Northlight Theatre | Birthday Candles
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A blonde woman stands in a pink stripped dress holding a birthday cake. She stands in front of a purple galaxy background.
A blonde woman stands in a pink stripped dress holding a birthday cake. She stands in front of a purple galaxy background.

Birthday Candles

By Noah Haidle
Directed by Jessica Thebus

Ernestine Ashworth spends her 17th birthday agonizing over her insignificance in the universe. Soon enough, it’s her 18th birthday. Even sooner, her 41st. Her 70th. Her 101st. Five generations, an infinity of dreams, and one cake baked over a century.

Run Time: 

approximately 90 minutes

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Kate Fry


Cyd Blakewell


Chike Johnson


Corrbette Pasko



Noah Haidle


Rachel Anne Healy


JR Lederle


Andre Pluess


Rita Vreeland



Julie and Josh Chernoff

Let Them Eat Candles

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Ernestine Ashworth

Kate Fry

Kate Fry returns to Northlight, where she performed in The Beauty Queen of LeenaneOutside Mullingar, and The Miser.  Other Chicago credits include The Winter’s TaleAh, Wilderness! (Goodman); The Belle of AmherstElectraThe Hard Problem and others (Court); Marjorie PrimeHedda GablerThe LettersA Minister’s WifeOh Coward! (Writers) as well as productions with Victory Gardens, Chicago Shakespeare, Apple Tree Theatre, and Marriott Theatre. She has also worked with Center Theatre Group in LA, McCarter Theatre Center in Princeton, Repertory Theatre of St. Louis, and Lincoln Center. TV credits include episodes on Empire (Fox), Boss (Starz), Chicago PD (NBC), and Proven Innocent (Fox). She is the recipient of four Joseph Jefferson awards, the local Sarah Siddons award, the After Dark award, and Chicago Magazine’s actress of the year.  Kate is married to actor/teacher Timothy Edward Kane; they have two sons.


Cyd Blakewell

Cyd Blakewell is thrilled to make her Northlight debut with such an incredible play, fantastic director, and wonderful cast and crew. Cyd is an ensemble member of The Gift Theatre. Gift Credits: The Locusts, Pillowman,  Doubt, A Life Extra Ordinary, Good For OCo, Body + Blood, Broadsword, Mine and  TEN. Other Chicago credits: The Snare (Jackalope); Balm In Gilead and Port  (Griffin); Buddy Cop 2, breaks & bikes and Milk Milk Lemonade (Pavement Group);  Sweet Confinement and Ivanov (SiNNERMAN Ensemble); Orange Flower Water  (Interrobang); Lies & Liars and Mimesophobia (Theatre Seven); Rewind (The Side  Project). She just wrapped on a short film called Fairground and can also be seen in Jeri’s Grille. Cyd got her BFA from Southwestern University in Georgetown, TX, and is a graduate of the School at Steppenwolf. She is represented by Promote Talent Agency. “All my love to my family – both blood and chosen. Thank you for  coming back to live theatre.”

Matt/ William

Chiké Johnson

Chiké Johnson most recently appeared in Remy Bumppo’s world premiere production of Galileo’s Daughter. Chike is also a company member of Remy Bumppo Theatre. Some of Chike’s Chicago credits: The world premiere of When Harry Met Rebhab (Greenhouse Theater Center); Toni StoneMeet Vera Stark (The Goodman Theater); Sizwe Banzi is Dead (Court Theatr; The Crucible, The Unmentionables, and Huck Finn (Steppenwolf Theatre Company). He also appeared on stages around the country including Spring Green, Hamlet, A Raisin In the Sun, Improbable Fiction (American Players Theatre); Amen Corner (Shakespeare Theatre Company). His New York Credits include Broadway productions: A Time To Kill and Manhattan Theatre Club’s Wit. Off-Broadway productions include: Runboyrun, Lost In The Stars in New York City Center’s Encores! And Ruined, a co-production by the Manhattan Theatre Club and The Goodman Theatre. Other regional credits include A Raisin in the Sun at Milwaukee Rep Theater, a revival of The Unmentionables at Yale Repertory Theatre; Lincoln in Topdog/Underdog at Renaissance Theaterworks; Duke of Cornwall in King Lear at Milwaukee Repertory Theater; Cephus Miles in Home at In Tandem Theatre; Willie in Master Harold and the boys at Milwaukee Chamber Theatre; and Martin Luther King, Jr. in Smoldering Fires at First Stage Children’s Theater. Some of Mr. Johnson’s film credits include Friends with Benefits, Sleepwalk with Me, The Machinist and his television credits include Law & Order, Girls, Veep and Prison Break and much more.


