Thursday March 22 3:59 am

Spotlighting events along the south shore of Lake Michigan

Kudos to Gary Griffin and the Cast of "Red Velvet"


An aggressive wannabe reporter, Halina (Annie Purcell) conned a stagehand named, Casimir (Jűrgen Hooper) into letting her into the dressing room of famed Shakespearean actor, Ira Aldridge, refusing to leave even when his agent, Terence (Roderick Peeples), ordered her out.

Tired and ill, the white-haired Aldridge doesn’t want to do an interview, ordering Terence to get rid of her, but she won’t leave, firing question after question at him. Eventually, he gives in and agrees to be interviewed. He answers her questions until she brings up Covent Garden, asking why he only did two performances and will he ever go back.

During a performance of Othello at Covent Garden, the famed actor Edmund Kean collapsed on stage. The next morning Connie (Tiffany Renee Johnson), a Jamaican maid who works at the theater, is serving tea while the cast speculates on who will fill in.

Betty Lovell (Bri Sudia) is worried that the play might close and her rent is due. The male actors, Bernard Ward (Peeples) and Henry Forester (Hooper) assume that Kean’s son Charles (Michael Hayden) will step into his father’s part and that everyone else will just move up to the next part.

Theater manager Pierre LaPorte (Greg Matthew Anderson) has another plan, however. He’s already asked American actor, Ira Aldridge, to take the role. This decision is not well accepted by the cast and conflict arises almost immediately. Young Kean is so offended that he walks out.

The Kean company were “teapot actors”, meaning that each actor would keep one hand at his/her waist, while extending the other in proclamation while delivering their perfectly memorized lines directly to the audience. Aldridge was anything but a “teapot actor” favoring direct interaction and physical contact, even violent contact. Even though her fiancé walked out, Ellen Tree (Chaon Cross) – who plays Desdemona – stayed. She tried to work with Aldridge, infuriating young Kean.

Although LaPorte warned him that the British public wasn’t ready for violence in a performance of Shakespeare, Aldridge didn’t listen. The British critics eviscerated him, attacking him for the color of his skin, the shape of his nose, unleashing an extraordinary level of vicious vitriol.

“Red Velvet” runs through January 21st in the Courtyard Theatre, Chicago Shakespeare Theatre on Navy Pier, Chicago. Parking is available at a 40% discount in the Navy Pier Garages with validation from CST.
Running time is 2 hours, 15 minutes, with an intermission. Performances are Tuesdays at 7:30 pm; Wednesdays at 1:00 and 7:30 pm; Thursdays and Fridays at 7:30 pm; Saturdays at 3:00 and 8:00 pm; Sundays at 2:00 pm. There will be a 7:30 pm performance on January 7. There will be no matinee on Wednesday, January 17th. Tickets range from $48-$88. FYI (312) 595-5600 or