Court Theatre Presents INVISIBLE MAN, 1/12-2/19

Court Theatre Artistic Director Charles Newell and Executive Director Stephen J. Albert present the World Premiere of Invisible Man, adapted from Ralph Ellison's novel by Oren Jacoby, and directed by Christopher McElroen. Invisible Man will run January 12 – February 19, 2012 at Court Theatre, 5535 S. Ellis Avenue. Press Opening is Saturday, January 21, 2012 at 8 PM.

"I am an invisible man." In this world premiere stage production, the first authorized by The Ralph and Fanny Ellison Charitable Trust, a landmark American novel comes to life. Ralph Ellison's classic story of a young African American's search for his identity blazes with luminous theatricality and truth.

Adapted by Oscar-nominated filmmaker Oren Jacoby, Invisible Man marks the first Chicago appearance by award-winning New York City director Christopher McElroen, a founding artistic director of the Classical Theatre of Harlem. Invisible Man is produced in association with Christopher McElroen Productions.

"It's an honor to help bring MR. Ellison's novel to the stage for the first time," says director Christopher McElroen. "It's an epic journey that we are approaching with the utmost respect, and with the awareness that we are standing on the shoulders of many. I can't think of a more fitting space to develop and premiere the play than Court Theatre on the campus of the University of Chicago, where Ellison himself once taught."

"Invisible Man has thrived for a long time as an American classic. So long, perhaps, that some of its timeless insights about the search for identity are now taken for granted," says adaptor Oren Jacoby. "I'm grateful to the Court Theatre, Chris McElroen, the Ralph Ellison Foundation and literary executor, John Callahan for this opportunity to work with them, adapting the novel for the stage on its 60th anniversary, so that a 21st century audience can be startled from its sleep by Ellison's troubling revelations."

The World Premiere of Invisible Man features Lance Baker (MC, Emerson Jr., Brother Jack, Ensemble), Kimm Beavers (Ensemble), Tracey N. Bonner (Miss Mary, Ensemble), Teagle F. Bougere (Boo Zhay, Invisible Man), Chris Boykin (Son, Tatlock, Sylvester, Ralston, Todd Clifton, Ensemble), Kenn E. Head (Grandfather, Burnside, Yam Man, Peter Wheatstraw, Squat Man, Ensemble), Bill McGough (Jackson, Mr. Norton, Marshall, Factory Director, Brother Hambro, Ensemble), Paul Stovall (Trueblood, Ras, Barrellhouse, Ensemble), A.C. Smith (Preacher, Big Halley), and Julia Watt (Stripper, Nurse, Secretary, Emma, The Woman in Red, Ensemble).

The creative team includes Troy Hourie (scenic design), Alex Koch (projection design), Josh Horvath (sound design), Jacqueline Firkins (costume design), and John Culbert (lighting design). Jonathan Nook is the Stage Manager and Sara Gammage is the Production Stage Manager. Drew Dir is the Production Dramaturg.

Lance Baker (Mc, Emerson Jr., Brother Jack, Ensemble, et al.) is appearing in his twelfth production at Court Theatre, having appeared in Thyestes, Travesties, The Importance of Being Earnest, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, Guys and Dolls, Cymbeline, Pericles, Hamlet, Twelfth Night, Piano, and The Invention of Love. He recently received a Jeff nomination for his performance as Charlie in Speed-The-Plow at American Theater Company. Other recent credits include Becky Shaw at A Red Orchid Theatre (where he is an ensemble member), Lookingglass Theatre Company's production of Around the World in 80 Days at Kansas City Repertory Theatre, Amadeus at Chicago Shakespeare Theater, and Mauritius at Northlight Theatre. Film credits include Unsettled, Public Enemies, The Express, and Road to Perdition.

Kimm Beavers (Ensemble, et al.) is honored to be making her Court Theatre debut. She studied theater at Clark Atlanta University and was last seen in eta Creative Arts Foundation's The Trip (BTA Award – Best Ensemble). Film Credits: Lost Ones, Molly's Gift, and Love Shorts. Voiceover/television: Sprint, Coca-Cola, Whirlpool, Walgreens, JCPenny. As a poet, Kimm performed at Clear Channel's Big Jam Slow Jam, opened for Sonia Sanchez, and produced a spoken word album Prose & Cons of a Love Affair and chat book A Peace of My Soul.

