SEASON WITH THE GERSHWINS'
PORGY AND BESS
Albert present the Gershwins' Porgy and Bess,
directed by Artistic Director Charles Newell, with
Artistic Consultant Ron OJ Parson
and Music Direction by Doug Peck.
Porgy and Bess will run May 12-June 19, 2011 at Court Theatre, 5535 S. Ellis
Avenue. Press Opening is Saturday, May 21, 2011 at 8PM.
1925 novel by DuBose Heyward and the subsequent stage play--I discovered
that I had underestimated the complex storytelling of Porgy
and Bess, which is often overshadowed by George Gershwin's fabulous music," says Newell.
I went even further back to learn about the Gullah community of South
Carolina, I discovered that this piece has an emotional heart, a
spirituality even, that I never thought possible. In Court's
production--guided by Doug, Ron, and the cast--we are looking
to avoid the kind of mistakes people often make with Gershwin's opera,
while rediscovering a kind of spirituality to Porgy and Bess that
will surprise audience members who thought they knew this piece."
Gershwin's magnum opus, with an unforgettable score that includes songs
("Summertime," "It Ain't Necessarily So") later recorded by popular
musicians from Billie Holiday to Ella Fitzgerald. Coming off their 2008
Jeff Award-winning production of Caroline,
or Change, Charles
Newell and Doug
face-to-face with one of the greatest--and most controversial--pieces of
American musical theater ever created. Often denounced as a racially
insensitive portrayal of black southerners, Newell and Peck, in
collaboration with Resident Artist Ron
OJ Parson, will present a thoughtful, never-before-seen retelling of the Gershwins' and Heywards' "folk opera" Porgy
and Bess, a classic but contested piece of American theater history.
living in the same body, so for me Porgy and Bess
at Court Theatre is a dream project.
Other people are more concerned with the question of, 'What is musical?
What is opera?' than I am. I look to Stephen Sondheim who says an opera
is in an opera house and a musical is in a music theater house. So, by
definition, we are doing a theater piece because
we are performing in a theater," said Peck during the first rehearsal for
Porgy and Bess.
"That doesn't mean that at moments we won't sing operatically. That
doesn't mean that at moments we won't sing in a jazz way, or a folk
way, or a music theater
belty way, or even a completely untrained way. What's so great about
this piece is that there are so many musical worlds in it."
features an all-Chicago cast, including Alexis Rogers (The
Piano Lesson) as Bess and
Todd M. Kryger (Disney's
The Lion King, Ragtime,
Showboat) as Porgy. The 15-person cast also includes Bear
Bellinger (Peter), Sean Blake (Sportin'
Life), Wydetta Carter (Maria), Matt
Holzfeind (Archdale), James Earl Jones II (Crown),
Joelle Lamarre (Lily), Brian-Alwyn
Newland (Robbins), Harriet Nzinga Plumpp
(Clara), Kelvin Roston, Jr. (Jim), Bethany
Thomas (Serena), Travis Turner
(Mingo), Adrienne Walker (Annie), and Byron
Glenn Willis (Jake).
and Bess orchestra features
Doug Peck (Conductor / Piano), Nick
Moran (Woodwinds), Brent Roman
(Percussion), Chuck Bontrager (Violin/Viola), Christian
Dillingham (Bass), and Stephen Orjudos (Trumpet/Flugelhorn).
Culbert (scenic design), Jacqueline Firkins
(costume design), Brian H. Scott (lighting design), Joshua
Horvath (sound design) and Drew Dir (dramaturg).
The Production Stage Manager is Sara Gammage. The Stage Manager is William
been Artistic Director of Court Theatre since 1994, where he has
directed over 30 productions. He made his Chicago directorial debut in
1993 with The Triumph of Love,
which won the Joseph Jefferson Award for Best Production. Directorial highlights at Court include Three Tall Women,
The Year of Magical Thinking, The
Duck, Caroline, Or Change, Titus Andronicus, Arcadia, Man of La Mancha,
Uncle Vanya, Raisin, The Glass Menagerie, Travesties, Who's Afraid of
Virginia Woolf?, Hamlet, The Invention of Love, The Little Foxes, Nora,
The Misanthrope. Charlie has also directed at the Goodman Theatre (Rock 'n' Roll),
the Guthrie Theater (Resident Director: The History Cycle, Cymbeline),
John Houseman's The Acting Company (Staff Repertory Director), the
California and Alabama Shakespeare Festivals, Juilliard, and New York
University. He is the recipient of the 1992 TCG Alan Schneider Director
Award. He has served on the Board of Theatre Communications
Group, as well as on several panels for the National Endowment for the
Arts. Opera directing credits include Marc Blitzstein's Regina at
the Lyric Opera of Chicago, and Rigoletto at Opera Theatre of St. Louis. Charlie is
a multiple Joseph Jefferson Award (Chicago's highest theatrical honor) nominee and recipient. Most recently, his production of Caroline, Or Change
at Court was the recipient of 4 Joseph Jefferson Awards, including Best Production-Musical and Best Director-Musical.
