Showing posts with label Pulitzer-prize winning. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Pulitzer-prize winning. Show all posts

Thursday, March 17, 2022

REVIEW: Lynn Nottage’s Pulitzer-prize Winning Drama SWEAT On Stage at Paramount's Copley Theatre Through April 24, 2022

 ChiIL Live Shows On Our Radar 





By Bonnie Kenaz-Mara

Imagine yourself in a dive bar in Philly, in a working class hood, at the end of the Clinton era. Generations of hard working Americans have made a decent living here, with seniority workers making up to $40 an hour. Yet that's all about to come crashing town, as factory after factory packs up and moves to Mexico and cheaper digs overseas, putting profits over people. Sweat spans the Bush era and the utter decimation of this factory town, and the poverty, desperation, violence, and addiction that follow in the wake of plant closings. 

It's a brilliant and crucial set up for understanding the Trump years and the ongoing rage of the working class who punch down and blame immigrants and other working poor instead of management, and wealthy factory owners. Sweat is a scathing look at racism, scapegoats, injuries, alcoholism driven by poverty and pain, and the difficulty of employment after incarceration. It's not all doom and gloom, though. Sweat also depicts lifelong friendships, bonding, birthdays, and the strength in a sense of community.

Photo credit for all production shots unless noted otherwise: Amy Nelson

If you're expecting Paramount's usual fare of crowd pleasing musicals with big song and dance numbers, this is not that production. Head across the street. If you're ready for an epic fight scene, an unflinching look at human nature under pressure, and complicated family dynamics, don't miss this! We love Lynn Nottage’s phenomenal writing, and her all too timely treatise on the dissolving of living wage, blue collar jobs, and the havoc it wreaks on individuals, families, and communities. Paramount's take on this vital, contemporary drama is outstanding.

Here at ChiIL Live Shows, we're so excited for Paramount's new space and bold choices. The Copley Theatre renovation is a gorgeous mix of retro and modern with a nod toward a 1960's esthetic with a 2022 flair. 

Paramount's award winning main-stage shows have sparked an artistic renaissance in Aurora and now they're expanding to include a new space with an edgier lineup seldom seen in suburban theatre settings. What a wonderful resource for the region! We adored Lynn Nottage’s Pulitzer-prize winning drama, Sweat, when we caught it in 2019 at Chicago's Goodman Theatre, and we're thrilled that Paramount's bringing it back with a phenomenal cast, in their intimate, new space. 

We truly felt like patrons in the on-stage bar, with the action taking place feet away. The set design is top shelf and the entire cast pours their hearts and souls into this production, expertly immersing the audience in their world. This production gave me chills and elicited a rousing, unanimous standing ovation from the opening night crowd. There were audible gasps in the audience during the vicious fight scene and more than a few patrons were moved to tears. This is the kind of theatre that leaves a mark, and sparks not only empathy, but vital post show discussions. Highly recommended. 

Bonnie is a Chicago based writer, theater critic, photographer, videographer, actress, artist and Mama. She owns two websites where she publishes frequently: (adult) & (family friendly). 

Sweat, Lynn Nottage’s Pulitzer-prize winning drama, is the first of four Bold productions in 2022 in the newly modernized Copley Theatre, right across the street from Paramount Theatre

After two years of waiting, Paramount Theatre will launch its new Bold Series next month, bringing a new, four-show subscription series and a new type of live theater – fearless, unexpected and thought provoking – to the heart of Aurora’s downtown entertainment district.

The inaugural production is Sweat, Lynn Nottage’s acclaimed modern-day drama about life in an American Rust Belt town being battered by the constant threat of company shutdowns. Sweat, running March 9-April 24, 2022, opening to the press Wednesday, March 16 at 7 p.m., is the winner of the 2017 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, nominated for a Tony Award for Best Play and a landmark achievement of American theater.

Just as exciting, Paramount will lift the curtain on its new home for its Bold Series, the newly remodeled Copley Theatre, right across the street from Paramount at 8 E. Galena Blvd., in the North Island Center.

Photo Credit: Bonnie Kenaz-Mara

Following a two-year, $2 million, top-to-bottom renovation, the Copley is no longer an unknown, underutilized space, but an intimate, state-of-the-art theater with 165 comfortable new seats and a modern new lobby bar, ready to attract more audiences to downtown Aurora.

Behind-the-scenes of Paramount’s inaugural Bold production, Sweat

Sweat is set in a bar in an impoverished American town, where factory workers gather to laugh, talk, and drink their cares away, despite the constant threat of company shutdowns. When promotions and layoffs are rumored, tensions and jealousy begin to rip apart their community. Can friendships and family endure when all hopes of economic stability and mobility disappear? An intense examination of race, class and the human costs of capitalism, Sweat captures the ever-present battle between human needs and business in America’s Rust Belt.

