COURT THEATRE AND AMERICAN BLUES THEATER ANNOUNCE THE EXTENSION OF NATIVE SON DUE TO OVERWHELMING DEMAND Five performances added October 16 – 19 1 Due to early ticket demand, Court Theatre and American Blues Theater announce an extension to the world premiere of American Blues Ensemble Member Nambi E. Kelley’s new adaptation of Richard Wright’sclassic novel, Native Son, directed by Seret Scott.  Native Son will now run September 11 – October 19, 2014 at Court Theatre, 5535 S. Ellis Avenue.

unnamed (10)Due to early ticket demand, Court Theatre and American Blues Theater announce an extension to the world premiere of American Blues Ensemble Member Nambi E. Kelley’s new adaptation of Richard Wright’sclassic novel, Native Son, directed by Seret ScottNative Son will now run September 11 – October 19, 2014 at Court Theatre, 5535 S. Ellis Avenue.


Richard Wright’s iconic novel about oppression, freedom, and justice comes to life on stage in this ground-breaking, world premiere adaptation. Suffocating in rat-infested poverty on the South Side of Chicago in the 1930s, 20-year-old Bigger Thomas struggles to find a place for himself in a world whose prejudice has shut him out. After taking a job in a wealthy  man’s house, Bigger unwittingly unleashes a series of events that violently and irrevocably seal his fate. Adapted with theatrical ingenuity by Chicago’s own Nambi E. Kelley, and co-produced with American Blues Theater, this Native Son captures the power of Richard Wright’s novel for a whole new generation.


“We are thrilled to open our 60th Anniversary Season with a world premiere adaptation of Richard Wright’s classic novel Native Son, co-produced with American Blues Theater,” says Artistic Director Charles Newell. “While the novel was written almost 75 years ago, its subject matter is all too timely in 2014 and relevant to the Chicago of today. Bringing this important story to a modern audience has been at the heart of the unique collaboration between Court and American Blues Theater.”

Native Son features Jeff Blim (Jan/Pressman), Tracey N. Bonner (Bessie/Vera), Shanesia Davis (Hannah), Joe Dempsey (Britten), Nora Fiffer (Mary), Jerod Haynes (Bigger), James Leaming (Mr. Dalton), Eric Lynch (Black Rat), Tosin Morohunfola (Gus), Carmen Roman (Mrs. Dalton), and Edgar Miguel Sanchez (Buddy). 

The creative team includes Nambi E. Kelley (Playwright), Seret Scott (Director), Regina Garcia (Scenic Designer),Melissa Torchia (Costume Designer), Marc Stubblefield (Lighting Designer), and Joshua Horvath (Sound Designer).

About the Artists

Nambi E. Kelley (Playwright) has penned plays for Steppenwolf, Goodman Theatre, and Court Theatre in Chicago, Lincoln Center in New York, and internationally. Most recently, Kelley returned to Singapore to perform in her co-adaptation of The Book of Living and Dying that will be published in an anthology of plays in Singapore in 2014. Recent playwriting honors include: Goodman Theatre Playwright’s Unit where she penned For Her As A Piano for which she received an award for mental health advocacy, Xtigone (American Theatre of Harlem workshop production) and Harlem 9’s 48 Hours in Harlem Playwright 2013. Other writing credits include: Norman Mailer Writing Colony Fellow 2012, Dramatists Guild Writers Intensive Fellow 2011, Goodman Theatre Fellowship Recipient, La MaMa Playwrights Symposium Playwright-In-Residence in Spoleto, Italy under the tutelage of Lisa Kron and Pulitzer prize winner Lynn Nottage, The Friends Fellowship (Ragdale Foundation), the 3 Arts Fellowship (twice nominated), TCG Candidate for Playwriting: Goodman Theatre, the Eugene O’Neill Playwrights Conference nomination, and was recently honored at the Black Ensemble Theatre for her contributions in playwriting. Kelley also serves as a Chicago Dramatists Playwright-In-Residence, and is playwright emeritus with MPAACT, Chicago. Also an actress, Nambi has worked on stage and television in Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, and internationally, playing opposite such artists as Phylicia Rashad, Alfre Woodard, Blair Underwood, and Patrick Swayze. Ms. Kelley guest lectures at Lake Forest College, has a BFA from The Theatre School at De Paul University, formerly known as The Goodman School of Drama, and holds an MFA in interdisciplinary arts from Goddard College in Vermont. 


