Remembering Danny Thompson

On May 20, 2019 we lost our co-founder and guiding light, Danny Thompson. He passed away following a swift decline due to an uncommon genetic liver disease, and the Oobleck community grieves the loss of our buoyant, brilliant friend.

The cruel fact of his passing has occasioned an outpouring of remembrances of his many triumphs on the Oobleck stage, and a hunger to revisit them. With this in mind, we present this extraordinary work, with text and narration by Terri Kapsalis, live audio from John Corbett, and video collage by Danny. The Hysterical Alphabet premiered in 2007 in Chicago, and then toured college campuses for several years. This video, documenting a live performance, was of course edited by Danny. And you can hear his voice, narrating letter Q in this alphabet.

posted 05/30/2019

Chicago Reader recommends It Is Magic

Reader Recommended! “…the world premiere of Mickle Maher’s latest hilarious tragedy.” Shows are Fri/Sat 7:30, Sunday 3pm. Get your tickets here.

photo by Joe Mazza/Brave Lux

posted 05/23/2019

"Magic" photos

The audition is a curse
Diana Slickman, Jerome Beck, and Laura T. Fisher in "It is Magic."
photo: joe mazza.

posted 05/16/2019

Oobleck Summer Reading

The Jim Lehrer Plays)Red State Blues, Stories from Midwestern Life on the Left

We’ve got you covered with two brand new books from your Oobleckers… The Jim Lehrer Plays by Mickle Maher from Plays Inverse, and Red State Blues, Stories from Midwestern Life on the Left, edited by Martha Bayne (order it from Belt Publishing & Belt Magazine).

posted 07/11/2018

Reality reviewed

It's a rich, tantalizing evening that provides a restorative antidote to rationality. (Chicago Reader) If you love language and poetry, this will be 90 minutes of bliss. (Third Coast Review)

Reality Is an Activity imagines a new, poeticized world order “
— Justin Hayford, Chicago Reader.



posted 05/16/2018

In the afterglow of a cataract of a year, we toast you all…

Oh, dear friends,

If there’s any satisfaction approaching that of working together, it’s looking back on having worked together successfully. Have you seen the video of those people forming a human chain to rescue a forlorn dog from a flood? Afterwards they all went out together for drinks and fries – just like a theater company might.

So in the afterglow of a cataract of a year, we toast you all for fording the white water of 2017 with us as we brought to shore Mickle Maher’s Jim Lehrer and The Theater and Its Double and Jim Lehrer’s Double, the marvelous sequel to his marvelous play, The Strangerer. Thank you for your help raising funds for immigrants’ rights through our Threat Level Orange . Merci beaucoup for sallying forth alongside us through all or part of the three-day marathon that was the massively majestic Closed Casket: The Complete, Final and Absolutely Last Baudelaire in a Box, spelunking the Martha Bayne-curated rust-gothic A Memory Palace of Fear with us to bring housing concerns from the darkness into the light, and mucking in with us in raising almost $6000 as we all weathered the Apocalypse Cabaret: A Benefit for Puerto Rican Artists. And most recently, bless you for being our art-appreciative comrades during the reading/performance mini-fest of author, gallery curator, and Oobleck sonic accomplice John Corbett’s new book, Just What I Needed.

Your support in body, spirit, word, coin, and deed gives us the strength to march forth into next year with a world premiere of Barrie Cole’s new play, Reality Is An Activity. We’ll be doing a four-week election-related residency series, sometime before the midterm election – and we are LONG overdue for an Oobleck election maceration, are we not? A new silent film cantastoria by Dave Buchen and a boatload of rescued Puerto Rican musicians is also in the works, along with other endeavors of a likewise mouthwatering nature.

So we’re counting on you riding the wave of the known and unknown with us into the future. By the way, the heinous new tax bill threatens to wreak havoc on deductions to not-for-profit groups such as ourselves in 2018, if it’s signed before the end of 2017, so if you’re moved to give fiscally on top of all you’ve given us and those in need this past year, you can do so by visiting our support page.

Sincere gratitude to you again, and auspicious wishes.

The Ooblecks

photo by Evan Hanover

posted 01/05/2018

Report from the Apocalypse (Cabaret, that is)

Many thanks to all who came out to the Neo-Futurarium on November 15 for our Apocalpyse Cabaret — and thanks especially to all the performers, soup ladlers, and generally helpful helpers. Through your combined efforts we raised $5600 for our artistic partners in Puerto Rico, who are still, two months later, struggling to sort out life in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. Un gran abrazo to them, and to all of you as well.

posted 11/24/2017

Letter from San Juan

Hurricane damage
November 2, 2017

Greetings from Puerto Rico,

At the end of this letter I am going to ask you to send a donation, and the link for that will look like this.

