Writers Theatre Continues 25th Season with East Texas Hot Links Oct 19 – Jan 22

Writers Theatre, under the leadership of Artistic Director Michael Halberstam and Executive Director Kathryn M. Lipuma, continues its 25thAnniversary Season with East Texas Hot Links, written by Eugene Lee and directed by Ron OJ Parson. The show runs October 19, 2016 – January 22, 2017 in The Gillian Theatre: 325 Tudor Court, Glencoe. 

In the woods of East Texas, the Top ‘o the Hill Café offers comfort, solace and companionship for the regulars who come in each night. However, it is the summer of 1955, and times are changing. In the face of oppressive Jim Crow laws, seven strong-willed locals join forces to protect one of their own—until the unthinkable catches them by surprise, changing life at Top ‘o the Hill forever.

WT Resident Director Ron OJ Parson, who directed past WT hits The Caretaker and The Old Settler, staged a critically acclaimed and deeply impactful production of Eugene Lee’s riveting play for Chicago’s Onyx Theatre Ensemble two decades ago. He now revisits this powerful tale of friendship and heroism that remains intensely relevant in today’s America.

“This is an important time to be producing East Texas Hot Links,” said Artistic Director Michael Halberstam. “I had the good fortune to see Eugene Lee’s remarkable play in Chicago when Ron OJ Parson first staged it in 1995.  Not unlike Julius Caesar, this play is a reminder to us all that the more things change, the more they stay the same.  This play drives right into the heart of today’s racial tensions while simultaneously showcasing the skills of a remarkable cast and design team.  The cumulative effect of the production will leave an indelible impression on audiences of the human cost when racism triumphs over empathy, and the powerful potential for theatre to serve as a medium for change.”

The cast includes: Tyla Abercrumbie (Charlesetta Simpkins), Willie B. (Adolph), Luce Metrius (Delmus Green), Kelvin Roston Jr. (Roy Moore), Namir Smallwood(XL Dancer), A.C. Smith (Boochie Reed), Antoine Pierre Whitfield (Buckshot) andAlfred Wilson (Columbus Frye).

The creative team includes: Jack Magaw (Scenic Designer), Christine Pascual(Costume Designer), Kathy A. Perkins (Lighting Designer), Joshua Horvath (Sound Design), Matt Hawkins (Fight Director), Scott Dickens (Properties Master) andReginald Edmund (Dramaturg). Rebecca Pechter is the Stage Manager.

ABOUT THE ARTISTS

Eugene Lee (Playwright) has a career offering a singular combination of on- and off-screen expertise. He began working as an actor in the early 1970s and continues to appear on stage, in movies and on television. In 1972, Lee was a cast member in a command performance of A Raisin in the Sun for President Lyndon B. Johnson by the Ebony Players, a college theatrical group formed with his college roommate. He went on to appear and work in over 200 television movies and series, including The Women of Brewster Place (ABC) with Oprah Winfrey, Dallas (CBS), Good Times (CBS), The White Shadow (CBS), The District (CBS), NYPD Blue (ABC), The Guiding Light (NBC), Quantum Leap (NBC), American Crime (ABC), The Lying Game (ABC Family), MacGyver (CBS) and the title character in Wolf, an award-winning independent film. On stage, Lee’s credits are even more extensive. He has appeared on stages across the country and across the globe. He traveled with the renowned Negro Theatre Ensemble, performing in the Pulitzer Prize-winning A Soldier’s Play and numerous other works. He is considered a “Wilsonian Warrior” for his many appearances in the works of August Wilson, including the Broadway production of Gem of the Ocean. He performed in five of Wilson’s 10 plays at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. and in Wilson’s final autobiographical one-man piece, How I Learned What I Learned. His credits include works at The Negro Ensemble Company of New York, True Colors in Atlanta, Huntington Theater in Boston, Pittsburgh Playwrights’ Theatre, Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles, Goodman Theatre in Chicago, Pittsburgh Public Theatre and Crossroads Theatre in New Jersey. His television writing credits include episodes ofHomicide: Life on the Streets (Emmy Award-nominated; NBC), Walker, Texas Ranger(CBS), Michael Hayes (CBS), The Journey of Allen Strange (Nickelodeon), Turks(CBS)and the Morgan Freeman-produced television movie, Port Chicago. His own characters come to life through his plays, including East Texas Hot Links, which has been produced on stages from Los Angeles to New York and London’s Royal Court Theatre and is published by Samuel French. His other plays include Fear Itself, Somebody Called: A Tale of Two Preachers, Killingsworth, Lyin’ Ass and the musical Twist. Lee is Artist in Residence and Artistic Director of the Black and Latino Playwright’s Conference at Texas State University where he is also designated Distinguished Alumus. The conference will celebrate its 15th year in 2016 and has received national recognition in the form of two National Endowment for the Arts Grants. Through this venue, Lee has worked with hundreds of young playwrights and students, coupling veteran professional directors and performers with those aspiring to develop and have their voices heard.