Tracey N. Bonner (Miss Mary, et al.) returns to Court Theatre where she was last seen in Home. Her theatre credits include Off Broadway: Home (Signature Theatre Company); Regional: Radio Golf (Virginia Stage Company), Jitney (The ALLIANCE THEATRE), Home (Madison Repertory Theatre); Chicago: Jackie and Me (Chicago Children's Theatre), Home (Court Theatre), Brothers of the Dust, The Talented Tenth, and Joe Turner's Come and Gone (BTA Award – Best Play, Congo Square Theatre Company), How the Kanye' West Was Won and Six Degrees of Reparation (The Second City). She holds an MFA from The Theatre School at DePaul University and is an ensemble member of Congo Square Theatre Company.

Teagle F. Bougere (Invisible Man, et al.) Broadway: A Raisin in the Sun and The Tempest. Off-Broadway: Macbeth, Henry V, Timon of Athens, Antony and Cleopatra, and Space (The Joseph Papp Public Theater/New York Shakespeare Festival), Wings and A Soldier's Play (Second Stage Theatre), A Fair Country (Lincoln Center Theater), and Last Dance for Sybil (New Federal Theatre). Selected regional: The Good Negro (Goodman Theatre), Joe Turner's Come and Gone and Blue Door (Berkeley Repertory Theatre), Of Mice and Men (Seattle Repertory Theatre), Gee's Bend (Hartford Stage), Blue/Orange (The Old Globe Theatre, San Diego), and Othello (Shakespeare Theatre, DC). Company member at Arena Stage in Washington, D.C., for five seasons appearing in over thirty productions. Film: Hill and Gully, A Night at the Museum, The Imposters, The Pelican Brief, Two Weeks' Notice, and What the Deaf Man Heard. Television: A Gifted Man, Conviction, The Cosby Show, The Job, Third Watch, Law and Order, and Murder In Black and White.

Chris Boykin (Son, Tatlock, Sylvester, Ralston, Todd Clifton, Ensemble, et al.) returns to Court Theatre, where he was last seen as Slang Talk Man and Joe in Spunk. A recent graduate from the Master of Fine Arts/Acting program at The Theatre School of DePaul University, Chris would like to give thanks and love to Professor Katz, Ed, Unc, Dad, Ma, and M, for everything.

Kenn E. Head (Grandfather, Burnside, Yam Man, Peter Wheatstraw, Squat Man, Ensemble, et al.) returns to Court Theater where he was last seen in Spunk. A veteran actor, he is a familiar face on many Chicago stages, having appeared in Romeo and Juliet (Chicago Shakespeare Theater), The Lost Boys of Sudan (Victory Gardens Theater), The Overwhelming (Next Theater), Seven Guitars (Congo Square – Jeff Awards for Best Ensemble and Best Play), as well as productions at Steppenwolf Theatre Company, Goodman Theatre, American Theater Company, and Yale Repertory Theatre. His television credits include ER, Early Edition, and various commercials.

Bill McGough (Jackson, Mr. Norton, Marshall, Factory Director, Brother Hambro, Ensemble, et al.) returns to Court Theatre where he was last seen in The Importance of Being Earnest. He most recently appeared in The Front Page (Jeff Nomination – Ensemble) and The Farnsworth Invention (Jeff Award – Ensemble), both at TimeLine Theatre Company. He has performed with The Hypocrites, Next Theatre Company, Writers' Theatre, Cleveland Play House, Collaboraction, Goodman Theatre, Steppenwolf Theatre Company, Raven Theatre, and many others. He was nominated for a Jefferson citation for his performance as Willy Loman in Sean Graney's production of Death of a Salesman. Television appearances include The Chicago Code and Shameless.

