Following its artistic and popular successes of the past 12 months, which included multiple Jeff nominations for The Playboy of the Western World, praise for the rarely produced Vieux Carré by Tennessee Williams, universal acclaim for All My Sons and the Chicago premiere of Horton Foote’s Dividing the Estate, Raven Theatre will produce a five-show subscription season for the first time in the company’s 33-year history. Three of the subscription-season plays will be performed on the company’s 140-seat East Stage and two will be played in its intimate 60-seat studio, the West Stage.
Raven’s 33rd Season has been dubbed “Fierce Five,” acknowledging the ferocity with which the five plays’ characters struggle for personal fulfillment and even basic survival, according to Producing Artistic Director Michael Menendian and Co-Artistic Director JoAnn Montemurro. The season will include two dramas, two comedies and a satire of a dark chapter in American history. Each play will tell stories of people fighting for their lives in some way. Menendian says of the five plays, ”Whether battling a death sentence, Hurricane Katrina, or the Great Depression; competing against romantic rivals, or looking for fame in a crazy world, their fierce determination is unshakable.”
The season will open in September with the Midwest premiere of Direct from Death Row The Scottsboro Boys (An Evening of Vaudeville and Sorrow), a play by Mark Stein with music and lyrics by Harley White, Jr., to be directed by Menendian. The dark chapter of American history – in which nine African-American teenagers were falsely convicted of assaulting two white women and spent decades in the legal system fighting for their lives – is told surreally and satirically in Stein’s play. In it, the “boys” return from eternity to the stage, where they keep their story alive through songs, a magic act, a ventriloquist act, skits and soft shoe – all to convey the tawdry show that their case became.
Next, the company will produce another Midwest premiere when The Play About My Dad, a critical success off-Broadway in 2011, opens on Raven’s West Stage under the direction of guest artist Marti Lyons. The play by Boo Killebrew tells of the author’s father, a doctor in Gulfport, Mississippi during Hurricane Katrina who stayed behind to tend to those who couldn’t or wouldn’t evacuate to safety when the waters began to rise. Their fights for survival against the storm are played against the backdrop of the doctor’s relationship with his adult daughter, the playwright. Raven’s production of this meta-theatrical tragicomedy will be staged in October, shortly after the tenth anniversary of that devastating storm that hit the Gulf coast from August 23-31, 2005. Ms. Lyons, Michael Maggio Directing Fellow at the Goodman Theatre and a much sought-after freelance director, will make her Raven Theatre debut with this project.
Raven’s Midwest premiere of Horton Foote’s The Old Friends will mark the company’s third consecutive season with a Foote play on its schedule, and its second regional premiere in two years of a title by that author. Set in the 1960s in the fictional town of Harrison, Texas, The Old Friends tells of the combative members of two longtime old-money Texas families. When hometown beauty Sibyl returns to Harrison after a long absence, not-quite-forgotten passions and jealousies resurface in a wildly funny play that is, uncharacteristically for Foote, brutally satiric in its depiction of small-town people with big money..
The Old Friends was first fully staged in 2013, by New York’s Signature Theatre. Warmly received by New York critics and audiences, that production directed by Michael Wilson was remounted at the Alley Theatre in Houston, Texas in August 2014, with Betty Buckley, Hallie Foote and Veanne Cox repeating their roles as Mamie, Sibyl and Julia. Raven Theatre is the first company since the Signature/Alley staging to be granted a license for The Old Friends. Raven co-founder and Co-Artistic Director Michael Menendian will helm Raven’s production, to be performed from late January through late March, 2016.
The season will continue with a rare production of William Inge’s A Loss of Roses, playing from mid-February through early April. In Inge’s drama, which opened on Broadway in 1959 starring a 22-year-old Warren Beatty, a widow and her 21-year-old son are getting by in a small Depression-era Kansas town when their old friend, a down-on-her-luck but attractive actress, moves in with the two. They learn that survival comes at a price and that moving on requires letting go. The Wall Street Journal said this nearly-lost classic by the author of Bus Stop and Picnic is “a fine play that should never have slipped from sight.” The play, which has not been produced professionally in Chicago since 1999, will be directed by Raven Associate Artistic Director Cody Estle in Raven’s 60-seat West Stage studio theatre.
The season will conclude with John Guare’s The House of Blue Leaves, directed by Co-Artistic Director JoAnn Montemurro. Guare’s dark comedy premiered off- Broadway in 1971 and was revived on-Broadway in 1986 and 2011. Set in Queens, New York during Pope Paul VI’s 1965 visit, struggling songwriter Artie wants to be famous and feel important while his heavily medicated wife Bananas just wants to feel. Can Artie’s old high school buddy, now a Hollywood movie producer, give him a shot at the big time? Or will a blessing from the Pope do the trick? Living means more than just survival to these misfits in this insanely funny play, which will run from mid-April through early June of 2016.