Samuel B. Jackson

Samuel B Jackson is excited to be making his Northlight debut! He sends all his love to the magnificent creative team and amazing cast. Credits: Choir Boy (Jeff Award—Best Ensemble), Chlorine Sky (Steppenwolf Theatre); Reasons: A Tribute to Earth, Wind, and Fire (Black Ensemble Theatre). Education: BA, University of Notre Dame; The School at Steppenwolf. “For Mom and Tom” @samuelbjackson.


Timothy Edward Kane

Timothy Edward Kane is pleased to return to Northlight, having previously appeared in FacelessLost in YonkersThe Miser and She Stoops to Conquer. Other Chicago credits include work with Court Theatre, Chicago Shakespeare Theatre, Writers Theatre, Rivendell, TimeLine, Goodman, Steppenwolf. Regional credits: The Mark Taper Forum, Notre Dame Shakespeare, Peninsula Players, and the Illinois Shakespeare Festival. TV: Chicago P.D. (NBC), Chicago Fire (NBC), and Empire (FOX). Awards: Jeff Award, AfterDark, Chicago Magazine. Mr. Kane is married to actress Kate Fry with whom he has two sons; he is an Assistant Professor of Theatre at Loyola University Chicago.


Corrbette Pasko

Corrbette Pasko is from Chicago but lives in California – it’s very hot. She’s worked with Chicago storefront theaters for decades, but she is beyond grateful to be with Northlight for the first time. She’s been on Chicago Med, PD, and Fire, and is the producer/host of Write Club Chicago, a monthly live lit show that is “literature as bloodsport.” She is the creator of GenX Update as @corrbette, and can be heard on podcasts like Unwell, Northwoods Baseball Sleep Radio, and on your phone as a helpful robot. You can see her with her writing partner, Sara Sevigny, in “Corri and Sara Are Famous” on YouTube and


Noah Haidle

Noah Haidle’s plays have premiered at the Goodman, Lincoln Center Theater, Roundabout, Long Wharf, Woolly Mammoth, Rattlestick, and many others. His plays include Mr. Marmalade and Vigils. He is a graduate of Princeton and The Juilliard School, where he was a Lila Acheson Wallace playwright-in-residence. He is the recipient of three Lincoln Center Lecompte Du Nouy awards, the Helen Merrill Award for emerging playwrights, the Claire Tow Award and an NEA/TCG Theatre Residency Grant.


JEssica Thebus

Jessica is a director of theater and an educator based in Chicago. Past Northlight credits include Into the Breeches!The Book of WillMiss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley, Shining Lives: A MusicalDr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Inherit the Wind and Red Herring. At Steppenwolf, she has directed Sex with StrangersIntimate ApparelDead Man’s Cell PhoneNo Place Like HomeWhen the Messenger is Hot (also at 59 E 59th in NYC) and Sonia Flew. Other favorite projects: Richard III (Gift), In the Garden by Sarah Gmitter (Lookingglass), Buzzer by Tracy Scott Wilson (Goodman), Welcome Home Jenny Sutter (Next), As You Like It (Oregon Shakespeare), The Feast: an intimate Tempest (Chicago Shakespeare with Redmoon). She is Director of the Graduate Directing Program at Northwestern University.

