Co-created by Thom Pasculli, the Walkabout and Red Tape ensembles, Emma Stanton, Morgan McNaught, Lucas Baisch, and Lucia Thomas.

Inspired by The Trojan Women, The Cherry Orchard, and the crumbling of the American Dream.  Additional text from Charles Mee, Ellen McLaughlin, Anton Chekhov, and Euripides.


We are here.  The sacked city of Troy 3,000 years ago;  the Ranyevskaya estate around 1904;  the city of Chicago now; and sometime after the fire.  


Hecuba Ruth Margraff**
Hecuba Anita Darwish
Hecuba Lucía Mier y Terán Romero
Andromache McCambridge Dowd-Whipple*
Polyxena/Dido Emma Ladji**
Cassandra/Varya Stephanie Shum**
Helen/Anya Katie Mazzini*
Lyubov Kelsey Shipley**
Terry Cooper Forsman*
Jax Nigel Brown*
Lopakhin/Duke Johnard Washington**
Aeneus/Trofimov Alex Rodriguez*
Musician Lucia Thomas
Musician Oya Dubey
Understudy Kelly Nesheim*



Director Thom Pasculli*
Assistant Director Dani Wieder
Contributing Writers Emma Stanton*, Morgan McNaught, Lucas Baisch
Composer / Writer Lucia Thomas
Stage Manager Dina Klahn*
Assistant Stage Manager Julia Santha
Producer Kyle Land**
Production Manager Deirdre Connelly
Scenic Design Stephanie Pasculli
Costume Design Phia Sherry
Lighting Design Michael Banks
Sound Design Steve Labedz**
Props Design Lacie Hexom
Projections Design Chris Owens
Technical Director Harrison Ornelas
Dramaturg Casey Wright**
Movement Collaborator Carrie Drapac**
Artistic Directors Max Truax** /Thom Pasculli*
Managing Directors Anthony Guerrero**/ Erica Kast*
Marketing Casey Chapmen**/Dana Murphy */Alex Rodriguez*

*denotes Walkabout Company Member

**denotes Red Tape Company Member

Special Thanks

Charles Mee, Ellen McLaughlin, Fides Krucker, Eve Rydberg, David Rosenberg, Austin Oie, Bridget Schultz, Heidi Coleman, Michael Brown, Tina Landau, Mario Biagini, Links Hall, Steppenwolf Theatre, The Goodman, Pride Arts Center, Double Edge Theatre, Sarah and Ash, Auriel Jones, Ellen Wiese, Sam Cass, Owen Rodriguez, The Richard H. Driehaus and Donnelley Foundations, DCASE and the City of Chicago.


Mother of Smoke is a co-created/devised work that draws from existing plays, original music and writing, and actor-generated material.  The company began with the juxtaposition of The Trojan Women and The Cherry Orchard as a way to investigate questions of violence, privilege, patriarchy, and cultivating new space for expressions of grief and remembrances.  The threat of losing one’s home became a common thread in the chosen works and as a way to sort through the cacophony of violence in our world today.  Exploring the destruction of a city, the crumbling of the American Dream, and the personal loss of a family estate established the framework from which to select text and music, generate new material, and dance with personal questions around these issues.  The company pulled from traditional Chicago storefront techniques and tropes while creating a collage of stories that resembles something of the jumble of information and emotional displacement present around us.  Driven by music, movement, and the cultivation of desire, the work and its devising process were shaped by the director Thom Pasculli through constant negotiation and creative revolt with the team of performers, writers, designers and musicians.   

A co-production between Red Tape Theatre and Walkabout Theatre Company in special collaboration with Lucia Thomas of the Chicago Folklore Ensemble, Mother of Smoke has been an exchange of ensemble practice, production models, and performance development.  For more insight on process check out the Into the Fire blog:



Nigel Brown (Jax) is a Walkabout Theater ensemble member. After moving to Chicago in 2010, he became a frequent collaborator with Redmoon Theater, where he met many of his current collaborators and friends, and has worked with companies such as Strawdog, A Red Orchid, and Trap Door Theater. Notable roles include a feisty Abraham Lincoln and a newly-born manta ray, the two of which encapsulate every character he has, and will ever, perform.

