Piven Theatre Workshop announced today the collaboration between Dear Evanston, a social media group focused on engaging community around issues of race, inclusion, and gun violence, and Fleetwood-Jourdain Theatre (FJT), Evanston’s African American theatre company. The collaboration will culminate with a world premiere play, A Home on the Lake, co-written by Stephen Fedo and Tim Rhoze, and directed by Tim Rhoze. A Home on the Lake will be performed at Piven Theatre Workshop, 927 Noyes Street in Evanston, April 19 - May 20, 2018. Press opening is Saturday, April 21.
A Home on the Lake is the story of two Evanston families in two eras whose lives are disrupted by matters of property and race. In 1920, as the Great Migration begins to change the demographics of Evanston, two entrepreneurs—one white, one African American—make business deals that will result in the relocation of black residents to what will become, for generations thereafter, the city's "black district." Their business decisions have consequences for their own families, including one that isn't revealed for nearly a century when the current descendants of those two families are faced with the question of who has a right to a home on the lake.
Devised from extensive research and interviews of Evanston community members conducted by the founder of Dear Evanston, Nina Kavin, the play delves into themes of displacement, equity, home ownership, and how communities are divided or come together during times of upheaval.
Rhoze said, “Historic stories are a chance for us to witness what was, and how, in part, we have arrived where we are presently. Oral history has a compelling allure because you are an audience to people who have personal accounts of what was.”
“I had the enlightening opportunity to be an audience on several occasions,” he continued, “as elderly members of the Evanston community spoke about their life in this city during a period when African Americans were developing neighborhoods and a thriving business district in an area west of Ridge Avenue and Greenbay Road.”
A Home on the Lake centers much of its narrative on the development of the area that is currently the 5th Ward and touches on a series of events that took place during the early part of last century.
Homes owned by members of the Black community were moved from the area of Evanston east of Ridge and Greenbay, to what was later to become Evanston’s Fifth Ward.
“I came to Piven,” said Rhoze, “with an idea to co-produce a play, inspired by my discussion with these community elders in Evanston. The event of moving houses generated such wider conversations about ownership, how our community has developed over the years, and how this segregating event impacted the entire community and its members.
“We wanted to look at how this affected interpersonal relationships,” Rhoze concluded, “how it’s evolved over the years, and how we as a town have overcome some of these challenges.”
A Home on the Lake will be performed at Piven Theatre Workshop, 927 Noyes Street, April 19-May 19, 2018: Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings at 7:30pm, and Sundays at 2:30pm. Tickets, which range in price from $15-$30, are available by calling 847-866-8049 or by visiting www.piventheatre.org. Press opening is Saturday, April 21.
About Piven Theatre Workshop:
With A Home on the Lake, Piven Theatre Workshop continues its ongoing mission of premiering original works, and its history of exploring issues of our community. Piven Theatre Workshop has excelled as a leader in the arts community for 46 years, maintaining a distinguished legacy in the training of children and adults in the theater arts. Annually, between onsite and off-site programming, the theater trains more than 1,000 students and last year provided more than $50,000 in need and merit-based scholarships. Piven Theatre Workshop also maintains a professional theater and numerous community partnership programs throughout the Chicago area. For more information, please visit www.piventheatre.org.
About Fleetwood-Jourdain Theatre
Founded in 1979, Fleetwood-Jourdain-Theatre’s (FJT) mission is to present powerful, thought-provoking, community-centered African American and African Diaspora-centered storytelling, with a commitment to diversity and creative excellence. FJT is dedicated to providing a nurturing and creative environment for directors, playwrights, set, light, and costume designers, as well as for experienced and novice performers. In this positive environment, they can develop their skills and fully express their talents.
About Dear Evanston
Through the power of storytelling, Dear Evanston examines issues of race, equity, inclusion, and youth gun violence in Evanston to open dialogue, build bridges, and effect change in our
community. Dear Evanston amplifies the voices of community members that are less-often heard; encourages Evanstonians to share their ideas, experiences, and journeys; partners with individuals and organizations to hold events and activities to inspire meaningful dialogue, unite our community, and serve as a catalyst for change; provides information about organizations and events that offer opportunities to connect across race, socioeconomic background, and culture; and shares local news related to issues of race, equity, inclusion, and gun violence.
