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Tarell Alvin McCraney's CHOIR BOY to Open Raven Theatre Company's 2017-18 Season; Lineup Announced!


Raven Theatre Company, which will turn 35 years old in March of 2018, announced today that its upcoming 2017-18 season will give Chicago audiences their first looks at plays by three of America's most acclaimed young playwrights.

The season will begin in September with the Chicago premiere of Choir Boy by recent Academy Award winner Tarell Alvin McCraney, who on February 26, together with writer-director Barry Jenkins, won the Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar for the Academy's Best Picture winner, Moonlight.

Choir Boy, which was first produced by the Manhattan Theatre Club in New York during the summer of 2013, concerns a gay teenage boy in an all African-American prep school. The Charles R. Drew Prep School for Boys is dedicated to the creation of strong, ethical black men. Pharus wants nothing more than to take his rightful place as leader of the school's legendary gospel choir. Can he find his way inside the hallowed halls of this institution if he sings in his own key? Co-founder and Producing Artistic Director Michael Menendian, who announced the upcoming season's programming today, will direct the production to be performed in the company's 130-seat East Stage from September 27 - November 12, 2017.

In January, the season will continue with another Chicago premiere - Nice Girl by Melissa Ross, first produced in New York in 2015 by the LAByrinth Theatre Company. Set in a working-class suburb of Boston in 1984, thirty-seven-year-old Josephine Rosen has a dead-end job, still lives with her mother, and has settled into the uncomfortable comfort of an unintended spinsterhood. But when a chance flirtation with an old classmate and a new friendship at work give her hope for the possibility of change, she dusts off the Jane Fonda tapes and begins to take tentative steps towards a new life. A play about the tragedy and joy of figuring out who you are and letting go of who you were supposed to be, the production will be directed by visiting artist Lauren Shouse, who staged Raven's acclaimed production of Harold Pinter's Betrayal last fall. Shouse's production will be staged in the 130-seat East Stage from January 24 to March 11, 2018.

Ross's play Of Good Stock was produced by Manhattan Theatre Club in June/July 2015, in a production directed by MTC's Artistic Director Lynne Meadow and starring Alicia Silverstone. Chicago's Gift Theatre produced the world premieres of Ross' A Life Extra Ordinary in fall 2016 and her Thinner Than Water in spring of 2014. The Chicago Reader's Jack Helbig said of the latter play, "Playwright Melissa Ross has a gift for creating vivid, believable characters" and the Chicago Tribune's Chris Jones called it "superb." The Chicago Sun-Times' Hedy Weiss said Ross's A Life Extra Ordinary was a "gripping, heartbreaking new play."

Raven has commissioned a new play by Chicago-based playwright Philip Dawkins for its third show of the season, to be staged in the company's intimate 57-seat West Stage and directed by Raven Associate Artistic Director Cody Estle. Dawkins' play, The Gentleman Caller, based on historical truth, imagines what might have happened behind closed doors in the first two meetings between Tennessee Williams and William Inge. Williams and Inge are now regarded as two of America's finest playwrights, but in the fall of 1944, Inge was a dissatisfied arts critic for the St. Louis Star Times, and Tennessee was an "emerging" playwright yet to experience anything close to success. As Tennessee bides time in St. Louis before the Goodman Theater pre-Broadway try-out of the play he was then calling The Gentleman Caller, critic Inge invites the young playwright to his garden apartment for a supposed interview and hopeful tryst. When the two are reunited in a Chicago hotel room after witnessing Tennessee's masterful play, re-titled The Glass Menagerie, it sparks a relationship which radically alters the course of their lives as well as the American Theatre.

Chicago playwright Philip Dawkins (The Homosexuals, Le Switch, Charm) takes us inside these private rooms, into the darkest corners of these luminaries' minds. The Gentleman Caller is an unflinching look at the correlation between sex and art, the need for a safe space for both, and the personal--often deadly--cost of creation. This provocative new play is a treat for fans of Williams and Inge as well as theatrical newcomers as we witness two tragic fugitives save each other's lives, for at least a night.

