As of January 1, 2016, Gapers Block has ceased publication. The site will remain up in archive form. Please visit Third Coast Review, a new site by several GB alumni.
 Thank you for your readership and contributions over the past 12-plus years. 

TODAY

Sunday, December 17

Gapers Block
Search

Gapers Block on Facebook Gapers Block on Flickr Gapers Block on Twitter The Gapers Block Tumblr


A/C
« Overheard Illustrated: Old Local Actor Returns to Chicago for RAIN! A Tribute to The Beatles »

Theater Mon Jun 25 2012

Crowns Celebrates 10 Years At Goodman Theatre

Crowns_Press_notitle_8x10.jpg

Crowns.

Regina Taylor's Crowns, now in its 10th year, is the definitive story of the cultural tradition of wearing "crowns" and their significance and symbolism for African-Americans in both the church culture and the community at-large; recently, I sat down with two of the stars, E. Faye Butler and Tony-nominated actress Felicia Fields, to talk about the play, their characters, and what it means to have "hattitude."

The story is of a young girl, Yolanda, who is sent to live "down South" after losing a loved one to gun violence, but you don't really hear much about that part of African-American culture anymore. Tell us your thoughts about this being central to the plot.

Butler: Yolanda is from Englewood, which is where we're having so much of this violence and where young children are being killed everyday. It would help a lot of children right now if there was a grandma--a "Big Mama" down South that you could send them to. I think it's a great thing and it's the thing that made us strong because we had that fear in us. There was reverence about it and I think it's a great if we remind ourselves as a culture that that's the way it used to be.

Fields: The child is sent down South to preserve her because things down there are calmer and move slower--there's just a certain structure there.

The play also shines a light on the generational relationships and traditions in the black community that have seemingly vanished in our current society--how do you feel about that element of this production and/or its impact?

Butler: I think the great thing about this piece is that Yolanda meets people of a certain mix--she has somebody her age that she can talk to and she also has these different [generations of] women to draw from and who she can look up to.

Crowns has been going strong now for 10 years--talk about the appeal of the show and why you think it is a favorite among theatergoers.

Butler: We identify with it. We know what this is. We've all grown up in these homes. We know these women and we know those hats. People come to this show and they see themselves. It's a beautiful thing when you sit in an audience in a theater and hear songs you know and see the different kinds of churches--from Methodist to C.O.G.I.C. to Pentecostal--we hit them all. It's a great way for others to learn about black women and see these hats in Crowns and say, "Oh, that's what that is."

The play is indeed well known for displaying and exploring the church component of African-American culture in a very unique way that isn't often seen in other shows...

Butler: The rituals we do in the show absolutely connect to our African culture. I love that Regina put those rituals in the show because I think so many of us forget that; as African-Americans, when we get older, we become such "city folks" that we forget about our culture--that when we do things like beatboxing or "crumping"--how all that goes back to African culture. In this show, you will find that there isn't much we don't do that doesn't go back to the Motherland.

Is it safe to say that in this play, the 'crowns' are characters on their own?

Butler: The crowns are very much a character. These hats have feathers and wide brims and rhinestones and everything--they're just elaborate.

And they also give the characters who wear them, "hattitude"--a term coined especially for this play that describes the statements that hats make--tell us what that means to you.

Fields: I think a lot of times, people don't know how to wear hats, but the minute you put a hat on your head, your whole physique changes--your walk changes--your whole attitude changes.

Butler: A fierce hat really changes your whole day!

Regina Taylor recently mentioned that as a result of the popularity of Crowns--and receiving so many of them as gifts--that she has sort of become a "hat-ista"--does this apply to either of you, as well?

Fields: I wear hats quite a bit; I used to wear them for "swagger" but now I wear them because I don't want to do anything to my hair! [Laughs]. But a hat makes people look at you differently--it really does.

Your characters, Mabel and Mother Shaw, are two of the most prominent in the play--tell us a little about them.

Butler: Mabel is the minister's wife and one of Mother Shaw's friends. She knows Yolanda was sent South and she's going to do all she can to help raise this child the way she should be raised. She tells the church and all the children of the church that everyone is going to look out for her because she is a new member of the church family.

Fields: Mother Shaw is laid back--she has wisdom and is stern but soft--and in this particular instance of the show, she thinks about how she raised her daughter and reflects on that and the mistakes she made with raising her.

What's it like working with Regina Taylor and the cast?

Butler: It's been absolutely a ball. We've got a great cast--Alexis Rogers is amazing to work with and we've also got Pauletta Washington--it was wonderful meeting her and working with her. We've got Sherri Addison from [BET's]"Sunday's Best," too. There is just an amazing wealth of talent standing on one stage and it's just an amazing group to work with. And Regina's amazing to work with because for the first two and a half weeks, she allowed us to kind of just work our process out. She's wonderful because she's a collaborator. It's been a great experience and it's fun--and I think the fun and the love will show on stage.