And I'm also going to tell you about a benefit performance on Wednesday Nov. 15 at the Neo-Futurarium with a link to more info like this.

But first let me say something about catastrophes. When we experience them from a distance, via the news, they are quite well contained, with a starting date and an ending date. The fatalities are counted, the damages tallied, and we move on.

Catastrophes when lived, however, are anything but contained. They spill into every detail of one's life, large and small. Here in Puerto Rico, some 40 days after Maria struck, water, food, school, work, electricity, communication, health care, and income are among the many things that cannot be counted on from day to day. Basic matters of survival dominate. Life has become uncertain. The damages cannot be tallied because they continue to accrue. The dead cannot be tallied, because people continue to die. And to move on, to declare it over? That is a fantasy that few here allow themselves to indulge in.

Over the past few years, Theater Oobleck has had the privilege of working with a large and varied group of Puertorrican artists, producers, and crew on the Spanish-language Baudelaire in a Box shows Noche Deliciosa and El Rey de la Lluvia, and on 2015's SOS: A Summer Clown Cruise, all of which have been performed in both Chicago and San Juan. We are now asking you to support our colleagues as they continue to figure out how to live through this catastrophe. All of them have have been affected and are being affected right now, every day, in new and impossible ways. They have had to remake their lives around the question of survival, and the lives of their families, and the lives of their friends, and the lives of everyone they meet.

On Wednesday Nov. 15, Oobleck will stage an Apocalypse Cabaret at the Neo-Futurarium, 5153 N. Ashland. The show features performances by Rey Andújar, Jean Carlos Claudio, Barrie Cole, David Isaacson, David Kodeski, Diana Slickman, and Edward Thomas-Herrera. The band 80 Foots will play some songs. We'll present a new short puppet play by Mickle Maher, Behold, Where Stands the Usurper's Curséd Head, featuring Samuel Taylor. And the whole thing is emceed by Martha Bayne.

Doors open at 6:30 for Soup & Bread dinner. The show starts at 7:00.

Tickets are here. For advance tickets, you name your price: anywhere from $10-$50. All money raised goes directly to help Oobleck's friends in Puerto Rico.

If you can't make the show, you can still make a tax-deductible donation to the fund here.

Thank you,
Dave Buchen
San Juan

posted 11/10/2017

Community Mural Painting Day for Memory Palace 10/7

Community Mural Painting Day

Saturday October 7, 11 am-3 pm
Silent Funny, 4106 W. Chicago Ave.


Come paint your neighborhood with us — the things that scare you and the things that keep you safe.

Final mural will be presented as part of A Memory Palace of Fear, a haunted house and art installation opening October 19 at Silent Funny.

posted 10/06/2017

Memory Palace of Fear trailer

AMPOF from catjab on Vimeo.

posted 10/06/2017

The Casket has Closed

A huge THANK YOU to all the dedicated artists, performers, composers, volunteers, donors, and audience members who made Closed Casket an unbelievable… we’ll leave it right there. An Unbelievable!

It exceeded even our foolhardy dreams for it. We even found our way onto a segment on NPR’s All Things Considered!

We’ve turned our last crank. The scrolls of artwork have been cut into sections and given to our collaborators and supporters. But the project lives on in photos and videos (stay tuned for updates), as well as studio albums and EPs of music from the series, with more on the way:

We also have some leftover merch from the show—artwork, mugs, totes— for sale here.

posted 08/08/2017

Half-day Closed Casket tickets available

Breaking News: Half-day ticketing options are now available for the Saturday, August 5, mega-performance: Afternoon (w/ lunch) & Evening (w/ dinner). That’s right: delicious food is INCLUDED. Click for tix.

posted 07/24/2017

Music, Poetry and Art from Baudelaire in A Box July 13

Thursday July 13 at 6:30pm
Seminary Co-Op Bookstore
5751 S Woodlawn Ave. Chicago IL

Chris Schoen and Emmy Bean preview musical selections from Theater Oobleck’s upcoming Closed Casket: The Complete, Final and Absolutely Last Baudelaire In A Box, a project setting all of Charles Baudelaire’s Les Fleurs du mal to music and performing it in tandem with scrolling illustrations. Following a brief presentation, the performers will be joined in discussion by Ira S. Murfin, on the experience of adapting, commenting on and annotating Baudelaire’s 150 year-old work through music, translation, and visual media.

posted 07/08/2017

Snail Band Baudelaire benefit July 12

Wednesday July 12 at 7pm
Weegee’s Lounge
3659 W. Armitage, Chicago IL

Suggested donation at the door, $20 (includes one free drink)
Raffle tickets $5
This performance is 21+

Slow down with Theater Oobleck and Snail Band, together at Weegee’s Lounge for one night only!