Seret Scott (Director) returns to  Court Theatre after directing  Spunk in the 2012/13 season. Directing credits: Denver Center Theatre Company, Old Globe Theatre (San Diego–Associate Artist), New Victory Theatre and Second Stage Theatre (Off-Broadway), Philadelphia Theatre Company, Arena Stage, Ford’s Theatre, Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company, and Studio Theatre (DC), American Conservatory Theatre (San Francisco), South Coast Repertory and L.A. Theatreworks (CA), Long Wharf Theatre and Yale Repertory Theatre (New Haven), Two River Theatre Company (NJ), Geva Theatre Center (Rochester, NY), Indiana Repertory Theatre, Pan Asian Repertory Theatre and National Black Theatre (NYC), Alliance Theatre (Atlanta), Alley Theatre (Houston), Oregon Shakespeare Festival,  Actors Theatre of Louisville, Virginia Stage Company, New Mexico Repertory, and Playmakers Repertory Company (NC). Member of the executive board of Stage Directors and Choreographer’s Society. Recipient of a TCG/PEW Residency Grant (Long Wharf Theatre) and Drama Desk Award in acting (My Sister, My Sister). Ms. Scott’s play Second Line was produced by Passage Theatre (NJ) and Tribute Productions (DC).


Jeff Blim (Jan/Pressman) makes his American Blues/Court Theatre debut. Chicago credits include Twisted: The Musical and Holy Musical B@man! with StarKid Prod., along with his recent debut of The Trail to Oregon for which he also wrote the music and book. He has previously done sketch shows at The Second City’s UP Comedy Club (Airport for Birds, 1Night 2Last 3Ever). Other credits include: Footloose (National Tour) and Lobby Hero (NYC). Jeff is a University of Michigan graduate.

Tracey N. Bonner (Bessie/Vera) returns to the Court Theatre stage. Her theatre credits include: The Mountaintop(Indiana Repertory Theatre), Bud, Not Buddy (Chicago Children’s Theatre), We are Proud to Present… (Victory Gardens), Invisible Man and Home (Court Theatre), Jackie and Me (Chicago Children’s Theatre), Radio Golf (Virginia Stage Company), Jitney (Kenny Leon’s True Colors Theatre), Brothers of the Dust, The Talented Tenth, and Joe Turner’s Come and Gone (Congo Square Theatre), How the Kanye’ West Was Won and Six Degrees of Reparation (The Second City). Television credits include: Resurrection (ABC), Betrayal (ABC), Low Winter Sun (AMC), Chicago Fire (NBC), Casandra French’s Finishing School for Boys (MTV), Trapped in the Closet (IFC), and Prison Break (FOX). Tracey holds an M.F.A. in Acting from The Theatre School at DePaul University and is a proud ensemble member of Congo Square Theatre Company.



Shanesia Davis (Hannah) returns to Court Theatre after an extended hiatus. Notable Chicago credits: Immediate Family at Goodman co-produced by About Face Theatre, Brothers of the Dust Congo Square (BEA/BTA awards Best Actress), The Glass Menagerie, One Arm, Our Lady of 121st St. at Steppenwolf Theatre, Cymbeline at Chicago Shakespeare Theatre, Drowning Crow (BTAA nod), Black Star Line, The Ties That Bind Watermelon Rinds(Jeff/BTAA nod), Spunk, The Visit, and From the Mississippi Delta at the Goodman Theatre; Permanent Collection,Bee-Luther-Hatchee, My Other Heart at Northlight Theatre; Comfortable Shoes at the Royal George (BTAA nod);Othello and Fuente Ovejuna at Court Theatre. Notable regional credits: Gees Bend at the Cleveland Playhouse; The Syringa Tree, A Raisin in The Sun at Kansas City Repertory; Intimate Apparel at Southcoast Repertory (NAACP Image Award nod.) Film/Television credits: most recently, Food, Damaged Goods, Morning Due (Cannes Film Festival), The Weatherman, Uncle Nino, The Last Word (Life Sentence), Chicago Cab (hellcab). Television include:Crisis, Chicago Fire, Detroit 187, Early Edition (series regular), Missing Persons, Gabriel’s Fire, Making a Case for Murder: the Howard Beach Story. Ms. Davis teaches at The Theatre School, DePaul University and UIC School of Theatre & Music. Her next appearance is in Richard III at The Next Theatre. Shanésia is in pre pre-production for the film “Wish I Had a Box,” which she wrote.


Joe Dempsey (Britten) recently performed in The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee at Drury Lane Oak Brook and Noises Off! at Milwaukee Rep. He has also acted in Chicago at Goodman, Steppenwolf, Northlight, Chicago Shakespeare, Victory Gardens, Lookingglass, Remy Bumppo, and many others as well as regionally at Kansas City Rep, Centerstage Baltimore, Cincinnati Playhouse, St Louis Rep, and City Theatre Pittsburgh. He is a former member of The Second City National Touring Company and of the Neo-Futurists and their signature show Too Much Light Makes The Baby Go Blind. He is also a proud artistic affiliate of American Blues Theatre.


