Northlight Theatre Celebrates 40 Years With a Commitment to New Work

Northlight Theatre Celebrates 40 Years With a Commitment to New Work

On the eve of Northlight's 40th Anniversary Season, the theatre celebrates its rich history of developing and producing new work. In the upcoming season, Northlight is producing two world premiere works (White Guy on the Bus and Shining Lives: A Musical), the second-ever productions of two plays (The Commons of Pensacola and Outside Mullingar) and a classic rarely produced in the US (The Mousetrap). In addition, Northlight has a number of new works in development through Interplay, a program that has sent 25 out of 29 scripts on to full professional productions throughout the country and developed Northlight's three best-selling plays: Better Late by Larry Gelbart and Craig Wright, The Outgoing Tide by Bruce Graham and Chapatti by Christian O'Reilly.

One of Northlight's new works, Chapatti, marks Northlight's fourth production at the prestigious Galway International Arts Festival, and first international co-production. The co-production of Chapatti was developed through Northlight's Interplay program and premiered at Northlight March 7-April 13, 2014. The co-production recently completed its two-week run playing to sold-out houses at the Galway International Arts Festival this July. Chapatti, by acclaimed Irish playwright Christian O' Reilly, was directed by Artistic Director BJ Jones and featured John Mahoney and Penny Slusher.

"This co-production between Northlight Theatre and Galway International Arts Festival is the result of three successful Northlight transfer productions in the past five years to Ireland's most prestigious international festival," according to Tim Evans, Northlight's Executive Director. "Created by Irish and American artists, Chapatti initiates a new producing partnership allowing us both to present this unique play and potentially others in Chicago, Galway and beyond."

Galway International Arts Festival Artistic Director Paul Fahy adds, "Galway International Arts Festival and Northlight Theatre have enjoyed a highly successful partnership since the Festival presented Larry Gelbart and Craig Wright's Better Late and Bruce Graham's The Outgoing Tide, both starring John Mahoney, and Graham's most recent play Stella & Lou in July 2013 starring Penny Slusher. Our audiences have enthusiastically embraced American playwrights and productions over the years and this co-production of Christian O'Reilly's Chapatti is a very natural progression following many years of creative collaboration and exchange between Galway and Chicago artists."

Northlight recognized by funders for new play development

This season, Northlight was the only new recipient of funding in the country from The Harold and Mimi Steinberg Charitable Trust. Northlight is truly grateful for The Harold and Mimi Steinberg Charitable Trust's commitment to supporting new play development. Due to their generosity, Northlight looks forward to continuing its Interplay Reading Series and fostering further ambition to expand this program with workshops and future commissions.

The Shubert Foundation has consistently increased its grant to Northlight during six of the past seven years. This past year, The Shubert Foundation gave Northlight the highest percentage of increased funding among all of its Chicago grantees to support Northlight's new work initiatives.

Northlight Theatre's artistic exchange with Ireland was made possible through the help of a new grant from the MacArthur Foundation International Connections Fund. The grant, one of 18 awarded to non-profit arts and culture organizations around Chicago, supported the co-production of Chapatti with the Galway International Arts Festival. The International Connections Fund, which aims to help Chicago-based nonprofit arts and culture groups advance their work by collaborating with peer organizations abroad, will connect this year's recipients to arts organizations in 16 countries worldwide.

Northlight is a six-time recipient of the Edgerton Foundation New American Play Award. This prestigious award supports an extension of the rehearsal period for world premiere plays. The goal is to achieve a stronger first production, thereby increasing the chances of a continued life for the plays. "We want to encourage and thank the theaters that are taking on the risk of producing new plays," said Dr. Brad Edgerton, co-director of the foundation with his wife Louise Edgerton. "We hope that this extra rehearsal time with the whole creative team in place, including the playwright, will help these excellent plays become great plays destined for future productions."

Northlight has a successful track record of working with young directors & playwrights

In the previous few seasons, Northlight hired early-career directors to much success, including Kimberly Senior (The Whipping Man) and Devon de Mayo (Lost in Yonkers). This season, Northlight is introducing directors Robin Witt (The Commons of Pensacola) and Jonathan Berry (The Mousetrap) to its audiences. Northlight has also introduced Chicago-area audiences to emerging playwrights such as Dominique Morisseau (Detroit '67), Matthew Lopez (The Whipping Man) and Christian O'Reilly (Chapatti).

Northlight is a leader in theater arts education in the Chicago area.

Northlight has commissioned 20 new plays for young actors in the past five years from up-and-coming playwrights, including Philip Dawkins, Laura Jaqmin and Aaron Weissman, five of which have subsequently been published. "The chance for kids to work on new plays with the playwright-this is an unparalleled experience for youngsters," says playwright Philip Dawkins. "It's been such a boon to me to be commissioned to write work without boundaries on cast size, imagination, realism or adventure. Some of the hottest writers working in Chicago are writing plays for these kids and getting to get down and work with them."

Northlight on Campus is an in-school program for grades K-12 - a new model developed by Northlight that was started five years ago with funding from Theatre Communications Group. Northlight on Campus works in the schools for a custom-designed residency or after-school program to fit the individual needs of each school-from the fundamentals of acting through advanced theatre training. Northlight's fastest-growing education program is Speak Up!, an innovative residency in which students devise an original performance on topical issues. Speak Up! uses theatre for social change to bring current events into the classroom, helping students to see the link between the arts, the news, and themselves.

Northlight also has an active student matinee program that offers a pre-show artist engagement supplement, providing students a chance to learn directly from the artists involved in a production. Participating classes arrive at Northlight in the morning for a pre-show session with a cast member or designer about an aspect of the play, followed by the matinee and a post-show discussion. This unique opportunity heightens the matinee experience and gives students a new appreciation for the work behind the production. The expansive education program also includes a summer Performing Arts Camp for grades 2-9.

Northlight Theatre aspires to promote change of perspective and encourage compassion by exploring the depth of our humanity across a bold spectrum of theatrical experiences, reflecting our community to the world and the world to our community.

Now entering its 40th season, the organization has mounted over 200 productions, including more than 40 world premieres. Northlight has earned 151 Joseph Jefferson Award nominations and 28 Awards. As one of the area's premier theatre companies, Northlight is a regional magnet for critical and professional acclaim, as well as talent of the highest quality.

Northlight is supported in part by generous contributions from BMO Harris Bank; Cramer- Krasselt; Draft FCB; The Elizabeth F. Cheney Foundation; ComEd, An Exelon Company; Edgerton Foundation for New American Plays Award; Evanston Community Foundation; First Bank & Trust; The Homestead Hotel; Illinois Arts Council, a state agency; Kirkland & Ellis Foundation; The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation; Melvoin Award for Playwriting; Modestus Bauer Foundation; North Shore Center for the Performing Arts Foundation; NorthShore University HealthSystem; The Offield Family Foundation; The Pauls Foundation; Plante Moran; Pioneer Press; Quince at the Homestead; The Daniel F. and Ada L. Rice Foundation; Room & Board; Sage Products; Sanborn Family Foundation; The Shubert Foundation; Skokie Fine Arts Council; The Harold and Mimi Steinberg Charitable Trust; The Sullivan Family Foundation; Tom Stringer Design Partners; Vi at The Glen; the Venturous Theater Fund; and The Farny R. Wurlitzer Foundation.

For more information, visit northlight.org.

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