About Nina Kavin, Founder of Dear Evanston
Nina Kavin is a writer and community activist who founded Dear Evanston, a social media platform and action-oriented entity that seeks to engage Evanstonians in constructive dialogue and action around issues of racial equity and youth gun violence, and to tell the stories of Evanstonians whose voices are less-often heard. Nina built Dear Evanston, which was born as a group project through Leadership Evanston, from a Facebook following of one (her husband) in February 2016 to 7,800 followers today. Nina and her family have lived in Evanston for 21 years and she has served on the boards of Beth Emet the Free Synagogue and Curt’s Cafe, and currently serves on Curt’s Advisory Board. Nina was born and raised in Johannesburg, South Africa and came to the States at age 15.
She holds a B.A. in English from the University of Chicago. Nina's background is in public relations and she has worked on racial and social justice issues since her 20s. She met her husband at Jobs for Youth Chicago, was Associate Director of the Anti-Defamation League’s Midwest office, and was an Account Supervisor at Jasculca-Terman & Associates in Chicago. Nina’s favorite quote is from Leonard Cohen’s song Anthem: “There is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in."
Tim Rhoze (Director/Playwright)
Tim Rhoze has been the Producing Artistic Director of the Fleetwood-Jourdain Theatre since 2010. FJT is a professional theatre company located in and supported by the City of Evanston and its residents. During his tenure he has produced and directed over twenty productions including: For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf, From the Mississippi Delta, Heat, Home, Truth Be Told, Woza Albert, Big Butt Girls and Other Fantasies, Going to St. Ives, Having Our Say, Gee’s Bend, A Song For Coretta, #LOVESTORIES: Inspired by BLACK LIVES MATER, Single Black Female, Yellowman, Sweet, and Lady Day At Emerson’s Bar & Grill. Tim wrote, and directed the FJT world premieres of Why Not Me? A Sammy Davis Jr. Story, and Maya’s Last Poem. Other regional directing credits include, Intimate Apparel, Bear Country, Nobody, Fences, Piano Lesson, Ain’t Misbehavin’, K2, Glass Menagerie, An Iliad,and Clybourne Park. Tim has developed and facilitates an array of ongoing theatre programs including the FJT Teen Drama Club, FJT PrimeTime Players Older Adult Drama Club, Tater Tot Theatre Company (ages 5-7), Adult & Youth Acting Workshops, Pop Up Theatre at Farmer’s Market (and at Penny Park starting the summer of 2018), YSTEP-Youth & Senior Theatre Ensemble Project (an intergenerational arts program), Older Adult Theatre Summer Camp, Shakespearian Performance Workshops, playwriting and music workshops. He has produced and hosted the annual Women’s History Month Luncheon & Discussion Panel, the Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Celebration and the FJT Summertime Concert Series featuring Old School R & B, Jazz Meets Blues, The Black Voices of Opera, The Songs From Broadway’s Black Musicals and next season’s The Great Ladies of Jazz Concert/Gala. He has also developed ongoing collaborative relationships with Piven Theatre Workshop, Actors Gymnasium, Family Focus, Y.O.U., Evanston Public Library, District 65, Northwestern University, Second Baptist Church, Faith Temple and Beth Emet Synagogue.
Stephen Fedo (Playwright)
Stephen Fedo adapted and directed Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse as well as Gogol’s Nose and Overcoat for Piven Theatre, where he also has adapted short stories by Chekhov, Singer, Malamud, and others for several productions directed by Joyce Piven. He adapted Jane Austen’s Emma for Reverie Theatre and translated and directed Hofmannsthal’s Elektra for Rogue Theater. As an actor, his recent appearances include Blue/Orange, A Number and Scenes from an Execution (Runcible Theatre), Hamlet (Midsommer Flight), The Wild Duck (Halcyon Theatre), Ivanov (Piven Theatre), A Christmas Carol (Dream Theatre), and Red Hamlet (Red Theater Chicago). He is Piven Theatre’s Literary Manager. He also practices law.
Nicholia Aquirre (Isabelle/Cynthia)
Nicholia was recently seen in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf (Pulse Theatre Workshop) Steel
Magnolias (The Arc Theatre), Vagina Monologues & Gee’s Bend (Fleetwood Jourdain Theatre), Constant State of Panic (Clockwise Theatre) and Little Shop of Horrors (Devonshire Theatre). She is represented by Big Mouth Talent.
