Alice Childress' TROUBLE IN MIND to be Presented at TimeLine Theatre Company in November

Trouble in Mind is a scathingly funny backstage drama about interracial politics and the complex, difficult, and often emotional way people talk about race.

By: Sep. 30, 2022
Alice Childress' TROUBLE IN MIND to be Presented at TimeLine Theatre Company in November

TimeLine Theatre Company's 2022-23 season will continue this fall with the landmark classic Trouble in Mind by Alice Childress, directed by TimeLine Company Member Ron OJ Parson, running November 2 - December 18, 2022.

Written by the first Black woman to have a play professionally produced in New York City, Trouble in Mind is a scathingly funny backstage drama about interracial politics and the complex, difficult, and often emotional way people talk about race.

The setting is the mid-1950s on a stage at a Broadway theater in New York City, where a group of actors has gathered for their first day to rehearse a new play called Chaos in Belleville, an anti-lynching Southern drama. But as the cast rehearses, tensions flare between Wiletta, the Black actress in the starring role, and her white director about his interpretation of the play.

Childress' groundbreaking drama recently enjoyed an acclaimed Broadway production that was nominated for four 2022 Tony Awards, including Best Revival.

Under Parson's direction, TimeLine's new Chicago production of Trouble in Mind is sure to be an explosive conversation about equality, power, and how race is portrayed in the American theatre. The cast features Shariba Rivers (she/her) as Wiletta Mayer, Tim Decker (he/him) as Al Manners, Charles Stransky (he/him) as Henry, Guy Van Swearingen (he/him) as Bill O'Wray, Tarina J. Bradshaw (she/her) as Millie Davis, Kenneth D. Johnson (he/him) as Sheldon Forrester, Jordan Ashley Grier (she/her) as Judy Sears, Vincent Jordan (he/him) as John Nevins, and Adam Shalzi (he/him) as Eddie Fenton.

Trouble in Mind begins previews November 2, 2022. Press Night is Wednesday, November 9 at 7:30 p.m. Opening Night is November 10. Performances run through December 18 at TimeLine Theatre, 615 W. Wellington Ave., in Chicago's Lakeview East neighborhood.

For tickets and information, visit or call the TimeLine Box Office at (773) 281-8463 x6.


In 1949, Alice Childress, a founding member of the American Negro Theatre, wrote her first play, Florence, in one night on a dare from her close friend, actor Sidney Poitier, who had told her he didn't think a great play could be written overnight. She proved him wrong, and Florence was produced Off-Broadway in 1950. In 1952, Childress became the first African American woman to see her play, Gold Through the Trees, professionally produced in New York.

Three years later, Trouble in Mind opened Off-Broadway in 1955 at the Greenwich Mews Theatre. The production was a critical and popular success and immediately drew interest from producers for a Broadway transfer. In an ironic twist echoing the tribulations of the characters in the play itself, the producers wanted changes to the script to make it more palatable to a commercial audience. Childress refused to compromise, and the play never opened on Broadway, ending her chance of being the first African American woman playwright to have a play on Broadway. It took 66 years for Trouble in Mind to finally receive its Broadway premiere, in a Tony Award-nominated production at Roundabout Theatre in 2021.

"TimeLine is thrilled to finally bring Trouble in Mind to our stage," said TimeLine Artistic Director PJ Powers. "This production may have been delayed nearly two years due to the pandemic, but some things are worth the wait, including this remarkable play by Alice Childress. Never given its proper due nearly 70 years ago, this funny and searing play by a trailblazing writer is now deservedly regarded as one of the great plays of the 20th century. We can't wait to see the play shine under the direction of TimeLine Company Member Ron OJ Parson, one of our city's indispensable artistic voices."

TimeLine's production team for Trouble in Mind includes Caitlin McLeod (Scenic Designer, she/her), Christine Pascual (Costume Designer, she/her), Brandon Wardell (Lighting Designer, he/him), Christopher Kriz (Original Music and Sound Designer, he/him), Jennifer Wernau (Properties Designer, she/her), Megan E. Pirtle (Wig and Hair Designer, she/her), Martine Kei Green-Rogers (Dramaturg, she/her), DeRon S. Williams (Associate Director, Assistant Dramaturg, he/him), Dina Spoerl (Dramaturgical Display Designer, she/her) and Miranda Anderson (Stage Manager, she/her).


Previews of Trouble in Mind are Wednesday, November 2 through Friday, November 4 at 8 p.m.; Saturday, November 5 at 4 p.m.; Sunday, November 6 at 2 p.m.; and Tuesday, November 8 at 7:30 p.m.

Press Night is Wednesday, November 9 at 7:30 p.m.

