The 31st Annual Rhinoceros Theater Festival

Rhino logo by C.hill


What’s a Rhino Fest?

The Rhinoceros Theater Festival began in 1988, when Beau O’Reilly and Jenny Magnus, then performing with cabaret rock band Maestro Subgum and the Whole, founded the Curious Theatre Branch, a “branch” stemming off the band for those members who wanted to make theater as well as music. Since that time, Curious has consistently worked with a shifting ensemble of artists in a non-hierarchical decision-making process, through which the philosophy of collaboration as a social force is explored on every level. The Rhino originally took place across multiple venues in Wicker Park, later moving to Rogers Park, and landing at Prop Thtr in 2009. Prop and Curious now co-produce the festival each year, with all shows and events taking place at Prop’s Elston Avenue headquarters.

Rhino Fest 2020 Planning & Organizational Committee

Beau O’Reilly, Curious Theatre Branch Co-Founder

Jenny Magnus, Curious Theatre Branch Co-Founder

Olivia Lilley, Prop Thtr Artistic Director

Stefan Brun, Prop Thtr Venue Manager

Julia Williams, Curious Theatre Branch Ensemble

Marlana Carlson, Prop Thtr Director of Operations


Paul Leisen, Jenny Magnus, and Beau O’Reilly in The Lucky Ones (1999)

About Curious Theatre Branch

Curious Theatre Branch has produced more than 100 full productions of world-premiere shows in 30 years, amazing audiences year after year by demonstrating how much can be accomplished for so little. Curious has developed its own recognizable style, using an economy of means and production to make deeper and deeper, rather than larger and larger, work.

In 1995, Beau O'Reilly was named one of the 50 most influential people in Chicago theater by Chicago Magazine, and in 1998, Beau O'Reilly and Jenny Magnus were named among the Artists of the Year by the Chicago Tribune. Curious is committed to producing new plays by company members, and also periodically returns to the work of esteemed writers from the broader literary world who have inspired the group, recently producing plays by Eugène Ionesco and Caryl Churchill. Curious's productions of Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot and Harold Pinter’s The Caretaker were named among the top five theater productions of 2006 and 2009, respectively, by Newcity. In 2007, Curious Theatre Branch won an Orgie Award for Original Theater for the year-long Samuel Beckett festival, No Danger of the Spiritual Thing: 100 Years of Beckett (best ensemble), and in 2011 Curious was granted a season-long residency at the Museum of Contemporary Art, culminating in Jenny Magnus’s Still in Play: A Performance of Getting Ready.

The Curious Theatre Branch ensemble currently includes Jayita Bhattacharya, Jeffrey Bivens, Stefan Brün, Jenny Magnus, T-Roy Martin, Jennifer Moniz, Beau O'Reilly, Matt Rieger, Matt Test, Vicki Walden, and Julia Williams.


About Prop Thtr

Prop Thtr functions as an incubator for new talent, exposing audiences and artists to fresh outlooks on life through the development of new plays and playwrights. We concentrate on stories that expand our perception of who we are as human beings. The Prop Thtr augments its new works and new workers program with fresh examinations of great and provocative literature and fostering long-term relationships with playwrights and with other like-minded theater companies. Prop is a charter and active member of the National New Play Network, supporting the development of new American Plays. Our venue, which we are celebrating a decade of residence in this year, has provided partially subsidized working facilities for companies, many of which are in their infancies. We also independently produce and co-curate shows that reflect our mission. Prop Theater has amended its goals to prioritize works about Chicago as well as to increase our educational outreach and widen the array of interdisciplinary arts activities at our venue.

Zoë Pike, Diane Hamm, Olivia Lilley, Marlana Carlson, and Stefan Brün. Photo by Jeffrey Bivens.

Zoë Pike, Diane Hamm, Olivia Lilley, Marlana Carlson, and Stefan Brün. Photo by Jeffrey Bivens.

Since its beginning in 1981, Prop Thtr has aimed to create, inspire and assist in the creation of new plays and other time-based works of art. Working closely with established artists as well as those new to the craft, Prop has played a vital role in Chicago’s cultural scene. We incubate, develop and produce new work and new workers for Performing Arts. Educational programs at our venue augment long-term relationships with playwrights, directors and designers as well as synergetic collaborations with multiple itinerant theater companies – like Realize Theater Group, Curious Theater Branch, Tellin’ Tales, Silent Theatre Company, Lisa Fay&Jeff Glassman, etc. Collaborations form the core of our company’s artistic production. When we foster inspiring collaborative relationships, sometimes across regional or cultural obstacles, we do more than just produce single shows.

Prop Thtr has grown in influence and scope in recent years, largely by focusing its efforts toward what it does best: creating new performance works and partnering with those who, without such a venue as Prop, would likely have little opportunity to grow and thrive as local artists. We have sought to collaborate and share resources with other local, state, and national arts and education organizations, like League of Chicago Theaters, National New Play Network and The New Play Exchange, to create further artistic opportunities for our own company as well as the broader community of collaborators and those we mentor. While Prop takes its commitment to new and un-established artists and their work quite seriously, we are perhaps most enthusiastic about our own in-house productions.