OBJECTS IN THE MIRROR, Inspired by True Story, Starts Next Week at Goodman Theatre
"It was in the 'hell' of a refugee camp in the African republic of Guinea that Shedrick Yarkpai first dreamed about a career as an actor" (The Australian) - a path that eventually acquainted him with Chicago native playwright Charles Smith, who has now chronicled the Liberian refugee's gripping story in his newest play, Objects in the Mirror.
The playwright's longtime collaborator Chuck Smith (no relation) directs the world premiere production, which explores identity, survival and the sacrifices of assimilation inspired by the true events of Yarkpai's escape from his war-torn homeland. Chicago actor Daniel Kyri makes his Goodman debut as Yarkpai, who hopes to begin life anew in Australia, but must first confront the ghosts of his past-and potentially expose a dangerous family secret.
The world premiere of Objects in the Mirror, which was developed through the Goodman's New Stages Festival, appears April 29 through June 4 (opening night is May 8) in the 856-seat Albert Theatre. Tickets ($20-$75; subject to change) are available at GoodmanTheatre.org/Objects, the box office (170 N. Dearborn) or by phone at 312.443.3800.
Conagra Brands is the Major Corporate Sponsor, PwC is the Corporate Sponsor Partner, the National Endowment for the Arts is providing Major Production Support and it was awarded the New Play Award by the Edgerton Foundation. Time Warner is the Lead Support of New Play Development for the 2016/2017 season.
"Objects in the Mirror is a provocative, powerfully wrought story of a young man's courageous escape from a world of unthinkable violence, capturing in terms both stark and poetic the realities of that violence and the dreams which fuel his odyssey," said Artistic Director Robert Falls. "I am proud to bring this incredibly moving new play to the Goodman's Albert stage-a work which tells, I feel, an essential story of our time, and is the crowning achievement of one of the most passionate and accomplished writers now working in the American theater."
In 2009, [Charles] Smith traveled to Adelaide, Australia, for a production of his play Free Man of Color, which featured Shedrick Yarkpai, a young Liberian actor, in the title role. As their friendship developed, Smith learned about the actor's valiant 10+ year (1995-2007) journey from war-torn Liberia through a number of refugee camps in Guinea and Côte d'Ivoire, before his final relocation to Adelaide, Australia.
"Objects in the Mirror speaks to everything that's going on in the world right now," said playwright Charles Smith, whose work last appeared at the Goodman in 1995 with Black Star Line. "The sort of panic that the play captures, the sense of dread being felt by these good, hardworking people who just want to live peacefully and are fleeing this horrific violence-it's a fear shared by people living in our country."
In addition to Kyri, the all-Chicago cast also includes Breon Arzell as Shedrick's cousin Zaza Workolo; Allen Gilmore as his uncle John Workolo; Ryan Kitley as his friend Rob Mosher; and Lily Mojekwu as his mother Luopu Workolo-a role she originated in the New Stages Festival. Tapping some of his frequent collaborators, [Chuck] Smith's design team includes: set designer Riccardo Hernandez, who captures Shedrick's perilous journey in a design that uses shifting corrugated walls to specify the demographic changes; Mike Tutaj (projections); John Culbert (lights); Birgit Rattenborg Wise (costumes); Ray Nardelli (sound); and Briana J. Fahey is the production stage manager.
TICKETS, DISCOUNTS AND SPECIAL EVENTS:
Tickets ($20-$75) - GoodmanTheatre.org/Objects; 312.443.3800; Fax: 312.443.3825; TTY/TDD: 312.443.3829
Box Office Hours -12noon - 5pm; on performance days, the box office remains open until 30 minutes past curtain
MezzTix - Half-price day-of-performance mezzanine tickets available at 10am online (promo code MEZZTIX)
$10Tix - Student $10 day-of-performance tickets; limit four, with valid student ID (promo code 10TIX)
Group Sales are available for parties 10+; 312.443.3820
Gift Certificates - Available in any amount; GoodmanTheatre.org/GiftCertificates
ARTIST ENCOUNTER - May 7 at 5pm| The Alice Center for Education and Engagement at Goodman Theatre
Tickets are $5 for general public; FREE for Goodman members, donors and students. Join the playwright and director for an in-depth conversation about the play.
