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CHICAGO – Imagine being haunted by four generations of ancestors, all during one sleepless night.   That’s what lies behind Blue Door, acclaimed playwright Tanya Barfield’s Pulitzer-Prize nominated journey through four generations of black history.

Victory Gardens Theater will introduce local audiences to Barfield’s work with its Chicago premiere of Blue Door, a riveting exploration of family and identity, sure to resonate with anyone who has ever struggled to live with – or escape – the past.  Veteran Chicago actor Bruce A. Young co-stars with Lindsay Smiling, who also is making his Chicago debut in a production directed by Victory Gardens Resident Director Andrea J. Dymond.  

Low priced previews of Blue Door begin January 22, 2010 at the Victory Gardens Biograph Theater, 2433 N. Lincoln Avenue, Chicago.  Tickets are $20-$48.  Call the Victory Gardens box office, 773.871.3000, or purchase tickets online at

In Blue Door, a soul-searching journey begins when Louis (Young), an African-American math professor, is left by his wife due to his reluctance to embrace his identity.  The night of their break, Louis is visited by the spirits of the insistent ghosts of his great-grandfather, his younger brother and others entwined in his life (each portrayed by Smiling), whose stories illuminate and guide his way.  

Encompassing more than a century of history on a very personal level, Blue Door is fueled by poetic riffs that define the past, and, according to the Los Angeles Times, “pose sharp questions and counter-questions on contemporary black identity.”    The San Francisco Chronicle added “Barfield’s dialogue, with its curiously muscular lyricism, is full of unexpected rewards – sly turns of phrase, choice metaphors and well chosen bits of African and African American lore (such as the significance of a blue door.”)

Trained at Juilliard, and dubbed “one of the 21 Young Women to Watch for in the 21st Century” by Ms. Magazine, Barfield’s play Blue Door was featured in American Theatre magazine and played to critical acclaim around the country as well as at Harare International Festival of the Arts in Zimbabwe.  When asked by American Theatre about her use of musicality and humor in Blue Door, Barfield responded, “I did a lot of research until I felt I could write songs that were authentic to each period.  (And) humor is so important in the black community.  Humor and songs have both been major coping methods for oppression.”

Blue Door is supported in part by the Sara Lee Foundation.

In addition to Blue Door, Tanya Barfield (playwright) is the author of several other plays, including Of Equal Measure (Center Theatre Group), Dent, The Quick, The Houdini Act, 121º West and Pecan Tan.  She wrote the book for the Theatreworks/USA children’s musical, Civil War: The First Black Regiment which toured public schools around the country.  She was a recipient of the 2003 Helen Merrill Award for Emerging Playwrights, 2005 Honorable Mention for the Kesselring Prize for Drama, a 2006 Lark Play Development/NYSCA grant and she has twice been a Finalist for the Princess Grace Award.   Barfield has been an invited guest artist/teacher at the Juilliard Playwriting Program, the Yale School of Drama, Dartmouth College and the Young Women’s Leadership School; she was also a part of the PBS documentary “Legacy: Being Black in America” hosted by the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History & Culture.  Residencies include: the Sundance Institute Theatre Lab (Utah and the Ucross Foundation), New York Stage and Film, the Royal Court International Residency and Seattle Rep’s Women Playwrights Festival at Hedgebrook. She participated in the Lark Play Development Center’s Delegation of Artists to Romania and she conducted workshops with theater artists in Zimbabwe. She has been commissioned by Playwrights Horizons, Center Theatre Group, South Coast Repertory, Primary Stages and Geva Theatre. She is Literary Manager of the Juilliard Playwriting Program, a member of New Dramatists and serves on the membership committee at The Dramatist Guild.

Full performance schedule

Previews of Blue Door are January 22-31, 2010:  Tuesday through Thursday at 7:30 pm; Friday and Saturday at 8 pm; Sunday at 3 pm.    Previews are $20-$37. Regular performances run through February 28:  Tuesday through Thursday at 7:30 pm; Friday at 8 pm; Saturday at 5 pm and 8:30 pm; Sunday at 3 pm.   Added matinees are Wednesday, February 17 and February 24 at 2 pm.  No evening performance Tuesday, February 2 or February 9.   Regular performances are $20-$48. 

Performances are at the Victory Gardens Biograph Theater, 2433 N. Lincoln Avenue, in the heart of Chicago’s Lincoln Park neighborhood.  For tickets and information, call the Victory Gardens box office, (773) 871-3000  (tty:  (773) 871-0682), email, or visit  Ask the box office about student, senior, Access, rush and the “20 @ $20” discount offers.  For group discounts, call 773.328.2131.

About Victory Gardens Theater

Victory Gardens Theater is home to the bold voices of world premiere theater. The company features the work of its own 14-member Playwrights Ensemble, as well as that of exciting playwrights who are changing theater in the United States and abroad.  Since its founding in 1974, the company has produced more world premieres than any other Chicago theater, a commitment recognized nationally when Victory Gardens received the 2001 Tony Award for Outstanding Regional Theatre. 

The company’s dedication to developing, supporting and producing new work makes Victory Gardens an American Center for New Plays.

Working with a $3.1 million annual budget in 2009-2010, Victory Gardens continues to expand its artistic and institutional boundaries under the guidance of Artistic Director Dennis Zacek, Executive Director Jan Kallish, Associate Artistic Director Sandy Shinner, and Board President Jeffrey Rappin.

Victory Gardens Theater is supported by the National Endowment for the Arts, Illinois Arts Council (IAC), a stage agency, Illinois Humanities Council, and is partially supported by a CityArts Program 4 Grant from the City of Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs.   Major funders also include the John T. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, Chicago Community Trust, Shubert Foundation, Wallace Foundation, Polk Bros. Foundation, Joyce Foundation, Allstate Insurance Company, Alphawood Foundation, Motorola Foundation, REAM Foundation, Edgerton Foundation, and Crown Family Philanthropies.   Additional funding is provided by the Lloyd A. Fry Foundation, Kraft Foods, Prince Charitable Trusts, Sara Lee Foundation, Seigle Family Foundation, Charles and M.R. Shapiro Foundation, and by 3Arts, Harry S. Black and Allon Fuller Fund, Charles H. and Bertha L. Boothroyd Foundation, Elizabeth Cheney Foundation, Col. L.C. Christensen Foundation, John R. Halligan Fund, Illinois Tool Works (ITW), James S. Kemper Foundation, Albert Pick, Jr. Fund, Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation, and Wrightwood Neighbors Association.

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