is always happy to come home to Court Theatre. The winner of four Jeff
Awards for Best Musical Direction, his work has also been heard at
Goodman Theatre, Shakespeare Theatre DC, Long Wharf Theatre, Writers'
Theatre, Drury Lane Oakbrook, Marriott Lincolnshire Theatre, Apple Tree
Theatre, Northlight Theatre, TimeLine Theatre Company,
Chicago Shakespeare Theater, Porchlight Music Theatre, Peninsula
Players Theatre, and Ravinia Festival. Favorite productions include Caroline,
or Change; Carousel; Man of
La Mancha; Animal Crackers; Candide; Fiorello!; Oh, Coward!; Fiddler on
the Roof; Shenandoah; Cabaret; Wings; Hello Again; Guys and Dolls; Grey
Gardens; The Most Happy Fella; and
Into the Woods. Peck can be heard on the following CDs: Bright Young People:
The Songs of Noël Coward, Foiled Again: Live, and Frank Galati and Stephen Flaherty's Loving Repeating:
A Musical of Gertrude Stein. A graduate of Northwestern University, Peck also trained
at Interlochen Center for the Arts.
is the cofounder and former Artistic Director of the Onyx Theatre
Ensemble of Chicago, and is currently the Resident Artist at Court
Theatre. He has worked with such Chicago theatres as Steppenwolf
Theatre Company, Goodman Theatre, Victory Gardens Theater, Northlight
Theatre, Black Ensemble Theatre, eta Creative Arts Foundation,
Chicago Theatre Company, Eclipse Theatre Company, Congo Square Theatre
Company, City Lit Theater Company, Urban Theater Company, Writers'
Theatre, and a variety of arts in education programs. Regionally, Ron
has directed at Actors Theatre of Louisville, Portland
Stage Company, Virginia Stage Company, Pittsburgh Public Theater,
Madison Repertory Theatre, Studio Arena Theatre in Buffalo, Ensemble
Theatre of Cincinnati, Signature Theatre Company in New York City,
Centerstage in Baltimore, and the world premiere of Palmer
Park at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival in Ontario, Canada. Most
recently, he directed August Wilson's Two Trains Running
at Geva Theatre in Rochester, New York. For Court Theatre, Ron has directed Wilson's Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, The Piano Lesson
and Fences, The
First Breeze of Summer, Wait Until Dark, Flyin' West, last year's season finale Sizwe
Banzi is Dead, and this season's Home. Ron
also recently directed The Old Settler at Writers' Theatre. Ron recently remounted his
production of Ma Rainey's Black Bottom at Actors Theatre of Louisville and Milwaukee
Repertory this season. He is a proud member of Actors' Equity Association and SDC, the stage directors' union.
12 - May 20, 2011. The opening press performance is on Saturday,
May 21, 2011 at 8:00 p.m. Curtain times are Wednesdays and Thursdays at 7:30 p.m.; Fridays
and Saturdays at 8:00 p.m. with Saturday matinees at 3 p.m.; Sundays at 2:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.
Tickets are available at the Box Office, 5535 S. Ellis Avenue, Chicago; (773) 753-4472 or online at www.CourtTheatre.org.
Student and senior discounts available. Groups of 10 or more may purchase tickets by calling Milan Pejnovich at (773) 834-3243.
is supported by corporate sponsor Allstate, season sponsor Hyde Park
Bank and foundation sponsor The Joyce Foundation. Support for the
"Classics in Context" Series is provided by the Illinois Humanities
Saturday, April 23
Mandel Hall, 1131 E 57th St
of George Gershwin, including selections from Porgy and Bess.
