Clyde Hare, Overview of the Hill District, 1952, Carnegie Museum of Art.

Let’s begin with a few earned titles and monikers: Playwright. Historian. Preserver of culture. And as New York Times theatre critic Charles Isherwood once called him, “Theatre’s Poet of Black America.” Known as the playwright that put 100 years of African American history on the stage, no other playwright has been able to achieve what August Wilson has accomplished with his ten-play cycle, also known as the Pittsburgh Cycle or the American Century Cycle. Wilson himself has described his ten-play cycle as his effort to craft a 400-year autobiography of the African American experience. The plays in the cycle include Jitney (1982); Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (1984); Fences (1987); Joe Turner’s Come and Gone (1988); The Piano Lesson (1990); Two Trains Running (1991); Seven Guitars (1995); King Hedley II (1999); Gem of the Ocean (2003); and Radio Golf (2005). Wilson’s oeuvre has earned him several awards, including the Tony Award for Best Play (Fences, 1987), the Olivier Award for Best New Play (Jitney, 2002), and two Pulitzer Prizes for Drama (Fences, 1987 and The Piano Lesson, 1990), among others. 

Undeniably, August Wilson was fascinated with the history of Black Americans. The lack of being formally educated about Black history piqued his curiosity. Wilson once stated that he was “encouraged by the fact that in all [his] reading of history, seldom, if ever, was the Black experience in America given any weight, seldom were they admitted to the larger playing field of cause and effect.”  As such, August Wilson “sought then to simply restore that experience to a primary role, thereby giving the facts of history a different perspective, and creating, in essence, a world in which the Black American was the spiritual center.”  Wilson said, “Since I was not a historian but a writer of fiction, I saw as my task the invention of characters.”  Accordingly, through his characters, Wilson laid claim to a past that is too often forgotten, thus filling the gaps in historical records by using his artistic license to mesh facts with a fictional imagination. 

Wilson’s engagement with history is prominent in Two Trains Running—the 1960s play. However, Wilson does not directly address the historical events of the 1960s. Instead, these events hover over the play as a backdrop, thus informing the actions and motivations of the characters. The history that hovers over the play includes the legacies of leaders of the Civil Rights and Black Power Movements, namely Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X. It also includes the death of Robert Kennedy, the beginning of gentrification and displacement within Black communities, and the fallout from the Vietnam War. When asked why he kept these historic events of the 1960s off the stage, Wilson responded with the following:

The play does not speak to the so-called red-lettered events of the sixties, because at the time all of that was going on—the assassination of Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy and all the anti-war administrations, go to work every day, you still had to pay your rent, you still had to put food on the table. And those events, while they may have in some way affected the character of society as a whole, didn’t reach the average person who was concerned with just simply living. And so in Two Trains I was more concerned with those people and what they were doing and how they were dealing with it, than I was writing a “sixties” play. 

As such, Wilson peoples his plays with everyday folks—those whose lives fluctuated between what was happening nationally and what was happening regionally. Although Wilson put fictional stories on the stage, it is evident, as in Two Trains Running, that these stories are inspired by—and perhaps haunted—by real history.


August Wilson's Two Trains Running is on stage at Court Theatre May 12 - June 13, 2022 → Get Tickets.

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August Wilson with Ron OJ Parson
Photo of August Wilson with Ron OJ Parson by Ray Baker.

You have said that you always want to direct August Wilson. What is it that excites you about returning to his work again and again?   

Great plays are great plays. I get excited about doing great plays whether they’re August Wilson or anybody. Besides Shakespeare, what playwright has written ten plays that you can see somewhere, at almost any time, and it’s a beautiful piece of work? Wilson’s plays are deep—rich in character and language. 

I’ve done Jitney five times and Ma Rainey‘s Black Bottom four times. But each time they’re different because of  the artists you’re working with. I do use a lot of what I call “Wilson-ites.” These are actors who perform a lot of August Wilson, not only with me, but with other directors as well. They know the rhythm and music of the piece. The characters are so well-developed that you can really dig into it as an actor or director. I’ve acted in a couple of Wilson’s plays as well, and it’s always fun. That’s the basic thing—they’re fun. 

There is a photo of you with August Wilson. What was your relationship to him, and what can you tell us about August Wilson the man?  

I met August Wilson when he was the resident writer at Yale before he blew up. On the opening night of Ma Rainey on Broadway, I got to go backstage, and that was a big deal going backstage with the original cast of that play. Little did I know that later on, I’d be doing this.  

That picture of us was taken when I directed the inaugural production of The Piano Lesson with Congo Square Theatre Company. He came to see it.  

Also, I understudied Jitney at the Goodman, when he was writing it. I would watch the play and watch how he worked. He was a cool dude. You could talk to him, anybody could ask him questions. He loved talking about the world. 

Many classic playwrights insert themselves into their plays. Where do you see August Wilson in this play?  

Definitely in the music, in the characters, the poetry, the language, the lyricism, all of that. Also, you can see how he understood the history and the specifics of the neighborhoods he was writing about. I have a couple friends in Pittsburgh who were around when Wilson was first getting started, and they used to talk about how he would sit in the diners and just listen to people and talk. That’s what you hear in his writing, the reality of those situations.  

