BUILDING THE WALL, THE LUCKIEST PEOPLE and More Set for Stage Left Theatre's Season 36

BUILDING THE WALL, THE LUCKIEST PEOPLE and More Set for Stage Left Theatre's Season 36Stage Left Theatre has announced the programming for its 36th season, which asks "where we are going, where we have been, and where we are we now?"

The season begins with the Chicago premiere of Building the Wall by Robert Schenkkan, directed by Co-Artistic Director Amy Szerlong. Robert Schenkkan is the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Kentucky Cycle, as well as All the Way, the 2014 Tony Award winner for best play. Building the Wall just opened its off-Broadway premiere, as well as at theatres across the United States.

Next, in the winter, Stage Left will present the Chicago Premiere of Insurrection: Holding History by Robert O'Hara, directed by Wardell Julius Clark. This time-traveling epic views Nat Turner's historic slave rebellion with a contemporary and satirical lens, "Roots" by way of "In Living Color."

Finally, Stage Left Theatre will present the National New Play Network Rolling World Premiere of The Luckiest People by Meridith Friedman. As part of the NNPN Rolling World Premiere, it will also receive productions at Curious Theatre Company in Denver, Colorado and Actor's Theatre of Charlotte in Charlotte, North Carolina. Stage Left produced the NNPN Rolling World Premiere of Friedman's The Firestorm in Fall 2015 to great acclaim, and it was remounted as part of the 2016 Theatre on the Lake summer season.

This season also marks a change of venue for Stage Left Theatre, as all three productions will take place at the Athenaeum Theater. The company will also present LeapFest, its annual developmental festival featuring workshop productions of new plays, at a time and location to be announced later.

Season 36:

a Chicago premiere
Building the Wall
by Robert Schenkkan
directed by Co-Artistic Director Amy Szerlong

September 21 - October 22, 2017

From Pulitzer and Tony winner Robert Schenkkan (All The Way, Hacksaw Ridge - Academy Award nomination), comes a provocative 80-minute theatrical event written in a white-hot fury. In a time when shocking campaign rhetoric turns into real policies, BUILDING THE WALL urgently reveals the power of theater to question who we are and where we might be going. Don't miss the show The Hollywood Reporter calls, "A mesmerizing and shocking new play that simmers with of-the-moment urgency."

Robert Schenkkan (Playwright), Pulitzer Prize, Tony, and WGA Award winner, three-time Emmy nominated writer. Author of sixteen plays: All the Way, The Great Society, Building the Wall, Hanussen, Shadowplay, By the Waters of Babylon, Handler, A Single Shard, Devil and Daniel Webster, Lewis and Clark Reach the Euphrates, Final Passages, The Marriage of Miss Hollywood and King Neptune, Heaven on Earth, Tachinoki, The Dream Thief, and The Kentucky Cycle (Pulitzer prize, Tony and Drama Desk nominations). Also a collection of one-act plays, Conversations with the Spanish Lady, and a musical, (book and co-lyrics) The Twelve, winner of the 2015 Henry Award. The 2014 Broadway production of All The Way swept the Awards season winning the Drama Desk, Outer Critics, Drama League, and TONY@ Award as well as the Steinberg/American Theater Critics Award, the inaugural Edward M. Kennedy Award, and Boston's Elliot Norton Award. It also set two box office records on Broadway. It aired in May, 2016 as a film for HBO, with Steven Spielberg producing, directed by Jay Roach, and was nominated for eight Emmys and the Humanitas Award. There are plans to bring the stage sequel, The Great Society, to NYC in 2019. Film: Hacksaw Ridge, directed by Mel Gibson and starring Andrew Garfield. The Quiet American directed by Phillip Noyce. TV: The Pacific (HBO miniseries - WGA Award, two Emmy and Humanitas Award nominations), The Andromeda Strain, Crazy Horse, Spartacus. Currently, Robert is writing a movie about the Manhattan Project for Robert Redford, and another film about the Klan for Joseph Gordon Levitt and Netflix. | @ROBERTSCHENKKAN

Amy Szerlong (Director) is the co-Artistic Director of Stage Left, alongside Jason A. Fleece. Amy's Stage Left credits include directing the world premiere of The Bottle Tree in Fall 2016, the LeapFest workshops of Handled and The Bottle Tree, the Belarusian Dream Theater Festival, and Drekfest. She also served as the Assistant Director for Impenetrable and the LeapFest workshops of Witches Vanish and Blue Whitney. Outside of SLT, Amy has directed for the Saturday Series and 28-hour workshops at Chicago Dramatists and various short play festivals at American Theatre Company, the side project, and something marvelous. Amy has also worked as an Assistant Director at Step Up Productions (Barefoot in the Park), Redtwist Theater (Opus), Theater on the Lake (Opus), and American Theatre Company (The Amish Project, The Original Grease - Jeff Award for Outstanding Musical, Midsize). By day, Amy works in Development at Goodman Theatre. She is a graduate of the University of Richmond, where she majored in theatre with a concentration in arts management.

a Chicago premiere
Insurrection: Holding History
by Robert O'Hara
directed by Wardell Julius Clark

January 11 - February 11, 2018

Ron, a young, gay African-American graduate student, trying to complete his thesis on Nat Turner's slave rebellion, is feeling lost in his life and alienated from his family. When his 189-year-old great, great grandfather TJ takes him back in time to meet Turner in the flesh, both men find answers they never expected. The play deals with themes of racial identity and sexuality, as Ron comes to face his ancestors' history, and his own personal identity. A raucous, wrenching story, part "Roots", part "The Wizard of Oz", part "In Living Color", and all Robert O'Hara, "Insurrection: Holding History" will change how you see the past, and just maybe yourself as well.

