 and the regular run is $30 and $17 for students (with current ID), $25 seniors, $16 rush tickets (one hour before curtain). Tickets are available at and or call (773) 935-6875.

Step Up Productions is a non-profit theater company with a mission to communicate stories authentically, inspiring audiences to identify and embrace their own personal truths. FYI:

The opinions expressed are solely those of the writer. He can be reached at or (219) 852-4327.

Copyright 2014 All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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