How does Two Trains Running stand out from the other plays in Wilson’s American Century Cycle?  

They all stand out in their own way. Each decade has its own thing that makes it special. The 60s was a volatile time in this country, and that makes Two Trains special. A lot of people remember it, and older audiences can relate. They’ll know the music, they’ll know the style of dress, the hairstyles, so it will resonate with them. Younger people look at it as history.  

What does August Wilson reveal or teach us in this play?  

I don’t like to say that a writer is trying to teach somebody a lesson. If I had to say, it would be that we are resilient people and we deal with difficult issues. We are relentless people, and we’re able to persevere through everything. That’s what the characters have to do in this play. The Black Power Movement is happening, and they’re dealing with mental illness, and it‘s those issues that permeate the environment in this urban setting. We have had to deal with a lot of the things that communities like the Hill District in Pittsburgh had to deal with, the change. The lesson is that we are a strong people and we will survive through everything that is thrown at us. 

Tell us about your approach to this play and if you have discovered something new about it this time.   

The approach to this play is the same as any play. I try to find the spiritual aspect of it and enhance the love that is in the play. I always start plays with love, and in particular, this one is love of the neighborhood, love of the people, love of the culture—all of those things. 

Jack Magaw does a lot of my sets, and we always try to make it so that when people from Pittsburgh come in, they feel like they’re in Pittsburgh. That’s done with the accessories on the set. Adding those little things make it Pittsburgh—like the mugs, a poster on the wall, even the music. A lot of great musicians are from Pittsburgh. There’s a lot of those details that make it comfortable for people from Pittsburgh to come see the play and feel like they’re at home. 

Two Trains Running is somewhat of a marathon for the actors. How do you help them keep the flow and energy going throughout the entire play?  

All plays are marathons, but these are Wilson-ites. For them it’s not a marathon, it’s just a joy. As far as keeping the flow, it’s music. They’re playing an instrument when they talk. It’s like a band playing a song. It’s August Wilson, and they know the rhythm. 

What can audiences expect to see in this production? 

They can expect a good production—what they’ve always gotten from us when we do August Wilson. These actors are rarin’ to go.


August Wilson's Two Trains Running is on stage at Court Theatre May 13 through June 12, 2022.

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Director Shana Cooper is known for her visceral takes on classic plays. Her work with frequent collaborator and choreographer Erika Chong Shuch on Shakespeare’s plays utilizes movement to inject each production with a physical muscularity that matches their use of language. We chatted with Cooper to discuss The Lady from the Sea and returning to the Court stage.

What drew you to Ibsen’s The Lady from the Sea

This is a play that’s been with me for about ten years. I first directed a staged reading of it in 2009 at Oregon Shakespeare Festival and I haven’t been able to shake it since. It’s haunted me. The thing that’s really remained with me about it is the visceral way Ibsen captures the nature of struggling with who you are and discovering a different sense of self over the course of your life. That idea of self-discovery and exploration is terrifying and exhilarating, and in this play, Ibsen carves a vivid expression of the dramatic storm of what it feels like to wrestle with your identity, and the role that free will can play in us authentically embracing our truest self, as well as the complexity and contradictions of desires and needs that exist within us. 

How are those ideas informing your approach to his work? 

One of my goals with Shakespeare is an interest in how to make these plays as muscular physically and emotionally as they are linguistically, and that’s one of my goals with this production, too. I have an extraordinary choreographer, Erika Chung Shuch, who’s a longtime collaborator with me. My hope is that as a company we can come up with a physicality to express these ineffable urges that the play deals with. My dream is that it’s a marriage of Ibsen’s brilliant dramaturgy, character, and language as well as a physical life that gets at the deeper yearnings buckling under the text that are hard to express. I hope it feels like we are expressing something new. 

What was the inspiration for this new translation by Richard Nelson, and how is it different than previous versions of this play?  

The Lady from the Sea is one of Ibsen’s least known works, which is part of why it’s so thrilling that Court originally programmed it, and the gift they are giving us by continuing with that journey after our pandemic shutdown. Because it is rarely produced, there are very few translations, and as far as I know there hasn’t been a contemporary American translation that expresses the hearts and souls of these characters with the clarity and humanity that Richard Nelson has uncovered. Through Richard Nelson’s luminous translation, we can not only understand but feel deeply the drama that pulses underneath these characters as they wrestle with their identities as individuals and within the most important relationships in their lives. Beyond transforming our experience of working on The Lady from the Sea, Richard’s translation is making a vital contribution to the American canon of Ibsen translations and finally making one of Ibsen’s more mysterious journeys, accessible to us all. 

What do you hope that audiences take away from The Lady from the Sea

My hope is that this play is an invitation to look at our own lives and life choices and identity and maybe view this idea of cracking open questions about our spirituality and our identity as a real possibility. The thing that’s brilliant about this play is that it’s quite true-to-life to me. The play is an invitation for us to reflect back on our lives in terms of how the small and large choices we make are at play with and against our free will. I want to tell a story that young, modern women in particular can connect to and be thrilled by and learn from and have exciting conversations inspired by it. They’re on my mind. 