Dawkins' new play will be directed by Associate Artistic Director Cody Estle, who has directed plays by Williams and Inge at Raven. In 2014, his production of Williams's Vieux Carré earned 3-1/2 stars from the Chicago Tribune, Jeff nominations for actors JoAnn Montemurro and Will Casey and a Jeff Award for the scenic design by Ray Toler. Estle's 2016 staging of Inge's A Loss of Roses also earned 3-1/2 stars from the Tribune, and Jeff nominations for the leading performance by Eliza Stoughton and the scenic design by Jeffrey D. Kmiec.

The final production of the season, to be staged in the company's East Stage, will be announced at a later date, but will be directed by Krissy Vanderwarker, Co-Artistic Director of Dog & Pony Theatre Co. and director of last fall's much-lauded production of Thaddeus and Slocum, by Lookingglass Theatre Company.

In announcing the season, Menendian said "We of course are so happy to still be making theater in Chicago and to be a part of this great artistic community after all these years. We've chosen to celebrate our company's 35-year history in two ways: one - by looking to the future with this trio of young playwrights who have already been recognized nationally as some of the industry's brightest new talents, and two - through Philip Dawkins's The Gentleman Caller, - by paying tribute to two of the many American masters who have been such an important part of our repertoire."

Casting for the productions has not yet been set.

Plays in the 2017-18 Season:

Choir Boy

By Tarell Alvin McCraney


Directed by Michael Menendian

East Stage

September 27 - November 12, 2017

Previews: Wednesday, September 27 through Saturday, September 30, 2017 at 7:30 pm; Sunday, October 1, 2017 at 3:00 pm and Monday, October 2, 2017 at 7:30 pm.

Opening Night: Tuesday, October 3, 2017 at 7:30 pm

Performances continue through Sunday, November 12, 2017

Thursdays through Saturdays at 7:30 pm and Sundays at 3:00 pm beginning Friday, October 6 (no show Thursday, October 5, 2017)

Raven Theatre (East Stage)

6157 N. Clark St., Chicago


Nice Girl

By Melissa Ross


Directed by Lauren Shouse

East Stage

January 24 - March 11, 2018

Previews: Wednesday, January 24 - Saturday, January 27, 2018 at 7:30 pm; Sunday, January 28, 2018 at 3:00 pm and Monday, January 29, 2018 at 7:30 pm

Opening Night: Tuesday, January 30, 2018 at 7:30 pm.

Performances continue through March 11, 2018

Thursdays through Saturdays at 7:30 pm and Sundays at 3:00 pm beginning Friday, February 2, 2018 (no show Thursday, February 1).

Raven Theatre (East Stage)

6157 N. Clark St., Chicago


The Gentleman Caller

By Philip Dawkins


Directed by Cody Estle

West Stage

March 28 - May 13, 2018

Previews: Wednesday, March 28 through Saturday, March 31, 2018 at 8:00 pm; Sunday, April 1, 2018 at 3:30 pm.

Opening Nights: Monday, April 2 at 7:30 pm and Tuesday, April 3 at 7:30 pm.

Performances continue through May 13, 2018

Thursdays through Saturdays at 8:00 p.m. and Saturdays and Sundays at 3:30 p.m. beginning Friday, April 6, 2018 (no show Thursday, April 5, 2018)

Raven Theatre (West Stage)

6157 N. Clark St., Chicago



East Stage

Directed by Krissy Vanderwarker

May 2 - June 17, 2018

Previews: Wednesday, May 2 - Saturday, May 7, 2018 at 7:30 pm; Sunday, May 6, 2018 at 3:00 pm and Monday, May 7, 2018 at 7:30 pm

Opening Night: Tuesday, May 8 at 7:30 pm

Performances continue through June 17, 2018

Thursdays through Saturdays at 7:30 pm and Sundays at 3:00 pm beginning Friday, May 11 (no show Thursday, May 10, 2018).