Nora Fiffer (Mary) makes her Court Theatre and American Blues Theater debut. Onstage, Nora has appeared as Sofia in Tom Jones (Northlight), Belle in Christmas Carol (Goodman Theatre), Annie Sullivan in Miracle Worker (Indiana Repertory Theatre), Lilka in The Last Act of Lilka Kadison (Lookingglass Theatre), and Maggie in After the Fall (Eclipse Theatre, Jeff Nomination). Other credits include: Diary of Anne Frank (Steppenwolf), Autumn Garden (Eclipse, Jeff Nomination), Harper Regan (Steep), The Hostage (Griffin), ShortShakes! Romeo & Juliet (Chicago Shakespeare), The Voysey Inheritance (Remy Bumppo), and Precious Little (About Face). Nora toured with Silk Road Rising’s DNA Trail and appeared on Detroit 1-8-7 (ABC). She also writes, directs, produces and performs in Matching Pursuit: a web series, www.matchingpursuit.comNora is a graduate of NYU Tisch and The School at Steppenwolf.


Jerod Haynes (Bigger) was born and raised on Chicago’s South Side and returns to Court Theatre. Jerod was most recently seen in Court’s production of August Wilson’s Seven Guitars (2014, directed by Ron O.J. Parson) as Canewell. He was in Timeline Theatre’s production of A Raisin in the Sun (2013, directed by Ron O.J. Parson), in which he did 100 shows as Walter Lee. Other theater credits include Columbinus (2013) at ATC Theater. He also portrayed the role of Tom Robinson at Milwaukee Reparatory Theater’s production of To Kill a Mockingbird (2012). Other theatre credits include appearances at Chicago’s ETA Theatre in their productions of Contribution and Greensboro 4: Downpayment on Manhood. Jerod has spent time in the UK where he studied at the British American Drama Academy (BADA). He also finished the entire training program at the Acting Studio Chicago.


James Leaming (Mr. Dalton) is a founding member (1985) of American Blues Theater: Tobacco Road, It’s A Wonderful Life, Live Radio, The Hairy Ape, Two Rooms, Bad Moon, A Lie Of The Mind, Catch 22, American Dead, On The Waterfront. Last up: Hank Williams: Lost Highway at American Blues, The Great God Pan at Next Theatre, and Who Am I This Time at North Coast Rep in Solana Beach, CA. On-Going: This Wonderful Life (solo version of It’s A Wonderful Life) at North Coast Rep, CA- 2014, Laguna Playhouse, CA- 2011, Cleveland Playhouse, OH- 2010, Syracuse Stage, NY- 2009 and Asolo Repertory, FL- 2008. Regional Theater: Alliance Theatre, GA, in the world premiere of Broke; 9 seasons at Peninsula Players in Door County, WI: A Few Good Men, Cherry Orchard, Foreigner, A Man For All Seasons; Asolo Repertory, FL: Devil’s Disciple, Winter’s Tale, and Inventing Van Gogh. In Chicago he has worked for Steppenwolf, Northlight, Victory Gardens, Goodman, Drury Lane, Body Politic, Fox Theatricals and with Canamac Productions in Botanic Garden with his wife Carmen Roman, directed by Olympia Dukakis. Training: American Conservatory Theatre (San Francisco), Second City (Chicago). Awards: After Dark Award: Best Actor for The Man Who Fell In Love With The Moon; Sarasota Magazine Award: Best Actor and Best Show for This Wonderful Life and a Joseph Jefferson Award for the set design of Tobacco Road (American Blues). Film/TV: Mind GamesPrison Break, Early Edition, Running Scared, Code Of Silence, and numerous commercials and voice-overs.


Eric Lynch (Black Rat) makes his Court Theatre debut.  Other theater credits include Buzzer at Goodman Theatre, Twelfth Nightand Richard III with Lakeside Shakespeare Theater, Broken Fences at 16th Street Theatre, Blacktop Sky at Theatre Seven of Chicago (Presented as part of the Steppenwolf Garage Rep),Holidaze with Step Up Productions, and A Midsummer Night’s Dream with Sankofa Theater Company. He was an understudy inOthello, To Kill a Mockingbird, and Yellowman at Milwaukee Repertory Theatre. Eric is also a proud Artistic Affiliate with American Blues Theater. Television credits include Chicago Fire (NBC) and Chicago PD (NBC). Eric is represented by Shirley Hamilton Talent. Eric wants to thank his family and friends for their unwavering support.


