Backstage Pass with Lia Chang

Lia Chang: André De Shields stars in Chicago Premiere of Charles Smith’s The Gospel According to James at Victory Gardens, May 14-June 12

Two-time Tony nominee André De Shields plays the title character in the Chicago Premiere of Charles Smith’s The Gospel According to James directed by Chuck Smith. The Gospel According to James runs May 14-June 12, 2011 at the Victory Gardens Biograph Theater, 2433 N. Lincoln Avenue in Lincoln Park. Opening night is set for May 18, 2011.

Playwright Charles Smith, André De Shields and director Chuck Smith on the set of the New York production of "Knock Me A Kiss" after the opening night performance at the Abrons Arts Center on November 11, 2011.  Photo by Lia Chang

Playwright Charles Smith, André De Shields and director Chuck Smith on the set of the New York production of "Knock Me A Kiss" after the opening night performance at the Abrons Arts Center on November 11, 2011. Photo by Lia Chang

Last November, the trio collaborated on Charles Smith’s critically acclaimed New York production of Knock Me A Kiss, directed by Chuck Smith, with De Shields as W.E.B. Du Bois, at the Abrons Arts Center, a co-production of Legacy Creative Arts Company and Woodie King Jr.’s New Federal Theatre.

The Victory Gardens production of The Gospel According to James, follows the well-received world premiere, which was commissioned by Indiana Repertory Theatre and presented by Bingham McHale from March 22-April 10, 2011.

The double lynching immortalized by the iconic Lawrence Beitler photograph served as playwright Charles Smith’s inspiration for The Gospel According to James. Set in 1930 in Marion, Indiana, five young people are eager to break out of their small town. They need a car. They have a gun. The play creates a fictional meeting between James Cameron (De Shields) who survived the lynching and Mary Ball, the only woman with them that night. Years later, contradictory memories are all that’s left of their grand plans. As The Gospel According to James dramatizes the events leading up to the crime, it also explores how unreliable personal memory underlies what we believe to be an immutable public history.

Helmed by Chuck Smith, the cast also features Kelsey Brennan (Mary), Wardell Julius Clark (Tommy Shipp), Zach Kenney (Claude), Linda Kimbrough (Marie), Diane Kondrat (Bea Ball), Christopher Jon Martin (Hoot Ball), Anthony Peeples (Apples), Tyler Jacob Rollinson (Abe Smith) and Nick Vidal (Claude).

The production team for The Gospel According to James includes scenic design by Linda Buchanan, costume design by Rachel Healey, lighting design by Kathy Perkins, compositions and sound design by Ray Nardelli.

Performance Schedule:
Tuesdays: 7:30 pm (except, no show on May 31)
Wednesdays: 2:00 pm (June 1 ONLY), 7:30 pm
Thursdays: 7:30 pm
Fridays: 7:30 pm (with 6pm Happy Hour on June 3)
Saturdays: 4:00 pm (except May 14), 7:30 pm
Sundays: 3:00 pm

Victory Gardens Biograph Theater is located at 2433 N. Lincoln Avenue in Lincoln Park. Tickets during previews are $20-$40, and $20-$50 during the regular run. The Box Office is located at 2433 N. Lincoln Avenue, Chicago. Call 773.871.3000, online at victorygardens.org or email tickets@victorygardens.org.

