A combination of theatre, art, news footage and on-location video, Root Causes, beginning March 14, at Chicago's Victory Gardens Theatre, takes a look at the media and society's need for heroes.
In a collaboration similar to that of Robert Wilson & Philip Glass, and Red Grooms & David Gordon, playwright Steve Carter has teamed up with surreal imagist Ed Paschke to "expose a culture in crisis, saturated by the media," and divided by its choices.
The multi-media work, opening March 20, centers on the trial of a murderous drug czar, "Happy Cat" Harrison. The media condemns him; the black community venerates him for putting the drug money into jobs, housing and health care for the poor. Loosely based on real events, Root Causes intentionally uses television as almost another character in the play. Says playwright Carter, "Television is the symbol of the celebrity...the symbol of intrusion into our lives, and the brevity of today's fame."
Paschke will contribute artwork, masks, courtroom sketches and other images to the work, including various video montages.
Carter, chosen as the first ever playwright-in-residence at Victory Gardens back in 1981, won the Joseph Jefferson New Play Award for his 1990 Pecong. His Eden, Dame Lorraine, Shadows and Shoot Me While I'm Happy all were produced at Victory Gardens. A member of the Negro Ensemble Company from 1968-1981, Carter has taught playwriting at George Mason University. Paschke, a Chicago native, has been displayed at the Smithsonian Institute, NY's Met and Whitney Museums, and the Pompidou Center in Paris.
Directing Root Causes will be Dennis Zacek, artistic director of Victory Gardens for 19 years and counting. He also directed the hit Off Broadway production of Beau Jest.
Appearing in the show are Velma Austin, T'Shaun Barnett, Craig Boyd, Laura Collins, Gail Curry, Kellie Hazen, Richard Shavzin, Jeany Park, Bob Romeo and Ray Thompson. Designing the work (along with Paschke) will be Stephan Mazurek (video), Mary Griswold (set), Claudia Boddy (costumes), Todd Hensley (lighting), and Lindsey Jones (sound).
For tickets ($23-$28) and information on Root Causes at Victory Gardens Theatre on North Lincoln Ave., March 14-April 20, call (773) 871 3000.
--By David Lefkowitz