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Transforming the Elements: An Experimental List Expression to The Barback Daddies

Pictured above: The band members of the Barback Daddies, from left to right: Jules (Maggie Ward), Donna (Mary Kate Young), Keel (Electra Tremulis) and Ghost (Alec Phan)/Photo: Matthew Gregory Hollis

Editor’s Note: This is an expression by Danielle Levsky in response to The Barback Daddies in an experimental list form; it is followed by information about the work and process.

Raymond Cleveland as Chris, Ghost’s partner and the band’s social media guy/Photo: Matthew Gregory Hollis

On March 1, as a part of Pop Magic Productions’ Incubator Series, Olivia Lilley began working with Alec Phan, Electra Tremulis, Maggie Ward, Mary Kate Young, Raymond Cleveland and Alexandros Xourias to create an original, devised musical. Lilley taught the actors/composers/writers everything she knew about writing musical theater, and they created a story complete with nine, original songs through improvisation, discussion and collective songwriting. Lilley wrote the libretto and directed the musical while being assistant directed by Morgan Massero.

The story honed in on a Logan Square Riot Grrrl band The Barback Daddies. When the guitarist Ghost (Phan) is unwillingly outed as transgender by his partner/the band’s social media guy (Cleveland), the band is forced to confront Ghost’s evolution, as well as each of their own evolvements. The story that unfolds challenges each of the band members’ perspectives as friends, collaborators and humans, overall. In the event description of the page, it is described as “a story of feminism becoming intersectional… a story of transformation, identity and music.”

I also found it to be a story of disconnection and communication, evolving as rapidly as the elements that surround us.


Scene 1. Buckle Up Bitch plays.

Alec Phan as Ghost, the guitarist/Photo: Matthew Gregory Hollis

Ghost, the guitarist: Water

Keel, the singer: Fire

Jules, the keyboardist: Earth

Donna, the new drummer: Water

Chris, Ghost’s partner/the band’s social media guy: Air

Scene 2. If I Could Run plays.

Ghost: Water, Water, Air, Water

Scene 3. Roman Rockets On The Run plays.

Keel: Fire, Water, Air

Jules: Earth, Air

Donna: Water, Air

Alexandros Xourias as Mar, a solo artist/Photo: Matthew Gregory Hollis

Scene 4. Let’s Get Lost plays.

Mar, a solo artist: Air

Ghost: Water, Fire

Chris: Fire, Fire, Fire

Scene 5. Erase Me plays.

Keel: Fire, Air, Fire, Air

Ghost: Water, Fire

Donna: Air, Earth

Maggie Ward as Jules, the keyboardist/Photo: Matthew Gregory Hollis

Jules: Earth, Water

Scene 6. Bitch In The Room plays.

Chris: Fire, Air, Fire

Donna: Earth, Fire, Fire

Keel: Fire, Fire, Fire

Jules: Earth, Fire, Earth, Fire

Ghost: Earth, Fire

Scene 7. Final Shot plays.

Mary Kate Young as Donna, the new drummer/Photo: Matthew Gregory Hollis

Jules: Air, Fire, Water

Ghost: Air

Scene 8. Space plays.

Mar, a solo artist: Earth, Air, Fire, Water

Ghost: Earth, Water

Scene 9. I Still See You plays.

Keel: Water, Air, Fire, Earth

Ghost: Fire, Air, Water, Earth

All the elements come together.


At each of the showings of the Barback Daddies, the team presents the musical and follows it with a talkback, where they gather the audience’s reactions and thoughts to where the musical currently stands. Throughout the process, the team has applied dynamic changes, like adding an additional song to the show after the first weekend’s run of workshop performances. And like each transformation, this new song will surely change, adapt and mold the elements that surround each of the characters and the story, overall.


The Barback Daddies performances will occur May 25 and May 26 at 8 PM at ACM Music, 3001 North Central Park Avenue. More information can be found at

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