The Good Negro Starring Tracey Scott Wilson Opens in Chicago, 5/1

By: Apr. 12, 2010

Playwright Tracey Scott Wilson rips through the pages of history in The Good Negro, a "powerfully moving" (The New York Times) and "thunderous new play" (Variety) about the drive for racial equality-and the clash between private ethics and public good. Goodman Resident Director Chuck Smith, who helmEd Wilson's 2005 play The Story at the Goodman, directs this Chicago premiere, featuring a cast of Broadway stars and local favorites. A design team led by Tony Award-nominated Set Designer Riccardo Hernandez brings the production to life using inspiration from the iconic imagery of photojournalist Charles Moore. The Good Negro runs May 1 - June 6, 2010 in the Goodman's Albert Theatre. Tickets start at $25. In conjunction with this Chicago premiere, WBEZ's Richard Steele interviews Wilson and Smith for an Artists Talk discussion about The Good Negro on Wednesday, May 5, 6 - 7pm at Goodman Theatre. The Edith-Marie Appleton Foundation is the Major Production Sponsor for The Good Negro; Allstate Insurance Company is the Major Corporate Sponsor; and Bank of America and Katten Muchin Rosenman LLP are the Corporate Sponsor Partners. The Joyce Foundation provides principal support of Artistic Development and Diversity Initiatives. American Airlines is the Exclusive Airline of Goodman Theatre.

"The Good Negro is an insightful, eloquent and painfully human view of what is inarguably the most important social and political movement of our country's history," said Artistic Director Robert Falls. "I'm thrilled to reconnect Tracey with Chuck, my dear friend and a brilliant director, for this compelling, important new play that demands to be seen."

Inspired by the personal stories behind the political upheavals of the era, The Good Negro is a fictionalized account of events surrounding the American Civil Rights Movement in 1962. As racial tension mounts in the increasingly hostile South, a powerful trio of black leaders emerge: James Lawrence (Billy Eugene Jones), Henry Evans (Teagle F. Bougere) and Bill Rutherford (Demetrios Troy). In the midst of their private torments-death threats from the Ku Klux Klan, wire taps by the FBI-a shocking public act of intolerance reveals a "good" person to serve as a public face forward in the fight for equality. The Good Negro was first produced during the 2008/2009 season in a collaboration between New York's The Public Theater and Dallas Theater Center. The previously announced cast for the second production of this new play at Goodman Theatre includes Karen Aldridge as Corinne Lawrence; Tory O. Davis as Pelzie Sullivan; John Hoogenakker as Paul Moore; Nambi E. Kelley as Claudette Sullivan; Dan Waller as Gary Thomas Rowe, Jr.; and Mick Weber as Steve Lane. 

"The ‘good negro' is a reference to the person chosen to represent the Movement-an educated and well-spoken person who could unite both blacks and whites," said Playwright Tracey Scott Wilson. "The leaders of the Movement weren't saints, yet every day they made the decision to keep going. To me, that's inspiration. So I hope I'm honoring these leaders by showing their complexity."

Hailed as a "singular new voice...that is deeply emotional, deeply intellectual and deeply musical" by The New Yorker, Playwright Tracey Scott Wilson's previous work includes Order My Steps for Cornerstone Theater Company's Black Faith/AIDS project in Los Angeles; Exhibit #9, produced by New Perspectives Theatre and Theatre Outrageous; Leader of the People at New Georges Theatre; and The Story, which she is currently adapting for a screen version. Director Chuck Smith is the Resident Director for the Goodman and an associate producer for the Chicago-based touring company Legacy Productions. His previous credits at the Goodman include Ain't Misbehavin', the "brilliantly directed" (Daily Herald) Crumbs From the Table of Joy, the Chicago premiere of Proof; the world premieres of By the Music of the Spheres and The Gift Horse; James Baldwin's The Amen Corner; Lorraine Hansberry's A Raisin in the Sun; and August Wilson's Ma Rainey's Black Bottom.

Many of the indelible images of the civil rights struggle during the 1950s and 1960s were captured on film by photojournalist Charles Moore (1931-2010), including photos of black schoolchildren taunted by white picketers, sit-down strikers at a lunch counter and the compelling visage of Martin Luther King. These snapshots among many others are brought to life in The Good Negro by a design team that includes Tony Award-nominated Set Designer Riccardo Hernandez (Broadway's Parade; Caroline, or Change), Projection Designer Mike Tutaj (TimeLine's Fiorello!; Tesla's Letters), Costume Designer Birgit Rattenborg Wise (Goodman's The Story; Death of a Salesman), Lighting Designer Robert Christen (Goodman's Ain't Misbehavin'; Steppenwolf's Dublin Carol) and Sound Designers Ray Nardelli and Joshua Horvath (Goodman's Rock 'n' Roll; Court Theatre's The Illusion).

WBEZ personality Richard Steele engages playwright Tracey Scott Wilson and director Chuck Smith in a discussion about Wilson's latest work and the creation of its production at the Goodman on Wednesday, May 5, 6 - 7pm. The Artists Talk series, spearheaded by Theatre Communications Group (TCG) Fellow Julieanne Ehre, connects theater audiences with the artists who bring productions to life at the Goodman in conversations about their process in an intimate environment. Tickets to Artists Talk are $5 (free for subscribers and students) and can be purchased at or by calling the Goodman's Box Office at 312.443.3800.

Moderator Richard Steele hosts Chicago Public Radio's award-winning weekday newsmagazine Eight Forty-Eight. Steele joined the staff of Chicago Public Radio in 1987, where he has hosted a number of former programs, including The Richard Steele Show, A Richard Steele Friday, Page Two and Performance Space. Prior to joining Chicago Public Radio, Steele hosted many successful Chicago radio programs, including The Morning Connection on WVAZ 102.7 FM and Late Night, a talk and music forum on WGCI 1390 AM. He has hosted popular shows on WBMX 102.7 and WVON 1450 AM, and became "The Real Steele" on WGRT (950 AM) AM, where he progressed to program director shortly after the station's transition to WJPC 950 AM. He is vice president and board member of the local American Federation of Television and Radio Artists and a board member of the Chicago Association of Black Journalists. Originally from Brooklyn, New York, Steele attended Harold Washington College in Chicago and resides in the South Shore neighborhood of Chicago.


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