Sean Blake (Leland/Derek)
Sean just completed a very successful run of The Legend of Georgia McBride at Northlight theatre playing the role of Miss Tracy Mills. Broadway/National tours: Showboat 1st National (Dance Captain/Swing) Showboat Australia (Assoc. Chorographer) Regional Credits: The Great Society and The Little Foxes at Asolo Rep Theatre. Smokey Joe’s Café (Dir.Marsha Milgram Dodge) at Drury Lane Oakbrook. Animal Crackers- Baltimore Centerstage (Dir.BJ Jones), The Story, Purlie, Ain't Misbehavin, The Rose Tatoo, Bounce all at The Goodman Theatre. Porgy And Bess (Sportin' Life Jeff Nomination Best Supporting Actor) and Raisin at The Court Theatre. Carousel -The Court Theatre and Long Wharf Theatre. Birdie Blue -Seattle Rep. Theatre, Nobody at Alabama Shakespeare Theatre, Timon of Athens- Chicago Shakespeare Theatre, And Hot Mikado-Fulton Opera, to name a few. Sean can be heard on the original cast recording of Stephen Sondheim and Hal Prince's Bounce. He was also the recipient of a BTAA nomination for Best Actor in A Play for his solo performance in Why Not Me? A Sammy Davis Jr. Story( written by Tim Rhoze) He is a four time Jeff Award nominee and two time Black Theatre Alliance Award nominee in Chicago. Sean was also seen last fall and winter season as Morris Loach on Fox TV’s Empire . Sean is also a proud member of SAG and Actor’s Equity.
Abigail Boucher (Florence/Cynthia)
Abigail was last seen at Piven Theatre in The Language Archive. Recent Chicago credits include understudying the role of Kate in All My Sons at Court Theatre, Betrayal and A Loss of Roses at Raven Theatre as well as The Distance at Haven Theatre. Abigail has also worked with The House, Profiles, Lookingglass, Strawdog and 20% Theatre Company Chicago (which she co-founded). Film/TV credits include Operator and Recessive by Logan Kibens, The Family by Luc Besson and Chicago Med. Abigail is a graduate of Smith College. She is represented by Paonessa Talent.
Jelani Pitcher (Isaac/Adrian)
Jelani recently moved to Chicago after graduating with a BFA in Acting from Ithaca College, in New York. Since moving to Chicago, Jelani has performed in Fleetwood-Jourdain Theatre’s acclaimed production of Sweet as “George”, where he received two Black Theatre Alliance Awards (BTAA) nominations, as well as Try This at Home at The Second City’s Donny’s Skybox Theatre. In July, Jelani will be returning to Fleetwood-Jourdain Theatre as “Booth” in their upcoming production, Topdog/Underdog. Jelani is proudly represented by Lily’s Talent Agency. jelanipitcher.com
Rachel Shapiro (Elizabeth/Kathleen)
Regional credits include: The Diary of Anne Frank (Kansas City Repertory Theatre), and Across the Universe: The Music of Lennon & McCartney (American Conservatory Theatre). Chicago credits include: The Nutcracker (The House Theatre of Chicago), Charlotte's Web (Drury Lane Theatre), Bad Jews (Theater Wit), Our Class (Remy Bumppo Theatre Company), Yizkor (Anaemic Theatre), Elephant and Piggie: We are in a Play! (Emerald City), Parade (BoHo Theatre), The Diary of Anne Frank (Metropolis PAC), and A Christmas Carol (Metropolis PAC), among others. Film/TV credits include: "The 312" (GK Studio Productions), and "The Throwaways" (tellofilms). She is a proud Northwestern graduate and is represented by Big Mouth Talent.
Christopher M. Walsh (Case/Todd)
Christopher is a member of the artistic ensemble at Lifeline Theatre, where appeared in Monstrous Regiment, The Three Musketeers, and The Woman in White, and wrote the scripts for Miss Holmes and A Tale of Two Cities, among others. He is also a member of WildClaw Theatre, where he most recently directed Night In Alachua County. Other recent credits include The Hammer Trinity and Season on the Line (The House Theatre), Captain Steve's Caring Kingdom (Factory Theater), and Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead (Metropolis Performing Arts Centre). Thanks to Mandy. More info at christophermwalsh.com.