The show is a benefit for Theater Oobleck’s upcoming CLOSED CASKET: THE COMPLETE, FINAL, AND ABSOLUTELY LAST BAUDELAIRE IN A BOX — a festival of music and poetry August 4, 5, and 6 at Constellation in which all members of Snail Band are participating.

At this very special air-conditioned performance, the band will perform a few songs from Baudelaire in a Box as well as other slow and gentle songs, and we will raffle off TWO FESTIVAL PASSES — each an $85 value. Plus a preview of some Baudelaire merch, conviviality, and more. Our travel expenses for Closed Casket went well over budget so any additional monies will go to offset these unexpected costs.

Snail Band came into being in May of 2016 as part of Opera-Matic’s Joyful Passage: A Serenade to Humboldt Park, singing serenades of snails and slowness to a very secretive snail sculpture near the Humboldt Park Lagoon, with lovely lyrics by Cin Salach set to music by Ronnie Kuller as leisurely waltzes and unhurried tangos. Since then, Snail Band has slowed down various other Opera-Matic events in neighborhood parks, singing snail songs and performing instant odes generated by community event participants. Weegee’s Lounge is Snail Band’s first indoor venue, which is fitting, as snails are extremely photogenic and also very good at lounging.

Snail Band is Emmy Bean (Eighty Foots) on singing, Ronnie Kuller (Mucca Pazza, Mister Tom Musick) on accordion, piano, and singing, Julie Pomerleau (Bobby Conn) on violin and singing, and Joey Spilberg (Lamajamal, Schtedoidish) on double bass.

posted 07/08/2017

Official Video for "The Drag"

We sometimes talk about crankies being a kind of low-tech proto music video. And that’s true! But sadly you can’t share them very easily on social media. So, please to enjoy this newfangled Official Music Video from our latest Baudelaire In Box album, Unquenched, available now at our Bandcamp site!

The Drag (Official Music Video)

From Unquenched: Music From Baudelaire In A Box Episode 9
Available at:

“The Drag” was composed by Ronnie Kuller, setting Mickle Maher’s translation of “L’avertisseur,” by Charles Baudelaire.

Videography by Cat Jarboe.

Snake images used with kind permission of Joseph Farah. See more of his beautiful reptile and amphibian photos at:

posted 05/16/2017

Original Baudelaire artwork available to donors

One of several gorgeous scroll segments you can claim as a reward at the $200 level (first-come/first-served).

See more pieces available at the $100, $200, and $400 donation levels.

Visit the kickstarter for Closed Casket here.

posted 04/22/2017

Help us fund Closed Casket

To celebrate the 150th anniversary of the death of the great poet Charles Baudelaire, Oobleck is bringing 50 performers, composers, & musicians together from all over the world for a gigantic festival of song & image. But we need your help!

KICKSTARTER for CLOSED CASKET: The Complete, Final And Absolutely Last Baudelaire In A Box

posted 04/21/2017

Ingenious, eccentric, and quietly devastating

Writing for the Chicago Reader, Tony Adler says “Jim Lehrer and the Theater …” is “hilarious” AND “terrifying,” that Colm O’Reilly and Brian Shaw are “two extraordinary actors,” and that Mickle Maher “is as good a playwright as any working in America today.”

Read the full review here: What Does Chicago Playright Mickle Maher Got Against Jim Lehrer?

Meanwhile, at New City, Alex Hunstberger says the play is “an odd, hilarious, and ominous tumble down the rabbit hole.”

Read his review here: Double Double Jims In Trouble

posted 01/27/2017

More on A Memory Palace of Fear

It starts with a table of keys, two dead flowers and a rubber rat.

A few meters behind, there’s a cardboard door to a cardboard house. Crumpled butcher paper strung high to the empty warehouse ceiling simulate fog and fire, while a smoke machine pumps an acrid version of the former.

A moment later, the door opens and the real estate agent comes out, and now comes the moment I tell you this isn’t your typical haunted house.

This isn’t your typical haunted house. …

Read more of Paul Dailing’s writeup from the dress rehearsal of A Memory Palace of Fear here, at 1001 Chicago Afternoons.

And Alexandria Johnson follows up her preview for the Social Justice News Nexus with this in-depth report from inside the halls of horror.

posted 11/22/2016

Back in the Box

Thanks to everyone who came out to see our 9th installment of Baudelaire In A Box at Links Hall, and to the extension at Stage 773. The cranky scroll is now packed away in storage, awaiting its brief swan song next summer as part of our grand finale extravaganza. The music still reverberates in our ears—look for a digital release of the songs from Unquenched in the coming year. Meanwhile, we are curating a Vimeo channel of videos from the show, as well as past episodes. Check it out!

posted 11/13/2016