Subscriptions for the full five-play season or the subscriber’s choice of any four of the five plays are now on sale. Four-show subscriptions are $64.00 for preview performances or $96.00 for “anytime” packages good at any performance during either preview weeks or regular run weeks. Subscriptions to all five plays are $70.00 for preview performances and $110.00 for anytime packages. Current subscribers receive a 10% discount for renewals purchased by May 31, 2015. Subscriptions may be purchased online at http://www.raventrheatre.com or by telephone at 773-338-2177.
Direct from Death Row The Scottsboro Boys (An Evening of Vaudeville and Sorrow)
by Mark Stein with music and lyrics by Harley White, Jr.
Directed by Michael Menendian.
Previews: September 16 through September 19, 2015 at 7:30 p.m., Sunday, September 20, 2015 at 3:00 p.m. and Monday, September 21, 2015 at 7:30 pm.
Opening Night: Tuesday, September 22, 2015 at 7:30 p.m.
Performances continue through November 14, 2015
Thursdays through Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 3:00 p.m. beginning Friday, September 25 (no show Thursday, September 24)
Mark Stein has been produced at New Playwrights Theater of Washington, D.C., Actors Theater of Louisville, Manhattan Theatre Club, South Coast Repertory, the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, the Fountain Theater in Los Angeles, the Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre, and elsewhere. Stein wrote the screenplay for the Goldie Hawn and Steve Martin film Housesitter. His non-fiction book, How the States Got Their Shapes, became the basis for a History Channel series by the same name. He was raised in Silver Spring, Maryland, and graduated from the University of Wisconsin–Madison in 1973.
Producing Artistic Director Michael Menendian is a co-founding member of Raven Theatre, where he has directed and designed many productions. His previous directing credits include: All My Sons, The Playboy Of The Western World, A Soldier’s Play, Glengarry Glen Ross, Golden Boy, A Streetcar Named Desire, A View from the Bridge, Dancing at Lughnasa, Jesus Hopped The ’A’ Train, Death Of A Salesman and Cat On A Hot Tin Roof. He has earned multiple Joseph Jefferson and After Dark awards for direction and design.
The Play About My Dad
By Boo Killebrew
Directed by Marti Lyons
Previews October 21-24, 2015 at 8:00 pm and Sunday, October 25, 2015 at 3:30 pm
Opening Nights: Monday, October 26 and Tuesday, October 27, 2015 at 7:30 pm
Performances continue through November 28, 2015
Thursdays through Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 3:00 p.m. beginning Friday, October 30 (no show Thursday, October 29)
Boo Killebrew is a playwright, choreographer, actress and co-founder of Collaboration Town, a theatre company. She is a member of the 2013 Emerging Writers Group at The Public Theater. Her plays include The Play About My Dad (nominated by New Georges for The Susan Smith Blackburn Prize, NYC: 59e59 Theatres, Collaboration Town), The Momentum (NYC Fringe Festival, Fringe Excellence Award for Overall Production of a Play, Emerging Americas Festival/The Huntington, GLAAD Media Award Nominee), They’re Just Like Us (L.A. premiere at Theatre of Note, NY premiere with Collaboration Town, published by The New York Theatre Experience, selections by Applause and Smith and Kraus), True Love Waits (L.A. Theatre of Note, NY Blue Coyote Theatre Group), and Pulling Teeth (Blue Coyote).
Marti Lyons recently directed Hot Georgia Sunday at Haven Theatre Company, where she also directed Seminar. In Chicago, Lyons has directed Bethany and Mine at The Gift Theatre Company; 9 Circles, Maria/Stuart and The Golden Dragon (co-directed with Jonathan Green) at Sideshow Theatre Company; The Peacock and The Last Duck at Jackalope Theatre Company; a reading of Dana Lynn Formby’s American Beauty Shop at Steppenwolf Theatre Company as part of their First Look Festival; a reading of Ike Holter’s Prowess at Goodman Theatre as part of their Playwrights’ Unit; and a workshop of Thom Pasculli’s By So Falling at Walkabout Theater Company. Upcoming, Lyons directs two ten minute plays for the Apprentice Company at Actors Theatre of Louisville; The Sweeter Option at Strawdog Theatre Company; the Chicago premiere of Title and Deed starring Michael Patrick Thornton at Lookingglass Theatre Company; and Body and Blood at The Gift Theatre Company.
The Old Friends
By Horton Foote
Directed by Michael Menendian
Previews: January 27 through 30, 2016 at 7:30 p.m., Sunday, January 31, 2016 at 3:00 p.m. and Monday, February 1, 2016 at 7:30 p.m.
Opening Night: Tuesday, February 2, 2016 at 7:30 p.m.