Tosin Morohunfola (Gus) is a KU Grad and founder of the Multicultural Theatre Initiative, where he served as Artistic Director for two years, including producing 4 of his own original plays. Off-Broadway: Lucky Duck at the New Victory Theatre.  Chicago Credits: Pullman Porter Blues at the Goodman and The Gospel of Lovingkindness at Victory Gardens. As Resident Artist of the Coterie Theatre: Scarecrow in The Wiz, Donkey in Shrek, and others. He also directed Geek MythologyZeus on the Loose andThe Presidents! at the Coterie. Other acting credits include Creede Repertory Theatre’s The Drowsy ChaperoneIs He Dead?, and the world premieres of Harry The Great and The Presidents! Also, the Unicorn Theatre’s By the Way, Meet Vera StarkBlackTop SkyRuinedSpeech & Debate, The Living Room’s This is How it Goesand Romeo in HASF’s Romeo and Juliet tour. Television: NBC’s Chicago Fire. Films: Destination Planet Negro and the If Night Comes series. Shorts: Mouth BreatherRookAs a Puzzle, andAlpha Bravo Charlie. Tosin is also a member of “Those People” Comedy, and “Boomtown! Improv.”


Carmen Roman (Mrs. Dalton) is an American Blues Theater company member and is thrilled to be playing at Court Theatre again in this very exciting project. Her last production with Court was The Iphigenia Cycle, which also played at Theatre for a New Audience in New York. National Tour: Angels in America. Off-Broadway: The Iphigenia Cycle (Theater for a New Audience from Court Theatre, Chicago), The Mysteries (Classic Stage Company), and Paradise (Gary Allen productions). Regional: Lost in Yonkers (Coconut Grove, Walnut Street Theater) Sonia Flew (The Huntington Theatre), According to Goldman (Philadelphia Theater Company), Electra (Hartford Stage Company), Big Love (The Wilma), Side Man (Steppenwolf, The Galway Festival, Galway, Ireland and The Melbourne Arts Festival, Australia), Wit, Black Snow, Brutality of Fact (Goodman Theatre), and Master Class (Northlight Theater). Film/Television:SavagesThe Falcon, (a co-production shot in Soviet Georgia), Connie Mrozek on Betrayal, Dr. Gabriella Reyes on BossAll My ChildrenEarly Edition, Judge Einhorn on Law and OrderLaw and Order SVU, and Criminal Intent. Company Member: American Blues Theater, Chicago and Circling the Drain, New York. Awards and Honors: 2002 Fox Fellow, Sarah Siddons Award, Florence Herscher Award, Joseph Jefferson Awards for Master Class and Wit. 

Edgar Miguel Sanchez (Buddy) returns to the Court Theatre stage where he was last seen as Elliot in Water By The Spoonful. Other Chicago credits include: The Wheel (Steppenwolf), Romeo And Juliet (Chicago Shakespeare Theatre), This is Our Youth (Sankofa), The Ghost Is Here (Vitalist), Fever Chart (Eclipse), Brothers of the Dust (Congo Square), Sinbad: The Untold Story (Adventure Stage), 1001 (Collaboraction), Red Noses-Remount (Strawdog), Welcome To Arroyo’s (ATC), Wilson Wants It All (The House), and Twelfth Night (CST). Regional Credits include: the title role in Hamlet (The Gable Stage); Twelfth Night, Richard III, Troilus and Cressida, and The Admirable Crichton (American Players Theatre); A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Othello, and The Comedy of Errors (The Oregon Shakespeare Festival). As a full-time artist, Edgar Sanchez spends his time directing, producing, and writing, as well as creating hip-hop music and event programming for various companies. He helped found Sankofa Theatre Company and also runs a performance venue in the city named “The Tuxedo Palace”. He was born in Dominican Republic, raised in Miami, FL, and received his B.F.A. in acting from The Theater School at DePaul University.

Now in its 60th season at the University of Chicago, 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.

American Blues Theater’s multi-generational and inter-disciplined Ensemble & Artistic Affiliates comprise all aspects of theater, television, and film. As of 2013, we’ve individually received over 120 Joseph Jefferson Awards celebrating excellence in Chicago theater, 2 Pulitzer Prize nominations, 2 Academy Award and nominations, 3 Golden Globe Awards and nominations, 13 Emmy Awards and nominations, 6 Writers’ Guild Awards, 19 Black Theatre Alliance Awards and nominations, 21 After Dark Awards, and multiple Regional theater awards from New York, Los Angeles, Washington D.C., and Florida. American Blues Theater is the second-oldest Equity Ensemble theater in Chicago. Our 38-member Ensemble has over 494 combined years of collaboration on stage.

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