Opening Night is Thursday, November 10 at 7:30 p.m. Regular performances continue through December 18: Wednesdays and Thursdays at 7:30 p.m.; Fridays at 8 p.m.; Saturdays at 4 p.m. and 8 p.m.; and Sundays at 2 p.m. Exceptions: No performance on Saturday, November 12 at 4 p.m; Wednesday, November 23; and Thursday, November 24. There are two added matinees: Tuesday, November 22 at 2 p.m. and Friday, November 25 at 4 p.m.


Single tickets to Trouble in Mind are now on sale via or by calling the TimeLine Box Office at (773) 281-8463 x6. Preview tickets are $25. Single tickets to regular performances start at $42 (Wednesday through Friday), $49 (Saturday evenings) and $57 (Saturday and Sunday matinees). Student discount is 35% off regular price with valid ID. TimeLine is also a member of TCG's Blue Star Theatre Program and is offering $25 tickets to U.S. military personnel, veterans, first responders, and their spouses and family.

Ticket buyers ages 18-35 may join TimeLine's free MyLine program to obtain access to discounted tickets, special events and more. Discounted rates for groups of 10 or more are also available. Visit for more about available discounts.


Trouble in Mind will take place at TimeLine Theatre, 615 W. Wellington Ave., in Chicago's Lakeview East neighborhood, near the corner of Wellington and Broadway, inside the former Wellington Avenue United Church of Christ building, now Chabad East Lakeview.

TimeLine is served by multiple CTA trains and buses. There are multiple paid parking options nearby, plus limited free and metered street parking. Visit for details and available discounts.


Post-Show Discussions: A brief, informal post-show discussion hosted by a TimeLine Company Member and featuring the dramaturg and members of the production team on Wednesday, November 16; Sunday, November 20; Thursday, December 1; and Wednesday, December 7.

Pre-Show Discussions: Starting one hour before the performance, a 25-minute introductory conversation hosted by a TimeLine Company Member and the dramaturg on Sunday, November 27 and Thursday, December 8.

Company Member Discussion: A post-show discussion with the collaborative team of artists who choose TimeLine's programming and guide the company's mission on Sunday, December 4.

Sunday Scholars Panel Discussion: A one-hour panel discussion featuring experts on the themes and issues of the play alongside a member of the production team in a moderated discussion, following the performance on Sunday, December 11.

All discussions are free and open to the public. For details, visit


Distanced Performances: Performances on Tuesday, November 22 and Friday, December 2 will have a capacity cap and seating chart so that patrons can sit with additional space allocated between parties.

Captioned Performances: Open-captioned performances with a text display of words and sounds heard during performances are Friday, December 9, and Saturday, December 10 at 4 p.m.

Audio-Described Performance: On Friday, December 16, the performance will feature narration about visual elements of the production around the dialogue, available for individual patrons via headphones.

TimeLine Theatre is accessible to people with disabilities. Two wheelchair lifts provide access from street level to the theatre space and to lower-level restrooms. Audience members using wheelchairs
or who need to avoid stairs, and others with special seating or accessibility needs, should contact the TimeLine Box Office in advance to confirm arrangements.


As the COVID-19 pandemic evolves, TimeLine continues to work to ensure the safety of artists, audiences, and staff through safety protocols at its performances. For Trouble in Mind, the theatre will require mask-wearing in order to attend. These protocols are subject to change as the pandemic evolves. For current information about TimeLine's COVID-19 safety protocols, visit


TimeLine's 2022-23 subscription season concludes with the world premiere of Boulevard of Bold Dreams by LaDarrion Williams, a Los Angeles-based playwright new to Chicago audiences, directed by Malkia Stampley. Set on the night in 1940 that Hattie McDaniel made history at the Oscars, this is a story of dreamers striving to overcome considerable obstacles and fighting for recognition amidst the racism and inequity of Hollywood. Previews start February 1, 2023. Press Night is Wednesday, February 8 at 7:30 p.m. Performances run through March 19. For more information and to purchase tickets, call (773) 281-8463 x6 or visit


TimeLine Theatre Company, recipient of the prestigious 2016 MacArthur Award for Creative and Effective Institutions, was founded in April 1997 with a mission to present stories inspired by history that connect with today's social and political issues. Currently celebrating its 26th season, TimeLine has presented 85 productions, including 12 world premieres and 39 Chicago premieres, and launched the Living History Education Program, which brings the company's mission to life for students in Chicago Public Schools. Recipient of the Alford-Axelson Award for Nonprofit Managerial Excellence and the Richard Goodman Strategic Planning Award from the Association for Strategic Planning, TimeLine has received 58 Jeff Awards, including an award for Outstanding Production 11 times.

