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The Theatre School at DePaul presents ‘The Day John Henry Came to School’

Chicago Playworks for Families and Young Audiences production

The Day John Henry Came to School
The Theatre School at DePaul University will present Eric Pfeffinger's “The Day John Henry Came to School” in the Merle Reskin Theatre. The production opens April 7 and runs through May 16. (The Theatre School Image)
CHICAGO — The Theatre School at DePaul University will present “The Day John Henry Came to School” by Eric Pfeffinger, directed by Ernie Nolan, as the final production of the 2014-15 Chicago Playworks for Families and Young Audiences season. This production opens April 7 and runs through May 16 at DePaul’s historic Merle Reskin Theatre, 60 E. Balbo Drive, Chicago.

Performances are Tuesdays and Thursdays at 10 a.m. and Saturdays at 2 p.m. Special Friday performances will be held April 24 and May 1 at 10 a.m. A Sunday performance will be held April 12 at 2 p.m.

About the play: John Henry loves technology, but doesn’t love doing his homework. If buttons and gadgets are not involved, he’s not interested. When his teacher, Mr. Gellert, is replaced by a mega-computer, Johnny couldn’t be happier. Then his steel-driving great-great-grandfather arrives for show-and-tell, and Johnny must take on the challenge of his life. This contemporary tale focuses on the value of hard work and the strength of the human spirit.

Recommended for ages 8 and older, themes include: ancestry; confidence; diligence; folklore and tall tales; motivation; technology and humanity.

Information about pre- and post-show educational activities and highlighted curriculum connections is online at​. Free Teacher Guides also are available online or by calling the box office at 312-922-1999.

The May 1 and May 2 performances will be interpreted in American Sign Language. Call TTY: 773-325-7975.

April 18 is USO of Illinois Day, when U.S. Armed Forces personnel and their families, with a valid military ID, can attend the performance for free. Visit​ to reserve tickets, or call 312-922-1999 for more information.

Join the cast for a post-performance autograph session April 18. The April 30 and May 9 performances will be followed by a post-show discussion. Visit the website or call the box office for additional details.

Tickets are $10. Subscriptions and group rates (15 or more people) are available. DePaul employees, alumni, and college students receive a discount (with ID). Tickets are available online or by calling the box office at 312-922-1999.

The cast features Maddie Baird, (chorus), Trevor Bates (chorus), Michael Buono (chorus), Aida Delaz (chorus), Tyler Esselman (Mr. Gellert), Maya Malan-Gonzales (Jeanie), Denzel Irby (Johnny Henry), Christopher Jones (John Henry), Juwan Lockett (chorus), Asia Martin (chorus) and Jessica Maynard (Ms. Huntington).

The production staff includes Ernie Nolan (director), Elyse Balogh (scenic designer), Meg Burke (costume designer), Daniel Friedman (lighting designer), Morgan Lake (sound designer), Gen Zoufal (dramaturg) and Mario E. Wolfe (stage manager).

About the director: Ernie Nolan is dedicated to reimagining stories for young audiences. As producing artistic director of Emerald City Theatre in Chicago, he created the ECT Playground, a process to develop new Theatre for Young Audiences (TYA) works. His various Emerald City directing credits include “Pinkalicious” (Broadway in Chicago transfer), “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” “The Wizard of Oz,” “Seussical,” “Jungle Book,” “James and the Giant Peach,” “The True Story of the Three Little Pigs” and “A Nutty Nutcracker Christmas.” A resident artist of The Coterie Theatre in Kansas City, Missouri, he also has directed and choreographed world premieres by such Tony-nominated artists as Willy and Rob Reale, Stephen Schwartz, Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens, and Bill Russell and Henry Krieger.

For Chicago Playworks Nolan has directed “The BFG,” “The Giver,” “The Witches,” and “A Wrinkle in Time.” In March 2012, Nolan made his off-Broadway debut as a choreographer with “Lucky Duck” at the New Victory Theatre. His work as a TYA playwright has been featured both nationally and internationally. He has adapted and directed such storybook favorites as “If You Give a Cat a Cupcake,” “If You Take a Mouse to School” and “The Adventures of Doctor Dolittle.” His adaptation of Mo Willems’ “Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!” was invited to perform in Chicago’s Millennium Park. Nolan’s plays “A Fairy Tale Life,” “Snow White as Performed by TJ Barker and His Troupe of Theatricals” and “Beasts” are published and licensed by Dramatic Publishing.

Nolan serves on the Illinois Theatre Association and as the vice president of Theatre for Young Audiences USA.

The Theatre School at DePaul University educates, trains and inspires students of theatre in a conservatory setting that is rigorous, disciplined, culturally diverse, and that strives for the highest level of professional skill and artistry. A commitment to diversity and equality in education is central to our mission. As an integral part of the training, The Theatre School produces public programs and performances from a wide repertoire of classic, contemporary and original plays that challenge, entertain and stimulate the imagination. We seek to enhance the intellectual and cultural life of our university community, our city and the profession. Learn more at​.


Media Contact:
Andrea Tichy​
(773) 325-7819 ​