Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Hell In A Handbag Productions Presents.......

The Birds! Performances start tomorrow @ 6205 N Sheridan. Speaking to the caretakers of Downey Mansion (Berger Park Cultural Center) was illuminating. Tippi Heddren (mother of Melanie Griffith and original lead female) makes an appearance to at least one of the productions every year to raise money for one of her charities. She visited Chicago to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the Birds recently and a free screening of the famous film at the Music Box a couple years back.

Outdoor seating has been expanded to 75 this year. The action takes place in the Downey mansion coach house, the grounds and the lake. Not a strict adaption of the movie. Girls play guys and vice versa. The Birds didn't mean to be camp in its day but watching it now it is. And thus so is the play. Alfred Hitchcock is rumoured to make a cameo appearance.

Tickets vary in price from 17 to 37 bucks. Call 1-800-838-3006 or visit to buy tickets.

"Endorsed by none other than Ms. Tippi Hedren herself, The Birds stands out as one of Handbag's most critically acclaimed and memorable shows. The environmental staging at the, Coach House on Berger Park in Lake Michigan makes it a unique experience you won't soon forget."

Please continue reading for more pictures and words

(In case you don't want to squint)

Come on in! 

We're the Berger Park Cultural Center at the Corner of Granville and Sheridan, right off the beach just before you reach Loyola Campus. You can't miss our beautiful landmark mansion. Perhaps you've driven by or gotten off the 151 or 147 Sheridan bus and wondered what goes on in there. Well come on inside and take a look at our building and our Creative Arts Program Schedule.

Downy History 

Downey Mansion was built by M.T. Powers in 1906 for the cost of $20,000 for Mr. Joseph Downey who came to Chicago from Ireland in 1856. Mr Downey was on the Board of Education, the Com. of Buildings, and the Com. of Public Works during Mayor Swift's administration. The architect was W.C. Zimmerman. The mansion is two and one-half stories of gray roman brick with a large overhanging hipped roof in the prairie style. The coach house is constructed with the same brick and overhanging roof and is two stories in height. The house originally was constructed with "Imperial Spanish"roofing tile. Both the mansion and the coach house has had interior and exterior over the years due to modernization and tenant use.The original floor plans and pictures of the interior are available for viewing upon request. The Downy house is significant historically as one of the few remaining examples of lakeside mansions that once lined Chicago's lakefront from Lincoln Park to Evanston.

Mr. Downey passed away in Florida in 1925. His widow Lena Downey opened the mansion to community service as "Home for the Destitute", "House of Good Sheperd", and "Chicago Home for Incurables". When Ms. Downey passed on in 1934 she left the property to the Kliens who donated it to the Clerics of St. Viator in 1944. In 1973 developers acquired a lien on the 3.5 acres and in 1979 proposed a high-rise condominium complex development for the property. The Edgewater Community Council and many other local community groups joined in a lobbying effort which induced the Viatorian Fathers to accept a reduced amount for the sale of the property to the Chicago Park District in March of 1981.

The acquisition was one of the last sizable pieces of lakefront property in Chicago and provided the neighborhoods of Edgewater and Rogers Park with a resource for community recreation. The land including 450 feet of lakefront and the 1906 Downey and 1909 Gunder mansions was named Berger Park. The two mansions and their coach houses are located at 6205 and 6219 N Sheridan Rd.

Downey Mansion has since been restored using architectural drawings and photos of the interior and exterior of the building. The building is currently being used as classrooms for the Berger Park Cultural Center featuring pottery, music, painting, drawing, lapidary, and creative writing.

(Compiled from the archives of Berger Park)


Philip McGregor Rogers said...

"Please double check your dates and times as exchanges may not always be possible. Please not that Oct. 17 is reserved for a special event and no longer available to the general public."

Probably when Tippi Hedren will be making a special appearance......

Philip McGregor Rogers said...

Nope, looks like it already happened, "BENEFIT PERFORMANCE STARRING TIPPI HEDREN: Sat., Sept. 7. $150 includes pre-show reception with Tippi at 6:30pm, The Birds stage show, a cameo by Tippi Hedren and a special post show talk and Q & A with Ms. Hedren
CHICAGO, IL- Due to the overwhelming demand, Hell in a Handbag Productions is pleased to offer 3 additional dates for The Birds, one of our most popular shows ever. “We’re grateful for the fantastic popular and critical response, The Birds has received”, says Handbag Artistic Director and Playwright, David Cerda, “and we’d love to extend for as long as people want to see us, but the unique Berger Park lakefront setting makes that a difficult proposition when dealing with all the schedules involved. Perhaps we’ll revisit Bodega Bay next year”, adds Cerda."