Featuring bluegrass favorites and the foot-stomping, hand-clapping finest of American roots music.
A young classical violinist and her song collector boyfriend flee from the confines of their Brooklyn apartment to the mountains of North Carolina on a quest for musical authenticity and inspiration. Their search leads biracial Mira back to her old family home, where she reconnects with an estranged grandfather she never mentioned. An unexpected combination of joy and discovery along with past pain and prejudice comes to light in this story of an Appalachian family’s varied roots and the music that binds them together.

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at Northlight Theatre
9501 Skokie Boulevard, Skokie, IL 60077


By Catey Sullivan

“Hugely talented trio makes music as a family making nice in Northlight’s ‘Porch on Windy Hill’”

A river of music runs through “The Porch on Windy Hill,” cross-currents of ancient folk tunes rippling alongside streams of Bach and Haydn. Succinctly, accurately billed as “a new play with old music,” the two-hour production at Skokie’s Northlight Theatre is driven by the sonic sprawl of American folk music, a genre with influences as wide as the world itself.

Lutken gets marvelous performances from her three-person cast, and their musical skills are unimpeachable. When the pickin’ parties (sometimes called hootenannies or shindigs or wingdings) get fully cooking, it’s with a joyful noise. Johanson creates a storm of sound on the violin and the erhu, while Lutken’s Edgar makes the banjo strings resonate like a chorale of steel-winged angels. Beckett holds down his part with a guitar that moves from foot-stomping hootenanny to the subtlest of melodic whispers.

As with most families, there’s no tidy happily-ever-after in “The Porch on Windy Hill.” But the power of glorious music to smooth over family fractures is clear. And that music itself is a whole lotta fun.

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By Josh Flanders

“Bluegrass healing: Northlight’s The Porch on Windy Hill will get your feet stomping.’”

The Porch on Windy Hill, conceived and directed by Sherry Lutken, is a delight from beginning to end, featuring an outstanding cast of three who cowrote the play and also perform some of the finest foot-stomping bluegrass music this side of the Des Plaines river. Lisa Helmi Johanson as Mira explodes with energy and a jaw-dropping singing voice, ably alternating between classical playing and fiddling. Morgan Morse as Beckett is as funny as he is talented, picking up a storm on a variety of stringed instruments. And David M. Lutken as Edgar, Mira’s grandfather, is a remarkable musician, singer, and actor, anchoring the entire show. Kudos also to Mara Zinky for creating an incredible set that is a character in itself, reflecting the nature of change, dynamic or static, examined in the play.

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By Noel Schecter

“However windy the path, a trip to this production is highly recommended.”

This production hums along well on two levels with director Sherry Lutken (who also conceived this work) allowing for both the sentimental as well as the more painful moments to breathe. The cast (each of whom shares a writing credit) is simply exceptional with all three members proving adept not only in nailing the dramatic moments but also in playing folk instruments involving everything from a dulcimer to an erhu (a Chinese two-stringed bowed musical instrument). They also possess earthy and natural singing voices that effectively show off a musical catalog bred of longing and sadness.

Credit also needs to go to Mara Zinky’s incredibly well-done set design that features an almost life-size wood-frame house with accompanying front porch. The only thing absent was a barking dog pressed against a window frame. Lindsey Lyddan’s lighting design and Rick Sims’ sound design are just as actualized and the effect is an engaging frame by which folk classics such as “Columbus Stockade Blues” and “My Horses Ain’t Hungry” are given new life.

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By Mira Temkin

“Audiences will find themselves enveloped in an American family’s cultural and generational identification, estrangement and isolation with the hope of reunion, and music as the catalyst..”

Their search leads biracial Mira back to her old family home, where she reconnects with an estranged grandfather she kept hidden. An unexpected combination of joy and discovery along with past pain and racism come together in this story of an Appalachian family’s varied roots and the music that binds them over the generations.

One of the best parts is the foot-stomping, hand-clapping bluegrass music that’s performed throughout the show. It is outstanding.

Read the full review. 



Lisa Helmi Johanson


Morgan Morse


David M. Lutken

"Edgar"/Co-writer/Music Director

BROADWAY: Inherit the Wind; Ring of Fire; The Civil War; The Will Rogers Follies.

N.Y. CITY OPERA: Paul Bunyan

OFF-BROADWAY: Southern Comfort; Stars in Your Eyes; Winter Man; The Portable Pioneer & Prairie Show, and Woody Sez: The Life & Music of Woody Guthrie (Outer Critics’ Circle, Off-Broadway Alliance and Drama League Best Musical nominations)

LONDON: Dark of the Moon; Woody Sez (Evening Standard Best Musical nomination)

REGIONAL UK: Bonnie and Clyde; A Month In The Country.

REGIONAL US: Our Town; Man of La Mancha; Big River; Elmer Gantry; Finian’s Rainbow; The Will Rogers Follies; Fire On The Mountain; Lost Highway; Buddy; Pump Boys and Dinettes; The Love List; The Man Who Came to Dinner; On Golden Pond; Mark Twain’s River of Song; Almost Heaven, and The Porch on Windy Hill. (Best Actor nomination, Connecticut Critics’ Circle Awards)

With Woody Sez, he and his company have toured Europe, the British Isles, China, the Middle East and The United States. For his portrayal of Woody Guthrie, David won the Helen Hayes and the Joseph Jefferson Award for Best Actor.

