Theatre roundup of exciting fall offerings throughout Chicago

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KIERRA BUNCH and Kelvin Roston, Jr., in a scene during rehearsals for “King Hedley II.” This play is just one in a series of 10 plays by the late playwright August Wilson, which portrays the triumphs and struggles of the African-American community. (Photo by Joe Mazza)

By Elaine Hegwood Bowen, MSJ

The Great Leap – Steppenwolf Theatre

GLENN OBRERO, as Manford Lum, is a standout basketball player who takes a costly, defiant stand once he arrives in Beijing in Steppenwolf Theatre’s “The Great Leap.” (Photo by Michael Brosilow)

San Francisco, Spring 1989. Manford Lum, Chinatown’s legend of the sidewalk courts, unexpectedly earns his way onto a college team. When the group travels to Beijing for a friendship match, personal relationships and international politics collide as China is on the brink of a revolution. Soaring through time and leaping across continents, “The Great Leap” builds tension right up to the buzzer.

“The Great Leap” is an awesome play that tells the story of Lum, who strongarms his way onto an American college team after that coach had previously been to Beijing in 1971 to teach the game to the Chinese. It tells a story about basketball without there being a net on stage, but playing hoops is only part of it. It’s not obvious at first, but Lum is really trying to get to Beijing for reasons other than basketball.

This is during the time of the conflict and social unrest of the Tiananmen Square protests, when student-led demonstrations were held during 1989. The protests started on April 15 and were forcibly suppressed on June 4 when the government declared martial law and sent the military to occupy central parts of Beijing.

The show runs through October 20, 2019 in the Upstairs Theatre, 1650 N. Halsted St. Single tickets ($20 – $89) are on sale now through Audience Services at 312-335-1650 or steppenwolf.org.

King Hedley II, Directed by Resident Artist Ron OJ Parson Court Theatre – Running through October 13

Placing his hopes and dreams on the line, a man pieces together his life in Pittsburgh after seven years in prison. Family ties are tested, and crime and retribution collide in August Wilson’s ninth play in the American Century Cycle—Court’s eighth production in its ongoing commitment to producing all 10 plays of the cycle. Nationally acclaimed for his direction of August Wilson’s plays, Resident Artist Ron OJ Parson brings a depth of humanity to Wilson’s interrogation of African-American life in the 1980s.

August Wilson’s 10 plays about Black life are a treat, and this is one that shouldn’t be missed. The Court Theatre is located at 5535 S. Ellis Ave. For information, visit https://www.courttheatre.org/season-tickets/2019-2020-season/king-hedley-ii/.

September 25, Race, Economic Policy and Incarceration: A Post-Show Discussion

Cathy Cohen, UChicago political scientist, and Reuben Miller, UChicago professor of social work, will conduct a post show discussion on the themes of Court Theatre’s “King Hedley II.” Cohen and Miller will discuss the effects of environmental racism, economic policies, and other factors that led to the unjust incarceration rates of Black Americans, using the play “King Hedley II” as a jumping off point to investigate their effects on not only African-American society, but American society as a whole.

Be Here Now – Theater Wit – Through October 19

Deanna Reed-Foster, (from left), Rebecca Jordan and Demetra Dee in Shattered Globe Theatre’s Chicago premiere of “Be Here Now.” (Photo by Evan Hanover)

Bari, an atheist and misanthrope, loses her job teaching nihilism in New York City and ends up working in a fulfillment center in her small hometown. Her empathetic co-workers push her toward yoga, meditation and a blind date in the pursuit of happiness. But recently, her recurring headaches have gotten more intense, manifesting as ecstatic and almost religious experiences – and they are changing her entire outlook. She’s almost… happy! When she finds out that these rapturous headaches may be killing her, Bari needs to choose: does she live a shortened, joyful life – or does she risk a return to her past life of misery.
“Be Here Now” takes audiences on a funny and poignant quest for meaning in modern life. The play is presented by Shattered Globe Theatre. Theater Wit is located at 1229 W. Belmont Ave. For ticket and schedule information, visit www.sgtheatre.org/.

Elaine Hegwood Bowen, M.S.J., is the award-winning Entertainment Editor for the Chicago Crusader newspaper. She is also the author of “Old School Adventures from Englewood–South Side of Chicago.”

Looking to Advertise? Contact the Crusader for more information.

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