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SOCIAL MEDIA: @SoloChiTheatre | #TheUnfortunatesCHI |



(Chicago, IL) Following its highly acclaimed inaugural production of Churchill, which played in Chicago, New York City and continues to play in several places around the country, SoloChicago Theatre is pleased to announce its second production – The Unfortunates by Australian playwright Aoise Stratford. SoloChicago Artistic Director Kurt Johns will direct the piece about survival, tabloid celebrity, violence and friendship which begins performances June 17 at Theater Wit.

Based on a true story The Unfortunates, set in Victorian London, follows Mary-Jane Kelly, a down on her luck “unfortunate.” One night she encounters a stranger alone in her local tavern. Will this mysterious gentleman buy her safety for the night or turn out to be Jack the Ripper? The New York Times called it “haunting…engrossing” and TimeOut New York gave it 4 stars and said” it achieves a rare combination of pathos and humor, breathing fresh life into women we might have otherwise think of only as long-dead prey.”

From the moment I read the play I knew it was something special and that I’d never seen anything like it onstage,” said Artistic Director Kurt Johns. “I was drawn to the possibility that by spending an evening with Mary Jane Kelly, we could give these marginalized and often dismissed “victims” a voice.”

The Unfortunates is a tour-de-force for talented Chicago actress Gail Rastorfer. In addition to playing Mary, Rastorfer plays a dozen other characters in this intimate one act, one-person production.

Aoise Stratford’s (Playwright) work has had more than 100 productions around the country and overseas in Canada, Europe, England, Scotland, Australia and The Philippines. She is the recipient of several awards for her plays Somewhere in Between (Pinter Review Prize for Drama Silver Medal, Yukon Pacific Playwright Award), and The Unfortunates (Susan Glaspell Award, Gloria Anne Peter Award). Her short plays have also won her ‘best playwright’ awards at been produced at Lookingglass Theatre, City Theatre, Lakeshore Players, Stage Door, The American Globe, Manhattan Theatre Source, The Kitchen Theatre Company, The Exit Theater and many others. She has been a finalist for the Actors’ Theatre of Louisville’s Heideman Award and been nominated for an American Theatre Critics’ Association New Play/Steinberg Award. The Unfortunates was a TimeOut NY Critics Pick for the 2013 New York International Fringe Festival and selected as one of the best solo shows of the fringe as well as one of the ten shows not to miss by Backstage. She is a member of the Dramatists Guild and is represented by Beacon Artists Agency NY. Her work has been published by Dramatists Play Service, Smith and Kraus, JAC Press, United Stages and others. She is currently teaching playwriting at Cornell University and working on a new play about vampires.

Kurt Johns (Director) is the Artistic Director of SoloChicago Theatre Company. He directed the World Premiere of SoloChicago’s inaugural production of Churchill at the Greenhouse Theatre Center and at New World Stages in New York City. He worked with theatre majors on contemporary musical theatre literature at Chicago College of Performing Arts where he directed the Midwest premiere of Lysistrata Jones. Kurt directed Apple Tree Theatre’s multi-award nominated transfer production of The Mistress Cycle at the Auditorium Theatre. Also at Apple Tree, Kurt directed Pen, Iron, The Tale of The Allergist’s Wife and Vincent in Brixton for which he received an After Dark Award. He also directed Iolanthe and Berlin to Broadway at Light Opera Works. Before turning to directing Kurt was an actor and performed in several Broadway productions including Chess and Aspects of Love. In Chicago he performed numerous times at the Marriott Lincolnshire Theatre, The Goodman Theatre as well as Drury Lane Theatre and Apple Three.

Gail Rastorfer (Mary Jane Kelly) has made Chicago her artistic home for the last 20 years where is has worked with The Chicago Shakespeare Theatre, The Goodman Theatre, The Chicago Theatre, American Blues Theatre, Theatre at the Center, and First Folio Theatre among others. She’s been honored to bring new plays to life such as Hickorydickory (Chicago Dramatists) and The Gamester (Northlight).  Regional credits include The Heidi Chronicles, The Game’s Afoot and You Can’t It with You (Asolo Repertory Theatre), Ten Chimneys and In the Next Room: or the vibrator play (Cleveland Playhouse), As You Like It (Indiana Repertory Theater), and Mauritius (Madison Repertory). This past fall she worked with director Peter Amster on The Mousetrap (The Maltz Jupiter Theatre). Her television credits include Chicago Fire, Crisis, Boss, Chicago Code and a wide range of national commercials selling everything from insurance to vacuums. She serves on the Chicago board of SAG-AFTRA and is a proud member of AEA.

The creative team for The Unfortunates includes: Kurt Johns (Director); Jenniffer Thusing (Set Coordinator and Stage Manager); Alice Broughton (Costume Design); Paul Deziel (Projection Design); Eric Backus (Sound Design/Composer); Lynn Nelson Donovan (Properties); Jason Shivers (Production Manager).

The Unfortunates runs at Theater Wit, 1229 W Belmont, Chicago from June 17 – July 10 (Opening Night is June 20). Tickets (starting at $38 and subject to change) can be purchased online at or by phone at 773-975-8150 starting Friday, April 15.

::Fact Sheet::

The Unfortunates

June 17 – July 10, 2016 at Theater Wit

By Aoise Stratford; Directed by Kurt Johns


Tickets: or by phone at 773-975-8150.

Hours: Wednesday Noon – 6pm; Thursday-Saturday Noon to 8pm; Sunday Noon to 4pm.

Student Discounts: $15 tickets for full-time students of any age at accredited institutions with current, valid student ID. ID required for ticket pick-up. Limit 1 ticket per ID.

Industry Nights: Select tickets available for $20 for Thursday night performances. Must show Headshot, resume, business card, or show postcard at ticket pick-up. Limit 1 ticket per order.

The Unfortunates Public Performance Calendar

Artists, dates and ticket prices are subject to change


About SoloChicago Theatre

The mission of SoloChicago Theatre is to develop, encourage, and produce solo theatrical work worthy of national recognition.  A little over a year ago, SoloChicago’s inaugural production, Churchill, was created and performed by founder Ronald Keaton. Churchill, under the direction of Artistic Director Kurt Johns, played the Greenhouse Theatre Center for 12 weeks after multiple extensions and sold-out houses. After artistic and commercial triumph in Chicago, Churchill opened a successful run Off-Broadway at the Shubert-Owned New World Stages. The original limited run was quickly extended an additional 16 weeks. After garnering favorable reviews, and attention from publishers, licensing groups and touring agencies, Churchill came back to the Greenhouse for a return engagement in Chicago. Now SoloChicago is turning to the future and looking forward to bringing Chicago thrilling one of a kind solo-performances.

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