Ron OJ Parson (Director) returns to Writers Theatre where he previously directed The Caretaker and The Old Settler. Mr. Parson hails from Buffalo, New York, and is a graduate of the professional theatre program of the University of Michigan. He is the former co-founder and artistic director of Chicago’s Onyx Theatre Ensemble and is currently a resident artist at Chicago’s Court Theatre. Ron has worked as both an actor and a director at various theatres in Chicago and regionally. Ron also directed the world premiere of Palmer Park at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival in Ontario, Canada.

Tyla Abercrumbie (Charlesetta Simpkins) makes her Writers Theatre debut in East Texas Hot Links. Regional credits include All the Way, Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, The Matchmaker, Good People, Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike, The Grapes of Wrath, Clybourne Park, You Can’t Take It with You (Asolo Repertory Theatre), Gem of the Ocean, The Piano Lesson, Flyin’ West (Court Theatre), Luce(Next Theatre), Detroit ‘67 (Northlight Theatre), In Darfur (TimeLine Theatre Company), Magnolia (Goodman Theatre), Radio Golf (Pittsburgh Public Theater), In the Next Room (or the Vibrator Play) (Milwaukee Repertory Theater and ATL), Jitney(The Black Rep) and credits with Portland Stage, Victory Gardens Theater and Chicago Shakespeare Theater. Film and television credits include Shrink (NBC), Empire (FOX), The Girlfriend Experience (Starz), Crisis (NBC), Low Winter Sun(AMC), Mob Doctor (FOX), The Chicago Code (FOX), Detroit 187 (ABC), The Beast(A&E), ER (NBC), The Pokerhouse, Crossword and The Animator (Spring 2017). Tyla is an Associate Artist with TimeLine Theatre Company.

Willie B. (Adolph) makes his Writers Theatre debut with East Texas Hot Links. Willie is a native of Cleveland, Ohio, where he started his acting career at Karamu House. Chicago credits include Elmina’s Kitchen, Before it Hits Home, A Soldier’s Story(Congo Square Theatre Company), Conversation on a Dirt Road, Father and Son Night, The Last Apple, Riffs, Dream of Ophelia, Checkmates, The Lifting (eta Creative Arts Foundation), Wendell Green, The Horn, Master Harold… and the Boys(Steppenwolf Theatre Company), East Texas Hot Links, Sty of the Blind Pig (Onyx Theatre Ensemble), Of Mice and Men (Organic Theater Company), The State of Mississippi vs Emmett Till, Ghost Gardens (Pegasus Theatre Chicago), Phil Hill and Little Tommy Parker’s Colored Minstrel Show (Chicago Theatre). Television credits include Angel Street (CBS), Early Edition (CBS) and The Playboy Club (NBC). Film credits include Light It Up, Barbershop and Dark Left Over Blessings.

Luce Metrius (Delmus Green) is making his Writers Theatre debut with East Texas Hot Links. Chicago credits include All Our Tragic (The Hypocrites Theater Chicago),Buzzer (Goodman Theatre), The March (Steppenwolf Theatre Company) and Red-Handed Otter (A Red Orchid Theatre). He holds a B.F.A. in Acting from Roosevelt University. He is proudly represented by Big Mouth Talent.