Conducted by USO Director
Barbara Schubert, audience members will have the rare opportunity to
hear the full symphonic sound of Gershwin's compositions performed by
University of Chicago students and faculty and featured vocalists from
the cast of Court Theatre's Porgy
and Bess. FREE ADMISSION
DuSable Museum of African-American History, 740 E 56th Pl
April 29, 2011 - July 3, 2011
and Bess: 1925 - 2011
at the DuSable Museum of African-American History explores the 85-year
history of the Gershwin opera, beginning with DuBose Heyward's novel
Charleston Gullah community to the opera's Cold War tour behind the
Iron Curtain to the 1959 film starring Sidney Poitier and Dorothy
Dandridge. Told through coverage from the Chicago
Defender and the words of luminaries like Langston Hughes and James Baldwin, Porgy and
Bess: 1925 - 2011 sheds new light on a controversial piece of American history. $10 GENERAL ADMISSION
and Bess Discussion Series Every Sunday at 5:30 (following the matinee performance of Porgy
and Bess at Court Theatre)
will offer audiences a unique look into the world of the opera from a
number of perspectives. Each Sunday at 5:00 PM (following the 2:30 PM
Resident Dramaturg and University of Chicago lecturer Drew Dir will be
joined by a different guest artist or scholar to examine the history,
music, politics, or performance of the Gershwins' seminal American
classic. Audiences will gain exclusive access to
some of the most brilliant minds in Chicago, and patron comments and
questions will become part of the discourse. Conversations will begin
immediately after every Sunday matinee performance, last approximately
30 minutes, and are free and open to all. FREE
Max Palevsky Cinema, The University of Chicago, 1212 E 59th St
Tuesdays, March 29, 2011 - May 31, 2011
$5 ADMISSION/$30 SEASON PASS
was just one of the many all-black cast musicals made by Hollywood in
the decades leading up to the civil rights movement. This Tuesday night
DOC Films series will
feature classic all-black cast films by both white and black
filmmakers, including Hallelujah!, Go Down Death, The Emperor Jones, and
All films presented in 35 or 16mm.
season, Court Theatre
is guided by its mission to discover the power of classic theatre.
Court endeavors to make a lasting contribution to American theatre by
expanding the canon of translations, adaptations, and classic texts.
Court revives lost masterpieces, illuminates familiar texts, and
distinguishes fresh, modern classics. Court engages and
inspires its audience by providing artistically distinguished
productions, audience enrichment activities, and student educational
the professional theatre in residence at the University of Chicago continuing to discover the power of classic theatre. Court
operates under an agreement between the League of Resident Theatres and
Actors' Equity Association, the Union of Professional Actors and Stage
Managers in the United States. Productions are made possible in part by
a grant from the Illinois Arts Council,
a state agency, and by a City Arts grant from the City of Chicago
Department of Cultural Affairs. Court Theatre is a constituent of
Theatre Communications Group, the national organization for the
American Theatre; the League of Resident Theatres; the Illinois
Humanities Council; the Arts Alliance Illinois; the League of Chicago
Theatres; and Hyde Park Cultural Alliance.
Gershwins' Porgy and Bess
and Ira Gershwin
and Dorothy Heyward
Previews: May 12 - May 20, 2011
opening: Saturday, May
21, 2011 at 8 PM
May 22 - June 19, 2011
Wednesdays & Thursdays: 7:30
3:00 p.m. & 8:00 p.m.
2:30 p.m. & 7:30 p.m.
Court Theatre, 5535 S. Ellis Ave.
Located at 5535 S. Ellis Avenue, Chicago; (773) 753-4472 or online www.CourtTheatre.org
Notes of Interest:
- Court Theatre's production of The Gershwins'
Porgy and Bess marks Artistic Director Charles Newell's eighth collaboration with Music Director Doug Peck, past productions include Caroline,
or Change and Carousel.
- Porgy and Bess
is a folk opera with music by George Gershwin, libretto by Dubose
Heyward, and lyrics by Ira Gershwin and DuBose Heyward. The Gershwins'
musical was based on DuBose Heyward's novel Porgy
and his subsequent play Porgy and Bess which DuBose co-wrote with
his wife Dorothy Heyward. All three works deal with African American life in the fictitious Catfish Row, based
on the real life Cabbage Row in Charleston, South Carolina in the
- The Gershwins' Porgy and Bess
premiered on Broadway in 1935 at the Alvin Theatre with an all
African-American cast. Both music and theater critics attended, as did
many film stars including Katharine Hepburn and Joan Crawford.
- The 1959 film version of Porgy
starring Sidney Poitier, Dorothy Dandridge, Sammy Davis, Jr., Diahann
Carol, and Pearl Bailey was directed by Otto Preminger. The film
received four Academy
Award nominations, won the Golden Globe award for Best Motion Picture,
Comedy or Musical, and garnered nominations for Sidney Poitier and
Dorothy Dandridge, neither of whom won. The film's original soundtrack
album won the Grammy for Best Soundtrack. Despite
its critical success, the film was not commercially successful. Samuel
Goldwyn's lease to the film rights expired in 1974 and the film has
never been officially released on video.