Victory Gardens presents the World Premiere of A Wonder in My Soul by Marcus Gardley

Victory Gardens Theater continues its season with the World Premiere of A Wonder In My Soul, written by ensemble playwright Marcus Gardley and directed byArtistic Director Chay Yew, with original music by Jaret Landon. A Wonder In My Soul runs February 10 – March 12, 2017, with the press performance on Friday, February 17, 2017, at 7:30pm at Victory Gardens Theater, 2433 N. Lincoln Avenue. 

Longtime hair salon owners Bell and Birdie grapple with the decision to remain in their beloved Southside neighborhood or relocate under the pressures of gentrification and crime. Featuring music, poetry and dance, A Wonder in My Soul looks at one neighborhood’s evolution through the eyes of two women and their lifetime of friendship. From the artistic team that brought you The House That Will Not StandThe Gospel of Lovingkindness, and An Issue of Blood, director Chay Yew and playwright Marcus Gardley now explore Chicago history, beauty, and friendship.

“A Wonder In My Soul, our fourth production with playwright Marcus Gardley, is his love letter to the South Side of Chicago,” comments Artistic Director Chay Yew. “He continues to give passionate voice to a community that has been largely overlooked. Against the backdrop of gentrification and change, this Chekhov-inspired play is an intimate portrait of a family of remarkable black women who find home in a local beauty salon. Through their friendship, we witness their relationship to hair, their neighborhood, and their history.”

The cast for A Wonder In My Soul includes Linda Bright Clay, Donica Lynn, Greta Oglesby, Jeffery Owen Freelon, Jr., Camille Robinson and Jacqueline Williams.

The creative team includes Kurtis Boetcher (Scenic Design), Izumi Inaba (Costume Design), Lee Fiskness (Lighting Design), Mikhail Fiksel (Sound Design), Jaret Landon(Original Music), Alec Long and Mealah Heidenreich (Properties Design), Liviu Pasare (Projection Design), Ameenah Kaplan (Assistant Director) and Isaac Gomez(Dramaturgy). The Production Stage Manager is Amanda Davis.

About the Artists

Marcus Gardley (Playwright) is a poet playwright who is the current recipient of the 2015 Glickman Award. He was the 2013 James Baldwin Fellow and the 2011 PEN Laura Pels award winner for Mid-Career Playwright. The New Yorker describes Gardley as “the heir to Garcia Lorca, Pirandello and Tennessee Williams.” His play The House That Will Not Stand was commissioned and produced by Berkeley Rep and has had subsequent productions at Yale Rep, the Tricycle Theater in London and Victory Gardens Theater. He is an ensemble playwright at Victory Gardens Theater where his play The Gospel of Lovingkindness was produced in March of 2014 and where he won the 2015 BTAA award for best play. In 2014, his saga The Road Weeps, the Well Runs Dry about the migration of Black Seminoles (a tribe of African American and First Nations People) from Florida to Oklahoma had a national tour. He has had several productions, some of which include: Every Tongue Confesses at Arena Stage starring Phylicia Rashad, and On The Leveewhich premiered in 2010 at Lincoln Center Theater 3. He is the recipient of the 2011 Aetna New Voice Fellowship at Hartford Stage, the Hellen Merrill Award, a Kellsering Honor and the Gerbode Emerging Playwright Award. He holds an MFA in Playwriting from the Yale Drama School and is a member of The Dramatists Guild. Gardley is a professor of Theater and Performance Studies at Brown University.

Chay Yew (Director)