He has performed at Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, The Public Theater, The 92nd St Y, at Cooper Union, Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium, Chicago’s Navy Pier, with the North Carolina Symphony and the Baton Rouge Symphony Orchestra, on NPR, the BBC, Polskie Radio Troika, ORF Austria, Voice Of America, and The Louisiana Hayride.

Megan Erin Lai

u/s Mira

Kelan M. Smith

u/s Beckett

Production Team

Sherry Lutken


Sherry directed the premiere of The Porch on Windy Hill at The Ivoryton Playhouse (Connecticut Critics nomination: Best Director). Off-Broadway and Regional directing and choreography credits include: The Bourgeois Gentleman, The Million Dollar Quartet, Pump Boys and Dinettes, Hank Williams: Lost Highway, Stand By Your Man, Stars in Your Eyes, Almost Heaven, Hopscotch and Anything Goes. In 2009, she directed the first regional theater production of Ring of Fire: The Music of Johnny Cash at North Carolina’s Flat Rock Playhouse. She has directed many subsequent productions around the US, as well as internationally — at Vienna’s English Theatre and The Deutsches Theater in Munich. As Associate Director of the critically acclaimed Woody Sez: The Life and Music of Woody Guthrie, Sherry has staged productions of the musical in Chicago at Northlight Theatre (Joseph Jefferson Award nomination: Best Musical Revue), Washington D.C. (Helen Hayes Award nomination: Best Musical), Florida, Pennsylvania, and its first National UK Tour.

Mara Ishihara Zinky

Scenic Design

Mara Ishihara Zinky is thrilled to be back at at Northlight, where she most recently designed The Porch On Windy Hill, and has worked as a carpenter. Other recent design credits include Night Watch (Raven Theatre), Last Hermanos (A Red Orchid Theatre), and Routes (Remy Bumppo Theatre). BFA in Scenic Design, The Theatre School at DePaul University.

Gregory Graham

Costume Design

Lindsey Lyddan

Lighting Design

Rick Sims

Sound Design

Rick has composed and designed sound for numerous Chicago-area theaters, including Steppenwolf, Lookingglass, Northlight, Congo Square, Writers, Lifeline, Griffin, Chicago Children’s Theatre, Court, American Blues, Victory Gardens and Steep. Regional credits include Arena Stage and Roundhouse Theatre in Washington D.C., Alliance Theatre in Atlanta, South Coast Rep in Southern California, The Getty, Boston Playwrights’ Theatre, Arden Theatre Company in Philadelphia, 2nd Stage and Playwrights Horizons in New York City, Actors Theatre of Louisville and Portland Playhouse. He is an artistic associate of Lookingglass, an artistic affiliate with American Blues and is currently composing music for The Thanksgiving Play at 2nd Stage Theatre on Broadway. Sims won a Jeff Award for sound design for Lookingglass’ Moby Dick, Frankenstein, and Hepheastus, and a BTA award for Congo Squares Brothers In the Dust. Sims also wrote the book, music and lyrics for Lookingglass Hillbilly Antigone.

Christine Mok


Christine is a dramaturg, designer, and scholar. Recent dramaturgy credits include Lloyd Suh’s The Heart Sellers (Milwaukee Rep), Lloyd Suh’s The Far Country (Atlantic Theater Company), and Frances Ya-Chu Cowhig’s Snow in Midsummer (OSF). She is assistant professor of English at the University of Rhode Island. She has published in Theatre Survey, Theatre Journal, JADT, PAJ: A Performing Arts Journal, Modern Drama, and the Journal of Asian American Studies. She is co-editor with Joshua Chambers-Letson of Frances Ya-Chu Cowhig’s China Trilogy: Three Parables of Global Capital (Bloomsbury, 2021). She is a member of Wingspace Theatrical Design.

Katie Klemme

Stage Manager

KATIE KLEMME is pleased to return to Northlight where her credits include Georgiana & Kitty: Christmas at Pemberley, Intimate Apparel, Mr. Dickens’ Hat, The Wickhams: Christmas at Pemberley, Landladies, and You Can’t Take It With You. Recent credits include Villette (Lookingglass), Tiger Style!, Wife of a Salesman, and Into the Woods (Writers); Mamma Mia! and Much Ado About Nothing (Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival), Hamilton: An American Musical (Chicago, Sub); Sorin: A Notre Dame Story (National Tour); If I Forget, Indecent (Victory Gardens); Mr. Burns, The Realistic Joneses, others (Theater Wit); Mother and Me (Geva Theater Center, Rochester, NY). She was resident production stage manager at American Theater Company from 2008-2018 where highlights included the world premieres of Disgraced (Pulitzer Prize), The Project(s), and columbinus (Chicago and ArtsEmerson, Boston). She is on the faculty at Loyola University Chicago and is a proud member of Actors Equity Association.

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Accessible Performances

May 3 at 7:30 pm: Relaxed/Sensory Friendly Performance

May 5 at 8:00 pm: ASL Interpretation and Open Captions

May 6 at 2:30 pm: Audio Description and Open Captions



This guide holds many different accessibility tools to make your experience at our show as comfortable as possible. Please be aware that not every element of this guide will be useful to each individual, therefore, please feel free to pick and choose which accessibility tools would be most beneficial to you. The guide includes a synopsis of the show, sensory warnings, and photos of what to expect when you arrive at the theater.

View the Porch on Windy Hill Sensory Guide


For more information or questions about Captioning, ASL Interpretation, or Audio Description please contact Ruben Carrazana: 847.324.1615 or rcarrazana@northlight.org.

Visit our Accessibility Page for more information for our whole season.