Congo Square Theatre Company To Stage Rarely Performed DAY OF ABSENCE

Congo Square Theatre Company, well known for its powerful portrayal of African American classics and gripping new works, commemorates its 20th Anniversary season with a rare production of the 1965 satirical fantasy Day of Absence at the Richard Christiansen Theatre (housed inside Victory Gardens Biograph Theatre, 2433 N. Lincoln Ave.), February 27-March 22, 2020.

Casting for the production includes Congo Square ensemble members Ronald L. ConnerAnn Joseph and Kelvin Roston, Jr., joined by Jordan ArredondoMeagan DilworthBryant Hayes and Sonya Madrigal. As originally written, cast members will play various roles throughout the production.

Winner of coveted Vernon Rice and Obie Awards, Day of Absence recounts the uproarious emergencies that occur when a Southern town is faced with the sudden and inexplicable disappearance of all its black citizens. Day of Absence was written and directed by Douglas Turner Ward in 1965 and helped launch the New York-based Negro Ensemble Company, whose overall mission is to present live theatre performances by and about black people to a culturally diverse audience that is often underserved by the theatrical community. Day of Absence is traditionally performed as a ‘reverse minstrel show,’ with black actors in whiteface.  This production is directed by Congo Square ensemble member Anthony Irons and produced by the company’s Founding Artistic Director and Associate Professor of Theatre at UIC, Derrick Sanders.

The performance schedule for Day of Absence, February 27-March 22, 2020, is Fridays at 8 p.m., Saturdays at 3 p.m. and 8 p.m., and Sundays at 3 p.m. All tickets are priced at $35 ($25 for seniors and students). Discounts are available for groups of 10 or more.  To purchase tickets, and for more information, please call 773-871-3000 or visit www.congosquaretheatre.org.

Artist Bios

*Congo Square Ensemble Members

Jordan Arredondo

Jordan Arredondo’s previous Chicago credits include Laura and the Sea (Rivendell Theatre Ensemble), Much Ado About Nothing (Oak Park Festival Theatre), First Love is the Revolution (Steep Theatre Company), Romeo and Juliet (Teatro Vista), Waiting For Godot (Tympanic Theatre), and The Party House (The Runaways Lab Theater). Television and film credits include appearances on NBC’s Chicago Fire, and independent films Killing EleanorBinx, and Tantalization. Arredondo graduated with his B.F.A in Acting from the University of Illinois at Chicago.

*Ronald L. Conner
Ronald L. Conner was last seen as Booster in Congo Square’s production of Jitney. Other Congo Square credits include The Talented Tenth, for which he won Best Actor in an Ensemble during the Black Theatre Alliance Awards; Small Oak Tree Runs Red; King Hedley II, The Colored Museum; The African Company Presents…; and Deep Azure. Other Chicago credits include View from the Bridge (Goodman Theatre), Shakespeare’s Greatest Hits (Chicago Shakespeare Theatre), Seven Guitar (Court Theatre), Pipeline (Victory Gardens Theatre) and Paradise Blue (Timeline Theatre). Conner has performed for regional theatres including St. Louis Black Repertory, Geva Theatre at Rochester, Olney Theatre, Portland Stage Co., and Ensemble Theatre of Cincinnati. On the screen, Conner played the recurring role of Bluto on the hit Comedy Central show Southside. He also stars in the independent film Chasing the Blues (STARZ, Amazon Prime). Other television and film credits include The Chi (Showtime); Chicago PD and Chicago Med (NBC); and Utopia (Amazon Prime).

*Ann Joseph

Ann Joseph is a founding ensemble member of Congo Square Theatre Company where she appeared in The Piano LessonPlayboy of The West IndiesStick FlyFrom the Mississippi Delta, the Jeff Award-winning Seven Guitars, and Elmina’s Kitchen. Other credits include I Never Sang for My FatherHeart is a Lonely HunterWedding Band and Time of Your Life (Steppenwolf), Class DismissedLost Boys of the SudanWheatleyLiving Green (Victory Gardens), Doubt (Writers Theatre) and A Christmas Carol (Goodman Theatre).  Joseph most recently appeared as Mame in Radio Golf at the Court Theatre.  Regionally, Joseph has worked at American Players Theatre, Milwaukee Rep and Madison Repertory Theatre.  Film and television credits include Chicago Fire and Chicago Med (NBC), Early Edition (CBS), Hunter (NBC) and more recently the web series Becky’s World. Joseph is a lecturer in the Department of Fine and Performing Arts at Loyola University Chicago.

Meagan Dilworth

Meagan Dilworth’s Chicago credits include The Ridiculous Darkness (Sideshow Theatre), 31st Playwrights Festival (Pegasus Theatre), Gift of the Magi (Fleetwood Jourdain). Atlanta credits include Father Comes Home from the Wars (Actors Express), You Can’t Take It with You (Marietta Players). Boston credits include

Saturday Night/Sunday Morning (Lyric Stage), O’Beautiful (EmStage), and Writing Home (Stories without Roofs). Dilworth received her B.A. in Theatre and Performance Studies from Kennesaw State University and M.A. in Theatre Education from Emerson College.

Bryant Hayes

Bryant Hayes’ previous credits include His Shadow (16th Street Theater), War! And other Comedies (Theatre Wit), Black Beauty Festival (Victory Gardens), Bent (Muse Theatre Collective), Our Lives in Letters (Chipola Center for the Arts), and Antony and Cleopatra (Oklahoma Shakespeare). Bryant holds an M.F.A. in Acting from Northern Illinois University and a B.F.A. in Acting from the University of Central Oklahoma.

