Columbia College Chicago Theatre Alums Win Rave Reviews for Performances in U.S. Premiere of Simon Stephens’ ‘Birdland’ at Steep Theatre

Dushane Casteallo (left) and Joel Reitsma in “Birdland”

Alumni of the Columbia College Chicago Theatre Department‘s Acting program were singled out for praise in the Chicago Tribune‘s review of the American premiere of Birdland, by Tony Award-winning British playwright Simon Stephens, running through May 12 at Chicago’s Steep Theatre.

Joel Reitsma

Joel Reitsma ’08, a graduate of the Theatre Department’s Acting program, plays a rock star in the drama, which Tribune critic Chris Jones calls a “very serious and totally gripping attempt to find the answer to a simple but fascinating question: Can those who are handed bucket loads of cash, fame and nightly adulation actually retain their basic humanity?” Adds Jones in his April 6, 2018, review of the production: “The most remarkable thing about this staging is how Reitsma, whose performance is blisteringly good, . . . actually makes you believe he’s a rock star. . . . This, truly, is a spectacularly charismatic performance: you see the improvisational charm and risk-taking that got this dude where he landed, and you also see the many heavens and hells of his arrival.”

Dushane Casteallo

Jones also singles out supporting actor Dushane Casteallo for his “gut-wrenching intensity” as the rock star’s bandmate. Casteallo, a British actor making his U.S. debut in this production, studied at the Columbia College Chicago Theatre Department in 2014 as an exchange student from the Rose Bruford College of Theatre & Performance in suburban London. Rose Bruford’s American Theatre Arts BA Honors Program partners with Columbia College on a program in which British students spend a semester studying at Columbia College in Chicago. In exchange, American students at Columbia College can study at Rose Bruford College.

You can read the full Chicago Tribune review of Birdland here.

Birdland‘s author, Simon Stephens, is best known for his Broadway and London hit The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. The show is directed by former Columbia College Theatre Department faculty member Jonathan Berry, an artistic producer at Chicago’s Steppenwolf Theatre. Steep Theatre is an acclaimed storefront theatre with strong ties to the Columbia College Theatre Department: besides Reitsma and Berry, Steep’s artistic ensemble includes Columbia alums Caroline Neff ’07, a graduate of the Theatre Department’s BA Program in Acting, and Joanie Schultz ’00, a graduate of the Theatre Department’s Theatre Directing program; former Columbia College Theatre Department student Sasha Smith; and Columbia College Theatre Department production manager Pete Dully.

Steep Theatre is located at 1115 W. Berwyn, in Chicago’s Edgewater Theatre District. For tickets, call 773-649-3186 or click here.