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JANUARY 7 – MARCH 8, 2009



Goodman Theatre rings in the New Year with an eight-play landmark theatrical event, A Global Exploration: Eugene O’Neill in the 21st Century curated by Artistic Director Robert Falls, January 7 through March 8, 2009. Over 100 artists from six theater companies around the world bring their highly contemporary, inventive interpretations of O’Neill’s dramas for the Goodman’s Exploration—viewing the 20th century “father of the American drama,” through a 21st century international lens. 

A Global Exploration: Eugene O’Neill in the 21st Century is an unprecedented look at the work of the playwright who I consider to be America’s Shakespeare—Eugene O’Neill,” said Artistic Director Robert Falls. “There is a perception of O’Neill as a realistic writer, but many of his plays suggest staging that is perhaps more avant-garde, more modern, more contemporary. I’m delighted to present this rare opportunity to experience O’Neill’s most daring, influential and superb dramas as interpreted by some of the world’s leading theater companies.”

Participating companies include: The Wooster Group’s (New York) The Emperor Jones; Companhia Triptal’s (Brazil) Homens Ao Mar (three Sea Plays); The Hypocrites’ (Chicago) The Hairy Ape; Toneelgroep’s (Amsterdam) Rouw Siert Electra; and The Neo-Futurists’ (Chicago) Strange Interlude. The centerpiece of the Exploration is Falls’ new interpretation of Desire Under the Elms, featuring Brian Dennehy, Carla Gugino and Pablo Schreiber. Both of the Goodman’s mainstages will be engaged for this eight-play Exploration. Desire Under the Elms (January 17 – February 22) will be performed in the 856-seat Albert Ivar Theatre. The 400-seat flexible Owen Bruner Theatre will be transformed seven times, custom-designed to host performances by five visiting companies, beginning with The Emperor Jones (January 7 – 11). 

Tickets for all events are now on sale . Call 312.443.3800 or visit Save 20% with an O’Neill Explorer Pass, which includes tickets to all seven Owen Theatre productions for $124 (Desire Under the Elms not included). Following is detailed information on each company, plus performance dates, times and ticket prices (the performance calendar appears in the attached document only).

Enhancing A Global Exploration: Eugene O’Neill in the 21st Century is a diverse line-up of free special program events, including talks with the directors and panel discussions with artists involved.  Detailed information appears on Pages 5-6 of this press release.  Events are free, but reservations are required: 312.443.3800 or Some programs take place at venues other than the Goodman, noted as such. 

About the Plays and Companies


Desire Under the Elms

Directed by Robert Falls

Featuring Brian Dennehy, Carla Gugino and Pablo Schreiber

January 17 – February 22

Presented in English

The collaboration between Goodman Artistic Director Robert Falls and Tony Award-winning star Brian Dennehy has resulted in nationally and internationally acclaimed productions. This winter, they team up again to bring O’Neill’s celebrated masterpiece Desire Under the Elms to the Albert stage. When Ephraim Cabot returns to his remote New England farmhouse with his third wife—the alluring young Abbey—his three grown sons launch into a bitter fight for their inheritance. The centerpiece of the Goodman’s O’Neill Exploration, Desire Under the Elms, first produced in 1924, has been praised for its “poetry and terrible beauty,“(The New York Times).



The Emperor Jones

Presented by the Wooster Group (New York City)

Directed by Elizabeth LeCompte

Featuring Kate Valk, Ari Fliakos and Scott Shepherd

January 7 – 11, 2009

Running time is approximately 60 minutes

 The Wooster Group, known for its radical staging of classical texts, brings The Emperor Jones to Goodman Theatre. Directed by Elizabeth LeCompte and featuring Kate Valk in the title role, this 60-minute interpretation originally premiered in 1993. Over the subsequent 15 years, it has received critical and popular acclaim throughout the U.S. and Europe. A rarely-produced American masterpiece widely considered to be the work that launched Eugene O’Neill’s career, The Emperor Jones uses a mix of realism and expressionism to tell the story of Brutus Jones, an African American former Pullman porter with a checkered past.  Having escaped a life sentence in prison for murder, Brutus establishes himself as the “self-appointed emperor” of a West Indian Island. The narrative follows his flight from both the natives he has exploited and his own haunted past.  A Chicago premiere.


