Griffin Theatre Company Announces 30th Anniversary Season

Griffin Theatre Company is pleased to announce its 30th Anniversary Season, featuring four productions exploring the theme “the journeys we take to find ourselves,” including two Chicago premieres. The Season launches this fall with a revival of the Tony-nominated musical VIOLET, with book and lyrics by Brian Crawley (A Little Princess), music by Jeanine Tesori (Fun HomeCaroline, or Change), direction by Scott Weinstein (RagtimeBat Boy: The Musical) and music direction by John Cockerill (Bonnie & Clyde). The rock, folk and gospel-infused musical follows a young disfigured woman on her journey for a miracle. 

Next spring, Griffin presents two powerful tales of war in rotating repertory. The Chicago premiere of GHOSTS OF WAR details a young soldier’s tour of duty in Iraq following 9/11, based on Ryan Smithson’s best-selling autobiographical novel, adapted for the stage by Artistic Director Bill Massolia (In To America) and directed by Jason Gerace (Great Expectations, Last Train to Nibroc). Celebrating its 10th anniversary, Griffin’s LETTERS HOME puts the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq front and center by bringing to life actual letters written by soldiers serving in the Middle East. Written and directed by Bill Massolia, the critically acclaimed production returns home to Chicago after touring the U.S. for more than a decade.

(left to right) Zack Kenney, Christian Blackburn, Lynda Shadrake and LaNisa Frederick in Griffin Theatre Company’s touring production of LETTERS HOME, returning to Chicago for Griffin’s 30th Anniversary Season. Photo by Michael Brosilow.

The season concludes next summer with the Chicago premiere of THE HARVESTSamuel D. Hunter’s (PocatelloThe Whale) drama about a group of young missionaries preparing to travel to the Middle East, directed by Jonathan Berry (PocatelloBalm In GileadWinterset).

Griffin Theatre’s full 2017-18 Season will be presented by at The Den Theatre, 1333 N. Milwaukee Ave. in Chicago’s Wicker Park neighborhood. Season subscriptions and single tickets for VIOLET are currently available at www.griffintheatre.com.

The 30th Anniversary Season will also include two concert-style readings: FOR SERVICES RENDERED by Somerset Maugham, directed by Robin Witt and RUTHERFORD AND SON by Githa Sowerby, directed by Elise Kauzlaric. Dates and venues will be announced shortly.

Griffin Theatre will also continue to nationally tour its productions of LETTERS HOME, GHOSTS OF WAR, FRINDLE and STINKY CHEESE MAN AND OTHER FAIRLY STUPID TALES. The Griffin’s national touring productions will reach 100,000 young people and adults during the 2017-18 theater season.

The Griffin Theatre Company 2017-18 Season: 

November 26, 2017 – January 13, 2018

VIOLET

Book and Lyrics by Brian Crawley

Music by Jeanine Tesori
Directed by Scott Weinstein

Music Direction by John Cockerill

Based on the short story “The Ugliest Pilgrim” by Doris Betts, this award-winning musical fuses a powerful rock, folk and gospel score. With a ticket, a suitcase and a heart full of expectation, Violet Karl, facially disfigured since childhood, boards a bus and travels across the deep south in 1964 to see if a faith healer can transform her life. Along the way, she forms unlikely friendships with her fellow passengers, who teach her about beauty, love and courage and that it’s the journeys you take in life that help you discover who you are.

April 6  May 6, 2018 – Presented in Rotating Repertory:

GHOSTS OF WAR – Chicago Premiere!

From the novel by Ryan Smithson

Adapted by Artistic Director William Massolia

Directed by Jason Gerace

Ryan Smithson joined the Army Reserve when he was seventeen. Two years later, he was deployed to Iraq as an Army engineer. In this extraordinary and harrowing adaptation, follow one GI’s tour of duty inside a world that few understand. Based on Smithson’s best-selling novel, this unforgettable story about combat, friendship, fear and a soldier’s commitment to his country peels back the curtain on the realities of war.

LETTERS HOME

Written and Directed by Artistic Director William Massolia

Celebrating its 10th anniversary, this critically lauded production puts the soldier experience in Iraq and Afghanistan front and center by bringing to life war letters written home. Seen by more than 100,000 people in more than 100 cities since its first performance in 2007, the Griffin is proud to have this production come home for Chicago audiences to experience once again.

July 21  August 26, 2018

THE HARVEST – Chicago Premiere!

By Samuel D. Hunter
Directed by Jonathan Berry
In the basement of a small evangelical church in southeastern Idaho, a group of young missionaries is preparing to go to the Middle East. When one of the missionaries – a young man – has a crisis of faith on his spiritual journey, it reminds us that faith doesn’t come easily, no matter where you look for it.

