Tonight’s the night!
We are thrilled to open the Chicago premiere of Sunset Baby by Dominique Morisseau tonight. Dominique is one of the most compelling and provocative writers to break out in the American theatre in recent years. A winner of the prestigious Steinberg Playwright Award and the Edward M. Kennedy Prize for Drama Inspired by American History, Dominique’s plays speak to the heart of TimeLine’s mission by exploring the past and shining a light on critical contemporary issues.
I first encountered Dominique’s writing when I saw Ron OJ Parson’s production of Detroit ’67 at Northlight Theatre, and I quickly got my hands on four more of her scripts, including Sunset Baby. My TimeLine colleagues and I were immediately enthralled by the depth of her historical scope, her dialogue that combines beautiful poetry with biting prose, and the stirring blend of disenfranchisement and hopefulness in her plays.
Dominique is a writer for our times, boldly looking at the past events that led us here and asking how we move forward.
Sunset Baby explores a trail that stretches from the Black Liberation movement of the 1960s and 1970s to the Black Lives Matter movement of today. It’s a play about activism, about reconciliation between father and daughter and about the ache to break out of one’s given circumstances.
As we continue to see our city and country wracked by systemic injustice, the issues of Sunset Baby feel all the more resonant, pushing us to ponder how generations of inequality have or have not evolved, as we consider what our role is to change the course of history.
With social media, we’re in an age of new forms of activism, new types of reach and perhaps a different definition of “connectedness,” prompting the question: What is today’s movement? Who are its leaders? And how is it different from previous generations?
That generational progression is at the core of Sunset Baby, and while it poses large, messy, sociological questions, this is a play that is less about the actions of the masses and more about the personal decisions and disconnect between a handful of people—daughter, boyfriend, absent father and deceased mother. It’s a deeply personal and intimate look at a family torn apart and examining what was lost in the struggle. Each must confront the mistakes of the past, recognize the choices that led to their division, and determine how or if healing might be possible.
Despite a background of strife, the play’s title reveals that this story is a young woman’s yearning for peace and beauty. She longs to escape her harsh urban confines and finally experience the tranquility and serenity of something that has always been out of reach—a sunset. To see its splendor with her own eyes, filled with color and warmth and hope for what the new day might bring.
What a beautiful thing for us all to look forward to—what tomorrow might bring.