The Lady from the Sea was cancelled following the final dress rehearsal on March 11, 2020 due to the global pandemic. What does it mean to you to be (re)mounting this show now? 

Ibsen, like all great writers, is a dreamer. And the man dreams big. This quote is from a letter Ibsen wrote early in his career, an ambitious vision for humanity, “People want only special revolutions, in externals, in politics, and so on. But that’s just tinkering. What really is called for is a revolution of the human mind…”  

The remarkable thing about The Lady from the Sea is that you can actually see that revolution beginning. In small but profound ways in the actions and choices of many of the characters, who begin the play in a crisis of their own making, and then actually manage to change, not only how they think, but their choices and actions in life and in love. As we return to this project after almost two years of essential reckonings within ourselves and our society, I think the question of what we do with this tremendous force of “free-will” that is central to Ibsen’s work is going to have fresh and more urgent meaning to artists and audiences who have learned by living through a pandemic just how harrowing it can be to feel lost in a storm of questions about who we are and what our role in the world can or should be. And perhaps most importantly what we can do “of our own free will” to find the lighthouse that will guide us home.

I believe, as Ibsen seems to suggest in The Lady from the Sea, that by living in that place of the deep and raw discomfort of not knowing and wrestling with the mysteries of free-will and how that can help us to access our truest selves, we may discover a rare capacity for change. And thus begins the revolution of the human mind…


Previews to The Lady from the Sea directed by Shana Cooper begin February 25. Learn more →

Photo of the cast of The Lady from the Sea by Michael Brosilow.

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Banner Photo of Dexter Zollicoffer by Michael Brosilow

In March 2020, when the pandemic shuttered Court’s production of The Lady from the Sea on the eve of its first preview performance, Artistic Director Charles Newell made a virtue out of the necessity of delay. He invited Tony Award-winning playwright Richard Nelson to undertake a new translation of Ibsen’s classic text. Here, Nelson shares his reflections on the art of translation and the reasons Ibsen’s work resonates with American audiences.

You were writing this translation during the pandemic. Did anything about the play resonate artistically while you were living in quarantine?

I don’t think so, and I’ll tell you why. For whatever reason, the time from March 2020 through the next sixteen months were probably the most productive writing time of my life. The amount I produced that I’m very proud of is huge. Part of that was Lady from the Sea, but there are many, many other things I did. I found myself happily, just happily focused on just my desk, and not on any other thing, during that time. I didn’t feel anything but the pleasure of just spending my time with my own work, and, in this case, which is the real value for me of these translations, the pleasure I felt was to spend time really close to a writer I greatly admire, Mr. Ibsen. 

You have called Ibsen “the poet of everyday language.” Could you talk about what you aimed to achieve with this new translation? 

First of all, Ibsen is a great humanist, and so always at the heart of his plays are not ideas, but characters. It is the human complexity that motivates him, and he is a great psychological thinker and writer. So that means, when doing a translation, you want to put people on the stage. You don’t want to put characters on the stage, you don’t want to put ideas on stage, you need to put people on the stage. An audience must feel comfortable that what’s in front of them are people behaving in a way that they, the audience, know people actually to behave. The translator’s goal is to have that comfort of people saying things on stage that seem like reasonably right, obvious, clear things to say, as opposed to saying things that are more arch or more formal. That’s where I begin. You want to feel that real people are in front of you. 

Henrik Ibsen

Now on top of that, Ibsen is a poet. He uses imagery. So as a translator you want to find a way for that poetry to exist within the normal life, real life, or verisimilitude of life that is on the stage. It’s important to figure that out. I greatly admire Ibsen because he can make that leap—a leap which, as a writer, I try all the time to make in my own work but I don’t think without anything like his success—that leap of somehow thrusting a poetic situation, or a poetic character, into a story. Not just a poetic landscape—which he does in this play with the sea—but in terms of the Stranger. Bringing on a character like that who is so inexplicable—who forces an audience to wonder how much is real and how much is psychological—that’s a real gamble. That’s the exciting challenge of translating Ibsen—not just to recreate life, not just to make an audience feel that they are seeing life in front of themselves, but then to have that life be articulated or nuanced in a way to have a kind of poetry evolve and rise up as well. That’s the challenge.

Do you see translation as separate from playwriting, or is it the same act?

Well, it is not the same act, but it is not separate either. No, the two are very connected. Translating is a great way to learn playwriting, or a great way to continue to evolve your craft, because you are constantly—if you are translating Ibsen or Chekhov—dealing with extraordinary writers. And seeing how those writers do things is really helpful, I find, for my own work. When I did teach playwriting, I would always tell my students, when they were writing something, “Have you read this play, this play or this play? Because that would be helpful to you.” And also, it puts you as a playwright in a much greater tradition than just what’s happened in the last three years, but in a tradition going back three hundred years, or more. Translating is very useful, and it’s a fun change of pace, because unlike with a play, you are not faced with a blank page. The first draft of a play, every day you come to it, you don’t know what’s going to happen. You might have an outline, you might have lots of notes, but you just don’t know for sure where it will go. Whereas with translating, you might get a phone call in the middle of working on sentence, but you can take the call because the sentence will still be there when you get back. It’s all part of the writer’s life. There is craft involved in both playwriting and translating, but that craft is very, very similar. 

