After 77 performances, Dominique Morisseau’s hit play Sunset Baby is closing this Sunday, April 10. We’ve had an incredible run of audiences who have been able to experience this volcanic production, and we’ve been particularly proud to welcome more than 500 high school students from Chicago Public Schools to the production through TimeLine’s Living History Education Program, now in its ninth year.
During Living History residencies, TimeLine teaching artists and classroom teachers collaborate on lesson plans that illuminate the themes of the play and their connection to each classroom curriculum. Students work on several scenes from a TimeLine production and are visited by the production’s actors and dramaturg. Then, they attend a student matinee of the play that includes a post-show discussion with the cast.
It has been a truly exhilarating experience to be present when these classes from throughout Chicago experience Sunset Baby. The deafening response to performances, from gasps to tears to thunderous applause at curtain calls, has been as exciting for those of us working backstage as to those who are working on it.
We asked a few of our Living History students to write about their experiences with the play and TimeLine’s Living History program. Excerpts from their responses, provided by Living History Program Assistant Ali Delianides, are reprinted below.
GET THE “SUNSET BABY” PLAYLIST! Living History classes put together a playlist inspired by their work on “Sunset Baby”, which is available through Spotify here.
Melissa says: “Over the course of the past week I have learned valuable skills from working directly with actors from the Chicago TimeLine Theatre. It gave me an opportunity to pour all of my emotions into acting and look at it in a different light. To be honest I never thought that I would have found in interest in acting because I doubted myself and my capabilities. I can portray my voice towards a broad audience, I can show my attitude through my facial expressions and body language, I can also adapt to different characters which came in handy when playing the role of Damon. …
“The moment that Nina finally makes the decision to speak with her father face to face was my favorite part of the play. I was surprised in how the chain of events played out because I expected Kenyatta to be the one to get violent, not Nina. I assumed that the reason she placed a gun behind her back was for her own protection, not to turn against her father and rob him. This moved me because after Nina robbed her father she broke down and cried. Throughout the whole play she portrays herself to be a woman with no emotion due to the lack of love from her parents as she grew up, emotionally attached to her mother, and mentally imprisoned.”
Daniel says: “Overall I enjoyed the play. I thought that all three actors were amazing and gave wonderful performances. I felt that the story was solid and felt very believable. I can imagine people like this in real life. It has great themes like abandonment and trust. There are a few things that bothered me about the play. At times it felt a bit boring because it had one setting which was Nina’s apartment. Other than that it was still an enjoyable play.”
Kiara says: “My experiences with the artists in our class was moving, motivating, and challenging. I was going through something before class started, it let me get that emotion out through the little bit of acting that we did. [The teaching artists’] energy and intensity they had with us working with our scripts just sculpted our minds to get a feel of how the play actually was, so when I seen the play, the same intensity and energy I felt from the actors, was the same energy I felt from myself and my group. …
“Although I was very nervous in front of the actors, and the way we acted the first time differed from the second time, it made me think a lot about what I want to do in the future. So I’m very thankful for this experience along with the artists and the actors because not every school or classroom gets things like this.”
For more information about TimeLine’s Living History Education Program, please visit our website.