Chay Yew is the Artistic Director at Victory Gardens Theater. Chay joined Victory Gardens in July 2011. Victory Gardens Theater: Roz and Ray, The House That Will Not Stand, Hillary and Clinton, Death and the Maiden, An Issue of Blood, The Gospel of Lovingkindness, Mojada, Oedipus el Rey, Universes’ Ameriville. Chicago: Dartmoor Prison, Black N Blue Boys/Broken Men (Goodman Theatre); Where Did We Sit On The Bus? (Teatro Vista/Victory Gardens, Boise Contemporary Theatre); Po Boy Tango (Northlight Theatre); work at The Public Theater, Playwrights Horizons, The Playwrights Realm, New York Theatre Workshop, National Asian American Theatre Company, Ma-Yi Theatre Company. Regional: Humana Festival of New American Plays at Actors Theatre of Louisville, Berkeley Repertory Theatre, The Kennedy Center; Mark Taper Forum, American Conservatory Theater, Huntington Theatre Company, Long Wharf Theatre, Denver Center Theatre, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company, Empty Space Theatre, Portland Center Stage, Cornerstone Theatre Company, Singapore Repertory Theatre, Boston Court, East West Players amongst others. His opera credits include world premieres of Osvaldo Golijov and David Henry Hwang’s Ainadamar (co-production with the Tanglewood Music Center, Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, and the Los Angeles Philharmonic); and Rob Zuidam’s Rage of d’Amours (Tanglewood Music Center). Chay is a recipient of the Obie Award and DramaLogue Award for Direction. As a playwright, his plays include Porcelain, A Language of Their Own, Red, A Beautiful Country, Wonderland, Question 27 Question 28, A Distant Shore, 17, and Visible Cities. His other work includes adaptions of A Winter People (based on Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard) and Lorca’s The House of Bernarda Alba, and a musical Long Season. His performance works include Viven and Her Shadows and Home: Places between Asia and America. His plays have been produced at The Public Theater, Mark Taper Forum, Manhattan Theatre Club, Long Wharf Theatre, La Jolla Playhouse, Intiman Theatre, Wilma Theatre, Dallas Theatre Center, Portland Center Stage, amongst many others. Overseas, his plays have been produced by the Royal Court Theatre (London), Fattore K and Napoli Teatro Festival (Naples, Italy), La Mama (Melbourne, Australia), Four Arts (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia), Singapore Repertory Theatre, Toy Factory, Checkpoint Theatre, and Theatre-Works (Singapore). He is also the recipient of the London Fringe Award for Best Playwright and Best Play, George and Elisabeth Marton Playwriting Award, GLAAD Media Award, Made in America Award, AEA/SAG/AFTRA Diversity Honor, and Robert Chesley Award. His playsPorcelain, A Language of Their Own, and The Hyphenated American Plays are published by Grove Press. He recently edited Version 3.0: An Anthology of Contemporary Asian American Plays for TCG Publications. He was the founding director of the Taper’s Asian Theatre Workshop and producer of Taper, Too. Chay is also an alumnus of New Dramatists and serves on the Executive Board of the Stage Directors and Choreographers Society, and Chicago’s Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events’ Cultural Advisory Council.

Jaret Landon (Original Music) is a composer/arranger and music educator. He has composed and arranged music for film, musicals and recorded albums. Theater credits includeNativity, Sanctified (Congo Square Theatre); Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill, Ain’t Misbehavin (Porchlight Music Theatre); The Gospel of Lovingkindness (Victory Gardens Theater); Crowns (Goodman Theatre); Gem of The Ocean (Court Theatre); Jabari Dreams of Freedom (Chicago Children’s Theatre); The Christians (Steppenwolf Theatre); Black Odyssey (Denver Theatre Center); and First Wives Club (Pre-Broadway). Jaret was the Assistant Orchestrator for American Idol—Seasons 14 and 15.

Linda Bright Clay (First Lady) Linda Bright Clay, native Chicagoan, member of Actors’ Equity and SAG-AFTRA, has been a professional actor for over 30 years. Her theatre credits include The House That Will Not Stand, Victory Gardens; the BTAA and Jeff Award winning production of The Project(S) at the American Theatre Co, soon reprising her roles in The Project(S) with American Theatre Co.’s American Mosaic education program; For My brothers…(Writers Theatre Commissioned work); Having Our Say and Permanent Collection at Madison Rep; Home (BTAA Best Actress Award), Having Our Say, Top Hat all at Chicago Theatre Co; Joe Turner’s Come And Gone at the Goodman,Dame Lorraine at Victory Gardens; Ain’t Supposed To Die A Natural Death, Checkmates at eta. She has done many TV and radio commercials and can currently be seen in Colonial Penn and Northwestern Medicine spots. She has also appeared in other commercials such as, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Fifth Third Bank, U.S. Post Office, and Ace Hardware. Linda’s film and TV work includes Halfway, garnering critical acclaim in festivals and Seven Psychopaths. Her short films include Flickering Blue, Just Married and The Night before the Morning After.

Donica Lynn (Paulina, Young Bell) Victory Gardens Theater: Confessions of a P.I.M.P. with Andre de Shields. Drury Lane Oakbrook: Smokey Joe’s Cafe, Hairspray, Aida,Thoroughly Modern Millie. Porchlight Music Theatre: Dreamgirls (Winner Jeff, Time Out Chicago, & BTAA Best actress in a musical).Porchlight Sings: Disney, Motown, Beatles. Off The Porch: Gatecrashers.  Mercury Theater: The Color Purple, Barnum. Court Theater: Caroline, or Change. Goodman: Lady In Denmark. Timeline: Fiorello, Step Into Time. Marriott Lincolnshire: Once On This Island, Suessical. About Face Theatre: When Last We Flew. Congo Square Theater Company: Black Nativity, Sanctified. Eta Theatre:Runaway Home, Good Black, This Far By Faith. Chicago Opera Theatre: Queenie Pie. Regional: Hair (Michigan), Broadway Holidays (Paramount Aurora) TV: Chicago Fire. Member of both AGMA and AEA.

