As I look at the plays produced by theaters in Chicago and across the country, it is clear to me that we are now in a sort of “golden age” of American playwriting, led by a host of new young writers bringing their considerable talents to our stages. I don’t recall a time, at least during my career, in which we’ve seen such a wealth and diversity of viewpoints, experiences and modes of expression in the theater as we have in the past decade or so—from the ebullient theatricality of Lauren Yee to the sparse poetic naturalism of Annie Baker, from the fierce urban poetry of Stephen Adly Guirgis to the complex investigations of contemporary icons and institutions by Lucas Hnath. And certainly, one of the most original voices in this new generation of artists belongs to Branden Jacobs-Jenkins, whose observations of the cultural, political and racial shifts in 21st century America have won critical and audience acclaim for their trenchant wit, slyly imaginative upendings of theatrical traditions and finely observed satire. Recently named a MacArthur Fellow, Branden received acclaim for his early works Appropriate and An Octoroon, which focused on complex and incisive renderings of the African American experience. But his more recent works have brought his idiosyncratic sensibilities to bear on a variety of other contemporary concerns, most notably in Gloria, which I saw (and loved) in its world premiere at the Vineyard Theatre off-Broadway.
Initially, Gloria is a darkly humorous portrait of a group of assistants in the offices of a once-trendy but now-troubled magazine. We are soon aware of the many challenges faced by these well-educated but under-used Millennials: low wages, impossible deadlines, whimsically demanding bosses and seemingly nonexistent opportunities for advancement in a company still controlled by Baby Boomers. But in an instant, their world is upended—and Gloria morphs from a sharp satire of office politics into a much larger, but no less compelling, investigation of 21st century ambition in the fishbowl culture of modern media. In my initial viewing, I found Gloria to be among the smartest, most entertaining and most provocative pieces I have seen in many years—and I immediately set about to bring this unusually wise and timely work to the Goodman stage. Fortunately, we were able to secure the outstanding Vineyard cast for our own production, under the expert leadership of that company’s original director, Evan Cabnet, known to Goodman audiences for his beautiful work on our premiere of Christopher Shinn’s Teddy Ferrara several seasons ago.
A deserved finalist for the 2016 Pulitzer Prize, Gloria is a prime example of the exciting work that is emerging from our current theatrical renaissance, and the kind of work that I think will be embraced by our Goodman audiences. I am proud to bring this extraordinary piece to our Albert stage—and to expose a wider audience to the contemporary genius of Branden Jacobs-Jenkins.
Buy tickets and learn more about Gloria here. Tickets start at just $25!