Cast Announced for Steppenwolf for Young Adults' World Premiere of 1919

1919 will play October 4 – 29, 2022 – the second-ever production in Steppenwolf’s new in-the-round Ensemble Theater in Honor of Helen Zell.

By: Aug. 04, 2022
Cast Announced for Steppenwolf for Young Adults' World Premiere of 1919

Steppenwolf Theatre Company will present the Steppenwolf for Young Adults' world premiere of 1919, adapted by J. Nicole Brooks from Eve L. Ewing's collection of luminous and searing poems about the killing of Black teenager Eugene Williams in 1919 off the segregated Chicago lakeshore - and how this tragedy reverberates today.

Directed by Gabrielle Randle-Bent and Tasia A. Jones, the cast includes Sheldon D. Brown, Demorris Burrows, Jessica Dean Turner, Max Thomas, Sola Thompson and Alexis Jeane Ward.

1919 will play October 4 - 29, 2022 - the second-ever production in Steppenwolf's stunning new in-the-round Ensemble Theater in Honor of Helen Zell - the centerpiece of its recently unveiled Liz and Eric Lefkofsky Arts and Education Center.

Ticket Information

There will be public performances and student matinees of 1919, inviting all audiences to experience this world premiere. Tickets are $5 for teens and college students; $20 for the general public. Steppenwolf members get first access to tickets. Single tickets to 1919 go on sale Wednesday, August 10 at 12 pm at and 312-335-1650.

Student Matinees

Student matinees will take place at 10 am on the following dates: October 4-7, 11-14, 18-21 and 25-28. Recommended for grades nine and up. To register your school, click here. Tickets are only $5 for students and chaperones are free.

Liz and Eric Lefkofsky Arts and Education Center

The entirety of Steppenwolf's new Liz and Eric Lefkofsky Arts and Education Center will be activated around 1919, with Steppenwolf Education offering workshops and programming in The Loft for educators and students, as well as presenting programs by teens for teens, and bringing educational workshops to classrooms across Chicago. The Loft is Steppenwolf's first-ever dedicated education space, encompassing the entire fourth floor of the Arts and Education Center. Steppenwolf was founded more than 45 years ago by a circle of students who craved a space to call their own, and the Arts and Education Center continues and amplifies that vision, growing the reach of Steppenwolf's education programming from 20,000 to 30,000 students annually. For more information on The Loft and Steppenwolf Education programming, visit

The Ensemble Theater in Honor of Helen Zell is located at the heart of the Arts and Education Center. This intimate and state-of-the-art 400-seat theater in the round is one of its kind in Chicago, with theater design and acoustics by Charcoalblue. Only six rows deep-with audience members never more than 20 feet from the stage-Charcoalblue designed the incredibly intimate Ensemble Theater from the inside out to integrate the theater into the fabric of the surrounding building, providing a truly unique theatergoing experience.

SYA Tour

Steppenwolf for Young Adults is also pleased to announce the return of the SYA Tour. SYA will present five FREE public performances of 1919 at Park District Cultural Centers across the City from November 1 - 5, 2022. Locations will be announced shortly. The 1919 tour is presented as part of the Chicago Park District's Night Out in the Parks series, supported by the Mayor's Office and Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events. For additional information and updates, visit or e-mail


1919 - World Premiere

By Eve L. Ewing

Adapted by J. Nicole Brooks

Directed by Gabrielle Randle-Bent and Tasia A. Jones
Featuring Sheldon D. Brown (Human 5), Demorris Burrows (Human 2), Jessica Dean Turner (Human 1), Max Thomas (Human 3), Sola Thompson (Human 6) and Alexis Jeane Ward (Human 4).

On July 27, 1919, Chicago erupted following the killing of 17-year-old Eugene Williams in treacherous waters off the segregated Lake Michigan shoreline. The days that followed made an indelible mark on the city - its sense of boundaries, of relationships between neighbors, and of the underlying systems of inequity and racism that persist today. Adapted from Ewing's poems, J. Nicole Brooks' play is a bold, hopeful, lyrical exploration of Black Chicagoans' resistance, fortitude and endurance: past, present and future.

October 4 - 29, 2022

Press Performance: Saturday, October 8 at 2:30 pm
In the Ensemble Theater in Honor of Helen Zell

Tickets are $5 for teens and college students; $20 for the general public. Steppenwolf members get first access to tickets. Single tickets to 1919 go on sale Wednesday, August 10 at 12 pm at and 312-335-1650.

