Chicago Children’s Theatre, Chicago’s largest professional theater company devoted exclusively to children and young families, continues its 2021-2022 “Season of Resilience” with the world premiere of Carmela Full of Wishes, April 23-May 22, 2022.
It’s Carmela’s birthday, and her wish has already come true–she’s finally old enough to join her big brother as he does the family errands. On their way to the laundromat, past fields of what Mamí calls “flores de cempazuchitl,” Carmela finds a lone dandelion growing in the pavement. But before she can blow its puffy white fluff away, her brother asks, “did you even make a wish?” If only she can think of just the right wish to make.
Carmela Full of Wishes is adapted from the book by Matt de la Peña and illustrated by Christian Robinson, the same Newbery Medal and Caldecott Honor winning team behind Last Stop on Market Street. Full of touching and funny fantasies, the book, and now the play, portrays Carmela’s migrant community as a vibrant place of possibility.
Join families from all over the city for Chicago Children’s Theatre’s new, moving ode to family, to dreamers, and to finding hope in the most unexpected places. Chicago Children’s Theatre is located at 100 S. Racine Ave. in Chicago’s West Loop. Show times, April 23-May 22, are Saturdays and Sundays at 10:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. Press openings are Saturday and Sunday, April 23 and 24 at 10:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. Run time is 60 minutes, no intermission. Tickets are $32 at chicagochildrenstheatre.org.
In addition to weekend performances, performances for school and other groups are Tuesdays and Thursdays at 10 a.m., and Wednesdays and Fridays at 10 a.m. and 12 p.m. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for group rates.
Please note: Chicago Children’s Theatre is a “no shushing” theater. The theater is located minutes from I-90 and I-290, as well as downtown and Ashland Avenue. Free, onsite parking is available on the south side of the building. Free street parking can be found nearby on weekends, or try the Impark parking lot, 1301 W. Madison St.
Pages from Carmela Full of Wishes by Matt de la Peña * Illustrations by Christian Robinson
Chicago Children’s Theater’s wish? To work with Matt de la Peña and Christian Robinson again after their 2018 hit world premiere, Last Stop on Market Street
In 2018, Chicago Children’s Theatre and Children’s Theatre of Minneapolis co-produced the smash hit world premiere play Last Stop on Market Street, adapted by Cheryl West from the best-selling picture book by Matt de la Peña and Christian Robinson. Director Henry Godinez and Chicago leading lady E. Faye Butler helmed that production, described as “a kid's version of In the Heights" by the Chicago Tribune, and “a marvelous journey from page to stage” by the Chicago Sun-Times.
Since its 2018 premiere, CCT’s adaptation of Last Stop in Market Street has become one of the most produced contemporary show titles in all of TYA (Theater for Young Audiences). Since its 2018 Chicago debut, nearly a dozen theaters around the U.S. including in New York, Minneapolis, Washington D.C., and St. Louis have staged their own versions of Last Stop on Market Street, underscoring Chicago Children’s Theatre’s national reputation as a creator of important and entertaining new works for young audiences.
For Carmela Full of Wishes, Alvaro Saar Rios is the adaptor, and Michelle Lopez-Rios directs Chicago Children’s Theatre’s debut production. The cast features Christopher Alamo (Papi), Jasmin Cardenas (Mami), Juan Gonzalez Machain (Big Brother) and Maria Clara Ospina (Carmela).
The design team includes Regina Garcia, set; Christie Chiles Twillie, sound design and original music; Jazmin Aurora Medina, costumes; Jason Lynch, lights; Lonnae Hickman, props; Erica Cruz Hernandez, casting; Rebecca Ross is stage manager. Anastar Alvarez is assistant stage manager.
Carmela Full of Wishes, co-commissioned by Chicago Children’s Theatre and The Rose Theater, is made possible in part by a grant from The Bayless Family Foundation and by a grant from National Endowment for the Arts’ Grants for Arts Projects.
Access Weekend is Saturday and Sunday, Dates
Chicago Children’s Theatre continues to grow its commitment to all Chicago children by expanding services for patrons with disabilities. Access Weekend is May 14 and 15. Services include:
ASL interpretation and Open Captioning: Saturday and Sunday, May 14 and 15
Touch Tour: Sunday, May 15 before the 9:30 a.m. show
Sensory Friendly: Saturday and Sunday, May 14 and 15
Covid safety policy
Health and safety protocols will be updated on a rolling basis based on prevailing city and state recommendations. For more, visit chicagochildrenstheatre.org/covid.
