In 2002, Lady in Denmark playwright Dael Orlandersmith was named a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Drama; her scintillating play Yellowman depicted a romantic relationship between a dark skinned African American woman and a light skinned African American man. With her characteristic emotional audacity and inexorably poetic language, Dael explored colorism—prejudiced or preferential treatment based solely on skin color—within the African American community. After seeing the play, I felt energized by Dael’s dynamic artistry and distinctive perspective, and aimed to bring her work to the Goodman.
Dael made her Goodman debut in 2009 as both playwright and performer in Stoop Stories, in which she portrayed a diverse array of characters, transitioning effortlessly from one to the next as she wove their stories together. This remarkable series of monologues revealed Dael’s powerful ability to observe human behavior and explore how individuals are shaped by both social and economic forces and their own idiosyncrasies. She has since returned twice—Black n Blue Boys/ Broken Men (2012) and Until the Flood (2018)—and in 2016, Dael accepted our invitation to join our Artistic Collective, the exceptional artists who work frequently with the Goodman and help shape our mission.
Now, I am delighted to present the world premiere of Dael’s play Lady in Denmark featuring Linda Gehringer, a masterful stage and screen actor who has worked at the nation’s top theaters for decades. Linda portrays Helene, a fictional Danish American woman whose life has been indelibly influenced by Billie Holiday since she met the toweringly influential singer in Copenhagen in 1954.
I was captivated by the ways Billie’s music enhanced Helene’s life’s joys and ameliorated its travails during a reading of Lady in Denmark at our 2015 New Stages Festival. I was also impressed by the work of Chay Yew, who directed the reading and is now helming the full production. Chay has served as artistic director at Victory Gardens Theater since 2011; prior to that, he was a prominent freelance director whose work I have long admired.
I am thrilled to welcome Dael, Linda and Chay back to the Goodman for the opening production of our 2018/2019 Owen Theatre Season. I hope you find their work as insightful, deft and stirring as I do.
Artistic Director of Goodman Theatre