Homens ao MarThree “Sea Plays”


Zona De Guerra (In the Zone)

Longa Viagem de Volta Pra Casa (The Long Voyage Home)

Cardiff (Bound East for Cardiff)


Presented by Companhia Triptal (Brazil)

Directed by André Garolli

Running times are approximately 60 minutes each

A U.S. Premiere!


In Homens ao Mar, Companhia Triptal brings three of O’Neill’s four-play cycle of “Sea Plays”—In the Zone, The Long Voyage Home and Bound East for Cardiff—to the Goodman, converting the Owen Theatre into an abstracted stage for these one-acts about sailors of the S.S. Glencairn in the years preceding World War I. Written between 1914 and 1917 and based on O’Neill’s experiences in the merchant marines, the “Sea Plays” are booming, exultant explorations of the sailors’ harrowing life at sea.  The cycle introduces many of the themes that O’Neill explores in his later full-length dramas: loneliness, death, hope and friendship—as well as his own obsession with the sea.  

 Zona De Guerra (In the Zone)

January 14 – 18, 2009

Presented in Portuguese with English supertitles

Running time is approximately 60 minutes


As the S.S. Glencairn glides into a war zone, the crew begins to suspect that Smitty, one of their fellow sailors, is a spy. Adrift at sea and susceptible to attack, the sailors relentlessly accuse the suspected traitor-but is Smitty really a spy, or are the sailors succumbing to nightmarish paranoia? In this gripping one-act play, O'Neill explores the anatomy of fear and the hysteria that materializes in times of war. In the Zone was awarded the prestigious APCA Award for "Best Spectacle" and was nominated for the Premio Shell de Teatro for its strikingly gritty production.

Longa Viagem de Volta Pra Casa (The Long Voyage Home)

January 21 – 25, 2009

Presented in Portuguese with English supertitles

Running time is approximately 55 minutes

For two long years, Olson has worked aboard ships like the S.S. Glencairn, enduring low wages, poor living conditions and stormy seas, and has finally saved enough money to return to Sweden and buy a farm for his family. Olson and his crewmates are discharged in London and make their way to a local bar to celebrate their freedom. Having squandered his money on drinking in the past, he vows to stay sober and guard his hard-earned savings. But Olson’s blissful dreams for the future are destroyed by civilians who conspire against him for their own benefit.

Cardiff (Bound East for Cardiff)

January 28 – 31, 2009

Presented in Portuguese with English synopsis

Running time is approximately 90 minutes

Cardiff is a universal and deeply personal story about friendship and loss. A sailor named Yank lies dying aboard the S.S. Glencairn while his friend Driscoll desperately seeks to comfort him. On a ship where one man's life is of little consequence, Driscoll must come to terms with his personal loss while the war rages around them.


The Hairy Ape


Produced in association with The Hypocrites (Chicago)

Directed by Sean Graney

February 7 – 21, 2009

Chicago-based The Hypocrites transform the Owen into an ocean liner for their mesmerizing production of The Hairy Ape. The actors perform from the floor and balconies, while the audience will be seated on stage to watch the story of Yank—a laborer on an ocean liner—who is rejected as a “filthy beast” by both the bourgeois of New York’s Fifth Avenue and his fellow working men. In his dejection, Yank determines that he would rather find solace in the crushing embrace of a gorilla than live a lonely, desperate life.  The Hairy Ape was first produced in 1922.


Rouw Siert Electra (Mourning Becomes Electra)

Presented by Toneelgroep (Amsterdam)

Directed by Ivo van Hove with the original Dutch cast

February 25 – 28, 2009

Presented in Dutch with English supertitles

Running time is approximately 3 hours and 10 minutes

A U.S. premiere!

Toneelgroep Amsterdam, the “leading Dutch theater company“(New York Times) and The Netherlands’ largest repertory theater, brings its sexy, highly contemporary production of Rouw Siert Electra (Mourning Becomes Electra) to the Goodman for its U.S. premiere.  Based on Aeschylus’s Orestean trilogy, O’Neill’s Mourning Becomes Electra is an American family tragedy set on the Mannon family estate.  Radiating an electrifying intensity, the Toneelgroep’s production uses multi-media to create a once-in-a-lifetime “intelligent and seizing experience“ (Provincial Dagbladen).  