(from left) Kirra Silver, Jesse Bhamrah, Alejandro Medina (as CJ, kneeling), Breon Arzell and E. Faye Butler (as Nana) in Chicago Children’s Theatre’s world premiere of Last Stop on Market Street, adapted from Newbery winning and Caldecott-honored book by Matt de la Peña and Christian Robinson. Since its 2018 Chicago debut, nearly a dozen theaters have staged tLast Stop on Market Street, underscoring Chicago Children’s Theatre’s reputation as a creator of new works for young audiences. Photo credit: Charles Osgood
Matt de la Peña (author) is the New York Times Bestselling, Newbery Medal-winning author of seven young adult novels (including Mexican WhiteBoy, We Were Here and Superman: Dawnbreaker) and six picture books (including Milo Imagines the World and Last Stop on Market Street). In 2016 he was awarded the NCTE Intellectual Freedom Award. de la Peña received his MFA in creative writing from San Diego State University and his BA from the University of the Pacific where he attended school on a full basketball scholarship. In 2019 he was given an honorary doctorate from UOP. de la Peña currently lives in Southern California. He teaches creative writing and visits schools and colleges throughout the country. mattdelapena.com
Christian Robinson (illustrator) was born in Hollywood, California. He grew up in a small one-bedroom apartment with his brother, two cousins, aunt, and grandmother. Drawing became a way to make space for himself and to create the kind of world he wanted to see. He studied animation at the California Institute of the Arts and would later work with the Sesame Workshop and Pixar Animation Studios before becoming an illustrator of books for children. His books include Gaston and Antoinette, written by Kelly DiPucchio, and the #1 New York Times bestseller Last Stop on Market Street, written by Matt de la Peña, which was awarded a Caldecott Honor, a Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor, and the Newbery Medal. He presently lives in northern California with his rescue greyhound Baldwin and several houseplants. He looks forward to one day seeing the aurora borealis. theartoffun.com
Maria Clara Ospina (Carmela), an actress originally from Medellín, Colombia and a recent graduate of North Central College, is making her CCT debut as Carmela. Her other credits include Romeo and Juliet (Chicago Shakespeare Theater), Hamlet (Invictus Theater), Wellesley Girl (Compass Theatre), True Story of The 3 Little Pigs (ABS Productions) and Covid Chronicles (Corn Productions).
Alvaro Saar Rios (adaptor) is a Texican playwright living in Chicago. His plays have been performed in New York City, Mexico City, Hawaii, Chicago, St. Louis, Milwaukee and all over Texas. He has received playwriting commissions from various organizations, including Chicago Children’s Theatre, Kennedy Center, First Stage, Houston Grand Opera, Honolulu Theatre for Youth, Michigan’s Purple Rose Theatre Company, The Zoological Society of Milwaukee and Omaha’s Rose Theater. His award-winning play Luchadora! is published by Dramatic Publishing Inc. Other plays include On The Wings of a Mariposa, The History of Mexicans in 10 Minutes, The Day the Music Came Back and Unmuted, a virtual musical he co-created with composer Deborah Wicks La Puma. Saar Rios is a Resident Playwright at Chicago Dramatists and Playwright-In-Residence at Milwaukee’s First Stage. A proud veteran of the US Army, Saar Rios used to drive M1A1 tanks. He holds an MFA in Writing for the Stage and Screen from Northwestern University and teaches playwriting at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
Michelle Lopez-Rios (director) is making her directorial debut with Chicago Children’s Theatre. She is a teatrista, teacher and activist. Together with Alvaro Saar Rios, she co-founded the Royal Mexican Players in 2004 and the two have continued to collaborate on workshops and productions since then. She is an Associate Professor and Artistic Director of Chicago Playworks at The Theatre School at DePaul (TTS). Directing credits include Squirrel Girl Goes to College, Luchadora! and Jane of the Jungle (TTS); The Mole Hill Stories (First Stage); Bocón! (University of Houston); Chapatti (Milwaukee Chamber Theatre); Enfrascada (Renaissance Theaterworks) and A Trip Through the Mind of a Crazy Mexican (Royal Mexican Players).
Virtual season in full swing: This Ability series finale now online
Watch episode three of This Ability, which culminates CCT's new web series with the tale of Faith The Healer, played by Holly Connor, a 17-year-old singer, actor and musician from St. Louis. Connor is blind and on the autism spectrum.
Chicago Children’s Theatre’s virtual season remains in full swing. Newly posted for free, on-demand viewing is the third and final episode of This Ability, Daniel Carlton and Nambi E. Kelley’s new superhero web series, starring a trio of young lead actors who, in life, are blind, deaf and autistic. Binge This Ability on the CCT’s YouTube channel, CCTV: Virtual Theater and Learning from Chicago Children’s Theatre.