The 1919 production team includes Yu Shibagaki (Scenic Design), Gregory Graham (Costume Design), Jason Lynch (Lighting Design), Mikhail Fiksel (Sound Design), Meida McNeal & Abra Johnson (Movement Direction), Abhi Shrestha (Dramaturg), Stan Brown (Vocal Coach), JC Clementz (Casting Director), Michelle Medvin (Production Stage Manager) and Nikki Konomos (Assistant Stage Manager). For full cast and creative team bios, visit

Artist Biographies

Dr. Eve L. Ewing (Author) is a sociologist of education and a writer from Chicago. She is the award-winning author of four books: the poetry collections Electric Arches and 1919, the nonfiction work Ghosts in the Schoolyard: Racism and School Closings on Chicago's South Side, and most recently a novel for young readers, Maya and the Robot. She is the co-author (with Nate Marshall) of the play No Blue Memories: The Life of Gwendolyn Brooks. She has written several projects for Marvel Comics, most notably the Ironheart series as well as Marvel Team-Up and Champions. Ewing is an assistant professor at the University of Chicago Crown Family School of Social Work, Policy, and Practice. Her work has been published in The New Yorker, The Atlantic, The New York Times, and many other venues. Currently she is working on her next book, Original Sins: The (Mis)education of Black and Native Children and the Construction of American Racism, which will be published by One World.

J. Nicole Brooks (Playwright) is an actor, writer, director, and educator based in Chicago. Brooks's writing practice includes playwriting, screenwriting, essays, and poetry. As a theatre artist, Brooks is an ensemble member and Mellon Foundation Playwright in Residence at the Tony Award-winning Lookingglass Theatre Company. Other artistic affiliations include artistic membership at Collaboration and Sideshow Theatre Company. As a playwright, Brooks has created original works including Black Diamond: The Years the Locusts Have Eaten; Fedra: Queen of Haiti; HeLa; Black Moon Lilith and the award-winning Her Honor Jane Byrne. Brooks has also served as director and associate director mounting successful theatre productions of Mr. Rickey Calls A Meeting; Thaddeus & Slocum: A Vaudeville Adventure; Her Honor Jane Byrne; Sex with Strangers; and Black Diamond: The Years the Locusts Have Eaten. Honors include TCG Fox Foundation, 3Arts, Mellon Foundation, National Endowment for the Arts, Kilroys List, the 2021 Steinberg/American Theatre Critics Association New Play Award for Her Honor Jane Byrne and the Chicago Public Library Foundation 21st Century Award. Brooks is also an award-winning actor appearing in theatrical productions at Goodman Theatre, Lookingglass, Court Theatre, Mark Taper Forum, and Theatre at Boston Court. Recent television credits include guest recurring roles on the cult fav South Side (HBO Max), The Chi (Showtime), Chicago Fire (NBC, Hulu) and the critically acclaimed chapter four of Fargo (FX Network) starring opposite Chris Rock. Brooks also appeared in the box office hit CANDYMAN (Say My Name) directed by Nia DaCosta produced by Jordan Peele.

Tasia A. Jones (Director) is a director, performer, and educator focused on social justice and civically engaged theatre practices. She is an Assistant Professor of Instruction at Northwestern University. Steppenwolf Theatre Company: Pass Over (Assistant Director); The Roommate (Assistant Director). Chicago: Fannie: The Music and Life of Fannie Lou Hamer (Goodman Theatre, Associate Director); Intimate Apparel (Northlight Theatre); The MLK Project (Writers Theatre); The Steadfast Tin Soldier (Lookingglass Theatre, Assistant Director). Regional: Intimate Apparel (Utah Shakespeare Festival); Small Mouth Sounds (UCCS Theatreworks); Seussical (Jean's Playhouse). Upcoming: Intimate Apparel (Northlight Theatre); A Raisin in the Sun (American Players Theatre). Education: MFA Directing, Northwestern University; BFA Theatre Arts, Boston University.

Gabrielle Randle-Bent (Director) is a scholar, dramaturg, and director based in Chicago. Steppenwolf Theatre Company: We are Proud to Present a Presentation... Off Broadway: Terminus (Dramaturg). Chicago: Othello (Court Theatre); Guess Who's Coming to Dinner (Dramaturg, Court Theatre); For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide / When the Rainbow is Enuf (Dramaturg, Court Theatre); The Oedipus Trilogy (Dramaturg, Court Theatre); Les Blancs (Court Theatre); The Pride Before (Sideshow Theatre Company); I, Banquo (Dramaturg, Chicago Shakespeare Theater); Intimate Apparel (Dramaturg, North Light). Upcoming: Year of Magical Thinking (Remy Bumppo); Once on this Island (Dramaturg, Oregon Shakespeare Festival). BA Stanford University, MA University of Texas at Austin, PhD Candidate Northwestern University.