THe Creative Team


Book by Austin Winsberg

Music and Lyrics by Alan Zachary & Michael Weiner

Directed by J.R. Rose

Musical Direction by Elizabeth Doran

Choreography by Becky DeDecker


Production Stage Manager - JULIA ZAYAS-MELÉNDEZ*  

 Scenic Designer THAD HALLSTEIN 

Lighting Designer - BRANDON LEWIS  

Sound Designer -  DAVE HUIZENGA

 Costume Designer - RAQUEL ADORNO 

Video Designer - G. MAX MAXIN IV  

Props Master - LISA GRIEBEL 

Associate Director - JULIE ANN ROBINSON  

Assistant Choreographer - CHRISTOPHER PAZDERNIK  

Assistant Stage Manager - KRISTIN L. SCHOENBACK

Orchestrations - AUGUST ERIKSMOEN 

Vocal and Incidental Music Arrangements - DOMINICK AMENDUM 




Reeds/ Keyboard II - ADAM DEGROOT




Assistant General Manager - KEATON WOODEN

Production Manager - BELINA MIZRAHI

Production Intern - LAURA GOLDRING



Master Electrician - SIMON ROBINSON

Sound Engineer - MICHAEL DALY

Scenic Builders - F5D, INC.

Web Design/Maintenance - KEATON WOODEN, MIKE OLEON

Graphic Designer - NADINE HEIDINGER


J.R. ROSE - Director

J.R. Is the Artistic Director of Southland Area Theatre Ensemble (SLATE) and a theatre teacher and director at Homewood-Flossmoor High School.  J.R. has directed over 50 plays musicals in the Chicago area.  In 2006, he was honored at the Illinois State Board of Education Those Who Excel Awards as he was named the "Outstanding Early Career Educator" for the state of Illinois. He has been a guest speaker twice at ETA’s National Conference presenting on Leadership in Theatre and Non-Traditional Casting and Diversity in the Arts. J.R. has had the honor of directing twice internationally;  his production of Once on this Island was selected to perform at the prestigious Fringe Festival in Edinburgh, Scotland, and his production of Proof, was transferred for a run at the Stables Theatre in Hastings, England. In 2008 J.R. was the Executive Director for the Illinois High School Theatre Festival.  In 2013 he was selected to direct the All-State production of Memphis, the first production of the smash musical outside of Broadway and the tour. J.R.’s favorite directing experiences include, Ragtime, Titanic, The Last Days of Judas Iscariot, Assassins, Company, In the Heights, The Bomb-itty of Errors, Grey Gardens, Memphis, [title of show], Doubt, Circle Mirror Transformation, and The Dream of the Burning Boy.  Also, a playwright, J.R.'s play Lie With Me was recently produced in Los Angeles. While teaching and directing are his passion, J.R. moonlights as an actor every now and then.  He was recently seen as Carl Magnus in A Little Night Music,  The Pharaoh in Joseph, Reverend Shaw in Footloose, Gaston in Beauty and the Beast, Jud Fry in Oklahoma, David in Company and the feature film, Were the World Mine.



Elizabeth Doran is a Chicago-based music director. Credits include: Titanic (Griffin Theatre), Juno (Timeline Theatre), Kiss of the Spiderwoman (Boho Theatre), and The Gifts of the Magi (Porchlight Music Theatre). She has also assisted on The Jungle Book (Goodman Theatre and Huntington Theatre), A Catered Affair (Porchlight Music Theatre), Porgy and Bess (Court Theatre), A Grand Night for Singing (Mercury Theater), and Some Enchanted Evening (Theo Ubique/Fox Valley Rep). Proud graduate of Northwestern University. Love and thanks to the fam and John.



Becky is a 2009 theatre education graduate of Illinois State University. This is Becky’s first professional choreography credit; however, she has worked as a choreographer for various universities, companies, and high school’s around the state of Illinois. Among these shows, she was the choreographer for the 2013 Illinois All- State production of Memphis. In addition to dance, Becky works as a high school English teacher in the western suburbs. She would like to thank her husband, Keith, her family, and friends for their constant support, and the amazing First Date team for this incredible experience.


Julia is thrilled to be apart of First Date. Julia has had the honor of working with many theaters in Chicagoland, including Porchlight Music Theatre, Oak Park Festival Theatre, Route 66, Marriott Theatre, Drury Lane, Fox Valley Repertory, Apple Tree Theatre, About Face Theatre, Chicago Dramatists, Steppenwolf Theatre, Remy Bumppo Theatre Company, Rivendell Theatre Ensemble, Next Theatre, The Free Associates Theatre Company, Court Theatre, Madison Repertory Theatre, and Theater at the Center. A graduate of Emerson College in Boston, Julia began her stage management career in Massachusetts, with companies like Opera Boston, Boston Theatre Works,The Theatre Offensive, Commonwealth Shakespeare Company, SpeakEasy Stage, and Shakespeare & Company. She spent a season as the Production Stage Manager at Tri-State Actors Theater in Sussex County, NJ, and celebrated World Theatre Day2009 in Konya, Turkey with ShawChicago. Julia is a proud member of Actor’s Equity Association, the union of professional actors and stage managers, and also runs a small business with her wife – Crafty Broads, 

