BLACK SUNDAY Opens at TimeLine Theatre Next Month

Performances are May 8 – June 29, 2024. 

By: Apr. 12, 2024
BLACK SUNDAY Opens at TimeLine Theatre Next Month
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Actors, designers, technicians, staff, and supporters gathered at TimeLine Theatre on Tuesday, April 9 for the first rehearsal of Black Sunday, a startling new look at, as described by playwright Dolores Díaz, “a dust storm so massive, so great, nobody had ever seen anything like it before.” Performances are May 8 – June 29, 2024. Press opening is Wednesday, May 15 at 7:30 p.m.

This Sunday, April 14, the cast will be back at TimeLine in rehearsals again, on the 89th anniversary of the very day the play’s namesake, a massive dust storm 200 miles wide, a mile high, and traveling 65 miles per hour, strafed across the Great Plains after years of drought had already plunged its residents into depression, poverty, and despair. Read the National Weather Service’s full account, including maps and photos, at weather.gov.

Even as far away as Chicago, scientists estimated the storm’s high winds dumped 12 million pounds of dirt on the city. The Chicago Tribune reported hundreds of trees downed and a great inconvenience for “housewives who had finished the spring cleaning.” 

And decades later, just last year, on May 1, 2023, a thick dust storm engulfed part of U.S. Interstate 55, Illinois’ main thoroughfare between St. Louis and Chicago. Drivers slammed on their brakes but car after car collided, leaving seven dead and the mangled remains of 72 vehicles lining both sides of the highway. The cause? NBC5 Chicago reported the tragedy was due to "excessive winds blowing dirt from farm fields across the highway leading to zero visibility."

Today, there are an estimated 250 million climate change refugees. By 2050, that number is expected to be 1.2 billion, a startling reminder that the winds of climate change continue to blow.

“I was inspired to write Black Sunday because the Dust Bowl is one of the worst man-made ecological disasters in history,” said Díaz. “The way we think about it is through Steinbeck and cinema, but I wanted to rethink our cultural touch points with this narrative. In addition to the issue of climate change, who was left out of this story? How can we reincorporate them?”

Step back to April 1935 in the dust storm-riddled plains of Texas, where a family is struggling to keep their farm afloat amidst a mounting series of environmental disasters. As Jesús, a new field worker, arrives in their midst, stubborn Pa refuses to believe his land is no longer viable, young Sunny dreams of a new life in bountiful California, and Ma starts having mysterious visions of the future. It’s a startling look at conflicts surrounding climate change, race, and gender in the days leading up to an infamous dust storm known as Black Sunday.

“Black Sunday embodies TimeLine’s mission—illuminating aspects of history often untold, while drawing haunting parallels to critical issues of today,” said TimeLine Artistic Director PJ Powers. “Black Sunday is the fourth world premiere to emerge from our Playwright’s Collective, and witnessing the play’s evolution the past four years, Dolores has demonstrated indefatigable passion, evocative storytelling, fierce intellect, and propensity for collaboration. I’m confident Black Sunday will make as notable an impact as the acclaimed plays which preceded it.”

The cast of Black Sunday features TimeLine Company Members Mechelle Moe (she/her) as Ma and David Parkes (he/him) as Pa, with Christopher Alvarenga (he/him) as Jésus, Vic Kuligoski (he/him) as Jim, and Angela Morris (she/her) as Sunny.

Helen Young, who staged TimeLine’s acclaimed Chicago premieres of The Chinese Lady and What the Constitution Means to Me, is director, stepping in for Sandra Marquez who withdrew from the production for personal reasons. 

The cast of Black Sunday features TimeLine Company Members Mechelle Moe (she/her) as Ma and David Parkes (he/him) as Pa, with Christopher Alvarenga (he/him) as Jésus, Vic Kuligoski (he/him) as Jim, and Angela Morris (she/her) as Sunny.

The Black Sunday production team includes Joe Schermoly (Scenic Designer, he/him), Christine Pascual (Costume Designer, she/her), Conchita Avitia (Lighting Designer, she/her/ella), Saskia Bakker (Properties Designer, she/her), Anthony Churchill (Projections Designer, he/him), Forrest Gregor (Sound Designer, he/him), Kristina Fluty (Intimacy Director, she/her), J. Isabel Salazar (Literary Dramaturg, they/them), Bryar Barborka(Production Dramaturg, they/them), Dina Spoerl (Dramaturgical Display Designer, she/her), and Alden Vasquez (Stage Manager, he/him). Understudies are Connor Green (Jim, he/him), Christopher Hainsworth(Pa, he/him), Lauren Grace Thompson (Sunny, she/her), Richie Villafuerte(Jésus, he/him), and India Whiteside (Ma, she/her).

Black Sunday is the fourth world premiere play developed through TimeLine Theatre’s Playwrights Collective, the same new play program that brought forth TimeLine’s debut productions of Tyla Abercrumbie’s Relentless (Jeff Award, Outstanding New Work), Will Allan’s Campaigns, Inc. and Brett Neveu’s To Catch a Fish. The Collective was launched in 2013 to support Chicago-based playwrights in residence and create new work centered on TimeLine’s mission.

Black Sunday also marks the bookend to a chapter of TimeLine Theatre’s growth. After 25 amazing years at the company’s longtime home at 615 W. Wellington Avenue in Chicago’s Lakeview East neighborhood, BlackSunday will be the final production presented in that space, leading toward the company’s exciting new era.

Last month, TimeLine announced plans for a thrilling 28th season, including producing partnerships with three of Chicago’s preeminent performing arts organizations in 2024-25, as a bridge toward opening its future home at 5035 N. Broadway Avenue in Uptown. 




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