ESTATE PLANNING SEMINAR - May 23 at 5:30pm| The Alice Center for Education and Engagement at Goodman Theatre. Tickets are FREE. Learn more out the fundamentals of estate planning, tax laws and information on how you can make a direct impact on the theater for generations to come. Plus, members of the Objects in the Mirror creative team will be present.
ARTS IN ACTION - June 3 at 5pm| The Alice Rapoport Center for Education and Engagement at Goodman Theatre. Tickets are FREE. Join refugee support organizations for a conversation about complex and shifting issues confronting refugees and immigrants as they build new lives in Chicago and describe the breadth of work being done to support them.
ACCESSIBILITY AT THE GOODMAN:
Touch Tour, May 27 at 12:30pm - A presentation detailing the set, costume and character elements
Audio Described Performance, May 27 at 2pm - The action/text is audibly enhanced for patrons via headset
ASL Interpreted Performance, May 31 at 7:30pm - Professional ASL interpreter signs the action/text as played
Open Captioned Performance, June 3 at 2pm - An LED sign presents dialogue in sync with the performance
ABOUT THE ARTISTS:
Charles Smith'S (Playwright) Black Star Line was commissioned and produced by Goodman Theatre and his play Objects in the Mirror appeared at the 2015 New Stages Festival. As a former member of the Victory Gardens Theater Playwrights Ensemble, Smith's world premiere works include Knock Me a Kiss (directed by Chuck Smith); Freefall, Jelly Belly, Denmark, The Sutherland and Cane (all directed by Dennis Zacek); Takunda and the Jeff Award-winning Free Man of Color (directed by Andrea J. Diamond). His plays Gospel According to James (also directed by Chuck Smith), Sister Carrie and Les Tois Dumas were all commissioned and produced by Indiana Repertory Theatre. His play Pudd'nhead Wilson was commissioned and produced off-Broadway by The Acting Company after a national tour. His work has also been produced at various theaters nationally and in Australia, and may be obtained through Samuel French, Dramatic Publishing, Northwestern Press, Swallow Press and other publishers. Smith is a Distinguished Professor of Playwriting at Ohio University where he is head of the MFA Playwriting Program.
Chuck Smith (Director) is a member of Goodman Theatre's Board of Trustees and is Goodman Theatre's Resident Director. He is also a resident director at the Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe in Sarasota, Florida. Goodman credits include the Chicago premieres of Pullman Porter Blues; By the Way, Meet Vera Stark; Race; The Good Negro; Proof and The Story; the world premieres of By the Music of the Spheres and The Gift Horse; James Baldwin's The Amen Corner, which transferred to Boston's Huntington Theatre Company, where it won the Independent Reviewers of New England (IRNE) Award for Best Direction; A Raisin in the Sun; Blues for an Alabama Sky; August Wilson's Two Trains Running and Ma Rainey's Black Bottom; Ain't Misbehavin'; the 1993 to 1995 productions of A Christmas Carol; Crumbs From the Table of Joy; Vivisections from a Blown Mind and The Meeting. He served as dramaturg for the Goodman's world-premiere production of August Wilson's Gem of the Ocean. He directed the New York premiere of Knock Me a Kiss and The Hooch for the New Federal Theatre and the world premiere of Knock Me a Kiss at Chicago's Victory Gardens Theater, where his other directing credits include Master Harold... and the Boys, Home, Dame Lorraine and Eden, for which he received a Jeff Award nomination. Regionally, Smith directed Death and the King's Horseman (Oregon Shakespeare Festival), Birdie Blue (Seattle Repertory Theatre), The Story (Milwaukee Repertory Theater), Blues for an Alabama Sky (Alabama Shakespeare Festival) and The Last Season (Robey Theatre Company). At Columbia College he was facilitator of the Theodore