Paul Oakley Stovall (Trueblood, Ras, Barrellhouse, Ensemble, et al.) returns to Court Theatre, where he has appeared in The Little Foxes, La Bete, The Mystery Cycle, Frida: The Last Portrait, and Pantomime. Goodman Theatre credits: Play On! (Jeff nomination), The Odyssey, Black Star Line, Drowning Crow, Journey to the West, Good Person of Setzuan, and Notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci. Other Chicago credits: Words on Fire (Steppenwolf Arts Exchange), A Perfect Ganesh (Northlight Theatre), and Blade to the Heat (Apple Tree Theatre). National tours: Rent and Once on This Island. International: Otonari No Dasso-Hei (Tokyo – world premiere.) New York: Dessa Rose (Lincoln Center – world premiere.) Film: Shortbus and The Company. As a playwright, his musical Clear has been seen in NYC at Dixon Place, at the Eugene O'Neill National Music Theatre Conference, and at About Face Theatre, where he is an artistic associate. He is a resident writer at Dog and Pony Theatre Company, where his plays Ape and As Much As You Can premiered, the latter also staged at L.A.'s Celebration Theatre. This June, his play Immediate Family will premiere at the Goodman Theatre. For the past three years, Mr. Stovall has proudly served as an Advance Associate for the Obama administration.

A.C. Smith (Preacher, Big Halley, Bledsoe Brockway, Brother Westrum, MacAdams, Ensemble, et al.) This production marks his fifth show with this wonderful company – Fences (Jeff Award – Actor in a Principal Role – Play), The First Breeze of Summer, The Piano Lesson, and Ma Rainey's Black Bottom. Smith, a Chicago native, has performed in many theaters here, including Victory Gardens Theatre, Timeline Theatre Company, Steppenwolf Theatre Company, Goodman Theatre, Chicago Center for the Performing Arts, Illinois Theatre Center, Second City, and Chicago Shakespeare Theater. Smith has also performed in many regional theatres all across the country. When not in Chicago, he can often be seen performing at the St. Louis Black Repertory Company, where he has been a member for over seventeen years, and is a nine time Woody King Jr. Award winner.

Julia Watt (Stripper, Nurse, Secretary, Emma, The Woman in Red, Ensemble, et al.) Regional credits include The Master Builder and Othello (A Noise Within, Los Angeles), The Taming of the Shrew, Titus Andronicus, and Noises Off (Alabama Shakespeare Festival), and The Tempest and How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying (PCPA Theaterfest, CA). Julia is a founding member of The American Vicarious, a Brooklyn-based company whose inaugural production appeared at The Public Theater's 2011 Under the Radar Festival. Julia received her M.F.A from the Alabama Shakespeare Festival.

Christopher McElroen (Director) is a New York-based producer and director. He co-founded the Classical Theatre of Harlem and served as the organization's Executive Director from 1999 – 2009, where he produced forty-one productions yielding 18 Audelco Awards, 6 Obie Awards, 2 Lucille Lortel Awards, a Drama Desk Award, and CTH being named "1 of 8 theatres in America to Watch" by the Drama League. Christopher has directed over thirty professional productions, including four world premieres and The Blacks: A Clown Show, which received four 2003 Obie Awards and was named one of the ten best Off-Broadway productions of 2003 by The New York Times. Alongside visual artist Paul Chan and Creative Time, Christopher co-produced and directed Waiting for Godot in New Orleans, a community development through the arts initiative that staged Waiting for Godot outdoors in the Lower Ninth Ward and Gentilly communities of post-Katrina New Orleans. The New York Times listed the project as one of the top ten national art events of 2007, and the archives from the production have been acquired into the Permanent Collection of The Museum of Modern Art. Christopher has directed or guest lectured at Stanford University, Duke University, Purdue University, New York University, Dartmouth College, The Contemporary Arts Center Boston, The Walker Arts Center, and The Museum of Modern Art, among others. His work has been recognized with the American Theatre Wing Award (Outstanding Artistic Achievement), Drama Desk Award (Artistic Achievement), Edwin Booth Award (Outstanding Contribution to NYC Theater), Lucille Lortel Award (Outstanding Body of Work), and two Obie Awards (Sustained Achievement and Excellence in Theatre).

