O'Toole, Jelks to Star in Premiere of Taylor's Magnolia at Chicago's Goodman

News   O'Toole, Jelks to Star in Premiere of Taylor's Magnolia at Chicago's Goodman
Annette O'Toole and John Earl Jelks will take lead roles in the Goodman Theatre's world-premiere production of Regina Taylor's Magnolia, directed by Tony Award winner Anna D. Shapiro.
Annette O'Toole
Annette O'Toole Photo by Aubrey Reuben

Magnolia, billed as being "about possibility in the face of seismic social change," will run March 14-April 19 in Chicago. Opening is March 23.

Directing for the first time at the Goodman, Shapiro (August: Osage County) directs a cast of 12 led by Academy Award nominee (for songwriting) O'Toole ("Smallville," "A Mighty Wind," "48 Hours") and Tony Award nominee Jelks (August Wilson's Radio Golf and Gem of the Ocean) as Lily and Thomas, who are touched by American slavery 100 years after it was abolished.

According to Goodman notes, "Magnolia takes place in Atlanta, 1963. As Martin Luther King Jr. inspires Atlanta's black citizens to fight passionately for their civil rights, the new mayor erects Peyton Wall to restrict where they can live. Amid these churning social currents, Magnolia Estate faces foreclosure — pitting the sensual, free-spirited heiress Lily (O'Toole) against Thomas (Jelks), a strong-willed businessman who lays claim to the estate where his ancestors were slaves."

"Regina has created some of the Goodman's most distinguished works, and her magnificent new play Magnolia is no exception," stated artistic director Robert Falls. "As she has done so eloquently in Crowns and The Dreams of Sarah Breedlove, Regina imbues her characters with passion, grace and poetry, honoring their individual and collective struggles with dignity and compassion."

A member of Goodman Theatre's Artistic Collective, Taylor is a playwright-director-actor. "For me," she said in production notes, "Magnolia is a wholly American story that continues the dialogue of finding an individual voice, daring to make your own sound in this world — more important in our current world, than ever. The roots of the magnolia tree are very deep, and its blossoms are red, yellow, white, pink and blue-black — many different colored blossoms all from the same tree. Whether we chop up or burn down the tree, the roots remain underneath, and the tree will shoot back up. We are many different hues, all mixed; but we come from the same root." She continued, "Both Thomas and Lily were born on the Magnolia Estate, but both have escaped that soil to try to create their own identities. Meanwhile, the tide waters of change are flowing across America, starting with the 'Little Rock Nine' and Brown v. Board of Education The rules of society are changing — the lines that separate black and white Atlanta are becoming less defined — and these two people are called back to face the parts of themselves they thought they had left behind."

The cast of Magnolia also includes Tyla Abercrumbie, Tory O. Davis, Roxanne Reese, Brandon J. Dirden, Ernest Perry, Jr., John Judd, John Hines, Caitlin Collins, Carrie Coon and Cliff Chamberlain.

The production team includes set designer Todd Rosenthal, lighting designer James F. Ingalls, costume designer Linda Cho, sound designer Richard Woodbury and composer Daryl Waters.

Taylor authored and directed The Dreams of Sarah Breedlove, which premiered at Alabama Shakespeare Festival and was produced at the Goodman in June 2006. Drowning Crow, her adaptation of Chekhov's The Seagull, premiered at the Goodman and was produced on Broadway at Manhattan Theatre Club's Biltmore Theatre. Taylor wrote the award-winning Crowns, first produced at McCarter Theatre and at Second Stage in New York, and has subsequently become the most performed musical in America; Taylor also directed the production to critical acclaim. Her other plays include Oo-Bla-Dee, which premiered at the Goodman and won the 2000 American Theatre Critics/Steinberg New Play Award; Escape From Paradise, a one-woman show; Watermelon Rinds; Inside the Belly of the Beast; Mudtracks; Love Poem #97; and she curated Urban Zulu Mambo, an evening of plays by Adrienne Kennedy, Ntozake Shange, Suzan-Lori Parks and Kia Corthron. Acting credits include roles on Broadway, off-Broadway and in numerous resident theatres.

For her role as Lilly Harper on the television series "I'll Fly Away," Taylor won an NAACP Image Award, was nominated for an Emmy Award and received the Golden Globe Award for Best Leading Dramatic Actress. She currently portrays Molly on CBS' "The Unit," written and produced by David Mamet and Shawn Ryan (2008 NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actress in a Drama).

O'Toole has appeared Off-Broadway in Kindness at Playwrights Horizons; The Seagull at Classic Stage Company; Yankee Wives and Sun Bearing Down at Old Globe Theatre, San Diego; Merton of the Movies at Ahmanson Theatre, Los Angeles. For her work in TV's "The Kennedys of Massachusetts," she received Emmy Award and Golden Globe nominations. She was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Song with husband Michael McKean for "A Kiss at the End of the Rainbow" and was nominated for a Grammy Award for the soundtrack to "A Mighty Wind."

Jelks received a Tony Award nomination for Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Play for his performance in Radio Golf, in which he also toured to the Goodman, McCarter Theatre, Huntington Theatre Company, CenterStage, Mark Taper Forum and Yale Repertory Theatre. Jelks also appeared on Broadway in Gem of the Ocean, after having toured at the Goodman, Huntington Theatre Company and Mark Taper Forum, where he won an NAACP Theater Award and an Ovation Award. In 2008 Jelks won an AUDELCO Award for his work in the Off-Broadway revival of The First Breeze of Summer.

For tickets and more information visit GoodmanTheatre.org.

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