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For the creative team behind Goodman Theatre world premiere Lottery Day, a little communication goes a long way.
Tag team: Lili-Anne Brown and Ike Holter partner up to bring Holter’s latest Chicago-centric work, Lottery Day, to vivid life in a Goodman Theatre world premiere.
Honesty is key to collaboration, and for playwright Ike Holter and director Lili-Anne Brown, it’s as honest as it gets. That authenticity comes full circle on March 29 at the Goodman Theatre, as the power duo present their first world-premiere production, Lottery Day. The culminating chapter of Holter’s seven-play series melds superhero saga with raw Chicago neighborhood grit, a modern-day noir set in the unlikely confines of a backyard barbecue in Chicago’s mythical 51st ward (“The Avengers for theater,” says Brown). The empowered, diverse cast of characters are familiar from previous Holter works like Rightlynd, Exit Strategy and Prowess, as is their unabashed “real talk.” And as Holter puts it, it takes no-nonsense, Chicago-bred sensibility like Brown’s to keep it real onstage. “We’re both fans of quick, open communication,” says Holter, whose connection to Brown, the former Bailiwick Chicago artistic director, evolved after he invited her to attend his productions with Red Orchid and The Inconvenience Theatre. “No one carries their own secrets. There’s no pretension, and a fearlessness to try things.”
As a result, Holter (2017 winner of the prestigious Windham-Campbell Prize) has even instilled much of Brown’s tenacity and forthright communication into his upcoming work. “It’s amazing to work with someone who is so outspoken about how people should be treated and not get caught up in the political,” he says. “It inspires me to be equally outspoken in my storytelling, to create real topics about passionate black and brown people in a modern-day setting."
Brown, who boasts credits at American Theater Company, Kokandy Productions and more, calls the creative dialogue “almost telepathic,” and it’s her innate understanding of Holter’s cadence and character stories—not to mention a personality similar to the play’s matriarch, Mallory— that makes this peer relationship so fruitful. “He writes how I think,” Brown says. “The cadence, the language. Sometimes, there are things that just slot in your heart, and that’s because I lived it. My purpose is to serve that piece and bring out his intentions.”
Yet even with her “aerial point of view,” as Holter calls it, as a facilitator, Brown is equally focused on serving the piece in all of its minutiae, behind and in front of the curtain. “We’re witnessing it go down in real time,” she says. “Everyone is onstage and interacting. My challenge is to move us through that, but also make Ike’s story clear. Make people pay attention to his conversation. That’s what’s important.” March 29-April 28, 170 N. Dearborn St., 312.443.3800