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Pictured (clockwise from top): Patrick Agada, David Alan Anderson, Gregory Fenner, Jalen Gilbert, Melanie Loren, Clinton Lowe, Deanna Reed-Foster, Celeste Williams, Steve H. Broadnax III and Lee Edward Colston II
Victory Gardens Theater has announced the cast and design team for “The First Deep Breath” by Lee Edward Colston II, directed by Steve H. Broadnax III.
The cast features Patrick Agada (Alexander “AJ” Jones), David Alan Anderson (Pastor Albert Melvin Jones II), Gregory Fenner (Leslie Carter), Jalen Gilbert (Tyree Fisher), Melanie Loren (Dee-Dee Jones), Clinton Lowe (Abdul-Malik), Deanna Reed-Foster (Pearl Thomas), and Celeste Williams (Ruth Jones).
The creative team includes Regina García (Scenic Design), Christine Pascual (Costume Design), Jason Lynch (Lighting Design), Josh Schmidt (Sound Design), Jenny Pinson (Props Design), Gaby Labotka (Intimacy & Fight Director), Ricky Harris (Musical Director) and Breon Arzell (Choreographer).
Originally developed as part of Victory Gardens 2018 Ignition Festival of New Plays, “The First Deep Breath” tells the story of Pastor Albert Jones and his family as they plan a special church service to honor their late daughter Diane on the sixth anniversary of her passing. But when Abdul-Malik, the eldest son he blames for her death returns home from prison, the entire Jones family is forced to confront a hornet’s nest of long-buried family secrets.
“We’re thrilled to give Lee Edward Colston II’s ‘The First Deep Breath’ its first home at Victory Gardens,” says Artistic Director Chay Yew. “In the tradition of August Wilson, Eugene O’Neill and Tracy Letts, Lee has written a bold and searing Black American family drama for our times. A master storyteller, Lee courageously confronts the bonds of religion, sexuality, secrets and lies that threaten to tear apart the Jones family when their eldest son returns from prison. I can’t wait to share this incredible play and introduce Lee to our Chicago audiences this fall.”
“My play is about the crushing weight of grief and the liberation of healing,” says Colston. “I wrote a play about our families, about how to heal from the wounds left by parents who, in spite of their mistakes, did the best they could. It’s about the sometimes suffocating cost of trying to be a good son or daughter. It’s about the secrets that imprison us, learning how to breathe on our own terms and the life-altering transformative power of forgiveness.”
“The First Deep Breath” runs November 15 – December 22 at Victory Gardens Theater, 2433 N. Lincoln Avenue.