Anita Darwish (Hecuba) is happy to be able to combine all her true loves in this production: music, theatre, and dance. She has most recently had the pleasure of choreographing for Up and Coming Theatre (American Idiot “Extraordinary Girl”) and Greenman Theatre (Arabian Nights) as well as having been the Musical Director for Quest Theatre Ensemble’s Blue Nativity tour. She performs weekly at Alhambra Palace in Chicago.  Thanks, Thom and Lucia!  

McCambridge Dowd-Whipple (Andromache) is a proud company member with Walkabout Theater, where she created and performed in The Wild, Storm (collaboration with Moonfool), The Cure, Beach Party at the End of the World, and The Tall Girl and the Lightening Parade. In the past she’s worked as an actor with Redmoon, Od Theatre, and The Bloomsburg Theater Ensemble. She received her BA in Theatre from Bard College.

Oya Dubey (Percussionist) performs with the Middle East Music Ensemble under Wanees Zarour  at the University of Chicago since 2013 and performed on Fox 32 with musicians from the Ensemble. Guest musician for Aysenur Kolivar at Old Town School of Folk Music. Percussionist for The Egyptic Jazz Quartet led by Suzanne Osman, board member at the Fine Arts Music Performance and Scholarship.  Oya specializes in the Darbuka, Tupan, Djembe, Cajon and Frame Drum.

Cooper Forsman (Terry) is a physical performer, musician and designer based in Chicago.  He has performed in productions with several local companies including Trap Door, Steppenwolf, and Redmoon, and is a founding member of the Walkabout Theater laboratory ensemble.  He holds a BFA in Theater Performance from VCU and has also trained with Dah Teatar in Belgrade, Serbia.  Additionally, Cooper is the recipient of two Jeff Award nominations for Sound Design and has generated designs and sound art for theater companies including Walkabout, Eclipse Theatre, and the Neo-Futurists.

Emma Ladji (Polyxena/Dido) has worked with several theater companies in Chicago including Red Theater, Goodman Theater, Chicago Shakespeare Theater and Red Tape Theater, where she is an ensemble member. She was a founding member of the live art collective ROOM|916, who created performances for the Chicago Home Theater Festival and the New Now festival in Amsterdam. Emma is currently touring with Chicago Shakespeare Theater to high schools in the Chicagoland area as Juliet in their production of Romeo and Juliet. She will be collaborating with multimedia artist Maxime Chudeau at Links Hall this summer as part of their summer intensive residency program.

Ruth Margraff (Hecuba) is a playwright, librettist, musician and performer as well as a recipient of four Rockefeller Foundation commissions, a McKnight national commission and residency with the Playwrights’ Center, a Fulbright New Opera Award to Greece, and two NYSCA Individual Artist awards. Her work has been developed and produced throughout New York City and the U.S., as well as in Russia, Japan, India, Canada, and Europe. Ms. Margraff is an alumnae of New Dramatists and a member of Hourglass Group, Theatre Without Borders, and League of Professional Theater Women, and represented by Susan Schulman. She’s an Associate Professor of the Master of Fine Arts program in Writing at the School of the Art Institute in Chicago.

Katie Mazzini (Helen/Anya) graduated from Ball State University in 2012 with a BFA in Musical Theatre. Previous projects include: Three Sisters (Steppenwolf), Singin’ in the Rain (Drury Lane), EL Stories (Waltzing Mechanics), and Erica Mott Production’s 3 Singers (which premiered in Krakow, Poland in 2014). She’s been working with Walkabout as an ensemble member since 2013.

