Chi, IL LIVE Shows On Our Radar:
Sex, power, institutional failure, human frailty, betrayal, dreams and madness are at the core of celebrated Cuban-American writer María Irene Fornés's Pulitzer-Prize nominated play What of the Night?
*Note: For mature audiences only. Contains sexual content and partial nudity.*
Tonight we'll be out to review What of the Night?. Here at ChiIL Live Shows, we're elated when some of our favorite companies collaborate and we're looking forward to this one. We've been impressed with the edgy, past productions chosen by both Cor Theater and Stage Left Theatre and we're eager to see their take on this Pulitzer-Prize nominated gem. Check back soon for our full review.
Chicago's Cor Theater and Stage Left Theatre are teaming after the New Year to co-present a fearless revival of What of the Night?, directed by internationally acclaimed Chicago director and playwright Carlos Murillo. Performances are January 8-February 12, 2017 at Theater Wit, 1229 W. Belmont Ave., in Chicago's Lakeview neighborhood.
Murillo's new production of Fornés's epic, deeply intimate and never-more-timely mediation about poverty in America stars Dionne Addai (Birdie), Kathryn Acosta (Rainbow), Kate Black-Spence (Helena/Leah), Tosha Fowler (Nadine/Reba), Stephen Loch (Joseph), Casey Morris (Charlie), Miguel Nunez (Pete), Nelson Rodriguez (Ray) and Allyce Torres (Greta). Designers include Eleanor Kahn (set and props), Brenda Winstead (costumes), Eric Vigo (lights), Jeffrey Levin (sound) and Nick Sandys (violence). Zoe Benditt is stage manager.
Performances run through February 12: Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 3 p.m. Tickets, $18-$30, are on sale now at cortheatre.org, stagelefttheatre.com, or by calling (773) 975-8150.
Behind the scenes of
What of the Night?
A finalist for the 1990 Pulitzer Prize, What of the Night? interweaves four one-acts that follow an extended family whose lives are intricately intertwined even as they try to escape the ties that bind them. When Birdie, a just-married 14-year-old leaves her impoverished home to seek a better life, she unwittingly sets in motion a sprawling epic spanning time and geography. Her daughter Rainbow finds love. Her son Charlie finds solace in loyalty. Her son Ray finds the trappings of success. For each, survival and the preservation of loved ones is the name of the game. Though their yearnings are briefly rewarded, Fornés's lyrical play lays bare the difference between the hunger of the soul and the hunger of the ego.
Fornés is a Cuban-American avant-garde playwright and director who was a leading figure of the Off-Off-Broadway movement in the 1960s. Fornés's themes frequently focused on poverty and feminism. Moreover, on personal and artistic levels, her lesbian identity has been central to her art. Fornés's family moved to the United States in 1945. She became a painter before beginning to write plays in the early 1960s. The Widow, her first professionally produced play, was staged in 1961. Fornés acted as the director for many of her subsequent works, including There! You Died (1963; later retitled Tango Palace, 1964), The Successful Life Of 3: Skit In Vaudeville (1965), and Molly's Dream (1968), among others. In 1973 she founded the New York Theatre Strategy, which was devoted to the production of stylistically innovative theatrical works. She has received eight Obie awards - in such categories as distinguished playwriting and direction and best new play - for Promenade (1965), The Successful Life Of 3, Fefu And Her Friends, The Danube (1982), Mud, Sarita (1984), The Conduct Of Life and Abingdon Square (1987). Fornés has also received numerous other awards and grants, including Rockefeller Foundation Grants in 1971 and 1984, a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1972, National Endowments for the Arts grants in 1974, 1984, and 1985, an American Academy and Institute of Letters and Arts Award in Literature in 1986 and a Playwrights U.S.A. Award in 1986.
"What of the Night? is among the most important plays in María Irene Fornés's oeuvre, and I am thrilled by the prospect of giving it the theatrical life it deserves,"said Murillo. "I first met Irene in the early 1990s when we were both in residence at New York Theatre Workshop's summer retreat at the Hotchkiss School. Her warmth and encouragement, especially important to me at the time as I was a baby playwright, went a long way to build my confidence. I later studied with her at Theatre for the New City, where her life-changing workshops helped shape both my writing and teaching of playwriting to this very day. I count her as one of my greatest influences and mentors."