Kelvin Roston, Jr. (Roy Moore) returns to Writers Theatre where he previously appeared in The Old Settler. Chicago credits include Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (Court Theatre), To Be Young, Gifted, and Black (Illinois Theatre Center), Pill Hill (winner of a Black Theater Alliance Award), Drip and Get Ready (eta Creative Arts Foundation). Regional credits include Death and the King’s Horseman, Othello, Dreamgirls, Guys and Dolls, Damn Yankees, Caroline, or Change (The Black Rep), The Last Days of Judas Iscariot (HotCity Theatre) and Mama (Unity Theatre Ensemble).

Namir Smallwood (XL Dancer) is making his Writers Theatre debut in East Texas Hot Links. Chicago credits include Northlight Theatre, Goodman Theatre, Steppenwolf Theatre Company and The Gift Theatre. Regional credits Pillsbury House Theatre, Guthrie Theater, Mixed Blood Theatre, Penumbra Theatre, Ten Thousand Things and Marin Theatre Company. Television credits include Chicago Fire (NBC) and Betrayal(ABC).

A.C. Smith (Boochie Reed) is making his Writers Theatre debut in East Texas Hot Links. He was last seen in A Lesson Before Dying (Clarence Brown Theatre in Knoxville, TN). In Chicago, Smith considers the Court Theatre to be his home where he has worked for the past eight years or so in productions ranging from Moliere to the great August Wilson and a host of other classic works. Smith received the Joseph Jefferson Award for his portrayal of Troy Maxson in Court Theatre’s production ofFences. Regional credits include Portland Stage Company, Actors Theatre of Louisville, Milwaukee Repertory Theater, Kansas City Repertory Theatre, Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati, Indiana Repertory Theatre, Geva Theatre Center, Peninsula Players Theatre and The Black Rep, where he has been a company member for 21 years and is a nine-time Woodie King, Jr. Award winner. National tour credits includeThe Piano Lesson directed by Lloyd Richards. Off-Broadway credits include the title role in Jelly Belly (Audelco Award Nomination—New Federal Theatre). Smith has appeared on film, television, radio, voice-over, commercials and in Ebony and Jet magazines.

Antoine Pierre Whitfield (Buckshot) makes his Writers Theatre debut in East Texas Hot Links. Chicago credits include Ruined (Eclipse Theatre Company), , A Soldier’s Play, Radio Golf (Raven Theatre), Blackula (Pegasus Theatre Chicago), The House That Jack Built (Congo Square Theatre Company) and Why Black Men Play Basketball (eta Creative Arts Foundation). Regional credits include Moby Dick(Syracuse Stage). Off-Broadway credits include Shannon and Rapsodee (Negro Ensemble Company, Inc.). Television and film credits include Game Day (NBC), Empire (FOX), Chicago Fire (NBC), Breathing Room (High Level Productions),Willow, Rules of Luck, Thrill Ride and If I Die Tomorrow.

Alfred H. Wilson (Columbus Frye) makes his Writers Theatre debut in East Texas Hot Links. Chicago credits include Chorus One in Agememnon, Solly Two Kings in Gem of the Ocean, Estragon in Waiting for Godot, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, Wining Boy in Piano Lesson and Fielding in Jitney (Court Theatre); Sam in Master Harold… and the Boys (TimeLine Theatre Company), understudy for Pullman Porter Blues(Goodman Theatre); Travis in The Etiquette of Vigilance (Steppenwolf Theatre Company); Charlie in Bourbon at the Border (Eclipse Theatre Company); Charles in Panther Burn (MPAACT); Becker in Jitney, Memphis Lee in Two Trains Running(Joseph Jefferson Award—Best Actor, Pegasus Theatre Chicago) and productions at Victory Gardens Theater. Regional credits include Simon in The Whipping Man(Cardinal Stage Company), Becker in Jitney (West Coast Black Theatre Troupe), Toledo in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (Court Theatre, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Actors Theatre of Louisville, Milwaukee Repertory Theater), Delbert Tibbs in The Exonerated (Next Act Theatre), Holloway in Two Trains Running (Geva Theatre Center), Old Joe in Radio Golf (Pittsburgh Public Theater, Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati) and Solly Two Kings in Gem of the Ocean (Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati). He was also a co-founder of Onyx Theatre Ensemble.