Ralph Ellison (Author – March 1, 1914 – April 16, 1994) was an American novelist, literary critic, scholar, and writeR. Ellison is best known for his novel Invisible Man, which won the National Book Award in 1953. He also wrote two collections of essays, Shadow and Act (1964) and Going to the Territory (1986). In contrast to his contemporaries such as Richard Wright and James Baldwin, Ellison created characters that are dispassionate, educated, articulate, and self-aware. His awards and distinctions include the Presidential Medal of Freedom, being made a Chevalier of the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by France, election to The American Academy of Arts and Letters, the dedication of the Ralph Waldo Ellison Library in his hometown of Oklahoma City, New York City College's Langston Hughes Medal, the National Medal of Arts, and a special achievement award from the Anisfield-Wolf Book Awards. After his death, more manuscripts were discovered in his home, resulting in the publication of Flying Home and Other Stories in 1996. In 1999, five years after his death, Ellison's second novel, Juneteenth, was published. It was a 368-page condensation of more than 2000 pages written over a period of forty years. All the manuscripts of this incomplete novel were published collectively in 2010 under the title Three Days Before the Shooting.

Oren Jacoby (Adaptor) is an Oscar-nominated director, writer, and producer of documentary films, including Constantine's Sword, Sister Rose's Passion, The Shakespeare Sessions, Stage on Screen: The Topdog Diaries, The Beatles Revolution, and Sam Shepard: Stalking Himself. He was a co-producer of the PBS series The Irish in America: Long Journey Home. Jacoby was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary Short Subject for Sister Rose's Passion, which also won Best Documentary Short Film at the 2004 Tribeca Film Festival. His filmmaking has been recognized by the American Film Institute, the MacArthur Foundation, ITVS, Britain's Royal Television Society, and by AMPAS. His films have appeared on the BBC, HBO Cinemax, PBS, National Geographic, VH-1, NHK (Japan), as well as the Nokia, Verizon, and Human Rights Watch websites. He has won CINE Golden Eagles, the Royal Television Society (UK) journalism award, the MacArthur Golden Owl award, as well as grants from the American Film Institute, ITVS (The Independent Television Service), and the National Endowment for the Humanities. Jacoby has directed plays at Theater for the New City, the Williamstown Theater Festival, Ensemble Studio Theater, West Bank Cafe, and regional theaters. He is a graduate oF Brown University and the Directing Program of the Yale School of Drama and is a native New Yorker.

Charles Newell (Director/Artistic Director) has been Artistic Director of Court Theatre since 1994, where he has directed over 30 productions. He made his Chicago directorial debut in 1993 with The Triumph of Love, which won the Joseph Jefferson Award for Best Production. Directorial highlights at Court include An Iliad, Porgy and Bess, Three Tall Women, The Year of Magical Thinking, The Wild Duck, Caroline, Or Change, Titus Andronicus, Arcadia, Man of La Mancha, Uncle Vanya, Raisin, The Glass Menagerie, Travesties, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, Hamlet, and The Invention of Love. Charlie has also directed at the Goodman Theatre (Rock 'n' Roll), the Guthrie Theater (Resident Director: The History Cycle, Cymbeline), Arena Stage, John Houseman's The Acting Company (Staff Repertory Director), the California and Alabama Shakespeare Festivals, Juilliard, and New York University. He is the recipient of the 1992 TCG Alan Schneider Director Award. He has served on the Board of Theatre Communications Group, as well as on several panels for the National Endowment for the Arts. Opera directing credits include Marc Blitzstein's Regina at the Lyric Opera of Chicago, and Rigoletto at Opera Theatre of St. Louis. Charlie is a multiple Joseph Jefferson Award (Chicago's highest theatrical honor) nominee and recipient. Recently, his production of Caroline, Or Change at Court was the recipient of four Joseph Jefferson Awards, including Best Production–Musical and Best Director–Musical.

Previews are January 12 – January 20, 2012. The opening press performance is on Saturday, January 21, 2011 at 8:00 p.m. Curtain times are Wednesdays and Thursdays at 7:30 p.m.; Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00 p.m. with Saturday matinees at 3 p.m.; Sundays at 2:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.

Ticket prices are $30 to $40 for preview performances; $40 to $60 for regular run performances. Tickets are available at the Box Office, 5535 S. Ellis Avenue, Chicago; (773) 753-4472 or online at Student and senior discounts available. Groups of 10 or more may purchase tickets by calling Kate Vangeloff at (773) 834-3243.

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