The show was already revised/updated to make Yolanda from Chicago instead of New York--are there any other revisions?

Butler: There's new music and arrangement in this show which is very different; I teased Regina and said, "You're going to have to rename this some kind of way because this isn't really the Crowns that people know." We [now] have music by Donald Lawrence, Sweet Honey in the Rock and even a little Lauryn Hill in there--it's going to be different and entertaining for everyone.

In the play, the audience will no doubt see the promotion of support and encouragement--is there anything else you'd like to see the audience take away?

Fields: We've gotten to a point where babies are having babies and they haven't lived their lives out. There is a whole generation of children who have such a sense of entitlement who don't want to play by the rules and who have no reverence for adults--we need to get back to that.

Butler: It's about the humanity of it all; this is a very human piece and it speaks to everyone on some level. And as people, you should remember where you come from--remember who you are. That's something we all need to do.

~*~

Crowns opens Saturday, June 30 and runs through August 5 at The Goodman Theatre, 170 N. Dearborn; show days and times vary. Tickets are $29-$88 (subject to change); for more information, contact the box office 312-443-3800.

 
GB store
GB store

Architecture Tue Nov 03 2015

Paul Goldberger Describes the "Pragmatism and Poetry" of Frank Gehry's Architecture in His New Book

By Nancy Bishop

Architecture critic Paul Goldberger talks about Frank Gehry's life and work in a new book.
Read this feature »

Steve at the Movies Fri Jan 01 2016

Best Feature Films & Documentaries of 2015

By Steve Prokopy

Read this column »

Blogroll

ACRE
An Angry White Guy
Antena
AREA Chicago
ArchitectureChicago Plus
Arts Engagement Exchange
The Art Letter
Art or Idiocy?
Art Slant Chicago
Art Talk Chicago
Bad at Sports
Bite and Smile
Brian Dickie of COT
Bridgeport International
Carrie Secrist Gallery
Chainsaw Calligraphy
Chicago Art Blog
Chicago Art Department
Chicago Art Examiner
Chicago Art Journal
Chicago Artists Resource
Chicago Art Map
Chicago Art Review
Chicago Classical Music
Chicago Comedy Examiner
Chicago Cultural Center
Chicago Daily Views
Chicago Film Examiner
Chicago Film Archives
Chicago Gallery News
Chicago Uncommon
Collaboraction
Contemporary Art Space
Co-op Image Group
Co-Prosperity Sphere
Chicago Urban Art Society
Creative Control
Defibrillator
Devening Projects
Digressions
DIY Film
ebersmoore
The Exhibition Agency
The Flatiron Project
F newsmagazine
The Gallery Crawl...
Galerie F
The Gaudy God
Happy Dog Gallery
HollywoodChicago
Homeroom Chicago
I, Homunculus
Hyde Park Artcenter Blog
InCUBATE
Joyce Owens: Artist on Art
J-Pointe
Julius Caesar
Kasia Kay Gallery
Kavi Gupta Gallery
Rob Kozlowski
Lookingglass Theatre Blog
Lumpen Blog
Marquee
Mess Hall
N'DIGO
Neoteric Art
NewcityArt
NewcityFilm
NewcityStage
Not If But When
Noun and Verb
On Film
On the Make
Onstage
Peanut Gallery
Peregrine Program
Performink
The Poor Choices Show
Pop Up Art Loop
The Post Family
The Recycled Film
Reversible Eye
Rhona Hoffman Gallery
Roots & Culture Gallery
SAIC Blog
The Seen
Sharkforum
Sisterman Vintage
Site of Big Shoulders
Sixty Inches From Center
Soleil's To-Do's
Sometimes Store
Steppenwolf.blog
Stop Go Stop
Storefront Rebellion
TOC Blog
Theater for the Future
Theatre in Chicago
The Franklin
The Mission
The Theater Loop
Thomas Robertello Gallery
threewalls
Time Tells Tony Wight Gallery
Uncommon Photographers
The Unscene Chicago
The Visualist
Vocalo
Western Exhibitions
What's Going On?
What to Wear During an Orange Alert?
You, Me, Them, Everybody
Zg Gallery

GB store

 

Events


A/C on Flickr

Join the A/C Flickr Pool.



About A/C

A/C is the arts and culture section of Gapers Block, covering the many forms of expression on display in Chicago. More...
Please see our submission guidelines.

Editor: Nancy Bishop, nancy@gapersblock.com
A/C staff inbox: ac@gapersblock.com

Archives

 

A/C Flickr Pool
 Subscribe in a reader.

GB store

GB Store

GB Buttons $1.50

GB T-Shirt $12

I ✶ Chi T-Shirts $15