Lucía Mier y Terán Romero (Hecuba) was born and raised in Mexico City, and she holds an undergraduate degree in music (voice) from UNAM (National Autonomous University of Mexico) and an MA in Interdisciplinary Arts from Columbia College Chicago. In Chicago she has performed with Theater Unspeakable, The Newberry Consort, The Chicago Dance Theater Ensemble and Walkabout Theater. She is very excited to collaborate again with Walkabout, one of the theater companies that has made her love Chicago. Traveling, teaching Spanish, clowning, physical theater, early and baroque music, photography, global warming, conscious consumerism and food waste are some of the things that keep her awake at night.

Kelly Nesheim (Understudy) is thrilled to be taking on all of the roles as the sole understudy for Mother of Smoke. She is a new member with Walkabout having worked with the company since 2013, most recently as a performer/puppet designer for Tall Girl and the Lightning Parade. You can find her clowning/making theater for Od Theatre’s MixTape, Kasey Foster’s Dance Tribute, Heels Over Head, and Rough House’s Nasty Brutish & Short Puppet Cabaret.

Alex Rodriguez (Aeneas/Trofimov) is a Walkabout ensemble member, graphic designer, and Marketing Manager. Past Walkabout performances include Beach Party at The End of The World, STORM, Summer Wild, and Tall Girl and The Lightning Parade. He is a graduate from The University of Illinois at Chicago where he received his BFA in Acting.

Kelsey Shipley (Liubov Andreyevna) is an actor, model, and visual artist from Chattanooga, TN. She serves as the grant writer for Red Tape Theatre, Executive Director of Forks & Hope Troupe, and she is an artistic associate at Trap Door Theatre. She is honored to have worked with a plethora of Chicago Storefronts, to share the stage with the extraordinary Walkabout ensemble, and she is represented by Shirley Hamilton Talent.

Stephanie Shum (Cassandra/Varya) is an Ensemble Member with Red Tape where she last appeared in Mnemonic. Other credits include Men on Boats (American Theater Company), Merge, Kin Folk, reWILDing Genius, Kate and Sam Are Not Breaking Up (The New Colony where she is also an Ensemble Member and the Managing Director), The Realization of Emily Linder (Redtwist), Circle-Machine (Oracle), Alice (Nothing Without a Company) and understudying at Victory Gardens and Silk Road Rising. Stephanie is a graduate of the School at Steppenwolf and is represented by Actors Talent Group. Up next: Seminar with Spartan Theatre.

Lucia Thomas (Composer/Musician) is a violinist/multi-instrumentalist/writer/organizer, who grew up skipping between Irish pub sessions and orchestra halls. After classical music school, she narrowly escaped a life of symphonic martyrdom by hopping atop a bicycle bound for the land of blood and honey—the Balkans! Ever since she has been playing with traditional musicians from all over the world. She is artistic director of the Chicago Folklore Ensemble, which celebrates immigrant culture by interweaving oral history and world music.

Johnard Washington (Lopakhin/Duke) is a proud member of Red Tape Theatre and has most recently been seen in their productions of A Hedda Gabler. Other credits: Elephant’s Graveyard, The Skriker, and Lear. He performed with Akvavit Theatre’s Hand in Hand. Johnard also has worked very closely with Oracle Productions on two Jeff nominated productions: This House Believes the American Dream is at the Expense of the American Negro and The Hairy Ape. Johnard has also worked with Steppenwolf Theatre, Red Theatre Chicago, First Floor Theatre, Goodman Theatre, Northlight Theatre, and Od Theatre. Upcoming this summer, he has a remount of At the Table with Broken Nose Theatre.

Creative Team

Lucas Baisch (Writer) is currently working on commissions as a member of the Goodman Theatre’s 2016-17 Playwrights Unit and with Adventure Stage Chicago. His writing’s been developed at Chicago Dramatists, InFusion Theatre Company, Victory Gardens Theater, Gloucester Stage, The Neo-Futurists, etc. Productions: The Scavengers (Depaul University), A Measure of Normalcy (Gloucester Stage Company), Zipped & Pelted (Chicago Fringe). This May, he’ll be an artist-in-residence at Elsewhere Museum in Greensboro, NC. Education: BFA Playwriting, DePaul University.