New virtual programs also available 24/7 on CCTV include:
The Relocation of Nokwsi - This virtual puppet production by Robert Hicks Jr. is inspired by the story of his grandfather, who journeyed from his people, the Cherokee, Paiute, Yakama and Shoshone, to live and work in Chicago in the 1950s. For ages 8 and up.
Exquisite: The Poetry and Life of Gwendolyn Brooks - Inspired by the book by Suzanne Slade, illustrated by Cozbi A. Cabrera, Exquisite introduces children to one of Chicago’s most treasured poets via music by composer Florence Price, narration by Eve L. Ewing and animation by Liviu Pasare. Produced in association with the Negaunee Music Institute at the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. For all ages.
Maybe Something Beautiful - This video brings together five CSO musicians performing classical works by Latino composers, bilingual English/Spanish narration, and playful puppetry. It’s inspired by the book by F. Isabel Campoy and Theresa Howell, illustrated by Rafael López and produced in association with the Negaunee Music Institute at the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. For all ages.
Diamond’s Dream - This world premiere short puppet film by Chicago artists Jerrell L. Henderson and Caitlin MacLeod tells the story of an African-American boy on a Chicago CTA Red Line car navigating pandemics past and present. Free study guide available. For ages 9 and up.
My Magic Breath - Narrated by First Lady of Chicago Amy Eshleman, My Magic Breath, also produced with the CSO, fuses classical music and modern animation to help children harness the calming and restorative power of mindful breathing. For ages 4-8.
Doll Face Has a Party - This charming, zany, toy theater show is directed by Brian Selznick, writer and illustrator of “The Invention of Hugo Cabaret” and “The Houdini Box,” and the illustrator of the 20th anniversary “Harry Potter” box set. For all ages.
Leo Lionni’s Frederick - Leo Lionni’s Caldecott Award-winning picture book comes to new life as a clever and colorful virtual puppet show gently narrated by Michael Shannon. For all ages.
Iconic Dance Moves Playlist - Chicago Children’s Theatre teaching artist Emily Daigle has already gone viral with her trio of tutorials teaching kids all the coolest dance movies. Her 80s dance tutorial has surpassed 60,000 views alone! For all ages.
Puppet Making Playlist - It’s a perfect time to make a puppet show for your family. This playlist showcases CCT teaching artists showing kids how to make shadow puppets, finger puppets and talking vegetables out of household materials. For ages 6 and up.
About Chicago Children’s Theatre
“The Chicago theater scene is legendarily vibrant, so naturally a number of companies tailor productions to younger audiences. The cream of the crop is Chicago Children’s Theatre.” – Chicago Tribune
Chicago Children’s Theatre was founded in 2005 with a big idea: Chicago is the greatest theater city in the world, and it deserves a great children’s theater. Today, Chicago Children’s Theatre is the city’s largest professional theater company devoted exclusively to children and young families. CCT has established a national reputation for the production of first-rate children’s theater with professional writing, performing, and directorial talent and high-quality design and production expertise.
In January 2017, the company celebrated the opening of its new, permanent home, Chicago Children’s Theatre, The Station, located at 100 S. Racine Avenue in Chicago’s West Loop community. The building, formerly the Chicago Police Station for the 12th District, was repurposed into a beautiful, LEED Gold-certified, mixed-use performing arts, education and community engagement facility that now welcomes all Chicago families.
CCT provides tens of thousands of free and reduced-price tickets to under-resourced schools each season in partnership with Chicago Public Schools. CCT also continues to grow its performing arts and STEAM education programs, offering classes, workshops, winter and spring break camps, and summer camps for ages 0 to 14.
In 2019, Chicago Children’s Theatre won the National TYA Artistic Innovation Award from Theatre for Young Audiences/USA. In addition, Chicago Children’s Theatre has garnered six NEA Art Works grants, and in 2017, became the first theater for young audiences in the U.S. to win a National Theatre Award from the American Theatre Wing, creators of the Tony Awards.
Chicago Children’s Theatre’s 2021-22 Season of Resilience is supported by Goldman Sachs, Paul M. Angell Family Foundation, The Ralla Klepak Foundation for Education in the Performing Arts, The Shubert Foundation, Polk Bros Foundation, The MacArthur Fund for Culture, Equity and the Arts at Prince, Bayless Family Foundation, The Crown Family, Rea Charitable Trust, ComEd, US Bank, City of Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE), Illinois Arts Council, Illinois Humanities Council, National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), The Susan M. Venturi Fund in memory of James and Roslyn Marks to Support Theatre Education Accession, and Erin and Jason, Ben, Bici and David Pritzker.
Chicago Children’s Theatre is led by Co-Founders, Artistic Director Jacqueline Russell and Board Chair Todd Leland, with Board President Armando Chacon.
For more, visit chicagochildrenstheatre.org.