About the Artists

Scott Weinstein (Director, Violet) is an award-winning director whose upcoming work includes Sex With Strangers (Cardinal Stage), Million Dollar Quartet (Phoenix Theatre) and Frost/Nixon (Redtwist Theatre). Favorite Chicago credits include Rock of Ages (Drury Lane Theatre), a new chamber version of RagtimeTitanic (Jeff Nomination – Best Director, Best Musical) and Bat Boy: The Musical (Jeff Nomination – Best Director) all with Griffin Theatre; Rent (Theo Ubique, Jeff Award – Best Director & Best Musical); She Kills Monsters (Steppenwolf Theatre Garage Rep); and Seussical (Chicago Shakespeare Theater). Favorite New York and regional credits include Million Dollar Quartet (Fingerlakes Musical Theatre Festival); Baristas (New York International Fringe Festival) Knights of The Sales Office and Murder For Two (Adirondack Theatre Festival). He is a company member with Redtwist Theatre where he has directed Circle Mirror TransformationAll-American and The Drawer Boy. Scott is the Associate Director for the National Tour, Las Vegas, Chicago and Norwegian Cruise Line productions of Million Dollar Quartet and directed the first regional production currently running at the Lawrence Welk Theatre. Scott is a proud graduate of Northwestern University and member of SDC. www.Scott-Weinstein.com

John Cockerill (Music Director, Violet) is a collaborative pianist, vocal coach and music director. Recent credits include: Bonnie & Clyde (Kokandy Productions). María de Buenos Aires (Des Moines Metro Opera), Xanadu (American Theatre Company), and High Fidelity (Refuge Theatre Project). He was a featured pianist on the premiere recording of Ross Crean’s opera, The Great God Pan (Navona Records, 2017), and he’ll be joining Chicago Fringe Opera for their upcoming season of As One and The Great God Pan. 

Jason Gerace (Director, Ghosts of War) is a freelance director in Chicago, and is so thrilled to be directing for Griffin Theatre for the first time. He was the recipient of the 2014 Non-Equity Jeff Award in Outstanding Direction for Great Expectations with Strawdog Theatre Company, which broke box office records, was twice remounted, and led to the adaptation’s first publication. His production of Last Train to Nibroc for Haven Theatre was hailed as “an exquisitely acted and generally gorgeous little show” by the Chicago Tribune. Regional directing credits include the world premiere of Gabe McKinley’s The Source (Route 66 Theatre), the Chicago Premiere of Yussef El Guindi’s Threesome (Other Theatre), Wrecks (with John Judd; Chicago), Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and Opus (RedTwist Theatre, Chicago). Jason originally hails from Anchorage, Alaska and holds an MFA in Directing from The University of Oklahoma. He is an associate member of SDC, and has been Artistic Associate of American Theater Company since 2008.

William Massolia (Adapter, Ghosts of War & Playwright/Director, Letters Home) is a founding member of the Griffin Theatre Company. He is the author of over 30 plays and adaptations including, Be More Chill, Little Brother, Stardust, Loving Little Egypt, Shakespeare’s Dog, Ghosts of War, and most recently In to America. His play Letters Home is celebrating its 10th Anniversary touring the U.S. and his children’s play, Frindle has been presented in more than 70 U.S. cities since 2009. Massolia is a seven-time Joseph Jefferson Award nominee for his work as a playwright. A graduate of Southern Illinois University, Mr. Massolia is a past member of the League of Chicago Theatres Board of Directors, a recipient of an IAC Playwriting Fellowship Award and the theatre advisory panel for the Illinois Arts Council.
Jonathan Berry
 (Director, The Harvest) is an Artistic Producer at Steppenwolf and a director and teacher in Chicago. Steppenwolf credits include The CrucibleGary and A Separate Peace for Steppenwolf for Young Adults. Jonathan is an ensemble member at Steep Theatre where credits include Posh, If There Is I Haven’t Found It Yet, The Knowledge, Festen and Moment. He is also an ensemble member at Griffin Theatre where his credits include Pocatello, Balm in Gilead, Golden Boy, Spring Awakening, Punk Rock, Port and On the Shore of the Wide World. Jon was the assistant director for Anna D. Shapiro’s Broadway productions of Of Mice and Men and This Is Our Youth. Other credits include Dirty, Othello, Suicide, Incorporated (Gift Theatre); The Solid Sand Below, The World of Extreme Happiness for New Stages (Goodman Theatre); Kill Floor (American Theatre Company); Little Shop of Horrors, Sideman (American Blues Theater); I am Going to Change the World (Chicago Dramatists); and The Casuals (Jackalope Theatre Company). He pursued his MFA in directing from Northwestern University. He has taught at University of Michigan, Northwestern University, University of Chicago, Columbia College and The School at Steppenwolf.

The Griffin Theatre Company is a Blue Star Theater and is proud to support our military enlisted and veterans.

About Griffin Theatre Company

Established in 1988 and celebrating its 30th season, the mission of the Griffin Theatre Company is to create extraordinary and meaningful theatrical experiences for both children and adults by building bridges of understanding between generations that instill in its audience an appreciation of the performing arts. Through artistic collaboration the Griffin Theatre Company produces literary adaptations, original work and classic plays that challenge and inspire, with wit, style and compassion for the audience.

The Griffin Theatre Company is the recipient of 115 Joseph Jefferson Award nominations for theater excellence in Chicago. The Griffin was the repeat winner of the 2016 Jeff Award for “Best Production of a Play” for London Wall having won the same award in 2015 for its production of Men Should Weep.

The Griffin Theatre Company is partially supported by the Illinois Arts Council, a state agency.

For additional information, visit www.griffintheatre.com.