Veteran Chicago director Andrea J Dymond is director. The cast features Jordan Anthony Arredondo (Oscar), Tiffany Bedwell (Jessie), Emmanuel K. Jackson (Chris), Linda Gillum (Tracey), Joshua L. Green (Brucie), Bryant Hayes (Evan), Shariba Rivers (Cynthia), Randy Steinmeyer (Stan) and Gage Wallace (Jason).

The production team includes Jeffrey D. Kmiec, scenic designer; Yvonne L. Miranda, costume designer; Jessica Neill, lighting designer; Jeffrey Levin, sound designer; Jesse Gaffney, properties designer; David Woolley, fight choreographer; Khalid Long, dramaturg; Jinni Pike, stage manager; and Lanita VanderSchaaf, assistant stage manager. 

The cast for Paramount’s Bold Series production of Sweat features Jordan Anthony Arredondo (Oscar), Tiffany Bedwell (Jessie), Linda Gillum (Tracey), Joshua L. Green (Brucie), Bryant Hayes (Evan),

 Emmanuel K. Jackson (Chris), Shariba Rivers (Cynthia), Randy Steinmeyer (Stan) and Gage Wallace (Jason).

Sweat performance schedule and ticket information

Previews start Wednesday, March 9, 2022. Press opening is Wednesday, March 16 at 7 p.m. Sweat runs through April 24. Show times are Wednesdays at 1:30 p.m. and 7 p.m.; Thursdays at 7 p.m.; Fridays at 8 p.m.; Saturdays at

2 p.m. and 8 p.m.; Sundays at 1 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. Tickets are $67 to $74.

The Copley Theatre is located at 8 E. Galena Blvd., in the North Island Center, directly across the street from Paramount Theatre in downtown Aurora. For tickets and information, visit, call (630) 896-6666, or stop by the Paramount box office, 23 E. Galena Blvd., Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Access Services

If you require wheelchair or special seating or other assistance, please contact the box office at (630) 896-6666 or in advance.

Paramount offers assistive listening devices free of charge at all performances. Check in at the coat room before the show to borrow a listening device.

Paramount Theatre’s Covid-19 commitment to and safety and protocol

Paramount Theatre is committed to the health and safety of all patrons, theater employees, production staff and artists, and adheres to federal, state and municipal COVID-19 protocols.

What’s next in Paramount’s new Bold Series

Following Sweat, Paramount’s new Bold Series continues with Hand to God by Robin Askins, a darkly humorous shocker told Sesame Street meets Exorcist style, puppets included, May 25-July 10. Next is the Tony Award-winning musical Fun Home, book by Lisa Kron, music by Jeanine Tesori, based on the graphic novel by Alison Bechdel, playing the Copley August 3-September 18. The 2022 Bold series culminates with BULL: a love story, Nancy García Loza’s world premiere drama about a Mexican-American man who returns to Chicago to find a family who has moved on and a neighborhood he no longer recognizes, October 5-November 20.

Summing up the series, Paramount Artistic Director Jim Corti said, "Up close and personal, the Bold Series calls audiences together urgently and right on time. By turns comic and cautionary, rendered by prize-winning, contemporary playwrights, passionate voices will soon be let loose in the dynamically renewed space of Paramount's Copley Theatre. Come discover what we've found for you in these four inaugural season productions. 

“After nearly two years since we were originally supposed to launch our Bold Series, the time has finally come to lift the curtain on an exhilarating and new storytelling experience,” added Tim Rater, President and CEO, Paramount Theatre. “Housed in the beautifully renovated Copley Theatre, audiences will discover stories that challenge, enlighten, engage and entertain. I could not be more excited to share these stories with our patrons and hope that when the lights come up, the conversations will last long after the ride home.”

Four-show Bold Series subscriptions are on sale now, ranging from just $134-$148. That’s a “buy two shows, get two shows free” offer. Single tickets to individual performances are $67-$74. To purchase subscriptions, single tickets or for more information, visit, call (630) 896-6666, or stop by the Paramount box office, 23 E. Galena Blvd., Aurora, Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

All four Bold Series performances will be staged in Copley Theatre, located in the North Island Center, 8 E. Galena Blvd., in downtown Aurora. 

About Paramount Theatre

Paramount Theatre, 23 E. Galena Blvd., is the center for performing arts and education in Aurora, the second largest city in Illinois. The beautiful, 1,843-seat theater, graced with a strong 1930s Art Deco influence and original Venetian décor, nationally known for its high-quality productions, superb acoustics and historic grandeur, has been downtown Aurora’s anchor attraction since 1931.

