When the curtain goes up on August Wilson's King Hedley II in Chicago on Nov. 30, it will also go up on the Goodman Theatre's new Albert Ivar Goodman Theatre space. The long-standing Windy City theatre made the first step toward that great day on Oct. 31, when the Wilson drama began rehearsals. The play will open Dec. 11 and run through Jan. 13, 2001.
Hedley began L.A. performances Sept. 2 with an opening Sept. 14. Marion McClinton directs the drama. Following the Chicago run will be a stop at Washington, D.C.'s Kennedy Center, opening March 1, and then Broadway, with previews beginning at the Virginia Theatre on March 31, 2001, for an April 16 opening.
Continuing his decade-by-decade examination of African American life in the United States, Wilson sets King Hedley II in 1985 in the black ghetto of Pittsburgh and deals with the triumphs and trials of a community torn apart. King Hedley rages against his past and present and his pregnant wife, Tonya, fears to bring a child into their world. A two time Pulitzer Prize-winner, Wilson also wrote Fences, The Piano Lesson and Seven Guitars. Set design is by David Gallo, costumes by Toni-Leslie James, lighting by Donald Holder and sound design by Rob Milburn.
Significant changes were made to the cast of Wilson’s new drama in its progression from Pittsburgh to Huntington, MA, to Los Angeles, to Chicago, to DC and Broadway in the spring. Though Charles Brown, Lou Myers, Monte Russell remain with the show, some major roles have new players, including Tony-winner Leslie Uggams signing on as Ruby, and “Law & Order” first-season castmember, Richard Brooks, as the title character.
Harry Lennix had played Hedley in Los Angeles for all but the final week, when Jerome Butler came into the role. Juanita Jennings played the role now essayed by Uggams, whose Broadway credits include Jerry’s Girls, Blues in the Night and her Tony-winning turn in Hallelujah, Baby!. Yvette Ganier plays Tonya, replacing Mone Walton. *
The Goodman complex, the theatre's first new facility since 1925, is located on Dearborn Street between Randolph and Lake. The spot is the historic site of the Garrick and Woods theatres and the landmark Harris and Selwyn theatres. When work began, it was expected the two-theatre venue would cost $44 million, with the City of Chicago supplying $18.8 million to the project through its tax increment financing.
A two-week long festival celebrating the opening of the theatre began on Nov. 4. It ended with a round-the-clock party on Nov. 18. The Inaugural Gala was on Nov. 11. Bernadette Peters provided entertainment.
The Albert Ivar Goodman Theatre is a tradition proscenium stage, slightly largely than the current mainstage, and equipped with a full fly tower and improved acoustics. The Owen Butler Goodman Theatre, meanwhile, has a timber-frame construction (with exposed fir beams) and can take any number of forms, including end stage, thrust, arena and runway.
Both theatres are fully soundproofed, to shield performances from the noise of the rumbling elevated trains of the Loop area.