Sonya Madrigal

Sonya Madrigal’s recent credits include Romeo and Juliet (Teatro Vista), Oedipus Rex (Court Theatre), HOPE part II of a Mexican Trilogy (Teatro Vista), The Adventures of Augie March (Court Theatre), Electricidad (University of Illinois at Chicago). Madrigal recently graduated with her B.F.A. in acting from the University of Illinois at Chicago. She is a teaching artist with Steppenwolf Theatre, Lifeline Theater, and the August Wilson monologue competition.

*Kelvin Roston, Jr.

Kelvin Roston, Jr. is a four-time Jeff Award nominee, three-time Black Theater Alliance Award winner and two-time Black Excellence Award winner. He is the winner of the Light in the Darkness Public Education Award from the National Association for Mental Illness for his play, Twisted Melodies, written and performed by himself. Roston’s recent Congo Square credits include the title role in King Hedley II, St. James InfirmaryThe NativityMore Than a MiracleNativity Tribute Concert, and Twisted Melodies. Roston’s most recent Chicago credit was the title role in Oedipus Rex (Court Theatre), and he has performed at several theatres throughout Chicago and nearby suburbs including: Goodman Theatre, Steppenwolf Theatre, Paramount Theatre, The Marriott Theatre, ETA Creative Arts Foundation, Writers Theater, Black Ensemble Theater, Timeline Theater, Northlight Theatre. Regional credits include St. Louis Black Rep, Fulton Theatre, New Theatre, Maine State Music Theatre, Baltimore Center Stage, Mosaic Theater Company of DC, and Apollo Theater in New York. International credits include: Orb (Tokyo, Japan) and Festival Hall (Osaka, Japan). Television credits include Chicago Med and Chicago PD (NBC), KFC and commercials for Instant Care and Ace Hardware. Film credits include Get a Job, Princess Cyd, and Breathing Room.

*Anthony Irons (Director)

Anthony Irons is an actor, writer and director, who has lived and worked in Chicago since 2002. He is an ensemble member of Congo Square Theatre Company where he directed The Colored MuseumHobo King and the sketch comedy, Tales from the Black Side. He has performed in over a dozen Congo Square productions and has received Black Theatre Alliance Awards, African American Arts Alliance Awards and three Jeff nominations. Other performance credits include the Goodman Theatre, Court Theatre, Shattered Globe Theatre and Lookingglass Theatre, where he is also an ensemble member. Irons has performed and directed at The Second City.  Directing credits there include R.E.A.C.H: Risky Eclectic Artists Comedy HourBarack-O-lypse Now!In Livid Color and I Know What You Did Last Election.

Douglas Turner Ward (Playwright)

Douglas Turner Ward, playwright, actor, director, producer, dramaturg and visionary, was born in Burnside, Louisiana in 1930. He spent his early years on a Sugar Cane/Rice Plantation where both his mother and father worked as field hands. At age sixteen he went to Wilberforce University in Xenia, and although he was a journalism major, he found time for theatre. In 1967 after the success of his plays Happy Ending and Day of Absence, Ward wrote an article for The New York Times entitled “American Theatre for Whites Only” in which he proposed the creation of a professional all-black theatre company dedicated to training black theatre practitioners and artists along with producing black plays. Ward and his colleagues Robert Hooks and Gerry Krone were approached by the Ford Foundation to make real such a dream and the Negro Ensemble Company (NEC) was founded with Ward as its artistic director. NEC’s notable productions include A Soldier’s Play and the Tony Award-winning The River Niger, which became the company’s first production to go to Broadway. As a result of Ward and his colleagues’ hard work, NEC went on to produce more than two hundred plays and became a place for black actors to gain experience and prominence in the theatre.

About Congo Square Theatre Company

Congo Square Theatre Company (Congo Square) is an ensemble dedicated to artistic excellence. By producing definitive and transformative theatre spawned from the African Diaspora, as well as other world cultures, Congo Square seeks to establish itself as an institution of multicultural theatre. Congo Square is one of only two African American Actors’ Equity theatre companies in Chicago. Founded in 1999, Congo Square aimed to provide a platform for black artists to perform and present classic and new work that exemplified the majesty, diversity and intersectionality of stories from the African Diaspora.

Congo Square has risen to become one of the most well-respected African American theatres in the nation. Previously mentored by two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright August Wilson, Congo Square would go on to cultivate talents such as playwright Chadwick Boseman (Black Panther), who penned the 2006 Jeff nominated play Deep Azure, and playwright Lydia Diamond, who penned the massively successful Stick Fly, a critically acclaimed play that explores race, class, and familial friction. Stick Fly ultimately ran on Broadway and is currently being developed into a full-length series for HBO with Alicia Keys serving as a producer. Congo Square also produced the widely praised Seven Guitars, which would eventually go on to win top honors for best ensemble, best direction, and best production at the 2005 Joseph Jefferson Awards. This would earn the theatre company the distinction of being the first African American theatre company to receive such an honor.

Congo Square’s Educational Programs bring the impact of theater to young audiences. Its two outreach programs, CORE (Curriculum Objectives Residency Enrichment), and CAST (Congo After School Theatre), present and teach theater arts by providing classroom and after-school residencies that provide Teaching Artists to build upon already established Chicago Public Schools literature and art curriculums. CORE and CAST impact students and schools located in the Bronzeville, Auburn, Gresham, Douglas, and Woodlawn neighborhoods.

For Day of Absence tickets, please call 773--871-3000. For more information about Congo Square Theatre Company, please call 773-296-1108 or visit www.congosquaretheatre.org.