Robert O'Hara (Playwright) received a 2006 Obie Award for his Direction of the World Premiere production of In the Continuum. He wrote and directed Insurrection: Holding History at the New York Shakespeare Festival/Public Theater. The piece received the Oppenheimer Award for Best New American Play and was subsequently published by both Theater Communications Group and Dramatist Play Service. It has been produced around the country including at Mark Taper Forum and American Conservatory Theater. His new play, Antebellum,was workshopped at the O'Neill Theater Conference; American Ma(u)l was produced by ACT/Magic Theater and The Culture Project; The Spot, produced at Mark Taper Forum and NYSF; Down Low, produced by Mixed Blood Theater; and B.Candy, produced by Partial Comfort Productions. Current and recent writing projects are a rewrite (uncredited) for The Wiz, directed by Des McAnuff; Raw Pearl, Broadway bio-musical of Pearl Bailey, to be produced by Bill and Camille Cosby; a New Play Commission from LaJolla Playhouse; Good Breeding, (after The Oresteia), currently in production at UCSD; as well as My Place in the Horror, to be produced by Duly Noted Inc., as his feature film directing debut. He has written films for Martin Scorsese/Universal Pictures (Live, a biopic of Richard Pryor); Spike Lee/HBO (Micheaux, biopic of Oscar Micheaux); Avnet/Kerner/ABC (Parting the Waters); Sony Pictures (The Journey is the Destination); New Line/Fine Line Cinema (Boorda); and Artisan Entertainment (White Folks). His plays have been produced around the world and he has been awarded a Rockefeller Fellowship, TCG Extended Collaboration Grant, NEA/TCG Fellowship, a Van Lier Fellow at New Dramatists, the first Mark Taper Forum's Sherwood Award, and the Tanne Award for Exceptional Body of Work. He is currently directing the World Tour of the Off-Broadway hit play, In the Continuum. He has been an artist in residence at the American Conservatory Theater, New York Shakespeare Festival, and Theater Emory, as well as a visiting Professor at DePaul University School of the Arts. His work has been developed at Seattle Rep., Playwrights Horizons, New York Theatre Workshop, NYSF, ACT, and CTG. He has been commissioned by Mark Taper Forum, National Endowment of the Arts, McCarter Theatre, Theatres de Nimes, Le Theatre l'Odeon, Theaterworks/USA, and Theater Emory.

Wardell Julius Clark (Director) hails from Fairfield, Alabama. Chicago Directing Credits include Associate Director for Guess Who's Coming to Dinner (Court Theatre) - Spring 2018, The One Minute Play Festival, Shola's Game (Black Lives, Black Words Chicago 2), Assistant Director for The Scottsboro Boys (Porchlight Music Theatre); Satchmo at The Waldorf and Gem Of The Ocean (Court Theatre). Chicago Acting Credits include Silent Sky (First Folio Theatre); Apartment 3A (Windy City Playhouse); Gem Of The Ocean (Court Theatre); A Raisin In The Sun (TimeLine Theatre); The Whipping Man (Northlight Theatre); We Are Proud To Present... and The Gospel According To James (Victory Gardens Theatre); Invisible Man (Court Theatre); The Beats (16th Street Theater); Ghosts Of Atwood (MPAACT), for which he received the Black Theater Alliance Denzel Washington Award for Most Promising Actor; and Topdog/Underdog (American Theater Company/Congo Square Theater). Regional credits include Othello, Macbeth, The Learned Ladies (Theater at Monmouth) - Summer 2017, The Whipping Man (Cardinal Stage); Cymbeline (Notre Dame Shakespeare Festival); Fences (Carver Theatre). TV/Film: Chicago Fire Seasons 1 and 4, Transformers: Dark the Moon. He holds a BFA in Acting from The Theatre School, at DePaul University. He has studied at Lincoln Center in NYC with directors, actors, and visual artists in a summer intensive at the Artist Development Lab. Wardell is the Casting and Producing Associate with TimeLine Theatre Company, where he also an Associate Artist, and serves as a teaching artist in the Living History Program, as well as a teaching artist for Victory Gardens Theatre. He is also an Associate Artist with the Black Lives, Black Words theatre collective.

A National New Play Network Rolling World Premiere
The Luckiest People
by Meridith Friedman
directed by Co-Artistic Director Jason A. Fleece

March 26 - April 29, 2018

After the matriarch of the Hoffman family passes away, Richard is blindsided when his elderly father, Oscar, demands to leave his assisted living facility. With his sister Laura living in Shanghai, and Richard soon to become a first time father with his partner David, he is less than thrilled at the prospect of housing his-to put it mildly-difficult father. Accusations begin to fly and defenses are raised, drawing father and son, brother and sister, and spouses into a heated game of finger pointing with unintended consequences. The first in a trilogy of plays about the Hoffman family.

