Execution of Justice Will Be More Percussive Than Ever in Griffin Reconception

News   Execution of Justice Will Be More Percussive Than Ever in Griffin Reconception A reconceived production of Emily Mann's Execution of Justice, directed by Gary Griffin, presented in association with Jan Kallish and Rachel Weinstein, begins previews Jan 10 in a Chicago staging by About Face Theatre.

The troupe is presenting the play about the 1978 assassinations of San Franciso officials Harvey Milk and mayor George Moscone, and the aftermath, in the new Victory Gardens Greenhouse Theatre, 2257 N. Lincoln Ave. Opening is Jan. 20. The run plays to Feb. 18.

"New material, new casting approaches, a live percussion score and multimedia" will enhance the docudrama like never before.

"Execution of Justice is the pioneering work of documentary theatre by the celebrated playwright Emily Mann examining the murder trial and its repercussions," according to About Face. Originally commissioned by Oskar Eustis, "the play was a national sensation in response to one of the most deeply felt events in contemporary history."

Since its Broadway run in 1986, there has been no major professional production of the show until acclaimed Chicago director Gary Griffin (Broadway's The Apple Tree, The Color Purple) approached About Face and Mann to consider a new approach to the work.

"I am so proud to be working with Emily and About Face Theatre as we launch this project," Griffin said in statement. "About Face has created a body of work that I have long admired for its integrity and level of excellence. And I believe it is most vital at this moment that we present this show. As we try to understand and heal the great divide that pervades our country we must discover the roots of that divide and open the conversation that can reach across and 'love, understand, and forgive.'" About Face artistic director Eric Rosen, who is dramaturg for this project, stated, "We are so honored that Emily and Gary have chosen About Face as their home as they transform the play with new material, new casting approaches, a live percussion score, and multimedia that will re-interpret this extraordinary play for a new generation of audiences in Chicago and around the world."

The new Execution of Justice cast includes Sean Fortunato, John Judd, Steve Key, LaShawn Banks, Ora Jones, Keith Kupferer, Amy Matheny, Larry Neumann, Jr., Mark Richard, Elaine Rivkin, Kelli Simpkins and Freddie Sulit.

The Execution of Justice collaborators include famed percussionist Andy Jones, who is composing a powerful score that will be performed live. Designers are Brian Sidney Bembridge (set/light), Logan Kibens (video designer), Ann Meilahn (props designer), Andre Pluess (sound designer) and Janice Pytel (costume designer).

In November 1978, former city supervisor Dan White "calmly loaded his gun, entered City Hall through an open basement window, and proceeded upstairs to assassinate Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk, killing each with multiple shots fired at point blank range. The cast of characters was epic. Dan White — ex-cop, ex-firefighter, working class hero and all-American boy. Harvey Milk — the first openly gay politician ever elected to high office. George Moscone — the progressive mayor who supported gay rights. The verdict was sensational — Dan White was convicted of manslaughter rather than first-degree murder and sentenced to just seven years in prison based on the infamous 'Twinkie Defense.'"

Emily Mann is in her 17th season as artistic director of McCarter Theatre. Among her many credits, Mann penned and directed Having Our Say, adapted from the book by Sarah L. Delany and A. Elizabeth Delany with Amy Hill Hearth, which had its world premiere at the McCarter Theatre prior to its successful run on Broadway, a national tour and a production at the Market Theatre in Johannesburg, South Africa. The Broadway production was nominated for three Tony awards.

Execution of Justice is produced in association with Jan Kallish and Rachel Weinstein. Jan Kallish is a producer of The Color Purple, currently playing on Broadway and launching its national tour beginning in Chicago in April 2007. Other current producing projects include Legally Blonde, the musical (coming to Broadway in April 2007); Caraboo (in development), book by Marsha Norman, music by Jenny Giering, directed by Gary Griffin. Weinstein moved to Chicago from London in 2004 where she served as director of development at the Donmar Warehouse Theatre. She consults with non-profits and currently serves as the acting executive director for Writers' Theatre.

For more information, visit www.aboutfacetheatre.com.

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About Face Theatre "creates exceptional, innovative, and adventurous plays to advance the national dialogue on gender and sexual identity, and to challenge and entertain audiences in Chicago, across the country, and around the world. Working within and beyond the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender communities, About Face Theatre is committed to innovation, artistic excellence and community transformation. About Face has three programming arms: its award-winning Mainstage Season, its innovative New Works Program, and its nationally recognized Education Programs, including the celebrated About Face Youth Theatre and Educational Outreach tour that collectively reach over 5,000 Illinois students and teachers each year. Now in its eleventh season, About Face has developed and produced over 30 new productions for Chicago audiences, including 25 world premieres, by emerging and national-level theatre artists. Plays developed by About Face have been seen across the country to critical acclaim, and have been awarded with the Jeff Award, After Dark Award, the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, and the Tony Award for Best Play. About Face has been recognized through the Human First Award, the GLSEN Pathfinder Award, and induction into the Chicago Gay and Lesbian Hall of Fame and is quickly emerging as a national center for the development of gay and lesbian theatre."