THAD HALLSTEIN (Scenic Designer)

Thad is the Resident Designer/Technical Director at The Theatre of Western Springs, where he is also on the faculty of the Children’s Theatre. He most recently designed The Cryptogram at Profiles Theatre, where he is an Artistic Associate. His set designs include The Snow Queen, Summer and Smoke, Dracula, In the Company of Men, A Behanding in Spokane, Saved, The Full Monty, Chess, Ragtime, and The Last Days of Judas Iscariot, at companies including Mary Arrchie Theatre, Metropolis Performing Arts Center, Homewood- Flossmoor and Bloomington High Schools, Brookhaven College in Dallas, TX, and the Laboratory Theatre in Madison, WI. 

BRANDON LEWIS- Lighting Designer

Brandon is thrilled to be working with such a great team of artists! Some of his theatre credits include design or tech direction at: Piccolo Theatre, First Folio Theatre, Porchlight, and C’est La Vie. His home base is at A.A. Stagg high school where he gets to work with the most incredible students every day. He would like to thank his perfect wife for her never-ending support and his beautiful baby girl Zoey for always giving him smiles.   

Dave Huizenga- Sound Designer

RAQUEL ADORNO- Costume Designer

Raquel is a designer and stylist based in Chicago. Recent credits include Desperate Dolls (Strawdog Theatre), Cryptogram, Reasons to be Happy, Annapurna, Cock, Gidion’s Knot, Hellcab, Wrecks, In God’s Hat, In the Company of Men, and The Dream of the Burning Boy (Profiles Theatre); Dead Accounts, Darlin’ (World Premiere), HoliDAZE, and The BenchMark (Step Up Productions); The Submission, Some Men, Songs from an Unmade Bed, and The All-American Genderf*ck Cabaret (Pride Films and Plays); RAW (Deluge Theatre Collective), Trafford Tanzi and Patria Libre (Prologue Theatre Company); Gambit (Artemisia, A Chicago Theatre). 


Max is excited to be working on this production of First Date! Max holds an MFA from Michigan State University in Theatrical Production Design. He is the Head of Design and resident Scenic/Lighting/Media Designer for the Actors Training Center and is the resident Lighting Designer/ Production Manager for La Musica Lirica’s summer program in Novafeltria, Italy. Can’t get enough? For upcoming/current projects check out

LISA GRIEBEL- Props Master

Lisa is happy to join First Date’s team as their Prop Master. She is the full-time properties carpenter at Chicago Shakespeare Theatre. Previous credits include working for Opera Theatre St. Louis, Bailiwick Chicago, Northlight Theatre, Milwaukee Repertory Theatre, Starkid Productions and Berkshire Theatre Festival. BFA from University of Michigan. 

BELINA MIZRAHI- Production Manager

Belina recently relocated to Chicago. Recent employment: General Manager for Ars Nova in NYC; Production Manager for Pig Iron in Philadelphia. Recent producing/PM credits: Hollow Roots (Under the Radar Festival, NYC); Righteous Money (Wolf359, NYC/ Edinburgh); Christmas is Miles Away (Babel Theatre Project, NYC); Antibiosis:, Skin Tight, The Surrender Tree, Missed Connections, The Homecoming Project (Yale Cabaret); Body & Sold (Tempest Productions). Belina holds a BS in Astronomy & Physics from Yale and an MFA in Theater Management from Yale School of Drama. 

JULIE ANN ROBINSON- Associate Director

Julie Ann made her theatrical debut as a member of the children’s ensemble in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat with Donny Osmond, sparking a lifelong love of theatre. She earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and holds master’s degrees from DePaul and Roosevelt Universities. Julie Ann is now the Director of Theatre at Glenbrook North High School and the Artistic Director of a contemporary cabaret ensemble called The Chicago Red Line. 

Kristin L. Schoenback- Assistant Stage Manager

Asst. Choreographer/ Company Manager

A director/choreographer with “a near-encyclopedic knowledge of musicals” (NewCity Stage), Christopher’s Chicago credits include Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson & Bombs Away! (Bailiwick); A Streetcar Named Desire & Evita (Jedlicka); Miracle on 34th Street & Anyone Can Whistle (Porchlight); Time After Time: The Songs of Jule Styne (Theo Ubique); The Full Monty (Village Players), a series of musical theater revues at Davenport’s, and a Jeff nomination for co-choreographing Spamalot with Nightblue. He is also the creator and co-host of Option Up!, a live monthly musical theater talk-show at Stage 773. Upcoming: City of Angels with Porchlight. 


