PORGY AND BESS at Court Theatre

COURT THEATRE CLOSES 56TH
SEASON WITH THE GERSHWINS'

PORGY AND BESS

DIRECTED BY CHARLES NEWELL WITH MUSICAL DIRECTION BY DOUG
PECK
 
 
Chicago, IL - Court Theatre Artistic Director Charles Newell and Executive Director Stephen J.
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.
 
"When I went back to read the original source material for Porgy
and Bess
--the
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.
"When
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."    
 
Porgy and Bess remains
George
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
Peck
 come
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.

"I'm an opera person and a music theater person
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."
 
Porgy and Bess
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).
 
The Porgy
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).
 
The creative team includes John
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
Collins
.
Charles Newell (Director)
has
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
Wild
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,
and
The Misanthrope
.  Charlie has also directed at the Goodman Theatre (Rock 'n' Roll),
the Guthrie Theater (Resident Director:
The History Cycle, Cymbeline),
Arena Stage,
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.
Doug Peck
(
Music Director)
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.  
Ron OJ Parson
(
Artistic Consultant)
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.
Previews are May
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.
 
Ticket prices are $35 to $45 for preview performances; $45 to $65 for regular run performances.
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.
 
Porgy and Bess
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
Council.  
 
Special Events for The Gershwins' Porgy
and Bess
:
Gershwin Gala

A University Symphony Orchestra Concert

Saturday, April 23

8:00 pm

Mandel Hall, 1131 E 57th St

 
For one night only, the University of Chicago's 100-piece symphony orchestra performs the music
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
 
Porgy and Bess: 1925-2011
Exhibit

DuSable Museum of African-American History, 740 E 56th Pl

April 29, 2011 - July 3, 2011

 
The exhibit Porgy
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
about the
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

 
Classic Conversations: Porgy
and Bess
Discussion Series

Every Sunday at 5:30 (following the matinee performance of Porgy
and Bess
at Court Theatre)

May 29 - June 19, 2011

Court Theatre's robust post-show discussion series during the run of Porgy
and Bess

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
matinee performance),
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
ADMISSION
 
DOC Films series: "White on Black: Hollywood and Black Cinema"

Max Palevsky Cinema, The University of Chicago, 1212 E 59th St

Tuesdays, March 29, 2011 - May 31, 2011

$5 ADMISSION/$30 SEASON PASS

 
The controversial 1959 MGM film of Porgy
and Bess

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
Stormy Weather.
Post-show discussions with Court Theatre's Resident Dramaturg Drew Dir will follow each screening.
All films presented in 35 or 16mm.

 
Now in its 56th
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
experiences.
 
Court Theatre is
the professional theatre in residence at the University of Chicago continuing to discover the power of classic theatre.
Court
Theatre
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.
 
Title:                The
Gershwins'
Porgy and Bess
Directed by:      Charles
Newell
Music &
Lyrics by:         George
and Ira Gershwin
Libretto:            DuBose
and Dorothy Heyward
Musical
Direction by:
    Doug Peck
Dates:             
Previews:         
May 12 - May 20, 2011
                        Press
opening:
Saturday, May
21, 2011 at 8 PM
                     
Regular run:    
May 22 - June 19, 2011
Schedule:        
Wednesdays & Thursdays: 7:30
p.m.
Fridays:                      
8:00 p.m.
Saturdays:      
            3:00 p.m. & 8:00 p.m. 
Sundays:
                    2:30 p.m. & 7:30 p.m.
 
Location:         
Court Theatre, 5535 S. Ellis Ave.
Tickets:           
$35-$45 previews
                        $45-$65 regular run
Box Office:      
Located at 5535 S. Ellis Avenue, Chicago; (773) 753-4472 or online
www.CourtTheatre.org
 
Porgy and Bess
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
    early 1920s.
 
  • 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
    and Bess

    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.

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