Performances continue through March 26, 2016
Thursdays through Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 3:00 p.m. beginning Friday, February 5, 2016 (no show Thursday, February 4, 2016)
Horton Foote was a Pulitzer Prize, Writers Guild of America Screen Award, and double Academy Award winning playwright and author, known for his screenplays for To Kill a Mockingbird and Tender Mercies, his notable live television dramas during the “Golden Age of Television,” and eight plays produced on Broadway. His work often told stories of ordinary people handling the harsh realities of life and the strength of the human spirit. He received the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1995 for his play The Young Man from Atlanta. His play The Trip to Bountiful, which Raven Theater produced in 2013, originated as a live TV drama in 1953. It has also been produced twice on Broadway, as a 1985 feature film and most recently as a Lifetime TV movie starring Cicely Tyson.
A Loss of Roses
By William Inge
Directed by Cody Estle
Previews: February 17-20, 2016 at 8:00 p.m. and Sunday, February 21, 2016 at 3:30 p.m.
Opening Nights: Monday, February 22 and Tuesday, February 23, 2016 at 7:30 pm
Performances continue through April 2, 2016
Thursdays through Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 3:00 p.m. beginning Friday, February 26, 2016 (no show Thursday, February 25, 2016)
William Inge is best known for his plays Come Back, Little Sheba; Picnic (Pulitzer Prize winner), Bus Stop and Dark at the Top of the Stairs. Inge was one of the first American dramatists to deal with the quality of life in the small towns of the Midwest, and he achieved notable success throughout the 1950s. Inge received an Oscar for his original screenplay Splendor in the Grass (1961), which starred Warren Beatty and Natalie Wood.
Cody Estle is Associate Artistic Director at Raven Theatre, where he has directed Dividing the Estate, Vieux Carré, Good Boys and True, Brighton Beach Memoirs, Boy Gets Girl and the world premiere of Dating Walter Dante. His other Chicago direction credits include Watch on the Rhine at The Artistic Home; Uncle Bob at Mary-Arrchie Theatre Company and Hospitality Suite at Citadel Theatre Company. He’s had the pleasure of assistant directing at Northlight Theatre, Goodspeed Musicals, Court Theatre, Writers Theatre, Next Theatre and Strawdog Theatre. Estle serves on the faculty of Cherubs at Northwestern University and is a graduate of Columbia College Chicago.
The House of Blue Leaves
By John Guare
Directed by JoAnn Montemurro
Previews: April 20-23, 2016 at 7:30 p.m., Sunday, April 24 at 3:00 p.m., and Monday, April 25 at 7:30 p.m.
Opening Night: Tuesday, April 26 at 7:30 p.m.
Performances continue through June 4, 2016
Thursdays through Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 3:00 p.m. beginning Friday, April 29, 2016 (no show Thursday, April 28)
John Guare came to national prominence with The House of Blue Leaves, which premiered off-Broadway in 1971. Six Degrees of Separation is the most highly praised and widely produced of Guare’s full-length plays and he wrote the screenplay for its feature-film adaptation in 1993. Guar also wrote the original screenplay for Louis Malle’s film Atlantic City (1980), for which he was nominated for an Oscar.
In the musical theatre world, Guare wrote the libretto with Mel Shapiro for the musical Two Gentlemen of Verona, the songs for Landscape of the Body, and narration for ‘”Psyche,”‘ a tone poem by César Franck, In 1999, he revised the book of the Cole Porter musical comedy, Kiss Me, Kate for its Broadway revival. He also wrote the book for the Broadway musical Sweet Smell of Success, with music by Marvin Hamlisch.
Joann Montemurro is a co-founding member and Co-Artistic Director of Raven Theatre where she has directed Bus Stop, Grace & Glorie, Lord Byron’s Love Letter, The Long Goodbye and The Trip to Bountiful. She has appeared in many roles, including Kate in All My Sons, Beatrice in A View from the Bridge, Bessie in Marvin’s Room, Kate in Dancing at Lughnasa and Arkadina in The Seagull. JoAnn earned a Joseph Jefferson Award for Outstanding Performance for the title role in Luann Hampton Laverty Oberlander. JoAnn is a graduate of the Goodman School of Drama.
Raven Theatre, an award-winning arts organization located in Chicago’s culturally-underserved Edgewater community, is dedicated to performing arts that illuminate the American experience, and work that provides reflection on our identity in a global context. Through its ensemble produced plays, collaborations with outside artists and organizations, and educational programming, Raven is committed to serving its community’s needs via the arts.
Raven Theatre Company is funded in part by Alphawood Foundation, Lloyd A. Fry Foundation, The MacArthur Fund for Arts and Culture at the Richard H. Driehaus Foundation, Polk Bros. Foundation, Yates Feldman Foundation, Artswork Fund for Organizational Development, Jamerson & Bauwens Electrical Contractors, Inc., The Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation, The Ream Foundation, Dadourian Foundation, JCCC Foundation, The Saints, Kinder Morgan Foundation, and the Illinois Arts Council, a state agency.
Free parking is provided in a lot adjacent to the theatre – additional street parking is available.
Raven Theatre is handicapped accessible.
Tickets/information: www.raventheatre.com or 773-338-2177.