Court Theatre, under the leadership of Marilyn F. Vitale Artistic Director Charles Newell and Executive Director Stephen J. Albert, announces casting for the Chicago premiere of The Hard Problem by Tom Stoppard, directed by Charles Newell. The Hard Problem runs March 9 – April 9, 2017 at Court Theatre, 5535 S. Ellis Avenue in Chicago. The Press Opening is Saturday, March 18 at 8:00 p.m.
Court Theatre is proud to bring award-winning and renowned playwright Tom Stoppard’s highly-anticipated new play to Chicago. His new work introduces Hilary, a young psychologist working at the prestigious Krohl Institute for Brain Science. She struggles to bear the burden of her regrets as she works through a troubling issue in her research. Where does our biology end and our personhood begin?
If there is nothing but matter, what is consciousness? Will the computer someday answer all questions psychology can ask? This “hard problem” sets Hilary at odds with her colleagues, but she prays for a miracle to lead her to the solutions.
"Court Theatre has produced more of Tom Stoppard’s plays than any other contemporary playwright’s work because he such a great fit for our audience," says Charles Newell, Marilyn F. Vitale Artistic Director. "He is a writer who asks complicated questions, but our job as theatre artists is to find the heart in it all. The Hard Problem is no exception."
The cast for the Chicago premiere of The Hard Problem includes Owais Ahmed (Amal), Celeste M. Cooper (Julia), Chaon Cross (Hilary), Kate Fry (Ursula), Emjoy Gavino (Bo), Jürgen Hooper (Spike), Nathan Hosner (Jerry), Brian McCaskill (Leo), and Sophie Thatcher (Cathy).
The creative team includes John Culbert (Scenic Design), Nan Cibula-Jenkins (Costume Design), Keith Parham (Lighting Design), Eva Breneman (Dialect Design). Amanda Weener-Frederick is the Production Stage Manager.
About the Artists
TOM STOPPARD (Playwright) began his career in England in 1954 as a journalist, soon moving to London in 1960 to start work as a playwright. Plays: The Hard Problem, The Real Inspector Hound, After Magritte, Jumpers, Travesties, Every Good Boy Deserves Favour (with André Previn), Dirty Linen, New-Found-Land, Dogg’s Hamlet, Cahoot’s Macbeth, Night and Day, The Real Thing, Hapgood, Arcadia, Indian Ink, The Invention of Love, The Coast of Utopia, Rock’n’Roll, and The Hard Problem. Adaptations: On the Razzle (Nestroy), and Rough Crossing (Molnar). Tom’s most recent work for TV was Parades End; for radio, Darkside (with Pink Floyd); and for film, Anna Karenina. His film Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead won the Venice FIlm Festival Prix d’Or, and Shakespeare in Love won an Academy Award.
CHARLES NEWELL (Director/Marilyn F. Vitale Artistic Director) was awarded the SDCF Zelda Fichandler Award, “which recognizes an outstanding director or choreographer who is transforming the regional arts landscape through singular creativity and artistry in theatre.” Charlie has been Artistic Director of Court Theatre since 1994, where he has directed over 50 productions. He made his Chicago directorial debut in 1993 with The Triumph of Love, which won the Joseph Jefferson Award for Best Production. Charlie’s productions of Man of La Mancha and Caroline, or Change have also won Best Production Jeffs. Other directorial highlights at Court include Man in the Ring; One Man, Two Guvnors; Satchmo at the Waldorf; Agamemnon; The Secret Garden; Iphigenia in Aulis; The Misanthrope; Tartuffe; Proof; Angels in America; An Iliad; Porgy and Bess; Three Tall Women; Titus Andronicus; Arcadia; Uncle Vanya; Raisin; The Glass Menagerie; Travesties; Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?; The Invention of Love; and Hamlet. Charlie has also directed at Goodman Theatre (Rock ‘n’ Roll), Guthrie Theater (The History Cycle, Cymbeline), Arena Stage, John Houseman’s The Acting Company (Staff Repertory Director), the California and Alabama Shakespeare Festivals, Juilliard, and New York University. He has served on the Board of TCG, as well as on several panels for the NEA. Opera directing credits include Marc Blitzstein’s Regina (Lyric Opera), Rigoletto (Opera Theatre of St. Louis), Don Giovanni and The Jewel Box (Chicago Opera Theater), and Carousel (Glimmerglass). Charlie was the recipient of the 1992 TCG Alan Schneider Director Award, and has been nominated for 16 Joseph Jefferson Director Awards, winning four times. In 2012, Charlie was honored by the League of Chicago Theatres with its Artistic Achievement Award.