Ward Prize playwriting contest for 20 years and editor of the contest anthologies Seven Black Plays and Best Black Plays. He won a Chicago Emmy Award as associate producer/theatrical director for the NBC teleplay Crime of Innocence and was theatrical director for the Emmy-winning Fast Break to Glory and the Emmy-nominated The Martin Luther King Suite. He was a founding member of the Chicago Theatre Company, where he served as artistic director for four seasons and directed the Jeff-nominated Suspenders and the Jeff-winning musical Po'. His directing credits include productions at Fisk University, Roosevelt University, Eclipse Theatre, ETA, Black Ensemble Theater, Northlight Theatre, MPAACT, Congo Square Theatre Company, The New Regal Theater, Kuumba Theatre Company, Fleetwood-Jourdain Theatre, Pegasus Players, the Timber Lake Playhouse in Mt. Carroll, Illinois and the University of Wisconsin in Madison. He is a 2003 inductee into the Chicago State University Gwendolyn Brooks Center's Literary Hall of Fame and a 2001 Chicago Tribune Chicagoan of the Year. He is the proud recipient of the 1982 Paul Robeson Award and the 1997 Award of Merit presented by the Black Theater Alliance of Chicago.
America's "Best Regional Theatre" (Time magazine) and "Chicago's flagship resident stage" (Chicago Tribune), Goodman Theatre is a not-for-profit organization distinguished by the quality and scope of its artistic programming and civic engagement. Founded in 1925, the Goodman is led by Robert Falls-"Chicago's most essential director" (Chicago Tribune), who marks 30 years as Artistic Director this season-and Executive Director Roche Schulfer, who is celebrated for his vision and leadership over nearly four decades. Dedicated to new plays, reimagined classics and large-scale musical theater works, Goodman Theatre artists and productions have earned hundreds of awards for artistic excellence, including: two Pulitzer Prizes, 22 Tony Awards, nearly 160 Jeff Awards and more. Over the past three decades, audiences have experienced more than 150 world or American premieres, 30 major musical productions, as well as nationally and internationally celebrated productions of classic works (including Falls' productions of Death of a Salesman, Long Day's Journey into Night, King Lear and The Iceman Cometh, many in collaboration with actor Brian Dennehy). In addition, the Goodman is the first theater in the world to produce all 10 plays in August Wilson's "American Century Cycle." For nearly four decades, the annual holiday tradition of A Christmas Carol has created a new generation of theatergoers.
The 2016 opening of the Alice Rapoport Center for Education and Engagement ("the Alice") launched the next phase in the Goodman's decades-long commitment as an arts and community organization dedicated to educating Chicago youth and promoting lifelong learning. Programs are offered year-round and free of charge. Eighty-five percent of the Goodman's youth program participants come from underserved communities.
Goodman Theatre was founded by William O. Goodman and his family in honor of their son Kenneth, an important figure in Chicago's cultural renaissance in the early 1900s. The Goodman family's legacy lives on through the continued work and dedication of Kenneth's family, including Albert Ivar Goodman, who with his late mother, Edith-Marie Appleton, contributed the necessary funds for the creation of the new Goodman center in 2000.
Today, Goodman Theatre leadership includes the distinguished members of the Artistic Collective: Brian Dennehy, Rebecca Gilman, Henry Godinez, Dael Orlandersmith, Steve Scott, Chuck Smith, ReGina Taylor, Henry Wishcamper and Mary Zimmerman. Joan E. Clifford is Chair of Goodman Theatre's Board of Trustees, Cynthia K. Scholl is Women's Board President and Justin A. Kulovsek is President of the Scenemakers Board for young professionals.