SYNOPSIS: To earn extra cash, Sarah James, a young, struggling Black filmmaker, decorates the set for an upcoming documentary on the life of deceased Chicagoan and Civil Rights activist, Lucy Hassell Montgomery. While busily making last minute changes, Sarah has an unexpected visitor…Lucy herself.
FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 18, 2020 @ 7:00pm. A VIRTUAL READING – ONE NIGHT ONLY!
Join us for a powerful, live reading via Zoom. Following the 45-minute reading, stay in our virtual space for a group discussion and share actions you can take. For more information, please read our Backstage Guide in your browser or download pdf.
You may reserve tickets here or call (773) 654-3103 until Friday, Sept 18 at 12pm noon Central. Suggested donation is $10 or pay-what-you-can. You will be sent the Zoom link in a “Plan Your Visit” email on the evening of Sept 17. To get on our waiting list, please send an email to Director of Patron Services Suzy Robertson at SuzyR@AmericanBluesTheater.com with any questions.
Content warning: please be advised this play contains mature themes, including physical violence, sexual violence, rape, lynchings, gun violence, child loss, and trauma. If you have any questions about content, or age appropriateness, please contact American Blues.
Assata’s Daughters – a grassroots intergenerational collective of radical Black women located in the city of Chicago.
Black Lives Matter – global network builds power to bring justice, healing, and freedom to Black people across the globe.
Chicago Community Bond Fund – pays bonds for people who communities cannot afford to pay the bonds themselves and who have been impacted by structural violence.
DuSable Museum of African American History– Chicago museum that promotes understanding and inspires appreciation of the achievements, contributions, and experiences of African Americans.
Glasner Studio by Edgar Miller – historic home where Lucy Hassell Montgomery lived from 1969-1985.
NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund – America’s premier legal organization fighting for racial justice.
Southern Poverty Law Center – a catalyst for racial justice in the South and beyond.
Creative Team’s Biographies
WANDACHRISTINE* (playwright) is a proud Ensemble member of American Blues Theater. She has starred on many stages throughout the country in notable productions as the touring company of Fences, The Vagina Monologues, Gee’s Bend, and Thyestes. For her work in Old Settler, she received a Joseph Jefferson Award nomination for Supporting Actress and a Best Actress nomination for the noted Ruby Dee/Black Theater Alliance Award. For her work in American Blues Theater’s production of Beauty’s Daughter, she won the Ruby Dee/Black Theater Alliance Award for her solo performance. She’s toured regionally in Danai Gurira’s (“Black Panther” & “Walking Dead”) production of Familiar as well as the San Diego’s Old Globe production. Other recent productions include A Wonder in My Soul at Baltimore Center Stage and Incendiary at Goodman Theater. In film she’s worked alongside Whoopie Goldberg in “Clara’s Heart” and starred in the hit comedy as Mrs. Jones in “Me and Mrs. Jones” with Kym Fields. She’s appeared in the television series “Chicago PD”, numerous commercials, and voiced the animated characters in “The PJ’s”, “The Justice League”, and “Scarface” the video game. She’s written a fiction novel, “I Love You More…Than Shoes!” about four actresses over 50 years old still trying to make it in Hollywood; she is working on a Zoom production of the popular novel. As a playwright, she’s written for American Blues Theater’s Ripped Festival for 3 years. Her newest play, Yes, My Name is…Lucy! was commissioned by Ensemble member Chuck Smith. When they met, he explained how it was important for the world to know who Lucy Montgomery was and how instrumental she was in the Civil Rights movement; to the election of the late Harold Washington and all of Chicago. “I’m proud to bring Lucy to life in American Blues Theater’s The Room – reading series. Thank you to my American Blues Family for continuing to support me not only as an Actress and as a Playwright as well. I LOVE YOU ALL….MORE THAN ALL THE SHOES IN THE WORLD!”
CHUCK SMITH (director) is a proud Ensemble member of American Blues Theater. At Blues, he directed Leroi Jones’ Dutchman and Pearl Cleage’s Flyin’ West. He is a member of Goodman Theatre’s Board of Trustees and is Goodman Theatre’s Resident Director. He is also a resident director at the Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe in Sarasota, Florida. Goodman credits include the Chicago premieres of Pullman Porter Blues; By the Way, Meet Vera Stark; Race; The Good Negro; Proof; and The Story; the world premieres of By the Music of the Spheres and The Gift Horse; James Baldwin’s The Amen Corner, which transferred to Boston’s Huntington Theatre Company, where it won the Independent Reviewers of New England (IRNE) Award for Best Direction; A Raisin in the Sun; Blues for an Alabama Sky; August Wilson’s Two Trains Running and Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom; Objects in the Mirror; Having Our Say; Ain’t Misbehavin’; the 1993 to 1995 productions of A Christmas Carol; Crumbs From the Table of Joy; Vivisections from a Blown Mind; and The Meeting. He served as dramaturg for the Goodman’s world-premiere production of August Wilson’s Gem of the Ocean. He directed the New York premiere of Knock Me a Kiss and The Hooch for the New Federal Theatre and the world premiere of Knock Me a Kiss at Chicago’s Victory Gardens Theater, where his other directing credits include Master Harold… and the Boys, Home, Dame Lorraine, and Eden, for which he received a Jeff Award nomination. Regionally, Mr. Smith directed Death and the King’s Horseman (Oregon Shakespeare Festival), Birdie Blue (Seattle Repertory Theatre), The Story (Milwaukee Repertory Theater), Blues for an Alabama Sky (Alabama Shakespeare Festival), and The Last Season (Robey Theatre Company). At Columbia College he was facilitator of the Theodore Ward Prize playwriting contest for 20 years and editor of the contest anthologies Seven Black Plays and Best Black Plays. He won a Chicago Emmy Award as associate producer/theatrical director for the NBC teleplay Crime of Innocence and was theatrical director for the Emmy-winning Fast Break to Glory and the Emmy-nominated The Martin Luther King Suite. He was a founding member of the Chicago Theatre Company, where he served as artistic director for four seasons and directed the Jeff-nominated Suspenders and the Jeff-winning musical Po’. His directing credits include productions at Fisk University, Roosevelt University, Eclipse Theatre, ETA, Black Ensemble Theater, Northlight Theatre, MPAACT, Congo Square Theatre, The New Regal Theater, Kuumba Theatre Company, Fleetwood-Jourdain Theatre, Pegasus Players, the Timber Lake Playhouse in Mt. Carroll, Illinois, the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana, and the University of Wisconsin in Madison. He is a 2003 inductee into the Chicago State University Gwendolyn Brooks Center’s Literary Hall of Fame and a 2001 Chicago Tribune Chicagoan of the Year. He is the proud recipient of the 1982 Paul Robeson Award and the 1997 Award of Merit presented by the Black Theater Alliance of Chicago.
