Theatre

Steppenwolf Theatre Company announced today additional casting for the highly anticipated world premiere of The Minutes by ensemble member, Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award winner Tracy Letts, directed by Artistic Director Anna D. Shapiro. Ensemble members Kevin Anderson (Mr. Breeding), James Vincent Meredith (Mr. Blake), Sally Murphy (Ms. Matz) and William Petersen (Mayor Superba) join previously announced ensemble members Francis Guinan (Mr. Oldfield) and Ian Barford (Mr. Carp) in the cast of this new political comedy. Also featured in the cast are Brittany Burch as Ms. Johnson, Cliff Chamberlain as Mr. Peel and Penny Slusher as Ms. Innes. Previously announced ensemble member Tim Hopper is no longer in the cast due to a scheduling conflict. Remaining roles to be announced at a later date.

Previews for The Minutes begin November 9; opening is November 19 and the show runs through December 31, 2017 in Steppenwolf’s Downstairs Theatre, 1650 N. Halsted St. Single tickets to The Minutes go on sale Friday, September 15, 2017 at 11am. Classic and Flex Memberships are currently available for the 2017/18 Season. To purchase a Membership and secure a seat now, contact Audience Services at 312-335-1650 or steppenwolf.org/memberships.

Tracy Letts, the writer of Linda Vista and August: Osage County, debuts a scathing new comedy about small-town politics and real-world power that exposes the ugliness behind some of our most closely-held American narratives while asking each of us what we would do to keep from becoming history’s losers.

The Minutes marks the fifth collaboration between Anna D. Shapiro and Tracy Letts and the seventh play by Letts to premiere at Steppenwolf.

Tracy Letts is a Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award-winning playwright, actor and Steppenwolf ensemble member. He is the author of the plays Linda Vista, Mary Page Marlowe, The Scavenger’s Daughter, Superior Donuts, August: Osage County (Pulitzer Prize, Tony Award), Man from Nebraska (Pulitzer Prize finalist), Bug and Killer Joe. Also an actor, he received the 2013 Tony Award for Best Actor in Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?. TV and film credits include Lady Bird, The Lovers, Christine, Elvis and Nixon, The Big Short, HBO’s “Divorce" and two seasons as Andrew Lockhart on Showtime’s “Homeland.”

Anna D. Shapiro is a Tony award-winning director and Artistic Director of Steppenwolf. She has directed several notable productions at Steppenwolf, including Visiting Edna, Mary Page Marlowe, August: Osage County (2008 Tony, Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle Awards), Man from Nebraska and The Motherf**ker with the Hat (also on Broadway, 2011 Tony nomination for Best Director). Broadway credits include Larry David’s Fish in the Dark, Of Mice and Men and the revival of Steppenwolf’s This Is Our Youth.

About the Cast & Creative Team

Ensemble member Kevin Anderson last performed at Steppenwolf in Lisa D’Amour’s Detroit in 2010; Ian Barford most recently starred in Steppenwolf’s world premiere of Linda Vista and Visiting Edna in the 2016/17 season, and he originated the role of Little Charles in August: Osage County; ensemble member Francis Guinan has appeared in more than 30 Steppenwolf shows, is currently in Taylor Mac’s Hir and next season’s The Rembrandt; ensemble member James Vincent Meredith most recently performed in 2015’s Between Riverside and Crazy and in a highly lauded production of Othello at the Chicago Shakespeare Theater; ensemble member Sally Murphy was most recently seen in Visiting Edna and Linda Vista and was nominated in 2015 for the Lucille Lortel Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Musical for her performance in Three Penny Opera; and ensemble member William Petersen was last seen onstage in both Steppenwolf’s and The Geffen Playhouse’s productions of Slow Girl (2013) and is well known for his Emmy Award-winning performance as Gil Grissom in the CBS drama series CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, for which he won a Screen Actors Guild Award and was nominated for a Golden Globe Award. Brittany Burch is a graduate of the School at Steppenwolf and an ensemble member of the Gift Theatre. This will be Cliff Chamberlain’s 10th production at Steppenwolf, where he was most recently seen in The Herd; and Penny Slusher is well known for her Chicago and regional theatre credits and was in Steppenwolf’s Australian production of August: Osage County.

The Minutes production team includes David Zinn (scenic design), Ana Kuzmanic (costume design), Brian MacDevitt (lighting design) and Andre Pluess (sound design and original music). Additional credits include Christine D. Freeburg (stage manager), Elise Hausken (assistant stage manager), JC Clementz (casting director) and Aaron Carter (artistic producer).
Single tickets will go on sale Friday, September 15, 2017 at 11am through Audience Services at 312-335-1650 or steppenwolf.org.

Published in Upcoming Theatre

Trying to explain what Black Harlem's Renaissance was like is hard. The period was so rich in creative verve, you really have to show it while you tell it. It took me awhile to grasp what playwright Pearl Cleage has achieved - and director Ron OJ Parson has brought carefully to life -  in Court Theatre's Blues for an Alabama Sky.

In this beautifully polished production, we become familiar with the lives and aspirations of five denizens of the abundant cultural life enveloping New York's burgeoning black district in the 1920s and 1930s, driven by waves of aspiring new arrivals during the Great Migration from the South to the North. The period gives rise to the first jazz concert, to international musical superstars like Josephine Baker, Paul Robeson, Louis Armstrong, Fats Waller; to writers and thinkers like Marcus Garvey, Langston Hughes, Countee Cullen, and Claude McKay, who wrote the first bestseller by a black author. 

Cleage has fleshed out each of her characters - a doctor, a singer, a fashion designer, a social worker, and a carpenter - who are much more than archetypes. These are real people, each contributing a seminal thread to this tale. She has also set the timeline toward the end of that golden era, in 1930 after the market crash, as the Great Depression rolled in. 

The storyline seems surprisingly fresh, but it is true to its time: the protagonists here seem a mismatched couple - a flamboyant gay fashion designer Guy (Sean Parris), and his platonic love, Angel (Toya Turner), a gangsters' moll who tries but fails to make a living as a night club singer.  

Abandonedly outré, Guy has worked his way up from stitching gowns for cross dressers, to designing clothes on spec for Josephine Baker. The pair love and support each other as they pursue their dreams, but have no future as a couple; Angel is set on finding herself a big strong man who will take care of her, and pay the rent. Guy wants to make it in Paris.

Across the hall dwells the scholarly Delia (Celeste Cooper), who is launching the first family planning clinic in Harlem. A history lesson makes its way into the plot as the clinic is burned down. Some in the black community suspected efforts at setting up such clinics - led by Margaret Sanger - were really just part of a plot to reduce the black population. Carrying the torch for Delia is Sam, a medical doctor. James Vincent Meredith's performance gives Sam a steady, even temperament - abiding patience, and someone who is tolerant and nurturant. 

Conflict arises as Leland (Geno Walker) a widowed carpenter recently arrived from Alabama, falls for Angel. His ardor cools as he discovers he is not in Alabama anymore. In this Black Harlem, homosexuals are accepted; family planning is a matter of choice.

Each of these characters engenders our sympathy. And in the course of the action they live, die, move on - or remain stuck in place. Though Cleage wrote this work in 1995, it is completely fresh. And it has been given its due in Parson's production. Costumes and set are beautifully period, and lighting brings added dimensions to the staging. Blues for an Alabama Sky now extended through February 19th at Court Theatre.

Published in Theatre in Review

 

 

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