Deirdre Connelly (Production Manager)is delighted to be working with Red Tape for the first time. Recent projects include No Matter How Hard We Try (Trap Door), No Beast So Fierce (Oracle), and The Jungle (Oracle). Deirdre has a Bachelor’s in Technical Theater and Art History from Brandeis University.

Carrie Drapac (Movement Collaborator) is a mover-shaker-performancemaker and proud Red Tape Company member since 2010. Outside of Red Tape, she has performed with Oracle Productions, LInkUP Residents Precious Jennings and Karen Yates, White Elephant Productions, The Ruckus, Tympanic Theatre, RhinoFest, and Chicago Dance Shelter among others. Carrie’s current independent work explores the intersection of performance art, healing arts, and the collective un/conscious.

Lacie Hexom (Props Designer) made her Chicago designer debut with Jackalope’s recent production Octagon.   Other regional theatre credits include: Goodman, Steppenwolf, Chicago Shakespeare, Zach Theatre, Cleveland Playhouse, Glimmerglass Opera, Dallas Theater Center, Santa Fe Opera, Arizona Theatre Company.  Lacie received her MFA in Properties Design from California Institute of the Arts.  Lacie has been fortunate to have lived and worked all throughout the country, but enjoys calling the Midwest home and close to family again.

Dina Klahn (Stage Manager) a graduate of the UIC theatre program with a BA in directing and design she is a proud ensemble member of Walkabout Theater. Her recent stage management credits include Beach Party at the End of the World, The WILD, Cure, Tall Girl & The Lightning Parade (Walkabout), Aesop’s Fables (Raven Theatre), RIDE (Under The Rug),  The 4th Graders Present an Unnamed Love Suicide, Snack Break (The Yard), STORM (Moonfool), Partners (LiveWire); The Little Dog Laughed, Unbroken, and WILD (Kid Brooklyn Productions).

Steve Labedz (Sound Design) is a composer and sound designer in and around Chicago. He is a proud company member with Red Tape and is excited to work with Walkabout for the first time. In his free time, Steve does projection design and DJs for Celine Neon, because he does not know what free time means.

Chris Owens (Projection Design) hails from the great state of Nebraska, where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in the Arts of Theatre, Journalism, and Media from Doane College. Since then, Chris has interned at Actors Theatre of Louisville, New York Stage and Film, assistant directed at Woolly Mammoth Theatre, and toured internationally as a video technician with Pilobolus Dance Theater. Chris currently resides in Chicago where he works as a freelance director, video designer, and stage technician.

Stephanie Pasculli (Set Design) is a proud contributor to the conversation that is Mother of Smoke, and has been creating theatrical things for 28 years. Whether it’s puppetry for Cirque Du Soleil, parade floats for Disney Tokyo, Las Vegas casino holiday trimmings, tree houses in Massachusetts or her son Leonardo, she enjoys the people and the processes involved with creating new worlds

Thom Pasculli (Director) is the artistic director of Walkabout Theater, a performer, director, and teaching artist.  Recent directing credits include Walkabout’s international touring performance, The Wild, as well as its outdoor spectacles Tall Girl and the Lightning Parade and Beach Party at the End of the World.  Other Chicago directing credits include Core of the PUDEL at Trap Door Theatre and Circle-Machine at Oracle Productions. Thom has performed at the Lincoln Center, the Kennedy Center, Double Edge Theatre, the Hilton Arts Festival in South Africa and the Moscow Art School. Thom teaches acting and/or movement at the University of Illinois at Chicago, University of Chicago, Columbia College, and DePaul University, and he is a teaching artist for Steppenwolf Theatre.

