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Shattered Globe Theatre is pleased to launch its 2017-18 Season with the Chicago premiere of Pulitzer Prize nominee James Still’s fevered, emotional epic THE HEAVENS ARE HUNG IN BLACK, a theatrical rendering of Abraham Lincoln's struggle as a man of conscience to lead a divided country, directed by SGT Ensemble Member Louis Contey*. THE HEAVENS ARE HUNG IN BLACK will play September 7 – October 21, 2017 at SGT’s resident home Theater Wit, 1229 W. Belmont Ave. in Chicago. Tickets are currently available at www.shatteredglobe.org, by calling (773) 975-8150 or in person at the Theater Wit Box Office. 
 
THE HEAVENS ARE HUNG IN BLACK will feature Lawrence Grimm and SGT Ensemble member Linda Reiter* as Abraham Lincoln and Mary Todd Lincoln, respectively. The cast also includes SGT Ensemble Members Kelsey Melvin*, Drew Schad*, Brad Woodard* and SGT Artistic Associate Darren Jones+, with Don Bender, Zach Bloomfield, Jennifer Cheung, Kate Harris, Tim Kough, Tim Newell, Leo Sharkey and Gus Zaruba.
 
Presented for the first time in the “Land of Lincoln,” THE HEAVENS ARE HUNG IN BLACK is James Still’s personal interpretation on the months leading up to Abraham Lincoln’s signing of The Emancipation Proclamation. This theatrical epic explores Lincoln’s humanity, conscience and leadership through the troubled times of 1862 – as dreams of his famous adversaries and unnamed soldiers walk through his waking life. Sprinkled with text pulled from Lincoln’s prolific letters and speeches, this play explores the heart of the man who led America in a war that we're still fighting today.
 
“The Heavens are Hung in Black portrays a transformational moment in Abraham Lincoln’s life and worldview,” comments Director Louis Contey. “In 1862, after nearly a year of bloody civil war, Lincoln must find a way of elevating the purpose of the conflict and save the Union. It is said that the office of President changes the individual who occupies it. With his conscience gnawing at him Lincoln begins to evolve as he considers the virtues and controversy of emancipation. The play, for me, embodies the essence of moral leadership and the idea of doing the right thing for the right reason, or as Lincoln himself states, listening ‘to the better angels of our nature’.”
 
THE HEAVENS ARE HUNG IN BLACK was commissioned by and premiered at Ford’s Theatre in 2009, where Lincoln was famously shot.
 
The production team includes Angie Miller (scenic design), Hailey Rakowiecki (costume design), Madison Briede (assistant costume design), Michael Stanfill (lighting and projection design), Chris Kriz+ (sound design), Vivian Knouse* (props design), Judy Anderson* (executive production manager), Jason Shivers (stage manager) and Ayanna Wimberly (assistant stage manager).
 
PRODUCTION DETAILS:
 
Title: THE HEAVENS ARE HUNG IN BLACK
Playwright: James Still
Director: Louis Contey*
Cast: Don Bender (William Seward, Jefferson Davis, Edwin Booth, Ensemble), Zach Bloomfield (John Brown, Billy Brown, Canterbury, Ensemble), Jennifer Cheung (Young Woman, Ensemble), Lawrence Grimm (Abraham Lincoln), Kate Harris (Mrs. Winston, Westmoreland, Ensemble), Darren Jones+ (Dred Scott, Theophilus Hammond, Uncle Tom, Ensemble), Tim Kough (Ward Hill Lamon, Bates, Ensemble), Kelsey Melvin* (Thomas Haley), Tim Newell (Walt Whitman), Linda Reiter* (Mary Todd Lincoln), Drew Schad* (John Hay), Leo Sharkey (Tad Lincoln), Brad Woodard* (Edwin Stanton, Stephen Douglas, Ensemble) and Gus Zaruba (Willie Lincoln, Newsboy).
 