Are your goals the same when translating and when writing a new play?

Absolutely. The goals for me in playwriting and in the plays I translate are character-based, character-centered, humanistic goals. Theatre is inherently made and built to put a live person in front of another live person. That’s the basis of all theatre. Theatre is the only artistic form that uses the entire live human being as its expression. It’s the only one that does this. We speak, we move, we are alive, and so the human being is the very heart and center of what a play is, what a theatre event is. And those plays that embrace the complexity of what it means to be a person, to be a human being on earth, are the plays that I think are the most interesting to me, and in the end, that are the greatest.

Why do Ibsen’s plays resonate so powerfully today? 

We live in very ambiguous times right now, and Ibsen very much speaks to that. He is always trying to find the clashes between ideas, because for him no one idea is correct, it always has to be in conflict with another idea. He sets his plays within a societal framework, raising issues of how does one live in the society that we live in. In this play, he asks “What does it mean to be free?” Ellida wonders, “Do I matter? Is there a purpose to my life? Who am I?” These are the most existential questions we have in our lives. The struggle we see between Ellida and Wangel is an essential state of being for Ibsen. He makes the point that this is the world we are in—a world where people feel a lack of meaning, a lack of freedom, a lack of purpose. This is the way the world functions, he is saying, unless we fight it. And it’s a fight that has to keep continuing being fought, over and over and over again. 

Is there a moment, a scene, or an element in this play that is precious to you as a writer?

If you look at how Chekhov and Ibsen, and Shakespeare too, how they begin their plays, you see their mastery of opening moments. In TheLady from the Sea, it’s like Ibsen had a little joke to himself. We see a guy untying something knotted in his hands, it’s a mess. He has a problem: “How am I going to untie this thing?” 

What a wonderful, witty little way of saying, basically, we are going to be untying a problem in the next two hours. And then you have that flag that goes up. And you see how the putting up of the flag carries so much exposition—explaining who the characters are, who’s feeling what, what’s going on, how things are misunderstood. That flag is pretty brilliant. Just pretty darn brilliant. In terms of pure craft, my hat’s off.


Previews to Richard Nelson's new translation of The Lady from the Sea begin February 25. Learn more →

Photo of Dexter Zellicoffer by Michael Brosilow.

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With such prestige attached to his name, Ibsen’s famous works capture the creative interests of many directors and actors from all over the world as they yearn to tackle his plays in new productions. Performing Ibsen entails a variety of approaches to his texts as living documents capable of being re-contextualized in ways that accentuate their undeniable modernity. The themes explored often connect to struggles audiences everywhere can still identify with. In a recent UK film production of The Lady from the Sea, screenwriter Birgit Myaard and director Leon Mitchell aim to develop their own re-imagination of the play by infusing it with a 21st century touch that exemplifies how Ibsen’s works continue to remain relevant in the modern day. Myaard has said that exploring Ibsen has been a method for her to reconnect with her ancestral roots in Norway due to his depictions of the country and his cultural significance there. The film features K-Syran, a Norwegian singer, and was released with an original soundtrack that conveys a similar mysticism to that found in the play. On the stage, directors and actors continue to grapple with the mythos of Ibsen and his famous texts. In 2019, the cast of a staging of Lady produced by the Norwegian Ibsen Company wanted to immerse themselves in the same surroundings Ibsen was exposed to when writing his play. Actors Kåre Conradi and Pia Tjelta rehearsed with their cast for their bilingual production of Lady in the very abode Ibsen lived in at the time of creating it. They appealed to the Norwegian government for this opportunity and were able to bring along their team to rehearse in his former flat at Victoria Terrasse in Oslo. To reinforce the divide within the Wangel clan, director Marit Moum Aune chose to re-imagine the doctor and his two daughters as expats from England who were drawn to Norway due to Wangel’s relationship with Ellida, a move that would breed resentment on the girls’ part as they had to upend their lives for their father’s new bride. The Wangels speak strictly in English with one another while Ellida navigates two linguistic worlds, talking in Norwegian with her close friend Arnholm and the locals of her hometown (subtitles were projected onto a wall in the production). The cast immersed themselves in the landscape, visiting places Ibsen reportedly went to and working into the dusk hours to get into a similar headspace as the playwright may have been when creating his work. In other Ibsen productions, teams have decided to accentuate the subtle humor laced throughout Ibsen’s work. From Jeremy Raison’s production of Ghosts that exaggerates and satirizes a character's views on fidelity to Lee Breuer’s Mabou Mines DollHouse (an adaption of A Doll’s House) that dabbles with physical comedy as visual representations of gender battles, some directors choose to apply a more jocular touch to Ibsen’s work, lending it a sense of renewed energy as they explore the nuance of the playwright’s social commentary. These different tactics in approaching Ibsen reflect the wide variety of reactions and interpretations his works elicit. The ability to reinterpret and re-imagine these plays is a contributing factor to the endurance of Ibsen’s plays in modern productions.
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When they shed the coat, they appear to be human and can go on land. Several legends feature selkie maidens trapped on land. In legends, a man lures the selkie to land, steals her coat, and then marries her so she can never return to the sea in her natural form. She spends her life in deep sorrow, her liveliness eclipsed as the joy of the water’s song is muted to her. In several tales, she often dies shortly thereafter as her constricting life on land is something her soul cannot bear. Yet, in a few other stories, she chooses to stay on land, forever locking away her selkie coat and staying for the family she has built. The striking parallels between Ellida and these mythological figures are apparent not only in their shared love of the water but also how marriage inevitably traps them on land and forces them to confront their situation. Ellida was, in a sense, lured in by Wangel and became trapped in a marriage. Though he did not force marriage upon her, the arrangement was practical at the time so she did not have another socially acceptable reason to deny him. In their marriage, she feels trapped, her daily forays into the sea providing a much-needed outlet, just as the selkie looks longingly at a possible return to their underwater home. When Wangel gives Ellida the freedom to decide for herself, she begins to understand that she is actually valued by both him and her stepdaughters. In essence, she has her selkie coat back but, as it is returned to her and not threatened by force, she gains a measure of clarity in what she now values more. Choosing to stay is akin to when the selkie gives up the coat of her own volition and willingly mutes the tantalizing call of her past underwater home. These connections to folklore lend Lady a degree of enchanting mysticism as it explores more serious topics about social expectations and resulting identity struggles. They also reveal how deeply such tales are ingrained in cultural consciousness and their pertinence to literature and reapplying texts to our own cultural contexts. 
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Having trouble viewing The Lady from the Sea right now? Try these six steps to fix your stream:

  1. Try refreshing your browser.  Don't forget to click the play button after it reloads.
  2. Try switching to a different browser.
  3. Try using the browser under 'incognito/private' mode.
  4. Try disabling any ad-blocking software or browser plugins
  5. Try a different device.
  6. Go to speedtest.net and test your internet bandwidth.  You'll want at least 2Mbps to view the video.

Which devices can I use to stream?

The platform works on mobile phones, computers, tablets, and smart TVs (with a web browser). If you have any of those, you can watch! We also recommend viewing with headphones for the best experience.

Are subtitles available?

Yes, closed captioning is available! Simply hover your mouse over the video player. In the bottom right corner, click on "CC off", then click on "english". Your video should now display captions. 

In addition, you may speed up or slow down the video playback by hovering your mouse over the video player. In the bottom right corner, click on "1x" and you will see several options to either increase or decrease playback speed. For optimal listening enjoyment, use headphones.

Can I watch the show on my TV, or do I have to watch it on my computer?

We’d love for you to cast the show to your big screen! The easiest option is to use Chrome Casting, AirPlay, or screen mirroring to play the stream from your phone, laptop or another device to your TV. You might see a slight decrease in quality with this option. You can also use an HDMI cable to connect your computer to the TV.

If your TV can access a web browser, you can open that browser and log into your email. From there, you can open the email we sent you and click on your link to stream. If you have trouble streaming on an older TV, you may have better luck switching to an alternate device.

Here is a list of steps for some common casting setups.

Unfortunately, due to the sheer number and variations of smart TVs and smart TV software, we aren’t able to troubleshoot individual hardware issues. This guide on casting may be useful to you, depending on your setup.

Where do I go to view the stream on-demand?

You’ll receive a confirmation email with the subject of “Link to View The Lady from the Sea.” In that email will be your unique link to view the performance. Use your custom link to watch on your laptop, tablet, mobile device—or mirror the show to your smart TV. Can’t find your confirmation email?  Be sure to check your junk/spam folder! If you have questions, please call us at (773) 753-4472.

What’s the ideal browser to use?

We recommend using the browser that gives you the quickest speeds for your everyday use. Our top choices are Google Chrome and Safari.

How can I ensure the best streaming experience?

If you’re experiencing issues, a first step might be to turn the wi-fi off on your other devices. Or, for the strongest connection, connect your device to your router directly with an ethernet cable.

How do I make a video full screen?

You'll find the full-screen button in the video player, depending on your device it will be in the lower right corner (on PC, for example) or the upper left (on iOS).

What should I do if I’m experiencing connection issues during the show (e.g. video is freezing or audio is not working)?

Your video may need a minute to load. If it is not playing continuously, try pausing it and stepping away for a few minutes and then continuing the show once it’s had a chance to pre-load more of the performance. If you are experiencing connection issues, it may be related to your browser settings, internet bandwidth, or it’s a device-specific issue.

While we can't guarantee and may not be able to troubleshoot the performance of your specific hardware setup, we have a few recommendations that we hope will help:

Who do I contact if I'm having trouble seeing the show?

We'll have phone support available from Monday through Saturday, 12noon-5pm to get you started streaming and to answer your questions! Call us at (773) 753-4472.

Can I watch the performance again after it’s over?

No, once you've started streaming the performance, you'll have 72 hours to finish watching. On-demand performances can be watched at any time between March 21 through April 10, 2022. 

