This new play by Mercedes White is a reworking of her 2014 play Genesis, originally produced by the Definition Theatre Company at the Den Theatre in Chicago. Inspired by Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun, Genesis explores the origins of one of the most iconic characters in American theatre.
In the summer of 1919 things seem to be looking up for Walter and Lena Younger: they are settling into their new life in Chicago, Walter’s new job pays well, Lena is pregnant with their first child, and they are surrounded by good friends. However, their relationship is tested just as violent riots break across Chicago’s South Side. Amid the confusion and chaos, Lena and Walter must lean on friendships old and new to survive and find a way to reconnect before they lose each other for good.
Written as a prequel to A Raisin in the Sun, Genesis imagines Lena and Big Walter, early in their marriage, over a few pivotal days in the summer of 1919. The play takes place in tenement housing on Chicago’s South Side - the same home and neighborhood portrayed in A Raisin in the Sun.
Mercedes Whitewas born and raised in a vibrant Mexican American community in Chicago. A biracial child of both African American and Mexican descent, she is an actress and playwright dedicated to inspiring change through theatre. She is a founding ensemble member of Definition Theatre Company.GENESISis her first full-length play to be produced. Her other plays includeThe River Jordan,which had a public reading at Steppenwolf Theatre,Kindred, andThe Space In Between.
Mark Baeris in his ninth year teaching Acting and Directing for Indiana University Northwest. In that time he has directed 13 productions including Sarah Ruhl’sEurydice, Phillip Dawkins’Failure: A Love Story, and Lisa Kron’sWell. Mark is co-founder and president of Gary Shakespeare Company with whom he has directedTwelfth Night,As You Like It, andHamlet. He has also directed around the Midwest includingA Streetcar Named Desirefor St. Croix Festival Theatre,The Nightmare Roomfor Towle Theatre andSweeney Toddfor City Circle Acting Company. Mark is a member of the Society of American Fight Directors and the Stage Directors and Choreographers Society. He resides in Crown Point with his wife Kelly and daughter Samantha.
Lena Younger Mercedes White
Mercedes White was born and raised in a vibrant Mexican American community in Chicago. A biracial child of both African American and Mexican descent, she is an actress and playwright dedicated to inspiring change through theatre. She is a founding ensemble member of Definition Theatre Company. GENESIS is her first full-length play to be produced. Her other plays include The River Jordan,which had a public reading at Steppenwolf Theatre, Kindred, and The Space In Between.
Yolanda JohnsonDeandria Kelley
Mia Godfreyis super excited to do her third show and second staged reading at Theatre Northwest, where she has previously appeared as an ensemble member inWell, as Kristine Linde inA Doll House, and as an ensemble member in the staged reading ofBurial at Thebes. She has also recently performed with Gary Shakespeare Company’s production ofOthelloas Senator and Lodovico. Mia is currently enrolled at Indiana University Northwest as a theatre major.A Raisin in the Sunwill be her first play fulfilling a role behind the scenes.
Collin Grant Fitch
ORIGIN STORY OF THE PLAY:
Mercedes White was inspired to write Genesis while understudying in Milwaukee Rep’s 2013 production of A Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry. Struck by one of Mama’s lines where she reveals she almost lost her husband early in their marriage, White wanted to explore this particular moment, a turning point in a relationship that went on to leave such an important legacy. Genesis, inspired by the classic, is a poignant demonstration of true love conquering all (Unfolding Their Own Myth and an interview with the playwright).
WHAT THE CRITICS SAY ABOUT THE PLAY:
White's dialogue is snappy, often comical, and well delivered. The play has worthy comments on systematic oppression, soulful monologues, and some particularly insightful moments when an Irish immigrant is brought into the fold. (Timeout Chicago)
In a way, this play becomes an episode of “Friends”, if that show were predominantly African-American, set 70-some years earlier, and a drama. Friends/neighbors come in and out, entertain, query, and add their support, then leave. But, when they are needed most, they stick around. (Theatre by the Numbers)