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TimeLine Theatre Company has announced its 24th season, featuring two classics, a Chicago premiere, and the world premiere of a new play developed through the company’s Playwrights Collective.
The season begins with the world premiere of “Campaigns, Inc.” by TimeLine Company Member Will Allan, directed by TimeLine Associate Artistic Director Nick Bowling. It’s a comedy about the power that persuasion, deceit, and perception hold in the U.S. electoral system based on the true story of the 1934 campaign for governor of California, which resulted in an over the top star-studded smear campaign.
The Tony Award-winning exploration of love, religion, and prejudice within a southern Jewish social circle “The Last Night of Ballyhoo” by Alfred Uhry follows, directed by TimeLine Associate Artist Kimberly Senior.
“Trouble in Mind” by Alice Childress opens next March, directed by TimeLine Company Member Ron OJ Parson. It’s a humorous backstage drama about interracial politics and the complex ways people talk about race.
The Chicago premiere of ‘The Chinese Lady’ by Lloyd Suh closes the season, directed by Helen Young. It’s billed as a “darkly poetic portrait of America as seen through the eyes of the first Chinese woman to arrive in the United States.”
“TimeLine is thrilled to announce our 24th season, with four plays that explore our past while hitting upon issues that dominate our collective conversations today,” said TimeLine Artistic Director PJ Powers. “As our country approaches a new chapter and a national election, TimeLine’s Company Members have curated a collection of plays filled with great comedy, depth of emotion, and amazing theatricality that touch upon issues of political gamesmanship, family dynamics, religion, and identity.”
As the company continuea planning for the new facility in Uptown, the 2020-21 season will be presented at TimeLine’s longtime home at 615 W. Wellington Avenue.
TimeLine’s 2020-2021 Season (descriptions from a press release)
by TimeLine Company Member Will Allan
directed by TimeLine Associate Artistic Director Nick Bowling
August 13 – September 27, 2020 (previews 8/5 – 8/12)
It is 1934, and famous novelist Upton Sinclair is all but guaranteed to become the first Democratic governor of the state of California—until a young, unknown pair of consultants from the shadows of the challenger’s campaign attempt to take him down. As Frank Merriam and Sinclair battle it out in the spotlight—seeking endorsements from the likes of Charlie Chaplin and FDR—Leone Baxter and Clem Whitaker work behind-the-scenes to methodically construct one of the most spectacular, unbelievable, and star-studded smear campaigns ever.
Based on the true story of Baxter and Whitaker, who formed the first political consulting firm in U.S. history, Campaigns, Inc. is a hysterical and jaw-dropping inside look at the underbelly of politics through the lens of two of the undeniable founders of “fake news.”
This world premiere play was developed through TimeLine’s Playwrights Collective, launched in 2013 to support Chicago-based playwrights in residence and create new work centered on TimeLine’s mission of presenting plays inspired by history that connect to today’s social and political issues. Campaigns, Inc. is the third play developed through the Collective to receive a full production, following Brett Neveu’s To Catch a Fish, which was presented at TimeLine in 2018, and Tyla Abercumbie’s Relentless, which will be the final production in the company’s current season, running May 6 – June 27, 2020. Campaigns, Inc. received its first public reading as part of TimeLine’s inaugural First Draft Playwrights Collective Festival in December 2018.
The Last Night of Ballyhoo
by Alfred Uhry
directed by TimeLine Associate Artist Kimberly Senior
November 12 – December 27, 2020 (previews 11/4 – 11/11)
From the Pulitzer Prize, Academy Award and Tony Award-winning playwright Alfred Uhry comes this Tony Award-winning Best Play—a funny and thought-provoking exploration of love, religion, and prejudice within a southern Jewish social circle.
Atlanta, 1939. Clark Gable and Gone with the Wind are the talk of the town, Hitler has invaded Poland, and the American South’s party of the year is only days away. The Freitags— a Jewish family so highly assimilated they have a Christmas tree in the front parlor—are obsessed with preparing for Ballyhoo, the lavish annual German-Jewish country club ball. Concerned with the pressures of societal appearances and expectations, young Lala is determined to make a unique splash at this year’s event . But life turns upside down when her uncle brings home his new employee, a handsome bachelor from Brooklyn who begins to court Lala’s charming cousin Sunny, home visiting from college. As romances blossom and obstacles arise, everyone must confront their own beliefs, prejudices, and desires in an effort to move forward.
Inspired by stories Uhry heard growing up in a southern Jewish family and acclaimed as “an insightful look into an era” and “an engaging family portrait” by The New York Times, The Last Night of Ballyhoo is a captivating drama that reveals the power of personal progress when we discover that who we are can be so much more than just where we are from.
Trouble in Mind
by Alice Childress
directed by TimeLine Company Member Ron OJ Parson
February 11 – March 28, 2021 (previews 2/3 – 2/10)
Acclaimed by The New York Times as “a rich, unsettling play that lives up to its title [and] lingers in one’s memory long after its conclusion,” this scathingly funny backstage drama about interracial politics explores the complex, difficult, and often emotional way people talk about race.
On stage at a Broadway theater in New York City in the mid-1950s, a group of actors has gathered for their first day rehearsing a new play called Chaos in Belleville, an anti-lynching Southern drama. But as the cast rehearses, tensions flair between Wiletta, the Black actress in the starring role, and her white director about his interpretation of the play. The result is an explosive conversation about equality, power, and how race is portrayed in the American theatre.
Written by Alice Childress (the first Black woman to have a play professionally produced in New York City) and featuring a play-within-a-play structure, Trouble in Mind is a groundbreaking backstage satire of egos and attitudes and an insightful look at the importance of honest representation.
The Chinese Lady
by Lloyd Suh
directed by Helen Young
May 13 – June 26, 2021 (preview 5/5 – 5/12)
Inspired by the true story of the first Chinese woman to arrive in the United States, playwright Lloyd Suh unearths hidden history with humor and insight, asking us to explore the way we consider both ourselves and others.
Brought to the United States at age 14 from China in 1834 by enterprising American merchants, Afong Moy is put on display so the American public can get its first view of an authentic “Chinese Lady.” Over the course of 55 years, she performs an ethnicity that both defines and challenges her own views of herself, as she witnesses stunning transformations in the American identity. As these dual truths become irreconcilable, Afong must reckon with herself and the history of her new home with startling discovery and personal revelations.
During this piercing and darkly poetic portrait of America as seen through the eyes of a young Chinese woman, “this quiet play steadily deepens in complexity,” wrote The New York Times. “By the end of Mr. Suh’s extraordinary play, we look at Afong and see whole centuries of American history. She’s no longer the Chinese lady. She is us.”