Location: Theater Wit, 1229 W. Belmont Ave, Chicago
Dates: Previews: Thursday, September 7 at 8 pm, Friday, September 8 at 8 pm and Saturday, September 9 at 8 pm
Regular Run: Thursday, September 14 – Saturday, October 21, 2017 
Curtain Times: Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays at 8 pm; Sundays at 3 pm. Please note: there will be no performance on Saturday, October 7 at 8 pm and an added matinee on Saturday, October 21 at 3 pm.
Touch Tour/Audio Description Performance: Friday, October 6 – 6:30 pm touch tour, 8 pm performance with audio description. $20 tickets available with code “ACCESS.”
Global Perspectives: SGT will be hosting post-show discussions immediately following 3 pm performances on Sundays, September 17 -October 15.
Tickets: Previews: $20 general admission, $10 students, $10 industry tickets with code “FRIEND”. Regular Run: $35 general admission. Discounts: $15 students, $28 seniors, $20 under 30. $15 industry tickets on Thursdays with code “INDUSTRY.” Tickets are currently available at www.theaterwit.org, in person at the Theater Wit Box Office or by calling (773) 975-8150. Group discounts are currently available by contacting This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or by calling (773) 770-0333. 
 
* Denotes SGT Ensemble Member
+ Denotes SGT Artistic Associate

 

Published in Upcoming Theatre

Griffin Theatre’s In To America is a stark reminder of the contributions made by the many immigrants that have come from all around the world and have made the United States what it is today. In writer Bill Massolia’s multicultural story, American history is retold by several immigrant narratives where sixty personal stories are shared spanning over thirty countries. The play begins with the American immigration experience from Jamestown in the early 17th century and covers the 400 years since, many of its stories remarkable as they are daring. 

We hear the good and the bad. In many stories we get a taste of the shameful mistreatment immigrants received upon their arrival, the brave new world of vast opportunity they were seeking no more than a hostile environment that spews hate for the simple fact of being different. In others (not nearly as many) we hear how immigrants were received with opens arms, their dreams fulfilled as their new home offers the new life they had so desperately had hoped for. In this condensed history lesson we also learn the hardships endured throughout perilous journeys in leaving their own countries in daring escapes from their own native countries. 

“We never crossed the border. The border crossed us,” we are profoundly told from Juanita Andersen who portrays a Mexican landowner after being squeezed out by new arrivals during the Manifest Destiny.  

The series of monologues flows quickly as the story follows a timeline that is rich in information covering such events as congress adopting the uniform rule in 1790 so that any white person could apply for citizenship after two years of residency, the Dred Scott decision in 1857 declaring free Africans non-citizens, the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1902, Native Americans made citizens in 1924 and the 1980 Refugee Act that removed refugees as a preference category, reducing worldwide ceiling for immigration to 270,000. Many, many other significant policies are brought to light that have had an effect on immigration.

Artist Director Bill Massolia comments about the production, “In To America owes a great deal of its inspiration from my own family’s immigrant roots.” 

He was also inspired by Ronald Takaki’s award-winning book A Different Mirror where it is stated “In the making of multicultural America, the contingent’s original inhabitants were joined by people pushed from their homelands by poverty and persecution in Asia, Latin America and Europe, and pulled here by extravagant dreams. Others came here in chains from Africa, and still others fled here from countries like Afghanistan and Vietnam. These men and women may not have read John Locke, but they came to believe that ‘in the beginning all the world was America.’ They envisioned the emerging country as a place for a bold new start.”

He further states, “Marginalized and degraded as the “Other” minorities came to believe even more fiercely and fervently than did the founding fathers in the ‘self-evident truths’ that ‘all men are created equal’, entitled to the ‘unalienable rights’ of ‘life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness’. 

In To America also explores the paranoia regarding immigration held by one such founding father quoting Benjamin Franklin, "Few of their children in the country learn English... The signs in our streets have inscriptions in both languages ... Unless the stream of their importation could be turned they will soon so outnumber us that all the advantages we have will not be able to preserve our language, and even our government will become precarious."

The play’s theme is strong in reminding us that America has been made on the backs of immigrants, boasting many great achievements and spotlighting a handful of prominent “new Americans” who have truly made a difference in our country’s progress. In the end we get a picture of hope, unity and promise.

Dorothy Milne directs while the cast in this insightful piece includes Juanita Andersen, Katie Campbell, Jennifer Cheung, Aneisa Hicks, Christopher W. Jones, Francisco Lopez, Adam Marcantoni, Sean McGill, Rasika Ranganathan, Omer Abbas Salem, Scott Shimizu, Jason VonRohn and Elizabeth Hope Williams. Each actor plays multiple characters from all over the world, transitioning very well from accent to accent, adding to the play’s genuine nature in relaying a spirit everyone can identify with.  

In To America is just the play that will prompt many to go back and research their family lineage to discover their own journey to America.

In To America is being performed at Den Theatre’s Heath Main Stage through April 23rd. Tickets are $38 and valet parking is now available. For tickets and/or more show information click here

         

  

 

Published in Theatre in Review

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