Strange Interlude


Produced in association with The Neo-Futurists (Chicago)

Directed by Greg Allen                   

March 6 – 8, 2009

Running time is approximately 5 hours and 30 minutes with intermissions. Saturday and Sunday performances include a dinner break.


Known for creating outlandish original productions and adaptations for over twenty years, Chicago's The Neo-Futurists will use its unique blend of non-illusory, interactive performance to explore O'Neill's longest and most preposterous play, Strange Interlude, winner of the 1928 Pulitzer Prize.  The Neo-Futurists will explore the humor and pathos of this outrageous story of Nina Leeds and her three lovers.  Greg Allen, Neo-Futurists Founding Director and creator of The Last Two Minutes of the Complete Works of Henrik Ibsen and the long-running Too Much Light Makes The Baby Go Blind (30 Plays in 60 Minutes), will direct.


Free Special Programs


Performing Other: Constructing Race and Gender Onstage and Off


Wednesday, January 7 at 5:30pm

Claudia Cassidy Theater, Chicago Cultural Center, 78 E. Washington Blvd.

What is the performative nature of race?  How do we learn to read gender in an increasingly androgynous society? Join performance artist Holly Hughes along with panelists Romi Crawford, School of the Art Institute; Tanya Saracho, playwright and co-founder of Teatro Luna; and E. Patrick Johnson, Chair of Performance Studies at Northwestern University for a engaging discussion on how we perform race and gender in our daily lives as well as on the stage.  Performing Other is co-sponsored by the Department of Cultural Affairs for the City of Chicago and the Center for the Study of Race, Politics and Culture at the University of Chicago.


The Wooster Group’s Impact on Contemporary Performance


Saturday, January 10 at 3pm

Goodman Theatre

In their 33 year history, the internationally acclaimed Wooster Group has redefined what is possible for the stage through their innovative use of media, movement and often deconstructed versions of classic plays. Professors Harvey Young and Rachel Shteir speak with Director Elizabeth LeCompte and members of the Wooster Group about the history of their work and its impact on contemporary performance.

André Garolli on the Sea Plays


Thursday, January 29 from 6–7pm

Art Institute of Chicago’s Fullerton Hall

Insights into Brazil's Compania Triptal’s unique interpretation of O'Neill at Goodman Theatre come to light in this conversation, highlighted by reading excerpts of the play. Goodman Associate Producer Steve Scott hosts Triptal's Artistic Director André Garolli, and Producer Carla Estafan. Part of the Art Institute of Chicago’s 360 Degrees: Art Beyond Borders season.


Robert Falls on Desire Under the Elms for Contemporary Audiences


Saturday, February 7, following the matinee performance of Desire Under the Elms Goodman Theatre

Goodman Theatre’s Artistic Director Robert Falls speaks about his passion for the plays of Eugene O’Neill and how Desire Under the Elms continues to engage audiences ninety years after its world premiere.


Sean Graney and Greg Allen on a Modern O’Neill


Saturday, February 21, following the matinee performance of The Hairy Ape

Goodman Theatre

As a member of New York’s bohemian theater community, Eugene O’Neill’s career began as an early experimenter.  Chicago directors Sean Graney and Greg Allen elaborate on O’Neill as modernist playwright through a discussion of their unique interpretations of O’Neill’s Hairy Ape and Strange Interlude.


A Conversation with Ivo van Hove and Robert Falls


Wednesday, February 25 at 5pm

Goodman Theatre

The innovative and provocative productions of Toneelgroep Amsterdam have captivated audiences in New York and across Europe.  Goodman Theatre’s Artistic Director Robert Falls speaks with Ivo van Hove about his bold reinterpretations of classic works such as Mourning Becomes Electra.

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From This Author Steve Leary

Steve Leary is a contributing freelance writer for Stage Door Chicago. He holds a B.A. from Elmhurst College and has a diverse background that includes (read more...)