Northlight Theatre, under the direction of Artistic Director BJ Jones and Executive Director Timothy J. Evans, continues its 2021–2022 season with Fireflies by Donja R. Love, directed by Mikael Burke. Fireflies runs January 20, 2022 – February 20, 2022 at Northlight Theatre, 9501 Skokie Blvd in Skokie. The press opening is Friday, January 28, 2022 at 8pm.
The Civil Rights Movement has ignited the South, and the charismatic Rev. Charles Grace needs a new speech to galvanize the people. But it is Olivia, his pregnant wife, who writes those fiery speeches, and her tolerance for playing the supporting role to her husband is wearing thin. As the growing weight of secrets threatens her marriage, and a nation’s hatred threatens her child’s future, Olivia must rediscover the place that love has in her world.
“Fireflies is part of a trilogy of plays that explores deeply and with nuance Blackness and Queerness during key moments of Black American history. In Fireflies, the playwright has focused his gaze on the overlooked role Black women played in the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s. The central character of Olivia is comparable in some ways to Coretta Scott King, who in her way was overshadowed by the remarkable legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr., but whose own powerful presence is still resonant today,” comments Artistic Director BJ Jones. “Our director Mikael Burke brilliantly directed Love's Sugar in Our Wounds, the first piece in the trilogy, and when he told me his affinity for Fireflies I jumped at the chance to have his work on our stage here at Northlight.”
The cast of Fireflies is Chanell Bell (Olivia) and Al’Jaleel McGhee (Charles).
The creative team is Scott Penner (Set Design), Gregory Graham (Costume Design), Eric Watkins (Lighting Design), Christie Chiles Twillie (Sound Design), and Bren Coombs (Props Design). The stage manager is Rita Vreeland.
Donja R. Love (Playwright) is an Afro-Queer playwright, poet, and filmmaker from Philadelphia. He's the recipient of the 2018 Laurents/Hatcher Foundation Award, the 2017 Princess Grace Playwriting Fellowship, The Lark's 2016 Van Lier New Voices Playwriting Fellowship, The Playwrights Realm’s 2016-2017 Writing Fellowship, and the 2016 Arch and Bruce Brown Playwriting Award. He is a Eugene O’Neill 2018/2017 National Playwrights Conference finalist and the 2011 Philadelphia Adult Grand Slam Poetry Champion. His work has been developed at Manhattan Theatre Club, Rising Circle Theater Collective, The Lark, and The Playwrights Realm. He’s the co-founder of The Each-Other Project, an organization that helps build community and provide visibility, through art and advocacy, for LGBTQ People of Color. Select stage-plays include: The Love* Plays (Sugar in Our Wounds, Fireflies, and In The Middle), a trilogy which explores Queer Love* during pivotal moments in Black History; and Soft. Select film work includes: Modern Day Black Gay (web series), and Once A Star (short film). Training: Juilliard, Lila Acheson Wallace American Playwrights Program.
Mikael Burke (Director) is a Chicago-based director, deviser, and educator, and was the inaugural Artistic Fellow at Northlight in their 2018/2019 season. A Princess Grace Award-winner in Theatre and Jeff Award-nominated director, Mikael’s worked with Victory Gardens Theatre, Northlight Theatre, Jackalope Theatre Company, Windy City Playhouse, About Face Theatre, First Floor Theater, American Theatre Company, Chicago Dramatists, and The Story Theatre in Chicago, and regionally with Indiana Repertory Theatre, Asolo Repertory Theatre, Geva Theatre Center, and Phoenix Theatre. When not directing, Mikael serves as Associate Artistic Director at About Face Theatre in Chicago. Recent directing credits include Mrs. Harrison by R. Eric Thomas; The Island by Athol Fugard; we are continuous by Harrison David Rivers; Kill Move Paradise by James Ijames; and The Agitators by Mat Smart.
Chanell Bell (Olivia) is an American storyteller and humanitarian. Born in Portsmouth Virginia, Chanell made her theatrical debut at nine years old. She received her BFA from Howard University and her MFA from DePaul. Previous performances include She The People (Second City), Crumbs from the Table of Joy (Raven), and Moon Man Walk (Definition) winning her the BTAA Most Promising Actress Award. Chanell can currently be seen on POWER IV (STARZ). Recent nominations include Best Supporting Actress at the New Jersey Film Awards. Chanell teaches young artists throughout the southside of Chicago and is proudly repped by Paonessa Talent & ATA Management.
Al’Jaleel McGhee (Charles) is overjoyed to be making his Northlight Theatre debut and a return to the Chicago stage. He is a graduate of the UIC School of Theatre & Music and currently a member of the Northwestern University inaugural Acting MFA cohort. He is represented by Gray Talent Group. Theatre credits include: Wolf Play (The Gift); Hamlet (Chicago Shakespeare); Graveyard Shift (Goodman New Stages); To Catch A Fish, Paradise Blue (TimeLine); Breach (Victory Gardens); and Blues For An Alabama Sky (Court). Film/Television credits include: Shining Girls (Apple), 61st Street (AMC), Red Line (CBS), Chicago Med (NBC), Empire (FOX), The Chi (Showtime), and Proud Mary (Sony Pictures).
