Refuge Announces THE LAST SESSION Cast and Designers

Refuge Announces THE LAST SESSION Cast and Designers

Pictured (Top L to R): Ryan Armstrong, Benjamin Baylon, Elizabeth Bollar, (Bottom Row, L to R) Darilyn Burtley and Erik Pearson.

Refuge Theatre Project has announced the cast and design team for its first production of the season, THE LAST SESSION with a book by Jim Brochu and music and lyrics by Steve Schalchlin, with additional lyrics by John Bettis and Marie Cain.

Directed by Artistic Director Christopher Pazdernik and music direction by Erik Pearson, the production features Ryan Armstrong (Buddy), Erik Pearson (Gideon), Benjamin Baylon (Jim), Darilyn Burtley (Tryshia), and Elizabeth Bollar (Vicki).

The production team includes Rueben Echoles (assistant director), Lewis Rawlinson (assistant music director), Collin Helou (lighting designer), Jeremy Hollis (production manager), Leslie Halverson (stage manager), Evan Frank (set dressing/props coordinator), Isaac Mandel (sound designer/audio engineer), and Amanda Vander Byl (costume designer).

Written as musical therapy, in real time, to songwriter Schalchlin’s own AIDS diagnosis and subsequent battle on the deathbed, THE LAST SESSION reunites a group of singers, friends and bandmates to record one final album, except for the unexpected arrival of a guest singer who spoils what was supposed to be a nice, quiet goodbye party. All of them are deeply connected, yet, unaware that their host carries a big secret: he plans to end his struggle with AIDS after the session.

“As an artist living with HIV, I feel compelled to share stories from the early days of the HIV/AIDS epidemic,” comments Pazdernik. “We have to make sure we don’t lose the stories of those who fought and died so today’s generation of HIV patients could live longer. It’s too easy to take modern medicine for granted–we need to also honor the debt we owe to those who were on the front lines of this unfathomable plague.”

The Last Session runs October 26 – December 2 at Atlas Art Studio, 4809 N Ravenswood Ave. During the run, Refuge Theatre Project will partner with several Chicago social service agencies to bring awareness and support to organizations continuing the fight against HIV/AIDS, including AIDS Foundation of Chicago, Howard Brown Health and Season of Concern. For more information visit

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