Arab play among new Steppenwolf Theater productions

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Steppenwolf Presents

5th Annual First Look Repertory of New Work:

Honest, Sex with Strangers & Ski Dubai

July 22 – August 9, 2009

CHICAGO (July 1, 2009) – Steppenwolf Theatre Company presents the 5th annual First Look Repertory of New Work, featuring three developmental productions of new plays presented in rotation and accompanied by a series of events around the development of new work.First Look Repertory of New Work runs July 22 – August 9, 2009 in The Merle Reskin Garage Theatre, 1624 N. Halsted St.All tickets are $20.

The First Look Repertory of New Work 2009 productions are:

Honest

Written and directed by ensemble member Eric Simonson

Wednesday, July 22 – Sunday, August 9, 2009

Featuring Martin McClendon, Katherine Cunningham, Erik Hellman, Lucas Neff and Kelly O’Sullivan.

Guy, author of a best-selling memoir about his downward spiral into drug addiction and homelessness, comes face-to-face with a prying reporter, snooping for a scandal.Their tense showdown over truth versus creative license leads to shocking revelations that could jeopardize both their livelihoods.

Sex with Strangers

By Laura Eason

Directed by associate artistJessica Thebus

Thursday, July 23 – Sunday, August 9, 2009

Featuring Amy J. Carle and Stephen Louis Grush.

Ethan Strange is a hot young scenester whose online journal of sexscapades have turned him into the “it” boy of the blogosphere. Olivia is an attractive 30-something whose own writing career has crapped out. After they hook up, sex turns into dating and dating into something more—but their online exploits threaten to destroy their real-life connection.

Ski Dubai

By Laura Jacqmin

Directed by Lisa Portes

Friday, July 24 – Sunday, August 9, 2009

Featuring ensemble member James Vincent Meredith with Cliff Chamberlain, Hillary Clemens, Jennifer Coombs, Sadieh Rifai and Rani Waterman.

Rachel, a young Environmental Friendliness Consultant, moves from New York to steamy Dubai to work on a man-made island teeming with skyscrapers and luxury hotels. Trying to uphold her “green” principles in a hotbed of capitalism, she navigates a stream of quirky displaced internationals battling loneliness and isolation in a flashy, modern pseudo-city.

The First Look 2009 Playwrights

Laura Eason is the author of more than 15 plays, both original works and adaptations. Previous productions at Steppenwolf include When the Messenger is Hot (also at 59E59, NYC), A Tale of Two Cities and Huck Finn. Her plays have been produced and developed in New York at New York Theatre Workshop, WET, New Georges, MCC, Andhow and Vital Theatre and produced regionally at Lookingglass, Walkabout, Two River Theater and Theatre Schmeater.Laura is an Affiliated Artist of New Georges and a playwright member of the Women’s Project Lab in New York and an Ensemble Member and the former Artistic Director of Lookingglass Theatre in Chicago.

Laura Jacqmin is the winner of the 2008 Wasserstein Prize, a $25,000 award for emerging female playwrights. Her plays have been produced and developed with Ars Nova, 2econd Stage Theatre, Aurora Theatre Company, Victory Gardens Theater and The 24 Hour Plays Off Broadway at the Atlantic Theater.Jacqmin will be the artist-in-residence at the Center on Age and Community in Milwaukee this fall and is an adjunct faculty member at CarthageCollege.

Eric Simonson,a Steppenwolf ensemble member since 1993, recently completed a documentary on the late Studs Terkel for HBO.He received a Tony® nomination for his direction of Steppenwolf’s The Song of Jacob Zulu with Ladysmith Black Mambazo and directed an Oscar®-nominated documentary about the acclaimed South African singing group.Simonson received an Oscar® for Best Documentary Short for his film A Note of Triumph: The Golden Age of Norman Corwin in 2006.Other directing credits at Steppenwolf include Carter’s Way (also playwright), Slaughterhouse-Five (also adaptor) and Nomathemba (Hope). His new play Fake will be presented during Steppenwolf’s 2009-2010 Season.

The designers for First Look 2009are: Kevin Depinet (sets), Myron Elliott (costumes), J.R. Lederle (lights)and Joseph Fosco (sound).Jonathan Templeton is the Lead Stage Manager, Jonathan Nook and Lauren Hickman are the Stage Managers, Kimberly Senior and Ed Sobel are the Program Directors and Whitney Dibo is the Program Assistant.

The First Look Repertory of New Work also includes First Look 101, a unique three-month experience that takes enrolled participants on a backstage journey through all aspects of the new play development process – from the first rehearsal to the final performance.The program is limited to 101 members and is open to anyone interested in, and wanting to know more about, creating new plays.First Look 101 runs June 1, 2009 – August 9, 2009.This year’s First Look 101 is SOLD OUT.

First Look Repertory of New Work is a developmental process that culminates in performance before an audience, rather than in a staged reading or workshop presentation.Scripts undergo significant revision during the workshop/rehearsal process and may be revised even after being publicly presented during First Look.They are presented with full, if minimal, design support because in Steppenwolf’s view, the design process is an integral aspect of play development.The intent is to prime the plays for future production at other theaters across the country.