Raven Theatre (East Stage)

6157 N. Clark St., Chicago


Subscriptions for the four-play season go on sale beginning March 8. Single tickets for the season productions will go on sale at a later date.


Tarell Alvin McCraney is well-known to Chicago audiences for his acclaimed trilogy, The Brother/Sister Plays: The Brothers Size, In the Red and Brown Water, and Marcus; or the Secret of Sweet, which were performed at Steppenwolf Theatre in 2010. He was named a Steppenwolf ensemble member that year, and his play Head of Passes received its world premiere there in 2013, the year he received a MacArthur Fellowship "Genius Grant." On February 26 of this year, he shared an Academy Award with Barry Jenkins for "Best Adapted Screenplay" of Moonlight, which was also named "Best Picture" of 2016 by the Academy. The screenplay was based on McCraney's short play In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue.

Some of McCraney's other plays include The Breach, Wig Out!, and American Trade. McCraney was the Royal Shakespeare Company's International Playwright in Residence in 2009-2011. Born in Miami, Florida, he is a graduate of the New World School of the Arts High School in Miami, the Theatre School at DePaul University in Chicago, and the Yale School of Drama, where this past December, he was appointed chairman of the playwriting department.

Melissa Ross's plays include Thinner Than Water, You Are Here, Do Something Pretty, The Allies, Nice Girl, Of Good Stock, and An Entomologist's Love Story. Thinner Than Water and Nice Girl were both originally produced by LAByrinth Theater Company. Thinner Than Water is included in the anthology "New Playwrights: Best Plays of 2011" by Smith and Kraus. Of Good Stock received its world premiere at South Coast Repertory as a part of the Pacific Playwrights Festival, followed by a production at Manhattan Theater Club. A Life Extra Ordinary was produced in fall 2016 at The Gift Theatre in Chicago. She is currently working on commissions from South Coast Repertory and Manhattan Theater Club. Melissa is a graduate of the Lila Acheson Wallace Playwriting Program at The Juilliard School, a two-time winner of the Le Comte de Nouy Prize, and is a proud member of both the Dorothy Strelsin New American Writers Group at Primary Stages and LAByrinth Theater Company.

Philip Dawkins is a Chicago playwright whose plays have been produced throughout the country and the world. His works include Miss Marx: or The Involuntary Side Effect of Living (Strawdog Theatre), which won the Joseph Jefferson Award for Best New Work, as well as recent critically-acclaimed plays The Homosexuals and Le Switch (About Face Theatre) and Failure: A Love Story (Victory Gardens Theater), both of which also received Joseph Jefferson Nominations for New Work. His play Charm, which received its world premiere in the fall of 2015 in a production by Northlight Theatre presented at the Steppenwolf Garage, will be produced by New York City's MCC Theatre in fall of 2017. Philip is an Artistic Associate of About Face Theatre and Ensemble Playwright at Victory Gardens. He teaches playwriting at Northwestern University as well as his alma mater, Loyola University Chicago.


Michael Menendian is Producing Director and a co-founding member of Raven Theatre, where he has directed and designed many productions. His previous directing credits at Raven include Red Velvet, The Old Friends, Direct from Death Row The Scottsboro Boys, Beast on the Moon, All My Sons, The Playboy of the Western World, A Soldier's Play, Glengarry Glen Ross, Golden Boy, A Streetcar Named Desire, A View from the Bridge, Dancing at Lughnasa, Jesus Hopped The 'A' Train, Death of a Salesman and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. Most recently, he directed Skin for Skin for The Agency Theatre Collective and will direct Raven's upcoming production of Not About Nightingales. He has earned multiple Joseph Jefferson and After Dark awards for direction and design.