AUDIENCE ENRICHMENT

Accessible Performances

ASL-Interpreted performance: Friday, December 2 at 7:30pm

Open-Captioned performance: Friday, November 4 at 7:30pm

Sunday Spotlight—Sunday, December 4, 2016

This one-hour event will follow the matinee performance and feature an expert in a field related to the themes or setting of East Texas Hot Links, moderated by a member of the WT Artistic Team. Seating is limited. RSVP is required.

The Making of… Series—Monday, December 19, 2016 at 6:30pm

Writers Theatre will once again host its popular The Making of… Series, providing insight into a different aspect of creating the productions seen on our stages. Enjoy a short and lively presentation by our actors, designers or other experts who will walk you through the process of preparing for and executing a production. The Making of…events are FREE and open to the public. Seating is limited. RSVP is required.

Post Show Conversation: The Word

Join us after Tuesday and Thursday evening and Wednesday matinee performances (excluding previews and extensions) for a 15-minute discussion of the play, facilitated by a member of the WT Artistic Team.

Post Show Conversation: The Artist

Join us after every Wednesday evening performance (excluding previews and extensions) for a 15-minute talk-back featuring actors from the production, facilitated by a member of the WT Artistic Team.

For more information about Writers Theatre Audience Enrichment programs visit writerstheatre.org/events.

RIDE METRA TO WRITERS THEATRE

In an effort to promote taking public transit to the Theatre, Writers Theatre launched a new promotion in 2013. Any audience member who purchases a ticket to a Writers Theatre production and rides Metra’s Union Pacific North Line to the Theatre may snap a photo of themselves on the train and post it to their Facebook page or Twitter feed with a tag of @WritersTheatre and #[the title of the show], and upon showing the post at the Writers Theatre Box Office, receive $5 in cash to put toward the cost of your fare as a thank you for going green. 

This promotion is available for a limited time only, and may end without warning. Ticket must have been paid for in advance. Not valid on comp tickets. More information available at writerstheatre.org/metra

WRITERS THEATRE PARTNERS

Writers Theatre is pleased to recognize BMO Harris Bank as the 25th Anniversary Season Sponsor for the 2016/17 season. Mary Pat Studdert is the Major Production Sponsor for East Texas Hot Links and ComEd is the Official Lighting Sponsor of the season. Cary and Laurie Glenner and Beth Kronfeld and Matthew D. Means serve as Director’s Society Sponsors.

For more information about Writers Theatre’s 2016/17 Partners, visit writerstheatre.org/our-supporters.

ABOUT WRITERS THEATRE

For 25 years, Writers Theatre has captivated Chicagoland audiences with inventive interpretations of classic work, a bold approach to contemporary theatre and a dedication to creating the most intimate theatrical experience possible.

Under the artistic leadership of Michael Halberstam and the executive leadership of Kathryn M. Lipuma, Writers Theatre has grown to become a major Chicagoland cultural destination with a national reputation for excellence, being called the top regional theatre in the nation by The Wall Street Journal. The company, which plays to a sold-out and discerning audience of more than 60,000 patrons each season, has garnered critical praise for the consistent high quality and intimacy of its artistry—providing the finest interpretations of both classic and contemporary theatre in its two intensely intimate venues.

In February 2016, Writers Theatre opened a new, state-of-the-art facility. This established the company’s first permanent home—a new theatre center in downtown Glencoe, designed by the award-winning, internationally renowned Studio Gang Architects, led by Founder and Design Principal Jeanne Gang, FAIA, in collaboration with Theatre Consultant Auerbach Pollock Friedlander. The new facility has allowed the Theatre to continue to grow to accommodate its audience, while maintaining its trademark intimacy. The new facility resonates with and complements the Theatre’s neighboring Glencoe community, adding tremendous value to Chicagoland and helping to establish the North Shore as a premier cultural destination.

Find Writers Theatre on Facebook at Facebook.com/WritersTheatre or follow @WritersTheatre on Twitter. For more information, visit www.writerstheatre.org.

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