An homage to A Raisin the Sun, the classic play about a black family seeking to move to a richer white neighborhood, Living Green continues to March 1. Opening is Feb. 2.
The play explores questions of obligation and identity as it tells of a well-to-do African American family "living green" in a mostly white Chicago suburb. In the reverse of the objective of Raisin's family, they are contemplating a move back to the old neighborhood.
According to Victory Gardens Theater, the Tony Award-winning troupe known for its ensemble of writers, including Clunie, the play is set in 1995, the year of the Million Man March, and "looks back at a recent moment in black history while investigating issues seemingly ripped from today's headlines. What happened to our families as we 'moved up' and fled the black neighborhoods that once nurtured us? How do we revitalize our communities? How do we protect our children from the violence that plagues our streets?"
Angela and Frank Freeman are "hardworking parents who moved out of the old neighborhood years ago to give their children, Dempsey and Carol, what they never had — access to great schools and well-manicured lawns. Trouble is, Frank is worried he and Angela may have traded away their children's identity as African Americans in the process. With Carol about to graduate from high school, Frank suggests they move back to the city, and join a few families who are trying to make a difference. Angela, however, is too worried about safety. Newly energized with the sense of community generated by the Million Man March, the Freemans make plans to sell their home, just as they take in 16-year-old Shondra, a bright girl raised in the projects. Can their newfound idealism survive the very real challenges Shondra brings into their home?"
Clunie said in production notes, "People have asked if this is a play about ecology. In some ways, yes. If you've got money, you're life is greener. You're able to afford green. Literally, and ecologically. But should green only be possessed by the people who can afford it?" She added, "The title is really inspired by the plant in Lorraine Hansberry's A Raisin in the Sun. The small potted plant represents Mama Younger's dream of owning a house with a garden — a dream that propels much of the action in a play about an African American family consigned to a specific community, and they want to expand beyond that. And I began to wonder what happened to us as we moved out of our communities? Now some wonderful things happened. Opportunities expanded. But there were new demands, a few losses, and other important questions of the heart."
Living Green is directed by Victory Gardens resident director Andrea J. Dymond, and features Melanie E. Brezill (Shondra), Corey Marshaun Cantrell (Buddy), Aurelia Clunie (Carol Freeman), Ann Joseph (Angela Freeman), Kenn E. Head (Frank Freeman), Samuel G. Roberson, Jr. (Dempsey Freeman) and Cedric Young (Mr. Parks).
Designers include Mary Griswold (sets), Judith Lundberg (costumes), Mikhail Fiksel (sound) and Mary Badger (lights). Jaclyn Holsey is production stage manager.
Ensemble member Gloria Bond Clunie's Victory Gardens premieres include North Star, directed by Sandy Shinner, winner of the Joseph Jefferson Award for New Play, the 1994 Theodore Ward African-American Playwriting Award, and the 1999 American Alliance for Theater and Education Distinguished Play Award. North Star was published by Dramatic Publishing Company, and is included in "Seven Black Plays," an anthology edited by Chuck Smith. Victory Gardens also premiered Shoes, directed by Andrea J. Dymond (2005 Black Theatre Alliance New Play Award).
In 1979 Clunie founded and for eight years was the artistic director of Evanston's Fleetwood-Jourdain Theatre.
The Victory Gardens Biograph Theater is located at 2433 N. Lincoln Avenue, in the heart of Chicago's Lincoln Park neighborhood. For tickets and more information, call the Victory Gardens box office at (773) 871-3000 or visit http://www.victorygardens.org.
One of Chicago's most respected Off-Loop theatres, Victory Gardens is primarily devoted to new work, and has presented more world premiere mainstage productions than any other Chicago theatre. Currently celebrating its 35th season, Victory Gardens emphasizes the work of Chicago writers and its own 14-member Playwrights Ensemble, a relationship that helped the company receive the 2001 Tony Award for Regional Theatre.