Greta Oglesby (Aberdeen Calumet) Greta Oglesby played the lead in Tony Kushner’s Caroline, or Change at the Guthrie Theatre in Minneapolis. Oglesby won the Ivey award for that performance. Greta’s resume includes 5 seasons at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Crowns, Burial at Thebes, Sunshine Boys, and Appomattox at the Guthrie, Gem of the Ocean and Amen Corner at the Goodman Theatre in Chicago, and several plum roles at Penumbra Theatre, including The Piano Lesson, Ballad of Emit Till, and Black Nativity. Greta has recently published a book entitled “Mama N Nem…Handprints On My Life” (Kirkhouse).

Jeffery Owen Freelon, Jr. (Lafayette, Roosevelt)

Jeffery is a native of South Side Chicago and son to Sheila Wilson Freelon and late Father Jeffery Owen Freelon Sr. He has his mother to owe for his interest in the arts simply because she fervently assured his success in his 4th grade debut as Walter Lee Younger in A Raisin in the Sun, as his acting coach. From there Jeffery has constantly been on the rise from his graduation from The University of Michigan, appearing on “Chicago PD,” to winning the “Denzel Washington” award from the BTAA for his role as Karl Berry in Byhalia Mississippi. He is also a proud team member of Paonessa Talent Agency.

Camille Robinson (Normal Beverly, Young Bride) Theater: It’s a Wonderful Life: Live in Chicago! (American Blues Theater), Wonderful Town (Goodman Theatre), Little Shop of Horrors (American Blues Theater), Stick Fly (Windy City Playhouse), For Her as a Piano (Pegasus Theatre Chicago) and Murder Ballad (Bailiwick Chicago). TV/Film: Chicago Medand Chicago PD (NBC).

Jaqueline Williams (Bell Grand Lake) Victory Gardens Theater: The Gospel Of Lovingkindness, Waiting To Be Invited, Colored Museum, Shoes. Chicago: Gem of the Ocean, The Good Book, Caroline or Change, Fences, Man In The Ring (Court Theatre); Stop. Reset, Pullman Porter Blues, Camino Real, Trinity River Plays, Blues For An Alabama Sky,Amen Corner (Goodman Theatre); Airline Highway, Head of Passes, Hot L Baltimore, Brother Sister Plays, No Place Like Home (Steppenwolf); Gee’s Bend, The Miser (Northlight Theatre); Yellowman, Fabulation (Next); Maya’s Last Poem (as Maya Angelou), Going to St. Ives, Having Our Say (Fleetwood-Jourdain). National tours: Crowns, Born In the RSA(Market Theatre of Johannesburg). Broadway: Young Man From Atlanta. Off-Broadway: From The Mississippi Delta (co-produced by Oprah Winfrey), Mill Fire, Talented Tenth. Regional: La Jolla, ACT Seattle, Berkeley Rep, Arena Stage, Hartford Stage, Huntington Playhouse, Asolo Rep, Portland Stage Co. Film/TV: Heartlock, The Break Up, The Lake House, Hardball, Turks, Chicago PD, Chicago Fire, Empire, Chicago Code, Prison Break. Awards/Nominations: Jeff, Helen Hayes, BTAA, Lunt-Fontanne (Shakespeare) Fellow, 3Arts, American Arts Council, Drama Desk, Sarah Siddons, Excellence in the Arts, After Dark, others.

Full Performance Schedule

Previews for A Wonder in My Soul are February 10-16, 2017. Previews are $15-$40. The Press opening is Friday, February 17 at 7:30pm. Regular performances run February 18 – March 12, 2017: Tuesday — Friday at 7:30pm; Saturday at 3pm and 7:30pm; Sunday at 3:00pm.  Regular performances are $15-$60.

Victory Gardens has partnered with mobile theater ticketing app TodayTix to offer free tickets for the first preview of A Wonder in My Soul. Free Tickets will be available via TodayTix mobile lottery, launching one week before the first preview on Saturday, February 4, 2017. Winners will be notified by email and push notification between 12:00pm and 3:00pm on the day of the first preview, Friday, February 10, 2017.  

Performances are at the Victory Gardens Biograph Theater, 2433 N. Lincoln Avenue, in the heart of Chicago’s Lincoln Park neighborhood. For tickets and information, call the Victory Gardens Box Office, 773.871.3000, email tickets@victorygardens.org, or visit www.victorygardens.org. Ask the Box Office about student tickets ($15), senior, and Access. For group discounts, call 872.817.9087.