Northlight Theatre Presents Black Pearl Sings! 1/13-2/19


Northlight Theatre, under the direction of Artistic Director BJ Jones and Executive Director Timothy J. Evans, will present Black Pearl Sings! by Frank Higgins, directed by Steve Scott. A powerful new play featuring Northlight favorites E. Faye Butler (Jeff Award-winner for Northlight’s Ella and Dinah Was) and Susie McMonagle (Northlight’s Snapshots, national tour of Billy Elliott and Mamma Mia!). The production runs January 13 – February 19, 2012 at Northlight Theatre, 9501 Skokie Blvd. The press opening is on Friday, January 20, 2012.

Featuring beautiful, a cappella renditions of rare American folk songs, this play with music tells the Depression-era story of two extraordinary women dependant on one another to gain acceptance in a divided society. When Susannah, a song collector for the Library of Congress, overhears Pearl singing in a Texas prison, she will pull every string possible to introduce the woman with the silky voice and steely spirit to the world.

BJ Jones comments, “Black Pearl Sings! provides us a glimpse of two striking women in the economic torpor of the Depression who find strength, purpose and fulfillment through the bond of music, reaffirming the astonishing power of art in the face of the financial ruin of the time. One of the reasons for choosing Black Pearl Sings! was this very notion – that art survives, even thrives, through the need to seek succor and inspiration when the times turn turbulent.”

The designers are Jack Magaw (Set Design), Emily McConnell (Costume Design), Sarah Hughey (Lighting Design) and Christopher Kriz (Sound Design).

Jazz vocal artist Maggie Brown is the music consultant for Black Pearl Sings! She will consult on the authenticity of the range of music styles in the production—among them Gullah, and rare African American traditional and folk songs.

Frank Higgins (Playwright) is the author of The Sweet By 'n' By which was produced with Blythe Danner and Gwyneth Paltrow. His work has been seen in New York, and at the Williamstown Theater Festival, the Old Globe Theatre, Ford’s Theater in Washington, DC, San Jose Repertory Theatre, Kansas City Repertory Theater, and many others. Among his other plays are WMKS: Where Music Kills Sorrow, Gunplay, and Miracles. Several scenes from Gunplay were read on Capitol Hill prior to Congress passing the ‘Brady Bill.’ He has also written several plays for young audiences, including Anansi the Spider and The Middle Passage which received a national tour with the Omaha Theatre Company for Young People; and The Country of the Blind. He is a graduate of the University of Missouri-Kansas City, and is a member of the Dramatists Guild.

Steve Scott (Director) is the Associate Producer of the Goodman Theatre, where he has overseen over 150 productions; he is also a member of the Goodman’s Artistic Collective. He has directed at a wide variety of Chicago theaters, including the Goodman, Shattered Globe, Silk Road, Next, Porchlight, Theatre Wit, Theatre at the Center, Organic Touchstone, Lifeline, Redtwist, and Eclipse, where he is a company member. He is a faculty member of Act One Studio and the Theatre Conservatory at the College of Performing Arts of Roosevelt University, and has served on panels for the National Endowment for the Arts, the Illinois Arts Council, and Chicago’s Department of Cultural Affairs. He is an artistic associate of About Face, Collaboraction and Chicago Dramatists, and serves on the board of Season of Concern. Mr. Scott has received five Jeff nominations, an After Dark Award, and the Award of Honor from the Illinois Theatre Association.

E. Faye Butler (Pearl) last appeared at Northlight in Ella, and has performed in its successful New Year's Eve musical concerts. She mostly recently completed a successful run of Trouble In Mind and Oklahoma! at Arena Stage in Washington, DC. National and Regional Tours: Mamma Mia, Dinah Was, Ain't Misbehavin, Nunsense, Don't Bother Me... Regional Theatre: Dancing With The Holy Ghosts (New York Film and Play Festival); Saving Aimee, Gospel According To Fishman (Signature Theatre); The Wiz (La Jolla Playhouse); Seussical (Chicago Shakespeare); Thoroughly Modern Millie, Little Shop Of Horrors (Marriott Lincolnshire); Once On This Island (Centerstage); Purlie (Pasadena Playhouse and Goodman); Polk County (Arena Stage); Crumbs from the Table of Joy (Steppenwolf); Christmas Carol (Goodman); Little Foxes, La Bete, Once in a Lifetime (Court); Could It Be Magic: The Barry Manilow Songbook (Mercury Theatre); Hello Dolly, Hot Mikado, Sophisticated Ladies (Drury Lane Theatre); and others. She is the recipient of 5 Jeff Awards, 2 BTAA Awards, After Dark Award, John Barrymore Award, RAMI Award, 3 Helen Hayes Nominations, Excellence in Arts Award, an Ovations Nomination and the 2011 Sarah Siddons Award.