Mickie Paskal and Jennifer S. Rudnicke have collectively been casting for the past 20 years.  Associates A.J. Links and Lauren Phillips joined the team Spring of 2013. Paskal Rudnicke Casting, Inc. concentrates its work in film, both Feature and Independent. They also cast for Television, Commercial, Voiceover and Print.  Currently they cast for USA’s Sirens, which premieres it’s second season on Tuesday, January 27th and Showtime’s Shameless, which is on its fifth season. They have cast for Ron Howard’s The DilemmaTransformers 3 and 4A Nightmare on Elm Street and Michael Mann’s Public Enemies.  Over the last few years, Mickie and Jennifer cast Sundance favorites The Merry Gentlemen and Grace is Gone.  Some other credits include; A Very Harold & Kumar Christmas, The Express, Stranger Than Fiction, The Break-Up, The Promotion, The Weather Man, Road to Perdition, Fargo and The Company working with the late Robert Altman

BRIAN LOEVNER- General Manager

Brian is a theatre manager, producer, production manager, and arts educator. From 2004- 2013, Brian served as the Managing Director of Chicago Dramatists. In addition, he was a founder and the Managing Director of Theatre Conspiracy in Washington D.C. for four seasons. In 1998, he co-founded TriArts, Inc., where he created programming partnerships with the Chicago Park District, Gallery 37, and the Department of Aging. Brian has also produced and production managed over 105 shows with companies such as Famous Door Theatre, Timeline Theatre, Collaboraction, Chicago Dramatists and The Actor’s Gymnasium. Most recently he served as the Producer and General Manager of To Master The Art at the Broadway Playhouse, Hit The Wall at the Greenhouse and 5 Lesbians Eating A Quiche at The Chopin Theatre. 

AURÉLIA F. COHEN- General Manager

Aurélia is a theater producer and consultant to non-profit administrators. She received a Master of Fine Arts in theater management from Yale School of Drama. Since her move to Chicago, Aurélia has worked with About Face Theatre, Chicago Dramatists, The Music Theatre Company, OnStage in America, American Theater Company, and Lifeline Theater. While at Yale, she worked as the Managing Director for the Yale Cabaret, producing 20 shows in 28 weeks. Prior to her time at Yale, she was the Technical Archivist at The Metropolitan Opera in New York City. During her time in New York City, Aurélia founded Pig Brooch, an ensemble theatre company. Aurélia is a member of the Young Nonprofit Professionals Network. 


R&H Theatricals represents the stage performance rights to over 100 musicals by more than 200 writers. These include works by Rodgers & Hammerstein (including OKLAHOMA!, SOUTH PACIFIC and THE SOUND OF MUSIC), Rodgers & Hart (PAL JOEY, BABES IN ARMS), and Kern & Hammerstein (SHOW BOAT), as well as musicals by Irving Berlin (ANNIE GET YOUR GUN, WHITE CHRISTMAS), Andrew Lloyd Webber (CATS, THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA), Adam Guettel (THE LIGHT IN THE PIAZZA, FLOYD COLLINS), Kurt Weill (THE THREEPENNY OPERA, LADY IN THE DARK), such perennials as BIG RIVER, ONCE UPON A MATTRESS, and FOOTLOOSE, and the longest-running revues in the history of Broadway -- SMOKEY JOE’S CAFÉ -- and Off- Broadway -- I LOVE YOU, YOU’RE PERFECT, NOW CHANGE. Recently added titles include IN THE HEIGHTS, A CATERED AFFAIR, IT’S ONLY LIFE, [title of show], LOVE MUSIK, FACE THE MUSIC, REEFER MADNESS, ALTAR BOYZ, BERNARDA ALBA, MID-LIFE! THE CRISIS MUSICAL, and BRIGHT LIGHTS, BIG CITY. R&H Theatricals is an Imagem company: 

*denotes member of Actor’s Equity Association, the union of professional actors and stage managers in the United States 

First Date would like to thank all of the wonderful co-producers for their faith, enthusiasm, advice and support of this production:

MiMa Productions, Bea Tayui and family, Rob and Mandy Nachum, Sue and Joe Power, Bob Litchfield, Mei Mah and Daniel Fechtner, Genie Shields, Sandi and Kieth Reich, Marci Haas and Scott Hite, Jen Bratovic and Simon James, Jayne and Jim Rose, Rita and Mark Tresnowski, John Cerasini, Mary Morley, Jason Parker, Bill and Norma Morley Valerie Litchfield, D & D Productions Marcia Pourus, Harry and Maria Bitman,  Pat and Howard Adelman, Renee and Augie Mimica 

Special Thanks to:

Margaret Cotter, Jeremy Getz, Jason Haag, Keaton Wooden, Whole Foods, CYSO, Fine Arts Building, John and Evonne Yonover, Robert Groth, Sarah Illiatovitch-Goldman, Carlisle and Lucy Loevner, Joe Jarhaus, Skye Robinson-Hillis, Ethan Deppe, Pat Morley