What if I want to buy more than one viewing or buy for a friend?

No problem! Simply buy as many views (tickets) on the purchase page and you’ll receive that many links in your confirmation email.   

How do I access my digital playbill for the performance?

You’ll see the playbill button on the same page as the performance at the bottom.


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This adaptation of Othello gave me goosebumps that persisted long after the performance was over. I have a profound admiration and respect for each of the actors, for they all did a spectacular job conveying emotions through their body language and facial expressions. The simplicity of the staging amplified the creative boundaries and made for fascinating scenery. At one moment the scaffold was a boat going through a raging tempest, at another it was a balcony bustling with people, at another it was a bedroom where Desdemona awaited her death. The way that the lighting transformed the steelwork into spaces across time was beautiful. There were several elements of the play that brought us into close proximity with the characters. First, the literal proximity to the characters. I had Cassio nearly die right beside me. Desdemona looked me right in the eye and asked me to have mercy. Othello was so close that I could count every tear that streamed down his face. There was so much action that I often found myself looking all around me to try to take it all in. The impossibility to take it all in at once meant each audience member watched a slightly different version of the play, and this made me feel like I was a bystander—a true witness—to the events that went down. It was an incredibly immersive and intimate experience. Overall, I felt the play was brilliant and I will definitely be returning to Court Theatre.
Photo of Kelvin Roston, Jr. and Timothy Edward Kane on the scaffolding with the audience on stage (Michael Brosilow)." ["post_date"]=> string(19) "2021-12-03 15:46:21" ["post_excerpt"]=> string(0) "" ["post_parent"]=> int(0) ["post_status"]=> string(7) "publish" ["post_title"]=> string(47) "An Incredibly Immersive and Intimate Experience" ["post_type"]=> string(4) "post" ["slug"]=> string(47) "an-incredibly-immersive-and-intimate-experience" ["__type":protected]=> NULL ["_edit_lock"]=> string(12) "1638578808:6" ["_edit_last"]=> string(1) "6" ["_yoast_wpseo_content_score"]=> string(2) "30" ["_yoast_wpseo_estimated-reading-time-minutes"]=> string(0) "" ["article_description"]=> string(371) "In November, Court Theatre had the privilege of hosting nearly 600 UChicago students attending performances of The Tragedy of Othello, the Moor of Venice. We asked students to share a brief reflection on the production. UChicago student Camila Silva submitted the outstanding entry posted here. Many thanks to Camila and all the students who experienced this production!" ["_article_description"]=> string(19) "field_5927045f742d7" ["article_byline"]=> string(0) "" ["_article_byline"]=> string(19) "field_592de516b020a" ["add_feed"]=> string(1) "0" ["_add_feed"]=> string(19) "field_5939a562bed44" ["_yoast_wpseo_primary_category"]=> string(2) "14" ["_thumbnail_id"]=> string(5) "16450" ["post_date_gmt"]=> string(19) "2021-12-03 21:46:21" ["comment_status"]=> string(4) "open" ["ping_status"]=> string(6) "closed" ["post_password"]=> string(0) "" ["post_name"]=> string(47) "an-incredibly-immersive-and-intimate-experience" ["to_ping"]=> string(0) "" ["pinged"]=> string(0) "" ["post_modified"]=> string(19) "2021-12-03 15:50:36" ["post_modified_gmt"]=> string(19) "2021-12-03 21:50:36" ["post_content_filtered"]=> string(0) "" ["guid"]=> string(37) "https://www.courttheatre.org/?p=16445" ["menu_order"]=> int(0) ["post_mime_type"]=> string(0) "" ["comment_count"]=> string(1) "0" ["filter"]=> string(3) "raw" ["status"]=> string(7) "publish" } [8]=> object(Timber\Post)#3718 (51) { ["ImageClass"]=> string(12) "Timber\Image" ["PostClass"]=> string(11) "Timber\Post" ["TermClass"]=> string(11) "Timber\Term" ["object_type"]=> string(4) "post" ["custom"]=> array(13) { ["_edit_lock"]=> string(13) "1637784452:14" ["_edit_last"]=> string(1) "6" ["_thumbnail_id"]=> string(5) "16391" ["_yoast_wpseo_content_score"]=> string(2) "30" ["_yoast_wpseo_estimated-reading-time-minutes"]=> string(1) "4" ["article_description"]=> string(127) "Join us for post-show talkbacks with facilitators from The Covey Group to dive into specific moments in THE TRAGEDY OF OTHELLO." ["_article_description"]=> string(19) "field_5927045f742d7" ["article_byline"]=> string(0) "" ["_article_byline"]=> string(19) "field_592de516b020a" ["add_feed"]=> string(1) "0" ["_add_feed"]=> string(19) "field_5939a562bed44" ["_yoast_wpseo_primary_category"]=> string(2) "14" ["_yoast_wpseo_primary_production-section"]=> string(2) "32" } ["___content":protected]=> NULL ["_permalink":protected]=> NULL ["_next":protected]=> array(0) { } ["_prev":protected]=> array(0) { } ["_css_class":protected]=> NULL ["id"]=> int(16389) ["ID"]=> int(16389) ["post_author"]=> string(1) "9" ["post_content"]=> string(5954) "
Court Theatre is excited to collaborate with The Covey Group for a series of post-show talkbacks about The Tragedy of Othello, the Moor of Venice beginning October 30th.
Exploring select moments, scenes, and characters, our facilitation team of haydee souffrant, rebecca brown, and Kelli Covey will invite the audience to step into the emotion and energy of the production, exploring the many shifting movements and feelings—exhilaration, anger, surprise, sadness—that shape this powerful story. We will also discuss the way Court's production translates the traditional narrative of Shakespeare’s play for their stage, addressing themes such as power, silence, identity, and what it means to be fully human. Audience members will be invited to consider how this production of The Tragedy of Othello challenges traditional productions. Talkbacks will occur after the following performances:

About the Facilitators

Kelli Covey is a trainer, facilitator, mediator, coach and organizational development consultantwith over 20 years’ experience working with both nonprofit organizations and corporations. Kelli was previously the co-director of the Center for Civic Reflection, where she trained hundreds of facilitators in the practice of reflective discussion, including teachers, probation officers, AmeriCorps members, librarians, and organizational and community leaders. She also served as Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at Teach for America-Chicago, a large educational organization focused on educationalequity.Kelli is a certified mediator through the Chicago-based Center for Conflict Resolution (CCR). She mediates regularly in the Cook County court system and handles a variety of mediation cases, including victim-offender mediation, tenant/landlord,and juvenile and family mediation. She also leads conflict management workshops for CCR and serves on the continuing education committee. Kelli is an enrolled member of the Cherokee Nation proud to have served as a recent board member and treasurer for the American Indian Center, one of the oldest urban-based Native membership community centers in the United States. She continues to support AIC as a community member, volunteer and consultant. rebecca brown (she/they) is a dynamic facilitator, trainer, consultant, project manager and poet. She often describes herself as “made of questions (that don’t always need answers)” and is pleased to bring her creative thinking, deep listening and engaging facilitation skills to each project. rebecca forged over 15 years of nonprofit experience and leadership as a program director with an award-winningChicago area literary non-profit organization, designing and facilitating book group discussions and poetry writing circles with youth in under-resourced communities, as well as training others to do so. She has built her consultation and project management skills over the last five years, including becoming a trained practitioner of racial healing circles and supporting organizations in racial equity assessments, education and planning. rebecca is proud to share her skills for simultaneous big-picture/small-detail thinking, comfort with uncertainty and continuous learning, dedication to reflection, and capacity for finding the right questions to move forward with all her project partners.
haydee r. souffranthaydee souffrant (she/her) is a Chicago-based Haitian American writer, producer, and certified mediator through the Chicago-based Center for Conflict Resolution (CCR). Many of her artist workshops incorporate creative writing, meditation and facilitated discussions on healing and restorative justice practices for people of color, artists, educators, youth and adult audiences.In her 12 years as an arts administrator, souffrant’s professional and creative work has focused on production stage management, production and community arts program, and facilitations for both profit and nonprofit organizations, theaters, gallery and storefront venues such as Illinois Caucus of Adolescent Health, Theater on the Lake, Berger Park Theater, Links Hall, MPAACT at The Greenhouse Theater, The Chicago Mosaic School, The Black Revolutionary Theatre Workshop (New York), Dramatic Questions Theatre (New York) and additional theaters and artist spaces.

About The Covey Group

The Covey Group is a small group of dedicated partners committed to providing high-quality training, facilitation, consulting, and professional development, with a special focus on reflection and dialogue. Their mission is to support and engage individuals, organizations, and communities in creating a more meaningful, inclusive, and just world through practices of reflection, dialogue, and shared inquiry.

