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Steppenwolf Streams DUCHESS! DUCHESS! DUCHESS!

Sydney Charles plays a Duchess meeting the young soon-to-be-Duchess portrayed by ensemble member Celeste M. Cooper.

Steppenwolf Streams DUCHESS! DUCHESS! DUCHESS!

Steppenwolf Theatre Company presents Duchess! Duchess! Duchess! by emerging playwright Vivian J.O. Barnes, the fourth of six productions debuting on its Steppenwolf NOW virtual stage. Directed by Weyni Mengesha, who serves as artistic director of Soulpepper Theatre in Toronto, this world premiere filmed play begins streaming March 10, 2021.

Noted Chicago artist Sydney Charles (Wally World, The Color Purple, "The Chi") plays a Duchess meeting the young soon-to-be-Duchess portrayed by ensemble member Celeste M. Cooper (BLKS, The Doppelgänger..., "Range Runners") for the first time. A virtual membership grants access to all six productions on the Steppenwolf NOW virtual stage, steppenwolf.org/now.

A royal wedding is looming and everyone is watching, as there are rules to joining the family. Duchess! Duchess! Duchess! looks at the hidden costs of being the "luckiest girl in the world."

Loosely inspired by Meghan Markle and the royal family, Duchess! Duchess! Duchess! uses the monarchy to investigate how society's institutions of power affect Black women.

"The play explores the bigger question of what it means to be a Black woman entering institutions that seem eager to have you but aren't necessarily built to support you, how you start to adapt in order to survive once you're inside of them, and the impact of bringing other people like you along," shares playwright Vivian J.O. Barnes.

To support the story, which hinges on the characters sharing the same physical space,

Steppenwolf's creative team pulled off an extraordinary undertaking by filming remotely in the actors' separate apartments and stitching the footage together to ensure strict safety restrictions. The actors were shipped remote-controlled cameras, curtains, laptops, lighting equipment, costumes, a set piece and dozens of props. The production team provided hours of remote instruction on camera and lighting setup, and wardrobe, hair and makeup consultants gave guidance over Zoom.

Creative Director Joel Moorman shares, "If we've done our job right, no one will know that the actors aren't in the same room. The audience won't know the lengths we went through to make the video seamless until the credits begin to roll and the individual footage is shown. It's an incredible feat that we've accomplished and we're thrilled to make this outstanding new work possible."

Vivian J.O. Barnes's work has been produced at Actors Theatre of Louisville and developed at Clubbed Thumb, Montana Repertory Theatre, UC San Diego, and Ojai Playwrights Conference. She was recently a staff writer on an upcoming Amazon series and is currently a third-year MFA playwright at UC San Diego.

The Duchess! Duchess! Duchess! creative team includes Pornchanok Kanchanabanca (Sound Design and Original Music); Joel Moorman (Creative Director); Lowell Thomas (Director of Photography and Video Editor); Trevor Bowen (Hair & Makeup Consultant); JC Clementz, CSA (Artistic Producer and Casting Director); Claire Haupt (Production Manager); Laura D. Glenn (Production Stage Manager); and Christine D. Freeburg (Assistant Production Stage Manager).


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