Nickel History: The Nation of Heat


By Tony Fitzpatrick with Stan Klein

Tony Fitzpatrick- Nickel History

Adapted & Directed by Ann Filmer

Produced by Firecat projects & 16th Street Theater

At  Steppenwolf’s Garage Theatre

“If you can get a nickel smarter every day you might eventually be worth a dollar.” Tony’s uncle

As I said in my review of Stations Lost about Tony Fitzpatrick:  “He is large, bald with tattoos and he wears a cut-off T-shirt, jeans and sneakers. He uses salty language, honors his friends (especially his sidekick Stan Klein) and he shares his past, warts and all in total honest storytelling.  He is never shy about his political, social, political and ecstatic views of the world. He is a Chicago original, an icon of the liberal,with a  gritty artistic temperament grounded in Chicago self-expression. He is Tony Fitzpatrick – a force of art.”  He is even bolder and funnier this time around.

The last part of Tony Fitzpatrick’s personal trilogy,  Nickel History: The Nation of Heat contains more of the theatrical elements from the earlier shows, This Train and Stations Lostthe blending of storytelling, music, visual art into a theatrical event of enormous enjoyment. Tony’s observations of life in all its many colors has a distinct theme – he looks back to look forward at our nation of heat. Fitzpatrick carries on from the influence of Studs Terkel as he chronicles today’s world through anecdotal memories and characterizations of influential folks from his past including his father. Tony is basically an artist who draws and etches as his personal means of expression. He also adds storytelling, writing and acting to his arsenal of self expression. His column in New City is a ‘must read.’

tony fitzpatrick

Nickel History features a sophisticated use of visual art by the talented Kristin Reeves who supports and comments on the action of the live stage with stunning video projections. She blends photos,Tony’s art and vivid landscapes that heightens the live show. Add the teriffic guitar work form John Rice that underscores and add emotion to the action on stage with the fine vocals by Anna Fermin and Nickel History plays as a most enchanting and funny theatrical event. It must be seen to fully grasp the spirit of honesty as the truths and slice of life stores come to life.

Fitzpatrick ‘s pal, the beloved Stan Klein, is featured here as never before as we hear about both Tony’s and Stan’s fathers serving in World War II. Stan tells that his father joined up to get something to eat since he was only 105 pounds.  The interaction between Fitzpatrick and Klein defines true friendship and mutual respect. However, their friendship was tested when Stan tells about his attempt to become an usher at Wrigley Field. Tony loathes the Cubs as a true White Sox fan would. After we see Stan’s adventures (caught on tape by Reeves ) at Wrigley, he tells Tony that he applied to work for the Cubs. Tony’s verbal attack was a hoot. (Later Tony apologized to Stan for the outburst.)

Tony’s observations in his trilogy are both personal and universal; his wit and humor have a crude rawness that highlights his honesty and down-to-earth realism.  His  urban provocateur temperament and basic need to tell his story fuels his showmanship. He is funny, self-mocking and totally uninhibited. He says what’s on his mind.He and his pal Stan Klein are totally honest souls who use humor, wit and truth to link the past, present and future. You’ll not see a more sophisticated yet down-to-earth evening of storytelling performance art than Nickel History. Getting to know Tony Fitzpatrick and Stan Klein is to get to know contemporary artists with soul and vivid memories. You’ll enjoy this show as you experience these Chicago originals.

Highly Recommended

Tom Williams

Talk Theatre in Chicago podcast

Date Reviewed: July 19, 2012

For more info checkout the Nickel History page at

At Steppenwolf’s Garage Theatre, 1624 N. Halsted, Chicago, IL, call 312-335-1650,, tickets $27, Thursdays & Fridays at 8 pm, Saturdays at 5 & 8:30 pm, Sundays at 7 pm, running time is 1 hour, 50 minutes with intermission, through August 5, 2012








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