Header photo of Kelvin Roston, Jr. in THE TRAGEDY OF OTHELLO, THE MOOR OF VENICE by Michael Brosilow.
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Learn more in this blog focusing on the role of Assistant Director and Associate Dramaturg Abigail Henkin." ["_article_description"]=> string(19) "field_5927045f742d7" ["article_byline"]=> string(58) "By Carissa Villagomez, Marketing and Communications Intern" ["_article_byline"]=> string(19) "field_592de516b020a" ["add_feed"]=> string(1) "0" ["_add_feed"]=> string(19) "field_5939a562bed44" ["_yoast_wpseo_primary_category"]=> string(2) "14" ["_yoast_wpseo_primary_production-section"]=> string(3) "502" } ["___content":protected]=> NULL ["_permalink":protected]=> NULL ["_next":protected]=> array(0) { } ["_prev":protected]=> array(0) { } ["_css_class":protected]=> NULL ["id"]=> int(16274) ["ID"]=> int(16274) ["post_author"]=> string(1) "9" ["post_content"]=> string(8146) "The company of THE TRAGEDY OF OTHELLO, THE MOOR OF VENICE in rehearsal. Since April 2020, Abigail Henkin, then student and now UChicago graduate, has been working on the creative team for Court Theatre’s upcoming production of The Tragedy of Othello, the Moor of Venice. During that time, the team’s approach to the play has evolved as its members process social upheaval and discover creative possibilities during production meetings.  For over a year, a series of private salons have been orchestrated among Court creatives like Henkin, who is Assistant Director and Associate Dramaturg of the production. The salons present an extraordinary opportunity for collaboration between designers, directors, actors, dramaturgs, and anyone else on the team who has a unique idea to share. The purpose of these sessions, Henkin declares, is “pretty all-encompassing” as they offer a virtual space for the artists to discover the vision of the production alongside its co-directors, Marilyn F. Vitale Artistic Director Charles Newell and performance scholar and Northwestern PhD Candidate Gabrielle Randle-Bent. A critical decision that the team arrived at early in the process was to re-center the character of Othello in a play that is often overrun by Iago. The question “What is the tragedy of each of these characters?”, particularly female characters who are often overlooked or underestimated, was vital to their discussions. However, putting Othello at the forefront was also paramount. Changing the production title from “Othello” to its original complete title “The Tragedy of Othello, the Moor of Venice” was a pivotal step on that journey of centering a character who is often written over in favor of Iago in several traditional performances. Such a trend can be attributed to Shakespeare’s text itself, as numerous asides and frequent lines ensure that Iago has a greater textual presence and power in the play than Othello. Considering Shakespeare’s construction of the text, Iago tends to take over unless a production intervenes through its staging. Court’s production aims to recenter Othello. Each word in “The Tragedy of Othello, the Moor of Venice” is necessary because, as Henkin says, it “tells something about the character and what world he is occupying.” Furthermore, the title change also demonstrates the team’s commitment to work beyond the typical assumptions surrounding the play and break free from the developed traditions that often dictate how characters in this play are typically performed.  The acknowledgment of “Venice” in the title also manifests the team’s attention to the location as a presence that can be evoked even when the production is not strictly grounded in 1500s Venice. Emerging from Henkin’s in-depth dramaturgical work was the realization that Venice was a place of cultural diversity as a meeting place between the East and West, and that revelation has informed casting and design decisions. A variety of documents informed Henkin’s knowledge of Venice as a complicated yet lively society and how the tensions within it still resonate today. Henkin’s role as Associate Dramaturg meant that she was often in pursuit of resources, and the pandemic context during which this production has been conceptualized means that her research has been conducted online. That virtual condition has not stopped Henkin from finding fascinating texts that have become integral to shaping the production. A few resources that stood out in Henkin’s memory include texts from Professor Noémie Ndiaye’s Black Shakespeare class and the Court coordinated series Black Baroque, such as Debra Ann Byrd’s Becoming Othello: A Black Girl’s Journey and Keith Hamilton Cobb’s American Moor to challenge the stereotypical expectations of an Othello performer. Other sources were Margaret F. Rosenthal’s The Honest Courtesan: Veronica Franco, Citizen and Writer in Sixteenth-Century Venice to think about Bianca and the portrayal of women, and Toni Morrison’s Desdemona, discussed alongside Professor Ndiaye, also was helpful in exploring the bonds between Iago and Othello and Othello and Desdemona. Such texts further prompted the team’s commitment to treating each character as a complex human being who has a life beyond the play’s pages. Henkin reveals that a significant realization was “you can’t hate anyone without a strong emotional connection.” That discovery marked a transitional moment in understanding the characters as starting from a place of profound love and deep human connection rather than jealousy. The creatives have applied this understanding to their long-standing goal of, as Henkin puts it, “breaking assumptions about these characters” and “telling this brutal story in a way that is healing instead of reinscribing trauma.” The process of creating The Tragedy of Othello, the Moor of Venice has been a unique experience due to its pandemic context. Henkin notes that the team has not yet assembled in-person for their meetings, but that she looks forward to meeting everyone, following COVID guidelines, for the first rehearsal. The production also has an unexpected advantage: since there are no shows before it, the team gets to rehearse in the assembled set onstage. This scenario provides incredible opportunities for new creative discoveries that come with interacting with the physical space from early on in the rehearsal process.  When asked how these salon sessions have influenced her as a creator, Henkin shares how much it meant to her that everyone’s perspective was given space to be aired. “It was incredibly rewarding to be respected coming in as a student and having my voice as a professional heard by the thoughtful leadership of Charlie and Gabby,” Henkin says. This production marks the incredible start of Henkin’s professional artistic journey and Court Theatre’s transition back to live performances.  Learn more about The Tragedy of Othello, the Moor of Venice, and buy your tickets today Photo of the company of THE TRAGEDY OF OTHELLO, THE MOOR OF VENICE in rehearsal (Ervin-Eickhoff)." 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An Incredibly Immersive and Intimate Experience

In November, Court Theatre had the privilege of hosting nearly 600 UChicago students attending performances of The Tragedy of Othello, the Moor of Venice. We asked students to share a brief reflection on the production. UChicago student Camila Silva submitted the outstanding entry posted here. Many thanks to Camila and all the students who experienced this production!

Process and Evolution

How did more than a year of salon conversations inform Court's production of THE TRAGEDY OF OTHELLO, THE MOOR OF VENICE? Learn more in this blog focusing on the role of Assistant Director and Associate Dramaturg Abigail Henkin.

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