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Goodman Opens 2009 with Wooster Group's Acclaimed THE EMPEROR JONES 1/7-1/11

Goodman Theatre kicks off 2009 with one of the most groundbreaking theatrical events of the last 15 years: the Chicago premiere of The Wooster Group's (New York City) critically acclaimed 1993 production of The Emperor Jones by Eugene O'Neill. Directed by Elizabeth LeCompte, this provocative story of a delusional self-appointed West Indian emperor features Kate Valk reprising her "riveting, haunting, altogether astonishing" (The New York Times) performance of the title role, joined by Ari Fliakos and Scott Shepherd.

In conjunction with The Emperor Jones, the Goodman also presents two free special program events: Performing Other, a discussion panel with performance artist Holly Hughes on January 7; and a talk with the Elizabeth LeCompte and members of The Wooster Group on January 10. The Emperor Jones appears in a limited engagement for five performances only, January 7 - 11 in the Goodman's Owen Bruner Theatre. Tickets are $45; a full calendar, including dates, times, ticket prices and information about the free special events, appears at the end of this release.

"Our Exploration of Eugene O'Neill would not be complete without Elizabeth LeCompte and The Wooster Group, one of America's premier theater companies," said Goodman Artistic Director Robert Falls. "I think O'Neill would love Liz's production of The Emperor Jones, and her numerous interpretations of his work, as she brilliantly uses his experimental spirit to bring his plays into the 21st century. We are honored to present the Chicago premiere of this work."

One of Eugene O'Neill's rarely produced first plays, widely considered to be the work that launched his career, The Emperor Jones was premiered by the Provincetown Players at the Playwrights' Theatre in New York City in November 1920. The Wooster Group's production of The Emperor Jones was first performed in 1993.

It opened in New York at The Performing Garage in 1998 when hailed as "neuron-popping" (Time Out New York). The New York Times proclaimed the performance similar to experiencing "Sarah Bernhardt's performance in La Dame aux Camélias...Laurette Taylor in The Glass Menagerie...[or] Maria Callas's few Toscas...Ms. Valk performs with a fearlessness that commands something akin to awe." Jones later toured to Vienna, Brussels, Munich, Frankfurt, Arhus, Stockholm, Belfast and Philadelphia.

The Emperor Jones uses a mix of realism and expressionism to tell the story of Brutus Jones, an African-American former Pullman porter with a checkered past. Having escaped a life sentence in prison for murder, Brutus establishes himself as the "self-appointed emperor" of a West Indian Island. The narrative follows his flight from both the natives he has exploited and his own haunted past.
The design team for The Emperor Jones includes David Linton (Music Score), Christopher Kondek (Video Score), Jim Clayburgh (Set Design), Jennifer Tipton (Lighting Design), Geoff Abbas and Matt Schloss (Sound Design) and Andrew Schneider (Video).

The Wooster Group is a New York-based theater company known world-wide for its groundbreaking experiments in theater performance. Under the direction of Elizabeth LeCompte, the Group has created more than 40 works for theater, dance and media, including Rumstick Road; L.S.D. (...Just the High Points...); Brace Up!; House/Lights; To You, the Birdie! (Phédre) and Hamlet. The Group has toured internationally to Europe, Russia, North and South America, Asia and Australia. The Performing Garage at 33 Wooster Street is the Group's permanent home. It owns and operates the Garage as a shareholder in the Grand Street Artists Co-op, established as part of the Fluxus art movement in the 1960s. The Group will premiere its first opera, La Didone, at St. Ann's Warehouse in Brooklyn, New York, in March and April 2009.

The founding and original members of The Wooster Group are Elizabeth LeCompte, Spalding Gray, Ron Vawter, Jim Clayburgh, Willem Dafoe, Kate Valk and Peyton Smith.

Elizabeth LeCompte is a founding member of The Wooster Group. Since 1975, LeCompte has constructed (choreographed, designed and directed) seventeen multimedia theater pieces with the Group, including the trilogy Three Places in Rhode Island (consisting of Sakonnet Point, Rumstick Road and Nayatt School); the epilogue to the trilogy, Point Judith; a second trilogy (The Road to Immortality, consisting of Route 1 & 9, L.S.D. (...Just the High Points...) and Frank Dell's The Temptation of St. Antony); Brace Up!, based on Paul Schmidt's translation of Chekhov's Three Sisters; Fish Story; The Emperor Jones and The Hairy Ape by Eugene O'Neill; House/Lights, based on Gertrude Stein's Doctor Faustus Lights the Lights; To You, the Birdie! (Phèdre), translated by Paul Schmidt from the play by Jean Racine; Poor Theater; Who's your DADA?! commissioned by MoMA to close the 2006 Dada exhibition; Hamlet by William Shakespeare; and the opera La Didone. She has created seven film, video and DVD works, and choreographed four short dance pieces. Her numerous honors and awards include an NEA Distinguished Artists Fellowship for Lifetime Achievement in American Theater, a MacArthur Fellowship, a Guggenheim Fellowship, a US Artists Fellowship and a Chevalier de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres from the French Ministry of Culture.