OWAIS AHMED (Amal) makes his Court debut. He is a Chicago native and ensemble member of Definition Theatre Co. Theatre credits include: The Invisible Hand (Milwaukee Rep), Orange (Mixed Blood Theatre), The Qualms (Steppenwolf Theatre), Heartland (PlayPenn), Blood & Gifts (Timeline Theatre), The Reckoning of Kit (First Floor Theater), Red Handed Otter (A Red Orchid Theatre), and Samsara (Victory Gardens). Other theatre credits: Anon(ymous), The Merchant of Venice, Much Ado About Nothing and Passion Play. Film/TV credits: Batman V. Superman: Dawn Of Justice, Age Of Ice , and Empire. Owais is represented by Gray Talent.
CELESTE M. COOPER (Julia) returns to Court Theatre. Celeste most recently played Delia in Blues for an Alabama Sky. Some theatre credits include: Measure for Measure (Goodman); Stick Fly (Windy City Playhouse/ nominated for Best Featured Actress from BTAA), Never the Sinner (Victory Gardens Theater), Ruined (Eclipse), understudying Animal Farm (Steppenwolf); The Hammer Trinity (House/ Adrienne Arsht in Miami),The Mecca Tales (Chicago Dramatists); How We Got On (Citadel), Our Lady of 121st Street (Eclipse), her original one woman shows- Fight 4 Your Life, and later The Incredible Cece (MPAACT & Stage 773). Celeste is a recipient of The Most Promising Actress Award from the Black Theater Alliance for her portrayal of Josephine in Ruined, which led her to becoming an ensemble member and casting associate with Eclipse Theatre Company. Her TV/ Film credits include a recurring role as the Medical Examiner on Chicago PD (NBC), Spike Lee’s Chiraq, Sense8 (Netflix), and various other projects. Ms. Cooper has a B.A. in Speech Communications & Theatre from Tennessee State University and an M.F.A. in Acting from DePaul University Theatre School.
CHAON CROSS (Hilary) Chicago credits include: Life Sucks, Brothers Karamazov (Lookingglass Theatre Company); One Man, Two Guvnors, Proof (Joseph Jefferson Nomination), Uncle Vanya, The Glass Menagerie, Scapin, The Romance Cycle, and Phèdre (Court); Cyrano (Court Theatre and Redmoon Theater); As You Like It, Private Lives, Cymbeline, Troilus and Cressida, The Two Noble Kinsmen, and The Taming of the Shrew (Chicago Shakespeare); The Wheel and The Cherry Orchard (Steppenwolf); Macbeth (Lyric Opera of Chicago); and Grace (Northlight Theatre). Regional credits include Lady Windermere’s Fan (Milwaukee Repertory Theater) and Pride & Prejudice (Cleveland Play House). TV credits: The Exorcist (FOX), Chicago Fire (NBC), Boss (Starz), and Detroit 1-8-7 (ABC). Film: My Dog Skip (Warner Bros).
KATE FRY (Ursula) returns to Court Theatre, where she has performed in over a dozen productions, including Electra, The Romance Cycle, Twelfth Night, The Cherry Orchard, My Fair Lady, and Caroline, or Change. Other Chicago area credits include work with Writers Theatre (Arcadia, Marjorie Prime, Hedda Gabler, The Letters, Oh, Coward!, A Minister’s Wife); Chicago Shakespeare Theatre (several productions, including As You Like It, Henry IV Parts One and Two, The Merchant of Venice, The Molière Comedies); Northlight Theatre (Outside Mullingar, The Miser); Victory Gardens (In the Next Room, or the Vibrator Play); as well as work with Theatre at the Center, Marriott Theatre, Apple Tree Theatre, and Candlelight Playhouse. Elsewhere, she has worked at McCarter Theatre Center in Princeton, NJ, Center Theatre Group in L.A., Repertory Theatre of St Louis, and Lincoln Center. She is the recipient of three Joseph Jefferson awards, an After Dark award, Chicago Magazine’s actress of the year, and the Sarah Siddons award for Chicago’s leading lady.
EMJOY GAVINO (Bo) returns to Court, where she was last seen as Chrysothemis in Electra. Representative Chicago credits include The Hypocrites, Second City (national tour), Northlight, Steppenwolf, Victory Gardens, Remy Bumppo, Paramount, Broadway Playhouse, Lookingglass, The Neo-Futurists, and Goodman. Regional credits include Repertory Actors Theatre, Book-It Repertory, ACT, and Village Theatre. Film/TV: The Exorcist, Mob Doctor, Chicago Fire, Empire, and Chicago Med. Emjoy is the casting director of Gift Theatre, a company member with Barrel of Monkeys, and is the founder and producer of The Chicago Inclusion Project.