After launching its own Broadway Series in 2011, Paramount Theatre grew to be the second largest subscription house in the U.S. Before Covid, more than 41,000 subscribers from all over Chicagoland and the Midwest were enjoying Paramount’s critically acclaimed, 2019-20 Broadway-caliber productions. In addition, Paramount also presents an array of internationally known comedians, musicians, dance troupes and family shows annually.

Paramount Theatre is one of four live performance venues programmed and managed by the Aurora Civic Center Authority. ACCA also manages downtown Aurora’s newly renovated 165-seat Copley Theatre, Paramount’s smaller, more intimate, 165-seat “sister” stage, right across the street at 8 E. Galena Blvd. ACCA also oversees the Paramount School of the Arts, RiverEdge Park, the city’s 6,000-seat outdoor summer concert venue, and Stolp Island Theatre, an immersive space opening in summer 2023.

Paramount Theatre continues to expand its artistic and institutional boundaries under the guidance of Tim Rater, President and CEO, Aurora Civic Center Authority; Jim Corti, Artistic Director, Paramount Theatre; a dedicated Board of Trustees and a devoted staff of live theater and music professionals.

For the latest updates, visit or follow @ParamountAurora on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.

Playwright and director biographies

Lynn Nottage (playwright) is the first, and remains the only, woman to have won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama twice. Her plays have been produced widely in the United States and throughout the world. Her play Sweat (Pulitzer Prize, Evening Standard Award, Obie Award, Susan Smith Blackburn Prize, Tony Nomination, Drama Desk Nomination) premiered and was commissioned by the Oregon Shakespeare Festival American Revolutions History Cycle/Arena Stage. It moved to Broadway after a sold-out run at The Public Theater. Goodman Theatre presented the Chicago premiere of Sweat in 2019. Most recently, Nottage premiered MJ the Musical at the Neil Simon Theater on Broadway, and Clyde's at Second Stage Theater on Broadway. Other plays include Floyd's (Guthrie Theater) Mlima’s Tale (Public Theater), By The Way, Meet Vera Stark (Lilly Award, Drama Desk Nomination), Ruined (Pulitzer Prize, OBIE, Lucille Lortel, New York Drama Critics’ Circle, Audelco, Drama Desk, and Outer Critics Circle Award); Intimate Apparel (American Theatre Critics and New York Drama Critics’ Circle Awards for Best Play); Fabulation, or The Re-Education of Undine (OBIE Award); Crumbs from the Table of Joy; Las Meninas; Mud, River, Stone; Por’knockers; Stone and POOF! Nottage also wrote the book for the world premiere musical adaptation of Sue Monk Kidd's novel The Secret Life of Bees, with music by Duncan Sheik and lyrics by Susan Birkenhead. She is the recipient of a MacArthur "Genius Grant" Fellowship, Steinberg "Mimi" Distinguished Playwright Award, PEN/Laura Pels Master Playwright Award, TIME 100 (2019), Merit and Literature Award from The Academy of Arts and Letters, Columbia University Provost Grant, Doris Duke Artist Award, The Joyce Foundation Commission Project & Grant, Madge Evans-Sidney Kingsley Award, Nelson A. Rockefeller Award for Creativity, The Dramatists Guild Hull-Warriner Award, the inaugural Horton Foote Prize, Helen Hayes Award, the Lee Reynolds Award, and the Jewish World Watch iWitness Award. Her other honors include the National Black Theatre Fest's August Wilson Playwriting Award, a Guggenheim Grant, Lucille Lortel Fellowship and Visiting Research Fellowship at Princeton University. She is a graduate of Brown University and the Yale School of Drama. She is also a screenwriter and an Associate Professor in the Theatre Department at Columbia School of the Arts. For more, visit

Andrea J Dymond (director) is a Chicago-based freelance director, specializing in developing and directing new work. Recent directing credits include Thirst at Strawdog Theatre, the world premieres of The Greatest Theatrical Event…EVER! at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and Shepsu Aahku’s Black and Blue for MPAACT. Dymond was formerly Resident Director at Victory Gardens Theater, where she directed 11 productions, including seven world premieres, and helped to develop and launch the The Ignition Festival of New Plays. In addition to directing around Chicago and the U.S., her experience includes literary management, research and production dramaturgy, directing at new works festivals; serving as thesis play advisor for MFA playwrights at Carnegie Mellon University and directing at NNPN’s MFA Playwrights Workshops at the Kennedy Center. A teacher at Columbia College Chicago, Dymond's courses have included Directing, Collaboration, African American Scene Study, Text Analysis, Dramaturgy, Acting and New Play Development. She was also the facilitator of the Theodore Ward Award for African American Playwriting.

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