DEANNA DUNAGAN* (Lucy Hassell Montgomery) returns to American Blues Theater where, in 1989, she first appeared as “Abbie” in Desire Under the Elms, (After Dark Award) in the company’s first Equity show. That illustrious cast included current and former ensemble members Dennis Cockrum, Jim Leaming, Ed Blatchford, and Marty Higgenbothem, under the direction of William Payne. She is best known for originating the role of “Violet” in Tracy Letts’s August: Osage County which premiered at Steppenwolf Theatre Company and traveled to Broadway (Tony, Drama Desk Awards), the National in London and Sydney, Australia. She most recently appeared in Chicago at Goodman Theatre as “Nancy Reagan” in Blnd Date. Other Chicago credits include: Death Tax (Lookingglass Theatre Company, where she is an artistic associate); Marvin’s Room (Shattered Globe Theatre); A Little Night Music (Writers’ Theatre); A Delicate Balance (Remy Bumppo Theatre, After Dark Award); and James Joyce’s The Dead (Court Theater, Jeff Award). Film credits include: M. Night Shyamalayn’s The Visit (Fright Meter Award); the yet to be released So Cold The River; and Stillwater with Matt Damon. Television credits include: The Exorcist, The Strain, and Chicago Med.
CAMILLE ROBINSON* (Sarah James) is a proud Artistic Affiliate of American Blues Theater. She has been with the company since 2016, after making her debut in the critically-acclaimed production of Little Shop of Horrors. She has also appeared in 4 productions of Blues’ smash holiday tradition, It’s a Wonderful Life: Live in Chicago!. In the 8 years that Camille has been a professional actor, she has been on many stages in the greater Chicagoland area. Some of her favorites include: Firebrand Theatre, Paramount Theatre, Victory Gardens Theater, Goodman Theatre, Drury Lane Theatre and American Blues Theater, of course! Camille can also be seen as Nurse Tanya on NBC’s Chicago Med. She is a member of SAG-AFTRA and Actors’ Equity Association and represented by Gray Talent Group. camille-robinson.com
CARA PARRISH* (stage manager) is a proud Artistic Affiliate of American Blues Theater where she is also the Human Resources Coordinator. Chicago credits: Gem of the Ocean, Electra, Hard Problem, Photograph 51, Five Guys Named Moe, Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, & Lady From the Sea (Court Theatre); WITCH, Port Authority, Yellow Moon, The Letters, The Caretaker, Death of a Streetcar Named Virginia Woolf, & The Blond, The Brunette, and the Vengeful Redhead (Writers Theatre); Too Heavy for Your Pocket & The Vibrator Play (TimeLine Theatre Company); James and the Giant Peach (Drury Lane Theatre Oakbrook); Jabari Dreams of Freedom (Chicago Children’s Theatre); Romeo and Juliet, & Emma (Chicago Shakespeare Theatre); Beauty’s Daughter & Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story (American Blues Theater). Cara is a proud member of Actors’ Equity Association.
SIMONE A. ALLEN (dramaturg) is an interdisciplinary storyteller and literary consultant who recently graduated from The New School.
*Member of Actors’ Equity Association.
Resources for Emotional and Racial Trauma
Those looking for or needing counseling or a safe space to heal from emotional or racial trauma, please see below resources:
Association of Black Psychologists Self-Care Tool Kit – a self-care tool kit for families and communities. Written in English and Spanish.
Black Emotional & Mental Health Collective (BEAM) – collective committed to the emotional/mental health and healing of Black communities.
Racial Trauma Resources – racial trauma resources compiled by the Borough of Manhattan Community College
Resources for Black Healing – black healing resources from the University of North Carolina Wilmington Counseling Center.
Safe Black Space – creates opportunities for Black people to heal and thrive.
We wish to express our gratitude to the Performers’ Unions (Actors’ Equity Association, American Guild of Musical Artists, American Guild of Variety Artists, SAG-AFTRA) through Theatre Authority, Inc. for their cooperation in permitting the Artists to appear on this program.