By Kenneth Jones
31 Mar 2003
Harris, a theatre legend and multiple Tony Award-winner remembered for The Member of the Wedding, The Belle of Amherst, The Lark, I Am a Camera, Forty Carats, The Last of Mrs. Lincoln and more, will appear in Chicago playwright Claudia Allen's Hanging Fire.
Previously at VGT, Harris starred in Allen's Winter in 1999, and Fossils in 2001. Harris suffered a stroke during the run of Fossils, and withdrew from the production.
The return of Harris is part of a 2003-04 season of four world premieres and two Midwest premieres. Artistic director Dennis Zacek announced the new season March 27.
The writer-focused VGT will "introduce Chicago to Cuban American playwright Nilo Cruz with Anna in the Tropics, and Broadway artist Loy Arcenas as director and designer of Lonnie Carter's The Romance of Magno Rubio; James Sherman's AFFLUENZA! promises contemporary comedy, in classic style; Charles Smith conceives a new fact-based drama with Free Man of Color; a sixth play, Stuart Flack's Homeland Security, is sure to hit society's hot buttons."
AFFLUENZA!, a world premiere comedy by James Sherman, directed by Dennis Zacek, is Victory Gardens' second production (Nov. 14-Dec. 28, opening Nov. 24). "With biting wit and sharp satire, Sherman's hilarious new comedy exposes our current culture of greed, with actors playing modern-day roles rooted in classic 17th century characters, a la the fop, the coquette and the cuckolded husband.
Play No. 3 is the world premiere of Charles Smith's Free Man of Color, directed by Andrea J. Dymond (Jan. 16-Feb. 29, 2004; opening Jan. 26). Smith's "exploration of race, culture, and the differences between education and assimilation is based on the life of John Newton Templeton, an ex-slave who graduated from Ohio University 37 years before the end of slavery.
The fourth play is Hanging Fire, a world premiere by Claudia Allen, directed by Sandy Shinner (March 19 May 2; opening March 29). Hanging Fire boasts the return of legendary actress Julie Harris to the VGT stage in Allen's "touching new comedy about a lifelong love/hate relationship between two elderly sisters."
The new play is "set on the 4th of July in small-town America. Ruth has survived a stroke, but will she survive her sister Lillian's campaign to get her to move into terminal boredom at the Golden Years Retirement Center? What about 75-year-old boy-next-door Donny Fletcher? Will Ruth endure, even embrace, his life-long bout of puppy love? And will Lillian's son Calvin ever find love with a woman who's not his mother? Shifting back and forth in time, Hanging Fire is a touching, funny comedy about family and the lifelong love/hate emotional tug of war between sisters."
The Chicago debut of Lonnie Carter's The Romance of Magno Rubio completes VGT's regular season (May 28-July 11. 2004, opening June 7). Making his Chicago directing debut is Award-winning Broadway artist Loy Arcenas, who will also design Carter's "adaptation of Carlos Bulosan's short story of a lovestruck Filipino migrant worker in 1930s California."
VGT will also present a sixth play in the Upstairs Mainstage: the world premiere of Stuart Flack's Homeland Security (Oct. 16-Nov. 23, opening Oct. 22). Sandy Shinner directs Flack's "new dramatic comedy about a second generation Indian doctor and his American girlfriend, who are detained for questioning at O'Hare after returning from a vacation overseas."
Five-play subscriptions to Victory Gardens' 2003-04 season are on sale now. Victory Gardens is located at 2257 N. Lincoln Ave., in the heart of Chicago's Lincoln Park neighborhood. For more information, call the VGT box office, (773) 871-3000 or visit www.VictoryGardens.org.