Two IL Troupes Conjure Heat Wave, Drama of Chicago Weather Disaster, Feb. 21 | Playbill

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News Two IL Troupes Conjure Heat Wave, Drama of Chicago Weather Disaster, Feb. 21 A heat wave that took the lives of 739 people in Chicago in 1995, shocking the nation, is the subject of Heat Wave, a world-premiere docudrama beginning Feb. 21 in Chicago by Pegasus Players in conjunction with Live Bait Theater.

Steve Simoncic's play, directed by Ilesa Duncan, is based on the book by sociologist Eric Klinenberg, "Heat Wave: A Social Autopsy of Disaster in Chicago."

Performances will play Pegasus Players' home at 1145 W. Wilson Avenue in the O'Rourke Center at Truman College, to April 6. The official opening night is Feb. 25.


Klinenberg is associate professor of sociology at New York University. According to Pegasus, "this moving new play looks at the heat wave of 1995 which took the lives of 739 Chicagoans. Chicago playwright and published author, Steve Simoncic recreates the hot air that swirled between medical examiners, health officials, reporters, mayoral staff, and sweaty Chicagoans." It "examines one of the country's worst weather-related disasters from all perspectives, creating a vivid portrait of a city in crisis, but with its resources and humanity firmly intact."

Pegasus Players' mission is to present "new and contemporary work that crosses cultural, social, and geographical boundaries and bring people together to create dialogue within the community," stated artistic director Alex Levy. Heat Wave features a cast of 13 actors, including Katie Becker, Victoria Caciopoli, Ali Carter, Joe Fernandez, Earl Alphonso Fox, John Francisco, Joseph Garlock, Adrian Gonzalez, Barbara Myers, Venessa Ortega, Ron Quade, John Stutzman and TayLar.

The design team is made up of Rick and Jacqueline Penrod (set), Sean Mallory (lighting), Michelle Julazadeh (costumes) and Victoria Deiorio (sound).

Simoncic is a playwright living in Chicago. His plays include Broken Fences, Words with C and Discovery Channel. His fiction has appeared in The Chicago Reader, New Millennium Writings, Spork Magazine and Drift. He has been nominated for a Pushcart prize and has written several short films. Steven holds an undergraduate degree from the University of Michigan, an MFA in writing from Warren Wilson College and is currently pursuing an MLA from the University of Chicago.

While teaching at Northwestern in 1996, Klinenberg spent five years working on "Heat Wave: A Social Autopsy of Disaster in Chicago." He did fieldwork, interviews, and archival research "to explain why more than 700 people died during such a short heat wave and to understand why these deaths were so easy to ignore, deny and forget."

This book has become a standard text for study in the sociology of urban disasters in Sociology Departments nationally.

Heat Wave is the second collaboration between Live Bait Theater and Pegasus Players. In 1994 they collaborated on Sharon Evans' Freud, Dora, and the Wolfman.

The troupes decided to collaborate on this world premiere "because of the extensive cast, set, and overall logistics needed to make the tragic heat wave of 1995 come alive."

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