Don't miss tonight's dramatic presentation of A Day of Absence, the 1965 play written by Douglas Turner Ward and directed by Fleetwood-Jourdain Theatre's Artistic Director Tim Rhoze.
The play, which is being performed to commemorate Juneteenth, is a reverse minstrel show in which Black actors play the white residents of a small Southern town who wake up one morning to discover that all the town's Black residents have disappeared. The play depicts the ensuing chaos that descends when the Black people — whose work makes the whites' privilege possible — fail to show up for work. It's over-the-top humor provides sharp commentary on systemic racism in 1965 ... and is still relevant today.
The play will be performed by professional actors Nicholia Q. Aguirre, Brandon Wright, Raymond Jacquet, and Krystal Franklin, and by community members Joyce Childress, Rodney Greene, Steve Johnson, Nina Kavin, and Shannon Sudduth. The play was produced by Bria Walker.
Jazzma Pryor was the Zoom Technician.
"Long-time activist Evanstonian Lonnie Wilson approached me about producing this play earlier this year, but I wanted to make it a different type of experience for everyone, so I envisioned doing the play as a reading for the Evanston Juneteenth celebration and recruiting local non-professional actors," says Tim Rhoze.
The professionals were joined in the production by local folks including a PR Specialist, a chef/chocolatier, a medical writer, a former City Clerk, an activist, and a retired city employee.
"Its been great to work with everyone, and experimenting with combining professional actors with members of the Evanston community for the dramatic reading," says Tim. "Having them share the experience with accomplished actors was the twist. I think it turned out great," he says.
Nicholia Q. Aguirre (Mary), says she was honored to once again work with Fleetwood Jourdain Theatre.
Nicholia attended Loyola University of Chicago, where she received her B.S. in Education. She studied at Piven Theatre Workshop and is currently a teacher on staff. Recently, she could be seen in Casa Valentina (Pride Films & Plays); A Home on the Lake (Piven Theatre); Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf (Pulse Theatre Workshop); Steel Magnolias (The Arc Theatre); Vagina Monologues & Gee’s Bend (Fleetwood Jourdain Theatre); Constant State of Panic (Clockwise Theatre) and Little Shop of Horrors (Devonshire Theatre). She is represented by Big Mouth Talent and is proud to be working with such a talented cast and director.
"Slavery began in 1619...ended in 1863 ...The Day of Absence was written in 1965 and still in 2020 we are still dealing with racial issues," Nicholia says. "Although the play is a satire about an imaginary southern town, in light of everything that is going on with protests all over the world; this play is still very relevant."
It saddens my heart to see the world still has a long way to go on its journey for equality for all and in many ways we've lost much ground. Black Lives Matter...we are strong...we are intelligent...we are important...we are beautiful...and we MATTER. What would the world look like if all that African Americans contributed just vanished?"
Krystal Franklin (First Operator Courier Mop Man ) began her acting career in a sketch comedy troupe, then later was cast as the “Lady in Red” in a community theater production of For Colored Girls Who Considered Suicide/ When the Rainbow is Enuf. She spent two seasons working with FOX's Empire as the stand-in for Taraji P. Henson's character Cookie. Krystal's passion is writing and directing, and she believes in the power of the performing arts as a vehicle for awareness and change. Krystal enjoys writing poetry, being a foodie and spending time with her young daughter, Joy.
"A Day of Absence highlights the necessity of the Black presence, especially at a time when our voices need to be heard and validated in America, more than ever," she says. "It also provided a much needed creative outlet for me and a chance to connect with a nice group during this time of quarantine."
Raymond Jacquet (Luke, Jackson), is honored to be a part of this production of A Day of Absence, his debut performance with Fleetwood Jourdain. Raymond is a graduate of University of Maryland and the Act One Conservatory. Past performances include Girl in the Red Corner (Broken Nose Theatre), Cornerstone (Nothing Without a Company), and Bob: A Life in Five Acts (The Comrades). Tonight's reading is dedicated in the loving memory of Raymond's mother, Jacqueline.
"I enjoyed watching each person breathe life into their characters. We had laughs and some great surprises. This was a fun adventure," Raymond says.
Brandon Wright is an up and coming performer active in the Chicago area. Having just earned his BFA in Acting at Oakland University in Michigan, he's dedicated to creating and being a part of diverse experiences and cultivating a better performance atmosphere for all involved.
"I got to be a part of one of my favorite plays with some of the most talented people I've ever worked with," says Brandon. "I'm very excited for what comes next."
Joyce Childress (supervisor, businessman, and Mrs. Aide), has been a lifelong member and supporter of FJT since its inception.
"Being a student at ETHS, there was no place for African Americans in the arts, either singing, dancing or acting, a closed door to people of color," she says. "Not long after high school, Gloria Bond Clunie graduated from Northwestern. She founded FJT and created an avenue for so many of us. August Wilson and all the great playwrights were performed at FJT. It was love at first sight."
Childress loved being around the other actors in this production she says, because "Our minds are free to be anything and everything our imaginations will take us."
Rodney Greene (Citizen ONE, Rev Pious), is the former City Clerk of Evanston, a former research associate, Cardiothoracic Surgery (Northwestern University). and an Ordained Church Elder. He's an Evanston Police chaplain, a member of Prime Time Players, and a member of the Foster Senior Club. He's also been a background actor on such as Chicago MED, FIRE, PD, and Empire.
"This was a very interesting performance," says Rodney. "It displayed some laughter as it pointed to a time when slavery was the accepted norm."
Steve Johnson (John, Two, Brush Man, Rastus) is a once and current Evanstonian with his wife Barbara, three boys, and a dog named Pablo Picasso. He serves as a mentor with Evanston Scholars and volunteers at the Soup at Six soup kitchen while trying to revive his side-hustle dream of being a lead singer. A seasoned strategic communications professional, he operates his own shop focused on senior communications counsel and coaching, communications architecture, and tradition/social media relations. He is a former producer at Chicago’s The Score WSCR-AM, and he earned his bachelor's degree in print journalism from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign while achieving a minor in history.
"I greatly enjoyed getting back to acting, and so excited to have done it in a meaningful way with so many talented Evanstonians," says Steve.
Nina Kavin (announcer), is the executive director of Dear Evanston. She was stretched to her limit participating in this production with so many talented actors. Nina grew up in South Africa and left in 1978, two years after the 1976 Soweto riots
"This play could very easily have taken place in the South Africa of my childhood," she says.
Shannon Sudduth (third operator, club woman, doll woman) is a pastry chef, chocolatier, and caterer. She loves food, music, and movement.
"Through movement we share stories of both joy and struggle, to hopefully impact," she says. "I joined this beautiful cast to lend my voice and face to contribute to the story of laughter and the question, 'What would happen if we disappeared?"