Set Design

Sotirios Livaditis

Sotirios Livaditis is a set designer and illustrator based in Chicago.  Recent projects include The Writer, Light Falls (Steep Theatre), The October Storm (Raven Theatre), Queen (Penobscot Theatre), Enough to Let the Light In (Teatro Vista/Steppenwolf), and Stew (Shattered Globe).  Upcoming projects include Morris Micklewhite and the Tangerine Dress (Children’s Theatre Company) and the Off-Broadway premiere of Swing State as an associate designer with Todd Rosenthal. He has worked with Goodman Theatre, Steppenwolf Theatre, Berkeley Repertory Theatre, Alliance Theatre, Chicago Shakespeare Theatre, Chicago Opera Theatre and the Irish National Opera.  He holds an MFA from Northwestern University.  Please experience his work at

Costume Design

Rachel ANne Healy

Rachel returns to Northlight with Birthday Candles.  Previous Northlight credits include: The Lieutenant of Inishmore, Lady Windermere’s Fan, She Stoops to Conquer, The Chalk Garden, The Miser, Rounding Third, Tuesdays with Morrie, A Skull in Conemarra, and The Gamester.   Additional Chicago credits include: Goodman, Steppenwolf, Chicago Shakespeare, Writers, Chicago Children’s Theatre, Court, Drury Lane, TimeLine, Next, and Remy Bumppo. Regionally, she has designed with Alliance, Milwaukee Rep, First Stage Childrens’ Theatre of Milwaukee, Indiana Repertory, Arizona Theatre Co., American Players, and Long Wharf. Recent productions including Ms. Healy’s designs are Steppenwolf’s Tribes and Indiana Repertory’s Who Am I This Time? Ms. Healy is a Professor of Design at Loyola University.


JR Lederle

Northlight credits include Birthday CandlesThe Beauty Queen of Leenane, The Legend of Georgia McBride, Relativity, By the WaterCharmShining LivesOutside MullingarWhite Guy on the Bus,  Detroit ’67The Odd CoupleTen ChimneysSeason’s GreetingsA LifeGrey GardensThe Retreat From MoscowLadyStella & Lou, The Outgoing TideBetter Late and Chapatti (the last four also at the Galway International Arts Festival, Ireland). Other work has been seen at Lookingglass, Victory Gardens, About Face, Remy Bumppo, Writers, Steppenwolf, and Walkabout. JR designed lighting for seven years of the Steppenwolf TRAFFIC Series, and five Steppenwolf performances in Chicago’s Millennium Park. He has served as head of the Lighting Department at Steppenwolf since 1995.

Sound Design

Andre Pluess

Andre has designed the Broadway productions of MetamorphosesI Am My Own Wife and 33 Variations (Drama Desk Award nomination) as well as the world premiere of The Clean House at Yale Repertory and Lincoln Center. Based in Chicago, his work has appeared on most of the city’s stages including Northlight (Shining Lives with Amanda Dehnert), Goodman, Steppenwolf, Court, and Lookingglass where he is an associate artist. He has composed music and designed sound for theaters around the U.S., most frequently at the Oregon and California Shakespeare Festivals, Berkeley Repertory, Arena Stage, American Conservatory Theater, Seattle Repertory, La Jolla Playhouse and Center Theater Group. Choral works include: Winesburg, Ohio,EastlandWhitman, Undone (with Ben Sussman), and Paris By Night (with Amy Warren).

Production Stage Manager

Rtia Vreeland

Rita Vreeland has been a frequent stage manager at Northlight since 2007, with Birthday Candles marking her 42nd production here. Other favorite recent projects include Ernest Shackleton Loves Me at Porchlight Music Theatre, A Christmas Carol at Drury Lane, The Luckiest at Raven Theatre, three years of The Polar Express Train Ride, and productions at Mercury Theatre, Victory Gardens, Route 66 Theatre Company, Theatre at the Center, and The Galway International Arts Festival in Galway, Ireland. She is the proud wife of actor Tom Hickey and mom to ten-year-old Charlie, and this year she celebrated her 22nd anniversary as a member of Actors’ Equity Association. Thank you for supporting live theatre!