Morgan McNaught (Writer) is an actor/ writer/ storyteller from Ohio via Eugene. They have worked with the folks at the Steppenwolf Garage, The Goodman, Chicago Dramatists, Victory Gardens, The Hypocrites, Pavement Group, About Face, Art Aids America Chicago, The New Colony, The Guild Literary Complex, Red Tape Theater and The Actors Theatre Columbus, Story Club, You’re Being Ridiculous, Salonathon and First Floor Theater.  Morgan is a founding member of Swarm Artist Residency as well as a new play developer at The New Colony

Julia Santha (Assistant Stage Manager) is thrilled to be working on her first collaboration with Walkabout Theater and Red Tape Theatre. Julia is a young director in Chicago and graduated from the University of Chicago in 2016. She has also assistant directed at Trap Door Theatre, Theatre Y, and Lifeline Theatre.

Phia Sherry (Costume Design) was born in sunny Richmond, Va., currently has her studio in the frozen industrial tundra of Chicagoland. She is a graduate of SAIC, where she pursued art history and photography, after studying historical costume abroad in Lugano, Switzerland.She has always been a maker of things, and what began for her as a childhood penchant for deconstructing vintage clothing has become a fully-fledged obsession with millinery, traditional weaving, hand embroidery, and historical costume.

Emma Stanton (Writer) is a Chicago and New York playwright. Her work has been developed and produced by Roundabout Theatre Company, Victory Gardens Theater, Goodman Theatre, American Theater Company, Walkabout Theater, Red Tape Theatre, Oracle Theatre, Dixon Place, Chicago Dramatists, New Dramatists, the 2016 ATHE Conference, and the 2017 Great Plains Theater Conference. Recently, Emma was a Finalist for the 2016 Susan Glaspell Award, a winner of the Columbia University/Roundabout Theater Underground Reading Series, the recipient of the 2016 Jane Chambers Feminist Playwriting Award, a Finalist for the 2017 National Playwrights Conference, and the recipient of the 2016 Princess Grace Award Playwriting Fellowship, which includes a year-long residency at New Dramatists in New York. Emma is currently developing her play, June in the Parade, at the Goodman Theater, where she is a member of the 2016-2017 Playwrights Unit. BA: Boston College; MFA: Columbia University

Max Truax  (Artistic Director of Red Tape Theatre) previously directed the Red Tape productions of A HEDDA GABLER and BRAND.  Max is a Resident Director at Trap Door Theatre, where he directed NO MATTER HOW HARD WE TRY, THE BALCONY, THEY ARE DYING OUT, HAMLETMACHINE, A COUPLE OF POOR POLISH-SPEAKING ROMANIANS, and NO DARKNESS ROUND MY STONE. He served as Artistic Director of Oracle Productions from 2011 until 2016, where he directed NO BEAST SO FIERCE, THE PRESIDENT, THE MOTHER, THE SANDMAN, WOYZECK, THE GHOST SONATA and TERMEN VOX MACHINA. His production of THE MOTHER received several Jeff Awards, including awards for Best Production and Best Ensemble. Max studied visual art and choreography at Oberlin College, and he received his MFA in Theatre Directing from California Institute of the Arts.

Dani Wieder (Assistant Director) is a director and dramaturg focusing on physical theater and adaptation. She has assistant directed shows at American Theatre Company (Men on Boats) and Court Theatre (The Secret Garden), and is currently working on Hookman at Steep Theatre. She is the Literary Intern at the Goodman Theatre. She has worked with The Inconvenience, The House Theatre, Pivot Arts, and Center Theatre Group, among others. She is a graduate of the University of Chicago.

Casey Wright (Dramaturg) Born and raised in Oologah, Oklahoma, he has experience in just about every facet of the theatre, and has worked as dramaturg in Chicago, Oklahoma City, and New York.  Casey also serves as Red Tape’s literary manager, and is beyond excited to be a part of this collaboration with Walkabout.  He received his MA in Dramaturgy and Dramatic Literature from the University of Oklahoma.