Susie McMonagle (Susannah) was just seen at Northlight in Snapshots: A Musical Scrapbook. She appeared on Broadway as Fantine in Les Miserables. First National tours include Billy Elliot (Mrs. Wilkinson and Mum). Other National Tours include Mamma Mia (Donna), Les Miserables (Fantine), The Secret Garden and The Sound of Music. Chicago credits include At Wits End (Jane Grant) and Sideshow (Daisy) at Northlight; Rock n Roll (Candida) at the Goodman; and Man of La Mancha (M. Bane) at Court. Additional Chicago credits: Indian Ink (Flora), Dirty Blonde (Mae), Spitfire Grill (Shelby), Annie Get Your Gun (Annie), Miss Saigon (Ellen), Anything Goes (Reno), Cats (Grizabella), Evita (Eva Peron) and Chess (Florence). Recipient of After Dark Awards, Critic's Circle Award, and nine Joseph Jefferson nominations. BFA Stephens College.
Tickets for Black Pearl Sings!, $25-60, are available by phone at 847.673.6300, or online at Young Adult tickets (25 and under) are $10 (one per person with valid ID).
The Box Office is located at the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts, 9501 Skokie Boulevard, in Skokie. Box Office hours are Monday-Friday 10:00am-5:00pm, and Saturdays 12:00pm-5:00pm. On performance days, the box office hours are extended through showtime. The Box Office is closed on Sundays, except on performance days when it is open two hours prior to showtime.

Curtain times are: Tuesdays at 7:30pm (no show January 24 and 31 & February 14); Wednesdays at 1:00pm (no show February 1) and 7:30pm (no show February 8); Thursday at 7:30pm; Fridays at 8:00pm (except Opening on January 20, at 7:30pm); Saturdays at 2:30pm (no show January 14) and 8:00pm; and Sundays at 2:30pm and 7:00pm (no 7:00pm show on January 22 and 29 & February 19).

Northlight is continuing its popular special event series in conjunction with each production. All events are free for subscribers and ticket holders.

Salon Series is a series of panel discussions led by local experts for audience members to gain deeper insight into each of the five plays—including historical context, playwright background and influences and much more. Salon Series is held prior to select Sunday matinee performances. The Salon for Black Pearl Sings! will be held on January 29 at 1:00pm and will feature Monica Hairston O’Connell, Executive Director of Columbia College’s Center for Black Music Research. Reservations are required, or 847.679.9501 x3555 or

Backstage with BJ is a mid-day discussion with Artistic Director BJ Jones, featuring special guest artists, actors, directors and designers, offering behind-the-scenes insight into each production while it is still in rehearsal. Backstage with BJ for Black Pearl Sings! will be held on January 13 at 12:00pm and will last approximately one hour. Reservations are required, 847.679.9501 x3555 or

Northlight Theatre aspires to promote change of perspective and encourage compassion by exploring the depth of our humanity across a bold spectrum of theatrical experiences, reflecting our community to the world and the world to our community.

Now in its 37th season, the organization has mounted nearly 190 productions, including over 40 world premieres. Northlight has earned 151 Joseph Jefferson Award nominations and 28 Awards. As one of the area’s premier theatre companies, Northlight is a regional magnet for critical and professional acclaim, as well as talent of the highest quality.

Northlight is supported in part by generous contributions from The Allyn Foundation; Blackman Kallick Bartelstein, LLP; BMO Harris Bank; the Elizabeth F. Cheney Foundation; ComEd, An Exelon Company; Edgerton Foundation for New American Plays Award; Ernst & Young; Evanston Community Foundation; Illinois Arts Council, a state agency; The Irving Harris Foundation; The Joyce Foundation; Kirkland & Ellis Foundation; The Lehman Family American Experience Series; The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation; MetLife Foundation; McKinsey & Company; Modestus Bauer Foundation; National Endowment for the Arts; North Shore Center for the Performing Arts Foundation; Nuveen Investments; The Offield Family Foundation; The Pauls Foundation; Daniel F. and Ada L. Rice Foundation; Sanborn Family Foundation; Dr. Scholl Foundation; Shubert Foundation; Sullivan Family Foundation; and the Theatre Communications Group.

Box Office: The Box Office is located at 9501 Skokie Blvd, Skokie.

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