FACT SHEET: Fireflies
Written by: Donja R. Love
Directed by: Mikael Burke
Cast: Chanell Bell (Olivia) and Al’Jaleel McGhee (Charles)
Creative Team: Scott Penner (Set Design), Gregory Graham (Costume Design), Eric Watkins (Lighting Design), Christie Chiles (Sound Design), Bren Coombs (Props Design), and Rita Vreeland (Stage Manager)
Dates: Previews: January 20–27, 2022
Press Opening: Friday, January 28, 2022 at 8pm
Regular run: January 29-February 20, 2022
Schedule: Tuesdays: 7:30pm (January 25, February 8 only); Wednesdays: 1:00pm; and 7:30pm; Thursdays: 7:30pm; Fridays: 8:00pm; Saturdays: 2:30pm (except January 22) and 8:00pm; Sundays: 2:30pm; and 7:00pm (January 23 and February 20 only)
An Open Caption and Audio Described performance will be held on February 12 at 2:30pm.
Backstage with BJ, Northlight’s popular discussion series with Artistic Director BJ Jones, featuring special guest artists, actors, directors and designers, offers behind-the-scenes insight into each production while it is still in rehearsal. Backstage with BJ for Fireflies will be held Friday, January 14, 2022. Reservations are required: https://northlight.org/events/backstage-with-bj/
Location: Northlight Theatre is located at the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts, 9501 Skokie Blvd, Skokie
Tickets: Previews: $30-$61
Regular run: $30-$89
Student tickets are $15, any performance (subject to availability)
Box Office: The Box Office is located at 9501 Skokie Blvd, Skokie. * 847.673.6300; northlight.org
Notes of Interest:
- Fireflies had its world premiere at Atlantic Theater Company in New York in 2018.
- Fireflies is the second play in Donja R. Love’s The Love* Plays trilogy, exploring queer love during pivotal moments in Black History. The first play – Sugar in Our Wounds – is about a relationship between two male slaves during the Civil War, and the third play – In the Middle – is set during the present era of Black Lives Matter movement.
- Mikael Burke was Northlight Theatre's inaugural Artistic Fellow.
Subscriptions to the 2021-2122 Northlight Season are available at northlight.org/subscribe or 847.673.6300
Subscriptions range in price from $117-$275. With its wide range of ticket prices, discounted subscription packages and complimentary parking, Northlight remains of one of the best theatrical values in Chicagoland. Package options include traditional 5-Play Packages and Flex Packages. Subscriptions are available at northlight.org/subscribe or 847.673.6300.
Proof of vaccination is required for entry. Masks must be worn at all times in the venue. Up-to-date policies can be found at northlight.org/health-safety.
Northlight Theatre aspires to promote change of perspective and encourage compassion by exploring the depth of our humanity across a bold spectrum of theatrical experiences, reflecting our community to the world and the world to our community.
Founded in 1974, the organization has mounted over 220 productions, including more than 40 world premieres. Northlight has earned 208 Joseph Jefferson Award nominations and 36 Awards, as well as ten Edgerton Foundation for New Play Awards. As one of the area’s premier theatre companies, Northlight is a regional magnet for critical and professional acclaim, as well as talent of the highest quality.
The 2021-2022 Season is supported in part by BMO Harris Bank and season lighting sponsor ComEd, An Exelon Company.
Northlight is supported in part by generous contributions from Allstate Insurance; the Paul M. Angell Family Foundation; BMO Harris Bank; Bulley and Andrews; Byline Bank; The Elizabeth F. Cheney Foundation; CoBank; ComEd, An Exelon Company; Eckenhoff Saunders; Evanston Arts Council; Evanston Community Foundation; Lloyd A. Fry Foundation; Full Circle Foundation; The Gross Foundation; Gruman Butkus Associates; John R. Halligan Fund; Illinois Arts Council, a state agency; Illinois Humanities; Katten Muchin Roseman LLP; Kirkland & Ellis Foundation; The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation; Modestus Bauer Foundation; National Endowment for the Arts; Niles Township; NorthShore University HealthSystems; Northwestern University; The Offield Family Foundation; The Pauls Foundation; PNC Bank; Polsinelli; Ralla Klepak Trust for the Performing Arts; Room & Board; Sanborn Family Foundation; The Saints Foundation; Dr. Scholl Foundation; The Shubert Foundation, Inc.; The Harold and Mimi Steinberg Charitable Trust; The Sullivan Family Foundation; and Tom Stringer Design Partners.