JÜRGEN HOOPER (Spike) makes his Court Theatre debut. Broadway: Brighton Beach Memoirs. Chicago: Life & Limb, Huck Finn (Steppenwolf) Rabbit Hole (Goodman), The Comedy of Errors, Amadeus, Short Shakespeare! Romeo & Juliet (Chicago Shakespeare), Isaac's Eye, The Chosen (Writer's Theatre), The Dark at the Top of the Stairs (American Theatre Company), Paradise Lost (TimeLine Theatre), What's Wrong With Angry? (Circle Theatre, Non-Equity Jeff Award Best Principle Actor - Play). Regional: The Mousetrap, The Game's Afoot (Indiana Rep) The Game's Afoot (New Theatre), Wanamaker's Pursuit (Arden Theatre Co.), The Cherry Orchard (Milwaukee Rep). TV/Film: Chicago Med, Crisis, Chicago Fire (NBC), Suits (USA) and the film Game Day.
NATHAN HOSNER (Jerry) makes his Court Theatre debut. Chicago credits include productions with Writers Theatre, Chicago Shakespeare Theater, The Goodman Theatre, Northlight Theatre, The Paramount Theatre, About Face Theatre, First Folio Theatre, Shaw Chicago, and The Shakespeare Project of Chicago. Other credits include: Peter and the Starcatcher (first national tour) and productions with American Players Theatre, The New Theatre, Alabama Shakespeare Festival, Arkansas Shakespeare Theatre, The BoarsHead Theater, Illinois Shakespeare Festival, Door Shakespeare, and the Madison Repertory New Play Festival. Nathan is a graduate of the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, London.
BRIAN MCCASKILL (Leo) is making his Court Theatre debut. Previous credits include Windy City Playhouse, Lyric Opera, Goodman Theatre, Steppenwolf Theatre Company, Shattered Globe Theatre, TimeLine Theatre and Raven Theatre. He has received one Jeff Award, four Jeff Award nominations and two After Dark Awards for his theatrical work. Film and television credits include Chicago P.D., Crisis, Prison Break and numerous commercials.
SOPHIE THATCHER (Cathy) makes her Court Theatre debut in The Hard Problem. Credits include The Diary of Anne Frank (Writers Theatre), Oliver! (Drury Lane Theatre), The Secret Garden (Light Opera Works), and work with Theatre at the Center and Provision Theater. Television credits include Chicago P.D. (NBC), a recurring role on The Exorcist (Fox), and commercials for the Illinois Office of Tourism.
Fact Sheet/The Hard Problem
Title: The Hard Problem
By: Tom Stoppard
Directed by: Charles Newell
Featuring: Owais Ahmed (Amal), Celeste M. Cooper (Julia), Chaon Cross (Hilary),
Kate Fry (Ursula), Emjoy Gavino (Bo), Jürgen Hooper (Spike), Nathan Hosner (Jerry), Brian McCaskill (Leo), and Sophie Thatcher (Cathy).
Designers: John Culbert (Scenic Design), Nan Cibula-Jenkins (Costume Design), Keith Parham (Lighting Design), Eva Breneman (Dialect Design). Amanda Weener-Frederick is the Production Stage Manager.
Dates: Previews: March 9 – 17, 2017
Press Opening: Saturday, March 18, 2017 at 8:00 p.m.
Regular Run: March 19 – April 9, 2017
Schedule: Wed & Thurs: 7:30 p.m.
Fridays: 8:00 p.m.
Saturdays: 3:00 p.m. & 8:00 p.m.
Sundays: 2:30 p.m. & 7:30 p.m.
Location: Court Theatre, 5535 S. Ellis Ave.
Tickets: $38-$48 previews
$48-$68 regular run
Box Office: Located at 5535 S. Ellis Avenue, Chicago; (773) 753-4472 or www.CourtTheatre.org.
Sponsors: Nuveen Investments; Kirkland & Ellis LLP; Michael Charles Litt
Now in its 62nd season, Court Theatre is guided by its mission to discover the power of classic theatre. Court endeavors to make a lasting contribution to American theatre by expanding the canon of translations, adaptations, and classic texts. Court revives lost masterpieces, illuminates familiar texts, and distinguishes fresh, modern classics. Court engages and inspires its audience by providing artistically distinguished productions, audience enrichment activities, and student educational experiences.
Court Theatre's 2016/17 Season is sponsored by Barbara and Richard Franke.