André De Shields in his New York apartment © Lia Chang


In a career that has spanned four decades, De Shields is best known for his electrifying performances in the original Broadway productions of The Wiz in 1975 (title role), Ain’t Misbehavin’ in 1978 (Drama Desk nomination), Play On! in 1997 (Tony nomination) and The Full Monty in 2000, for which he received Tony, Drama Desk and Astaire Award nominations, in addition to both the Outer Critics Circle and Drama League Awards. His other Broadway credits include an autobiographical revue, Haarlem Nocturne, and the world premier of two new American plays: Mark Medoff’s Prymate (Drama Desk nomination) and Michael Jacob’s Impressionism, with Jeremy Irons and Joan Allen. He is the recipient of the 2009 National Black Theatre Festival’s Living Legend Award, the 2007 Village Voice OBIE Award for Sustained Excellence of Performance and the 2009 AUDELCO Award for Outstanding Performance in a Musical/Male. He won an Emmy Award for Outstanding Special Achievement for his performance in the 1982 NBC broadcast of Ain’t Misbehavin’. New York theatre audiences have seen De Shields in productions as varied as Cato at The Flea, Neil Simon’s The Good Doctor at the Melting Pot Theatre, Let Me Sing at The George Street Playhouse, Lonnie Carter’s The Gulliver Trilogy at La MaMa e.t.c. and his solo work-in-progress Mine Eyes Have Seen The Glory: From Douglass to Deliverance at The Abingdon Theatre about abolitionist Frederick Douglass. At the Classical Theatre of Harlem, he has been seen as Makak in Derek Walcott’s Dream On Monkey Mountain, in the title roles of Archbishop Supreme Tartuffe, CALIGULA and King Lear, directed by Alfred Preisser. Regional audiences have witnessed him as Henry Drummond in Inherit The Wind, Willy Loman in Death Of A Salesman, Sheridan Whiteside in The Man Who Came To Dinner, Scott Joplin in Tin Pan Alley Rag, Vladimir in Waiting for Godot, Jacob Strand in Ibsen’s Ghosts (starring Jane Alexander), and the Stage Manager in Thornton Wilder’s Our Town. He recently appeared as the farmer Old Banks opposite Charlayne Woodard, in the Red Bull Theater’s Off-Broadway production of The Witch of Edmonton, at the Theatre at St. Clement’s. In August, De Shields will be a teaching artist at the 1st Annual La MaMa Umbria International Master Acting Workshops. A triple Capricorn, he is the ninth of eleven children born and reared in Baltimore, Maryland. www.andredeshields.com.
Charles Smith, playwright of Knock Me A Kiss  © Lia Chang

Charles Smith, playwright of Knock Me A Kiss © Lia Chang


Playwright Charles Smith is a member of the Playwrights Ensemble at the Tony Award-winning Victory Gardens Theater in Chicago, alumni playwright of the Tony Award-winning New Dramatists in New York, and Head of the Professional Playwriting Program at Ohio University. His plays have been produced Off-Broadway and around the country by theaters such as Victory Gardens, The Acting Company, Indiana Repertory Theatre, People’s Light & Theatre Company, Goodman Theatre, Penumbra, Ujima Theatre Company, St. Louis Black Rep, New Federal Theatre, Seattle Repertory Theatre, and Berkeley Repertory Theater. His work has also been produced for the HBO New Writers Project, the International Children’s Theater Festival in Seattle, and the North Carolina Black Arts Festival. His play Pudd’nhead Wilson enjoyed a 22 city national tour and his plays Takunda and City of Gold enjoyed tours of the west coast. His other plays include Free Man of Color, which recently premiered in Australia after being awarded a Joseph Jefferson Award and John W. Schmid Award, both for Outstanding New Work. He is also author of two Emmy Award-winning teleplays, “Fast Break to Glory” and “Pequito.” A graduate of the Iowa Playwrights Workshop and recipient of the 2008 Ohio Arts Council Individual Excellence Award, Smith has received commissions from Victory Gardens, The Goodman, Seattle Rep, Indiana Rep, The Acting Company, and Ohio University. The Gospel According to James is the result of a Joyce Award.
Chuck Smith © LiaChang

Chuck Smith © Lia Chang


Director Chuck Smith has had 25 years of experience in African-American theater. He is resident director of the Goodman Theatre, where he has directed Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, A Christmas Carol, and Vivisections from the Blown Mind. Smith is a founding member of the Chicago Theatre Company, where he was artistic director for four seasons, staging plays including Sizwe Banzi is Dead, Fathers and Other Strangers, Suspenders, the Jeff-winning musical Po’, and The Meeting. He has also directed at Fleetwood-Jourdain, The New Regal, Kuumba, Pegasus Players, New Federal Theater, ETA Creative Arts, Columbia College, and Chicago Black Ensemble Theater. He is also artistic director of the Chicago Historical Society’s Voices in History program and an artist-in-residence at Columbia College Chicago, where he facilitates the Theodore Ward playwriting contest.

Here is the link – http://wp.me/pla1d-3lK – to post this article on Facebook.

All text, graphics, articles & photographs: © 2000-2011 Lia Chang Multimedia. All rights reserved. All materials contained on this site are protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written permission of Lia Chang. You may not alter or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the content. For permission, please contact Lia at liachangpr@gmail.com.