The company has long been bursting at the seams of its current leased home located at 615 W. Wellington Avenue in Chicago's Lakeview East neighborhood, where the theatre has been in residence since 1999. In December 2018, TimeLine announced the purchase of property at 5033-35 North Broadway in Chicago's Uptown neighborhood to be the site of its new home. Plans feature an intimate black box theater seating up to 250 audience members, expanded area for the immersive lobby experiences that are a TimeLine hallmark, new opportunities for education and engagement, room to allow audience members to arrive early and stay late for theatergoing experiences that extend far beyond the stage, and more. TimeLine is working with HGA as architect for its new home project, which is expected to be completed in 2024.

TimeLine is led by Artistic Director PJ Powers, Executive Director Mica Cole, and Board President John Sterling. TimeLine Company members are Tyla Abercrumbie, Will Allan, Nick Bowling, Janet Ulrich Brooks, Behzad Dabu, Charles Andrew Gardner, Lara Goetsch, Juliet Hart, Anish Jethmalani, Mildred Marie Langford, Mechelle Moe, David Parkes, Ron OJ Parson, PJ Powers, and Maren Robinson.

Major corporate, government and foundation donors providing season support via TimeLine's Annual Fund include Abe and Ida Cooper Foundation, Bayless Family Foundation, Crown Family Philanthropies, Forum Fund, Joseph & Bessie Feinberg Foundation, John A. Cable Foundation, Laughing Acres Family Foundation, Lloyd A. Fry Foundation, National Endowment for the Arts, Polk Bros. Foundation, The MacArthur Fund for Culture, Equity, and the Arts at Prince, Pritzker Traubert Foundation, The Shubert Foundation, U.S. Small Business Administration, and Walder Foundation. This project is partially supported by a CityArts Grant from the City of Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs & Special Events and a grant from the Illinois Arts Council Agency.

For more information, visit or Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram (@TimeLineTheatre).


Alice Childress

(Playwright, 1916-1994) was raised during the Harlem Renaissance under the watchful eye of her beloved maternal grandmother and grew up to become first an actress and then a playwright and novelist. She was a founding member of the American Negro Theatre. Her play Trouble in Mind debuted in 1955 at the Greenwich Mews Theatre, received a well-reviewed Off-Broadway revival in 1998 by the Negro Ensemble Company and has since been produced by a multitude of prestigious theaters such as Yale Repertory Theatre, Centerstage, Milwaukee Repertory Theatre, Arena Stage, and Roundabout Theatre's Tony Award-nominated revival in 2021. Her other plays are Florence (1949), Gold Through the Trees (1952), Just a Little Simple (1950), Wedding Band: A Love/Hate Story in Black and White (1966), and Gullah (1984). She's also known for A Hero Ain't Nothin' But a Sandwich, her 1973 novel about a 13-year-old Black boy addicted to heroin, which was made into a movie in 1978. Throughout her career, Childress examined the true meaning of being Black, and especially of being Black and female. As she herself once said, "I concentrate on portraying have-nots in a have society."

Ron OJ Parson

(Director) became a TimeLine Company Member in 2016. His TimeLine credits include Relentless (also at Goodman Theatre), Too Heavy for Your Pocket, To Catch a Fish, Paradise Blue, Sunset Baby, and A Raisin in the Sun. He is a native of Buffalo, New York, and a graduate of the University of Michigan's professional theater program. He is the co-founder and former Artistic Director of Onyx Theatre Ensemble of Chicago and a co-founder and co-director of Ripe ManGo Productions. Parson is a Resident Artist at Court Theatre, an Associate Artist with Teatro Vista, and an Associate Artist at Writers Theatre. Since moving to Chicago from New York in 1994, he has worked as both an actor and director. His Chicago credits include work with The Chicago Theatre Company, Victory Gardens, Goodman, Steppenwolf, Chicago Dramatists, Northlight, Court, Black Ensemble Theatre, Congo Square, Northlight Theatre, Urban Theatre Company, City Lit Theater, ETA Creative Arts, and Writers. Regionally, Parson has directed shows at Studio Arena Theatre, Alliance Theatre, Actors Theatre of Louisville, Milwaukee Repertory, South Coast Repertory, Pasadena Playhouse, Geva Theatre, Virginia Stage, Roundabout Theatre, Wilshire Theatre, The Mechanic Theatre, CenterStage, St. Louis Black Repertory, Pittsburgh Public Theater, Pittsburgh Playwrights Theatre, Signature Theatre (New York), Kansas City Rep, and Portland Stage, among others. In Canada, he directed the world premiere of Palmer Park by Joanna McClelland Glass at the Stratford Festival. He is a member of AEA, SAG-AFTRA, and SDC. For more, visit