CHICAGO — The Theatre School at DePaul University presents
the stage adaptation of Richard Wright’s 1940 novel “Native Son,” adapted by
Theatre School alumna Nambi E. Kelley, and directed by graduate student Mikael
Burke. The production opens Feb. 9 on the Fullerton Stage, 2350 N. Racine Ave.
The Theatre School and DePaul’s Center for Black Diaspora also will host
several events in conjunction with the run of “Native Son” to open dialogue.
‘Racism is poison’
The story takes place in 1930s South Side Chicago and
explores the systemic racism and poverty that oppressed a young man named
Bigger Thomas from birth. Bigger lands a job with a wealthy white family, but
his fate is sealed when a violent act unleashes a chain of events that cannot
“Racism is a poison that destroys everything it touches, and
people have to recognize and confront their role in it, whether explicit,
implicit or complicit,” says Burke. “What is so genius about the novel and the
adaptation is that it is asking us the hard question of those in power: Is
Bigger born a black rat, or is his monstrous behavior the result of your
treatment of him?”
Burke mentions that dealing with such polarizing issues in a
theatrical setting isn’t always easy, but is useful to investigate the hard
topics through art.
“Is this difficult to watch? Certainly. Uncomfortable?
Absolutely. But it is nonetheless true. And as more black lives hang in the
balance over racist thinking, we should all do what we can to expose and
undermine racism, even if that means taking a good hard look in the mirror,” said
Cast and production
The cast features Matthew James Elam (Bigger), Delaney
Feener (Mary), Matthew Hannon (Mr. Dalton), Thalis Karatsolis (Britten), Jack Lancaster (Jan), Jayson
Lee (Buddy), Matthew Lolar (Gus), Jessica Morrison (Hannah), Michael Morrow (Black Rat), Courtney Peck
(Bessie) and Ashlea Woodley (Mrs. Dalton).
The production team includes Joy Ahn (scenic design), Megan
Pirtle (costume design), Simean Carpenter (lighting design), Camille Demholm
(sound design), William Young (technical direction), Bri Schwartz (dramaturgy)
and Marguerite Hoffecker (stage management).
Burke, the director, is pursuing a Master of Fine Arts in directing
at The Theatre School. When not in school, he serves as creative director of
Young Actors Theatre in Indianapolis and previously served as associate artistic
director of NoExit Performance in Indianapolis. He received a 2017 Princess
Grace Award in Theatre and was the recipient of the 2012 Robert D. Beckmann
Emerging Artist Fellowship from the Arts Council of Indianapolis. Burke received
a bachelor’s degree in theatre from Butler University in Indianapolis. His directing
credits include: “Still,” “Hedda Gabler,” “Eurydice” (The Theatre School), “Danny
and the Deep Blue Sea,” “Middletown,” “Medea,” “Macbeth,” “I Am Peter Pan,” and
“The Pillowman” (NoExit).
Production and ticket
The production opens Feb. 9 and runs through Feb. 18. Performances
are slated for 7:30 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday and at 2 p.m. Sunday.
Previews are at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 7 and Feb. 8. The Feb. 11 and Feb. 15
performances will be followed by a post-show discussion. The Feb. 15
performance will also be interpreted in American Sign Language.
Tickets are $15, preview tickets are $10 and student tickets
are $5. Tickets are available by calling the box office at 773-325-7900 or by visiting
http://theatre.depaul.edu. Members of
the active military and their families can receive a discount with a valid ID.
Patrons with impaired vision or who require wheelchair accessible or companion
seating are asked to call the box office. Subscriptions and group rates (six or
more people) are available. All tickets are reserved seating.
The Theatre School and DePaul University's Center for Black
Diaspora will host several events in conjunction with the run of “Native Son.”
Feb. 8, 2:30 p.m.
Authors Rashad Shabazz and Beryl Satter facilitate a
discussion on the topic of literary geographies in the Fullerton Stage lobby.
Shabazz, an associate professor of justice and social inquiry at Arizona State University,
is the author of “Spatializing
Blackness: Architectures of Confinement and Black Masculinity in Chicago.” Satter,
a professor of history at Rutgers University, is the author of “Family Properties: Race, Real Estate, and
the Exploitation of Black Urban America,” which won the Liberty Legacy
Award in Civil Rights History and the National Jewish Book Award in History,
and was a finalist for the J. Anthony Lukas Book Prize and the Ron Ridenhour
Book Prize. Co-sponsored with DePaul’s Geography Department.
Feb. 12, 5 p.m.
Screening of “Black
Boy” in The Theatre School, Room 546, hosted by David Akbar-Gilliam, associate
professor of Spanish and department chair of Modern Languages at DePaul.
Feb. 13, 5 p.m.
Screening of the 1951 film adaptation of “Native Son,” starring Richard
Wright, in The Theatre School, Room 546. Discussion facilitated by Dexter
Zollicoffer, diversity advisor at the school.
Feb. 14, following the 7:30 p.m. performance of 'Native Son'
This post-show discussion will be facilitated by Ted Anton,
a professor of English at DePaul and chair of the Age Studies Executive
Committee of the Modern Language Association.
Feb. 16, following the 7:30 p.m. performance of 'Native Son'
This post-show discussion on the topic of “Richard Wright,
The Expat,” will be facilitated by Juelle Daley, assistant director of DePaul’s
Center for Black Diaspora.
Additional information about The Theatre School at DePaul
University is online at https://theatre.depaul.edu/,
and information about DePaul’s Center for Black Diaspora is at http://bit.ly/DPU_CBD.