As part of a NNPN Rolling World Premiere, The Luckiest People will be produced by Curious Theatre Company in Denver, Colorado in May of 2017, then at Actor's Theatre of Charlotte in Charlotte, North Carolina in August of 2017, and finally at Stage Left Theatre.

Meridith Friedman (Playwright) was born in Madison, Wisconsin, and raised in Honolulu, Hawaii. She received her BA from Connecticut College, and her MFA in Writing for the Stage & Screen from Northwestern University. She currently resides in Los Angeles and writes for television. Her plays have been produced, workshopped and developed at Stage Left, Curious Theatre Company, Kitchen Dog Theatre, Local Theatre Company, Actor's Theater of Charlotte, The Kennedy Center, Chicago Dramatists, The Johnny Mercer Writers Colony at Goodspeed Musicals, Florida Repertory Theatre, The Ashland New Play Festival, Orlando Shakespeare Theater, Florida Studio Theatre, the NNPN National New Play Showcase, New Repertory Theatre, The Lark, Actor's Express, The Greenhouse Theatre Center, The Samuel French OOB Short Play Festival, The American Southwest Theatre Company at NMSU, and the Abbey Theatre in Orlando. Meridith was the NNPN Playwright-in-Residence at Curious for their 2010-2011 season, a 2012-2013 Dramatist Guild Fellow, and the recipient of a 2013-2014 Downstage Left Playwriting Residency at Stage Left Theatre. Meridith was a Visiting Assistant Professor of Drama at Kenyon College during the 2011-2012 academic year, and taught screenwriting to undergraduates while completing her graduate work at Northwestern University. She has also taught playwriting to talented high school and middle school dramatists at Interlochen Center for the Arts and Curious Theatre Company. She recently completed the book for the musical, The 30th Year, which was part of the inaugural New Musical Discovery Series in Orlando, and is writing the book for a new musical about art theft.

Jason A. Fleece (Director) is the Co-Artistic Director of Stage Left Theatre, along with Amy Szerlong. At Stage Left, Jason directed the Chicago premiere of The Body of an American by Dan O'Brien (Spring 2016), the world premiere of Warped by Barbara Lhota (Fall 2013), and Arthur Miller's adaptation of Henrik Ibsen's An Enemy of the People (Spring 2011), as well as workshops in LeapFest 6, 7, 8, and 9. Jason has also directed plays and workshops for various other companies in Chicago, including Pegasus Theatre Chicago, BoHo Theatre, and Chicago Dramatists. Jason is also an adjunct instructor at both Oakton Community College and DePaul University. Jason holds an M.F.A. in Directing from the Theatre School at DePaul University.

The National New Play Network (NNPN) is the country's alliance of non-profit professional theaters dedicated to the development, production, and continued life of new plays. Since its founding in 1998, NNPN has supported more than 250 productions nationwide through its innovative National New Play Network Rolling World Premiere program, which provides playwright and production support for new works. Additional programs - its annual National Conference, National Showcase of New Plays, and MFA Playwrights Workshop; the NNPN Annual and Smith Prize commissions; its residencies for playwrights, producers and directors; and the organization's member accessed Collaboration, Festival, and Travel banks, and online information sessions - have helped cement the Network's position as a vital force in the regional theater landscape. NNPN's programming allows its members and their affiliated artists to create, grow, and share new work across the country and around the world, and it strives to pioneer, implement, and disseminate ideas and programs that revolutionize the way theaters collaborate to support new plays and playwrights. Its most recent project, The New Play Exchange (, launched in January of 2015, is already changing the way playwrights share their work and others discover it. NNPN's 29 Core and more than 65 Associate and University Members - along with the more than 250 affiliated artists who are its alumni, the thousands of artists and artisans employed annually by its member theaters, and the hundreds of thousands of audience members who see its supported works each year - are creating the new American theater. For more information, visit

All performances will take place at The Athenaeum Theater: 2936 N. Southport.

LeapFest XV

Summer, 2018

See what's next in Chicago theatre - LeapFest's first fourteen years have so far graduated twenty six plays to world premiere productions in Chicago and beyond, with four of these receiving the Jeff Award for Best New Work. This annual new play development festival features workshop productions of exciting new plays in rotating repertory.

Subscriptions to Stage Left Theatre's 36rd season are $50 and include admission to all three mainstage productions and LeapFest XV as well as other advantages such as guaranteed seating and special subscriber-only events. For more information or to purchase a subscription, patrons should call 773-883-8830 or visit

Founded in 1982, Stage Left Theatre is committed to nurturing voices for the American theatre by developing and producing plays that raise debate and challenge perspectives on political and social issues. Through a full subscription season and our new play development program, Downstage Left, Stage Left strives to ask provocative social and political questions by producing a mix of new works, regional premieres and timeless classics.

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