Career changes lead to two distinctive stage debuts for Chicago-area natives in A Midsummer Night's Dream - Lyric Opera of Chicago

Career changes lead to two distinctive stage debuts for Chicago-area natives in A Midsummer Night's Dream

Press Release Letterhead
For Immediate Release:
Monday, October 29, 2010

Career changes lead to two distinctive stage debuts
for Chicago-area natives in A Midsummer Night’s Dream 
at Lyric Opera of Chicago

Jeff Award-winning Chicago actor Esteban Andres Cruz portrays Puck
(former group sales manager in Lyric’s ticket department)


black Labrador-golden retriever mix Kiowa portrays Starveling’s dog
(former service dog with Canine Companions for Independence)
in new Lyric production Nov. 5-23

Being an opera, Benjamin Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream comprises marvelous music for exceptional singers, children’s chorus, and orchestra from start to finish.

It also includes the substantial spoken role of Puck, servant to the fairy king Oberon and engine of the many amusing mix-ups that drive the plot. In the Lyric Opera premiere and new production that opens Nov. 5 at the Civic Opera House, native Chicago-area actor Esteban Andres Cruz will portray the impish fairy who puts magical drops into the wrong characters’ eyes and gives one character, the weaver Bottom, the head of an ass.

This is Cruz’s first stage role at Lyric. He previously played a vital offstage role with the world-renowned opera company: Cruz worked in Lyric’s ticket department (2001-06), including two years as group sales manager. During his five-year tenure he pursued his passion for acting after hours with several local theater companies; when he left his position at Lyric it was in order to  work exclusively as an actor.

In 2009 Cruz won a Jeff Award as best actor in a principal role for his portrayal of Angel Cruz in Jesus Hopped the ‘A’ Train at Raven Theatre – his first leading role in Chicago. Earlier this year he portrayed Pablo Gonzalez in the much-acclaimed production A Streetcar Named Desire at Writers’ Theatre, directed by David Cromer. He can be seen currently in a commercial for Southwest Airlines that airs during professional and college football games. In 2011 he will be seen as Pepe Perez in the movie A Very Harold & Kumar Christmas, with Neil Patrick Harris and Danny Trejo.

Cruz has appeared in stage productions of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream at Apollo Theatre as Flute/Thisbe and at The House Theatre as Peaseblossom and choreographic collaborator. He has also portrayed several leading and supporting Shakespeare roles in Romeo and Juliet, The Comedy of Errors, Macbeth, Julius Caesar, and The Merchant of Venice with various Chicago companies.

Cruz was born in Berwyn and raised in Cicero. He earned a bachelor’s degree in rhetoric from the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana, and received theater, improvisation, and dance training with company members of Chicago Shakespeare Theater, Steppenwolf Theatre, Annoyance Theatre, ImprovOlympics, and Salt Creek Ballet, among others.

Kiowa, the black Labrador-golden retriever who portrays Starveling’s dog in Midsummer, is making his stage debut at Lyric Opera. “He is a change-of-career dog who was bred and trained by Canine Companions for Independence, a national nonprofit organization that places highly skilled assistance dogs with people with disabilities,” says Debra Locander, with CCI’s regional facility in west-suburban Woodstock.

“Not all dogs are cut out for a career as an assistance dog,” Locander notes. Kiowa was raised and trained by CCI volunteer Nick Brehney and his family in Schaumburg. “Kiowa has had a change of career – his calmness and eagerness to please make him the perfect performer” in Lyric’s production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Locander adds.

Production photos will be available after Nov. 3. Please call or email Carrie Napolilli: 312-827-5923, or