Lauren Shouse is a Chicago-based director and the Literary Manager at Northlight Theatre. Her directing credits, in addition to Betrayal at Raven, include Rapture, Blister, Burn; Superior Donuts; and A Christmas Story at Nashville Repertory Theatre, the world premiere of Long Way Down with 3Ps productions (nominated for American Theatre Critics Association Steinberg New Play Award 2011); the world premiere of Religion and Rubber Ducks with Ovvio Arte; Parallel Lives, The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, The Last Five Years and Chess in Concert with Street Theatre Company; the world premiere of Rear Window at Chaffin's Barn Theatre, In The Next Room or the Vibrator Play and Eurydice at Wirtz Center for Performing Arts, and a Down Stage Left playwriting residency with Stage Left Theatre. She has had the pleasure of assistant directing at Steppenwolf Theatre, Goodman Theatre, Lookingglass Theatre, and Northlight Theatre. Lauren holds an MFA in theatre directing from Northwestern University.

Cody Estle is Associate Artistic Director at Raven Theatre, where he has directed The Assembled Parties, A Loss of Roses, Dividing the Estate, Vieux Carré, Good Boys and True, Brighton Beach Memoirs, Boy Gets Girl and the world premiere of Dating Walter Dante. His other Chicago direction credits include The Seagull, Watch on the Rhine at The Artistic Home; Don't Go Gentle at Haven Theatre; Uncle Bob at Mary-Arrchie Theatre Company and Hospitality Suite at Citadel Theatre Company. He's had the pleasure of assistant directing at Steppenwolf Theatre, Northlight Theatre, Goodspeed Musicals, Court Theatre, Writers Theatre, Next Theatre and Strawdog Theatre. Estle is a graduate of Columbia College Chicago.

Krissy Vanderwarker is a professor in the DePaul University Theatre School, freelance director/maker & the Co-Artistic Director of Dog & Pony Theatre Co. Her Dog & Pony directing credits include: Breach, Counterfeiters, The Dinner Party Project, God's Ear, As Told by the Vivian Girls, Mr. Marmalade, Ape, Osama the Hero, As Much As You Can and Crumble (Lay Me Down, Justin Timberlake). Other directing credits include: Home Invasion, Midsommer Night's Eve (Actors Theatre of Louisville), Thaddeus and Slocum: A Vaudeville Adventure (Lookingglass), Harry & The Thief (Pavement Group), The Grown-Up (Shattered Globe), Bethany (First Look Festival/Steppenwolf), Psychonaut Librarians (The New Colony), As Fat as You Can (Next Theatre), CLEAR (About Face), What Once We Felt (About Face) and As Much as You Can (Hendel Productions West).

Raven Theatre Company is committed to presenting a range of modern drama that illuminates the human experience. Through a vigorous program of full productions and new play development, as well as a first-class theatre education series, Raven creates a powerful and welcoming environment in which artists hone and showcase their skills, young students gain valuable insights into theatre arts, and patrons experience high quality programming that is easily accessible to all.

Raven Theatre will celebrate its 35th anniversary in March 2018. The company was itinerant for the first two years of its operation. From 1985 to 2000 Raven Theatre was housed in an intimate 70-seat space in Rogers Park. The company closed its final season in that location with five Joseph Jefferson Awards for Arthur Miller's classic drama A View from the Bridge, including outstanding production. In 2002, Raven moved in to its current home - a two stage facility - on Clark and Granville in Chicago's Edgewater neighborhood.

Raven Theatre Company is funded in part by Alphawood Foundation, Dramatists Guild Fund, Elizabeth F. Cheney Foundation, The MacArthur Fund for Arts and Culture at Prince, Polk Bros. Foundation, Yates Feldman Foundation, S&C Electric, The Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation, Dadourian Foundation, and the Illinois Arts Council, a state agency.

Free parking is provided in a lot adjacent to the theatre - additional street parking is available. Raven Theatre is handicapped accessible. For tickets and more information, visit or call 773-338-2177.

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