Kate Valk has been astounding audiences worldwide for nearly 30 years with the memorable roles she has created for The Wooster Group. Valk entered New York University's Drama Department age 19 and spent two years studying with world-renowned acting teacher Stella Adler. She then encountered Elizabeth LeCompte and the troupe's other co-founders at NYU's then-new Experimental Theatre Wing. In 1979, she joined the collaborative ensemble, first making costumes, then as a stage manager and in 1981 performing her first role in Route 1 & 9, a controversial version of Thornton Wilder's Our Town in which the Group recreated black vaudeville routines. She has since acted in and assisted in the making of every Wooster Group production.

Goodman Theatre begins 2009 with an eight-play landmark theatrical event, "A Global Exploration: Eugene O'Neill in the 21st Century" curated by Artistic Director Robert Falls, January 7 through March 8, 2009. More than 100 artists from six theater companies around the world bring their highly contemporary, inventive interpretations of O'Neill's dramas to the Goodman's Exploration-viewing the 20th century "father of the American drama," through a 21st century international lens. 

Participating companies include: The Wooster Group's The Emperor Jones (New York); Companhia Triptal's Homens Ao Mar (Sea Plays) (Brazil); The Hypocrites' The Hairy Ape (Chicago); Toneelgroep's Rouw Siert Electra (Amsterdam); and The Neo-Futurists' Strange Interlude (Chicago). The centerpiece of the Exploration is Goodman Theatre's Desire Under the Elms directed by Artistic Director Robert Falls.

The global component of the Eugene O'Neill Festival expands the international programming that Goodman Theatre has established over the years with productions of The Merchant of Venice in London, Paris and Hamburg; Death of a Salesman in London; Galileo Galilei in London and The Iceman Cometh in Dublin. The biennial Latino Theatre Festival has provided an opportunity for audiences to experience outstanding work from Spain, Mexico and Brazil over the past six years. "In a world in which globalization is a reality, it is essential that outstanding work from the US travels abroad and, at the same time, Americans experience the cultural life of the rest of the world," said Falls.

Free Special Programs

*Reservations are required: 312.443.3800 or

Performing Other: Constructing Race and Gender Onstage and Off

Wednesday, January 7 at 5:30pm

Claudia Cassidy Theater, Chicago Cultural Center, 78 E. Washington Blvd.

What is the performative nature of race? How do we learn to read gender in an increasingly androgynous society? Join performance artist Holly Hughes along with panelists Romi Crawford, School of the Art Institute; Tanya Saracho, playwright and co-founder of Teatro Luna; and E. Patrick Johnson, Chair of Performance Studies at Northwestern University for a engaging discussion on how we perform race and gender in our daily lives as well as on the stage. Performing Other is co-sponsored by the Department of Cultural Affairs for the City of Chicago and the Center for the Study of Race, Politics and Culture at the University of Chicago.

The Wooster Group's Impact on Contemporary Performance

Saturday, January 10 at 3pm

Goodman Theatre
In their 33 year history, the internationally acclaimed Wooster Group has redefined what is possible for the stage through their innovative use of media, movement and radical restagings of classic plays. Professors Harvey Young and Rachel Shteir speak with Director Elizabeth LeCompte and members of The Wooster Group about the history of their work and its impact on contemporary performance.

Tickets for The Emperor Jones are $45 and may be purchased online at, at the box office (170 North Dearborn) or by phone at 312.443.3800. Mezztix are half-price mezzanine tickets available at 12 noon at the box office, and at 10am online (promo code MEZZTIX) day of performance; Mezztix are not available by telephone. 10Tix are $10 mezzanine tickets for students available at 12 noon at the box office, and at 10am online on the day of performance; 10Tix are not available by telephone. Valid student I.D. must be presented when picking up the tickets. Limit four per student with I.D. All tickets are subject to availability and handling fees apply. Discounted Group Tickets for 10 persons or more are available at 312.443.3820.

UBS is the Lead Sponsor and Motorola is the Corporate Sponsor Partner of A Global Exploration: Eugene O'Neill in the 21st Century, and Allstate is the Corporate Sponsor Partner of Desire Under the Elms.


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