Murillo (director) directed the Chicago premiere of Julia Cho's Durango at Silk Road, as well as productions and workshops of his own work in New York, Chicago and Minneapolis. He has also staged plays at The Walker Arts Center/Intermedia Arts in Minneapolis, The Public Theatre New Work Now! Festival, the Mazer Theatre and Makor in NY. For DePaul University, he directed the world premiere of Ike Holter's Good Worker for the New Playwrights Series, for which he has staged two previous productions (Andie Arthur's In Common Hours and Alex Perry's eikon). As a playwright, Murillo's body of work has been widely produced throughout the United States and Europe. His best known play Dark Play or Stories for Boys premiered at the Humana Festival at Actors Theatre of Louisville, and has been performed throughout the US, Germany, Poland, Slovakia, Hungary and Lithuania. His plays have been commissioned by The Goodman, the Public Theater, Playwrights Horizons, Berkeley Rep, South Coast Rep, Steppenwolf, and Adventure Stage and developed by The Sundance Theatre Lab, The Playwrights' Center in Minneapolis, the Bay Area Playwrights Festival, New Dramatists and others. He is the recipient of a 2015 Doris Duke Impact Award and a Mellon Foundation National Resident Playwright Program grant funding a three-year residency at Adventure Stage. From 1993 to 1995, Murillo served as the Associate Literary Manager at The Public Theater in New York. He heads the BFA Playwriting Program at The Theatre School of DePaul University, and is a proud alumnus of New Dramatists. Murillo is of Colombian and Puerto Rican descent. He lives in the south side of Chicago with his wife, the director, Lisa Portes, and their two children Eva and Carlitos.
About Cor Theatre
"By combining Carlos's passionate vision, Fornés' poetically primal voice, Cor's fearless aesthetic and Stage Left's strong commitment to artists, What of the Night? promises to be our biggest leap yet," added Cor Theatre Artistic Director and cast member Tosha Fowler.
Cor Theatre (cortheater.org) debuted in September 2012 with a vision to create theatrical experiences that are rarely presented in Chicago by artists who seek to defy expectation. Cor is one of Chicago's youngest and most ambitious Chicago professional theatre companies with a growing board and strong experience behind it.
Cor's inaugural production, Skin Tight by Gary Henderson, was met with enthusiastic audiences, critical acclaim and made just enough money to establish a not-for-profit corporation. The company named itself Cor Theatre, deriving its name from the Latin root of courage - meaning heart.
Cor returned in 2015 with Erin Courtney's A Map of Virtue, named a top show to see in the Chicago Tribune and Most Promising Debut by Time Out Chicago, and nominated for several Time Out Chicago Theatre Awards. Cor triumphed again in 2015 with the first professional Chicago staging of Brad Frasier's controversial play Love and Human Remains in 20 years. Cor's production played to numerous sold-out houses and was named one of the top plays to see by Windy City Times and New City.
In March 2016, Cor presented the U.S. premiere of Christina, The Girl King by Michel Marc Bouchard, translated by Linda Gaboriau, telling the true story of the enigmatic, gender bending 17th century Queen of Sweden. Cor concluded its 2016 season in October with an epic production of Bertolt Brecht's The Good Person of Szechwan, translated by Tony Kushner, directed by ensemble member Ernie Nolan.
Company members are Tony Bozzuto, Chris Brickhouse, Elyse Cowles, Tosha Fowler, Adam Gutkin, Alarie Hammock, Topher Kielbasa, Jeffrey Levin, Claire Meyers, Ernie Nolan, Stefin Steberl and Eric Vigo.
For more information, visit CorTheatre.org, like Cor Theatre on Facebook, follow the company on Twitter, @CorTheatre, or call (866) 811-4111.
About Stage Left Theatre
"We are so excited to partner with Cor Theatre and with Carlos Murillo for this multigenerational epic," said Stage Left Theater Co-Artistic Directors Jason A. Fleece and Amy Szerlong. "The story of a family fighting the cycle of poverty fits neatly into our mission of inciting debate about political and social issues, and continues to resonate almost 30 years after its premiere. We believe Stage Left's issue-driven work combined with Cor's daring will make this an outstanding, impactful production."
Founded in 1982, Stage Left Theatre is committed to developing and producing plays that raise debate and challenge perspectives on political and social issues. Through a full subscription season and our new play development program Downstage Left, Stage Left strives to ask provocative social and political questions by producing a mix of new works, regional premieres and timeless classics.
A charitable corporation founded in 1982 to provide a venue for Chicago theatre artists and to develop and produce new work, Stage Left redefined its mission in 1988 to produce and develop plays that raise debate on political and social issues. For its first 11 years, Stage Left produced continuously at 3244 North Clark Street. In February of 1995, Stage Left moved to a 49-seat theatre at 3408 North Sheffield Avenue. That location provided an intimate, well-equipped performance space for the artists of Stage Left, as well as other arts organizations.
In the fall of 2010, Stage Left became one of the resident companies at Theater Wit - a multi-theatre complex that provides expanded seating capacity and audience amenities, greater design opportunities, and a chance to establish relationships with the other resident companies: Theater Wit and Boho Ensemble.
Over the past thirty years, Stage Left has produced over 120 mainstage, late-night, off-night, children's and touring productions that have garnered critical accolades, as well as 46 nominations and 17 awards for excellence from the Joseph Jefferson Awards Committee.