Jason Wells wanted to stage a reading of his new play, so the Rogers Park playwright tapped a longtime friend to round up some local thespians willing to help.
That “friend” happens to be Chris Stolte, a Skokie actor who plays Mouch on “Chicago Fire.”
Pretty soon, almost the entire cast of the NBC drama was on board.
Eight of the show’s stars — plus one from spinoff “Chicago P.D.” — are scheduled to take part in the highly unusual reading at 4 p.m. Sunday at the Mission Theater in the new iO venue, 1501 N. Kingsbury.
“We couldn’t just invite these guys over to someone’s living room and read the play and give them pizza,” said Wells, sounding like he still hasn’t wrapped his head around the fact that the cast of one of NBC’s top-rated shows is doing a public reading of an early version of his play.
“It was too cool of a thing to squander,” Wells added about the event, which turned into a fundraiser for the 100 Club of Chicago, a charity for families of fallen first responders. Proceeds also will benefit the Mission. Tickets cost $50 and are extremely limited, given the theater’s capacity of less than 200 people. (Box office number is 312-929-2401.)
The friendship between Wells and Stolte goes way back. The St. Louis natives met in college at University of Missouri. Each was best man at the other’s wedding.
For the past 26 years they’ve worked as actors in Chicago, where Wells’ TV credits include “Prison Break” and a bit part as a parole board officer on “Fire.”
Wells has published three plays, all of which launched at Steppenwolf Theatre’s First Look Repertory of New Work. “The Engine of Our Ruin” is his fourth. Set in a swanky hotel room in the Middle East, the comedy is rooted in the world of politics.
“It’s about a routine trade agreement that escalates into a major international incident over a series of misunderstandings,” he said.
Wells and Stolte started tossing around the names of various “Fire” actors who’d be good fits for some of the roles.
“We realized that almost the whole cast of that show could be the ensemble for this play,” Wells said. “It was such a perfect confluence, it became irresistible to try to make it happen. From what I understand, it didn’t take a lot of convincing. They’re just such a friendly group, everybody was like, ‘Sure.’”
Stolte will read the part of a hot-headed state department official.
Monica Raymund (Gabriela Dawson) plays a translator with a political agenda, while Taylor Kinney (Kelly Severide) does a turn as a diplomat’s bodyguard.
Eamonn Walker (Chief Boden), Charlie Barnett (Peter Mills), Yuri Sardarov (Otis), David Eigenberg (Christopher Herrmann) and Kara Killmer (Sylvie Brett) also have roles, along with “P.D.” star and Northwestern University theater school grad Marina Squerciati (Kim Burgess) and veteran Second City and iO performer David Pasquesi, co-artistic director of the Mission.
“Some of these people are playing pretty small parts well beneath their star wattage,” Wells said.
The purpose of most stage readings is to help a playwright iron out kinks in the manuscript, to see what works and what doesn’t.
As Wells is acutely aware, Sunday’s event isn’t most readings.
“I don’t know what I’m going to learn from this,” he said. “It could be a typical experience or it could be a circus. Either way, it should be fun.”