First Look has gained both local and national recognition since its inception in 2005. Seven of the twelve plays presented during First Look’s first four seasons have enjoyed subsequent world premieres at other theaters, including: Jason Wells’ Perfect Mendacity produced at Asolo Repertory Theatre in Florida; Wells’ Men of Tortuga also at Asolo (followed by a second production at Profiles Theater in Chicago); Butcher of Baraboo by Marisa Wegrzyn produced by 2econd Stage Theatre in New York; 100 Saints You Should Know by Kate Fodor produced by Playwrights Horizons in New York; Spare Change by Mia McCullough produced by Stage Left Theatre in Chicago; Gary by Melinda Lopez produced by Boston Playwrights’ Theatre in Massachusetts; and When The Messenger is Hot by Laura Eason produced by 59E59 Theaters in New York.

Individual tickets to First Look Repertory of New Work cost $20.A FirstLookPass to all three plays is available for $45.Tickets are available at www.steppenwolf.org or by calling Audience Services at 312-335-1650. First Look 101 costs $75 ($45 for students with valid ID) and includes access to all First Look 101 events, plus tickets to all three First Look Repertory productions. This year’s First Look 101 is SOLD OUT.

Steppenwolf is located near all forms of public transportation and is wheelchair accessible. Street and lot parking are available. Assistive listening devices are available for every performance.

Special thanks to TheHarold and Mimi Steinberg Charitable Trust for supporting new American plays at Steppenwolf Theatre Company and for their sponsorship of theFirst Look Repertory of New Work.

Committed to the principle of ensemble performance through the collaboration of a company of actors, directors and playwrights, Steppenwolf Theatre Company’s mission is to advance the vitality and diversity of American theater by nurturing artists, encouraging repeatable creative relationships and contributing new works to the national canon. The company, formed in 1976 by a collective of actors, is dedicated to perpetuating an ethic of mutual respect and the development of artists through on-going group work. Steppenwolf has grown into an internationally renowned company of 42 artists whose talents include acting, directing, playwriting, filmmaking and textual adaptation.

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Ray Hanania

Ray Hanania is an award winning former Chicago City Hall reporter and Columnist who began writing in 1975 when he published The Middle Eastern Voice newspaper in Chicago (1975-1977). He covered Chicago City Hall from 1976 through 1992 (Mayor Daley to Mayor Daley) and has expanded to writing for newspapers around the world focussed on Middle East and American politics.

Hanania loves to write about American Arabs in politics, and focuses on Arab life in America.

Currently, he writes weekly columns on Middle East and American Arab issues for the Arab News in Saudi Arabia at www.ArabNews.com. He writes on American politics for the Des Plaines Valley News, Southwest News-Herald, The Regional News newspaper and the Reporter Newspapers. He also writes for the online websites TheArabDailyNews.com and NewsAmericaNetwork.com (Illinois News Network at IllinoisNewsNetwork.com).

Palestinian, American Arab and Christian, Hanania’s parents originate from Jerusalem and Bethlehem. Hanania began in journalism as an activist publishing Chicago’s first English-language American Arab Newspaper “The Middle Eastern Voice” from 1975 through 1977. In 1976, he was hired by the Chicago community newspaper The Southtown Economist (Daily Southtown) and in 1985 was hired by the Chicago Sun-Times and covered Chicago City Hall for both. In 1993, he launched the “The Villager” Newspapers which covered 12 Southwest Chicagoland suburban regions. In 2004, he published “The National Arab American Times” monthly newspaper which was distributed through 12,500 Middle East ethnic food stores in 48 American States.

Hanania is the recipient of four (4) Chicago Headline Club “Peter Lisagor Awards” for Column writing. In November 2006, he was named “Best Ethnic American Columnist” by the New American Media;In 2009, he received the prestigious Sigma Delta Chi Award for Writing from the Society of Professional Journalists. He is the recipient of the MT Mehdi Courage in Journalism Award. Hanania has also received two (2) Chicago Stick-o-Type awards from the Chicago Newspaper Guild, and in 1990 was nominated by the Chicago Sun-Times for a Pulitzer Prize for his four-part series on the Palestinian Intifada.

Hanania’s writings have been published in newspapers around the world. Formerly syndicated by Creators Syndicate, Hanania also has written news, features and Opinion Columns for Al Jazeera English, the Jerusalem Post, YNetNews.com, Arab News, Saudi Gazette, Newsday in New York, the Orlando Sentinel, the Houston Chronicle, The Daily Star, the News of the World, the Daily Yomimuri in Tokyo, Chicago Magazine, the Arlington Heights Daily Herald, and Aramco Magazine. His political columns are published in the Southwest News-Herald and Des Plaines Valley News, Regional News and Palos Reporter newspapers in Chicagoland. Hanania is the President/CEO of Urban Strategies Group media and public affairs consulting which has clients in Illinois, Florida, Michigan and Washington D.C.

Hanania is Palestinian Christian from prominent Bethlehem and Jerusalem families. His wife and son are Jewish and he performs standup comedy lampooning Arab-Jewish relations, advocating for peace based on non-violence, mutual recognition and Two-States.

His Facebook Page is Facebook.com/rghanania

Email him at: RGHanania@gmail.com