The Gospel According to James Reviews and Articles:
examiner.com: Review-The Gospel According to James
examiner.com:The Gospel According to James Slideshow
stagewrite.com: The Gospel According to James
indytheatrehabit.com: Theatre Review: “The Gospel According to James” at the Indiana Repertory Theatre
nuvo.net: Review: IRT’s ‘Gospel According to James’
INDIANAPOLIS RECORDER: Whose ‘gospel’ you gonna believe?
Broadwayworld.com: Victory Gardens Presents The Gospel According to James 5/14-6/12
Indystar.com: ‘Gospel’ looks at lynchings from 2 characters’ views
indystar.com: IRT premieres play that shows contradictions in Marion lynching
From the Danner Lounge with Andre De Shields
playbill.com: André De Shields Stars in World Premiere of Fact-Based Gospel According to James at Indiana Rep
theatermania: Andre De Shields to Star in The Gospel According To James at Indiana Repertory Theatre
ibj.com: The Gospel According to James
broadwayworld.com: De Shields Headlines THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO JAMES at Indiana Repertory
Timessquaregossip.com: The Gospel According to James to Debut
Playbill.com: André De Shields Will Star in World Premiere Gospel According to James at Indiana Rep
theatermania.com: Andre De Shields to Star in The Gospel According To James at Indiana Repertory Theatre
André De Shields Set for World Premiere of Charles Smith’s The Gospel According to James at Indiana Rep, 3/22-4/10

Other Articles on Andre De Shields:
Photos: De Shields, McClendon, Elisa, Glasco, Nemser, Phillips, Thompson at The Sovereign State of Boogedy Boogedy Reading
Spend Valentine’s Day with André De Shields in The Sovereign State of Boogedy Boogedy at the Abingdon Theatre
André De Shields and Charlayne Woodard are featured in Red Bull Theater’s Off Broadway Production of The Witch of Edmonton
André De Shields leads cast of Charles Smith’s Knock Me A Kiss at Abrons Arts Center
Andre Dé Shields is having a Devilishly Good Time in Damn Yankees at The John W. Engeman Theater at Northport
Photos of André De Shields in Mine Eyes Have Seen The Glory: From Douglass to Deliverance
Achieving the American Dream, Professional Charmer Andre De Shields Sees Theater is a Way to Life
André De Shields Celebrates Black History Month Starring in The Working Theater’s Production of Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory at The Abingdon in February 2010
Classical Theatre of Harlem’s Archbishop Supreme Tartuffe, MTC’s Ruined are Top Winners at 2009 Audelcos
Multimedia: Archbishop Supreme Tartuffe Opening Night Party Photos
Multimedia: Archbishop Supreme Tartuffe
André De Shields and Reg E. Cathey Star in Cato at The Flea
Click here for the Lia Chang Articles Archive.

André and I have collaborated together since 1993, after acting together in Lonnie Carter’s Gulliver at La MaMa.  Photo by Merle Frimark

André and I have collaborated together since 1993, after acting together in Lonnie Carter’s Gulliver at La MaMa. Photo by Merle Frimark


Lia Chang is an actor, performance and fine art botanical photographer, and an award-winning multimedia journalist.

As a photographer and videographer, Lia collaborates with artists, organizations and companies in establishing their documentary photo archive and social media presence. She has been documenting her colleagues and contemporaries in the arts, fashion and journalism since making her stage debut as Liat in the National Tour of South Pacific, with Robert Goulet and Barbara Eden. Lia currently plays Nurse Lia on “One Life to Live”. She has appeared in Wolf, New Jack City, A Kiss Before Dying, King of New York, Big Trouble in Little China, The Last Dragon, Taxman and “New York Undercover”.

Selections of Lia’s archive of Asian Pacific Americans in the arts, fashion, journalism, politics and space are in the newly created LIA CHANG THEATER PHOTOGRAPHY PORTFOLIO in the ASIAN PACIFIC AMERICAN PERFORMING ARTS COLLECTION housed in the Library of Congress Asian Division’s Asian American Pacific Islander Collection.

Lia’s portraits and performance photos have appeared in Vanity Fair, Gourmet, German Elle, Women’s Wear Daily, The Paris Review, TV Guide, Daily Variety, Interior Design, American Theatre, Broadwayworld.com, Life & Style, OUT, New York Magazine, InStyle, Timeout.com, Villagevoice.com, Playbill.com, Theatermania.com, thelmagazine.com, The Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, USA Today, The Boston Globe, New York Times and Washington Post. A former syndicated arts and entertainment columnist for KYODO News, Lia is the New York Bureau Chief for AsianConnections.com. She writes about culture, style and Asian American issues for a variety of publications and this Backstage Pass with Lia Chang blog.

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