Entertainment » Theatre

Artistic Home re-assesses a pre-Stonewall classic

by David  Zak
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Thursday Mar 22, 2012

You may be able to complete the quote that begins, "When you speak of this in future years... and you will...." But have you seen the play from which it comes?

You can do so this month as The Artistic Home presents what it calls "a tantalizing tale of repression and redemption," Robert Anderson's 1953 drama Tea and Sympathy.

"Tea and Sympathy" conjures up images of a sexually confused boy befriended by an older woman. And while the word 'homosexuality' was removed from the text when the long-running Broadway success was made into a film (by closeted director Vincente Minnelli in 1956), it still has the power to speak to today's troubled youth.


I had a chance to catch up with guest director David New last week as he prepared for opening night.

"I thought I knew the play," said New. "I had watched a lot of scenes from it in college acting class. I had an idea about the content, style and tone. But I felt sucker-punched when I read it again. I couldn’t believe how relevant it was."

New says that "the audience today has a different frame for the story than when it premiered. The homosexuality is only one of many manifestations in the play of people being asked to perform a role in conflict with their authentic self. It stands as a piece about a society in which our authentic selves are not allowed to thrive."

The crucial role of Tom Lee, the questioning youth, is played by University of Chicago student Andrew Cutler. New says "the role sits on him so beautifully. He has just the right mixture of openness and ambiguity." Kate Tummelsin, an ensemble member of The Artistic home, plays the role originated by Deborah Kerr.

A new look at a classic

I asked New why "Tea and Sympathy" is not revived as often as other works from the pre-Stonewall era such as Lillian Hellman’s "The Children’s Hour."

He said "the challenge of the piece is that if the people are not actively pursuing what they want and need and are fighting for that, it can fall into melodrama. But taking a new look at this classic has been a great journey for all."

So how does the famous quote from Tea and Sympathy conclude? Well, be kind to yourself and head to The Artistic Home before April 22 to find out.

Tea and Sympathy runs through April 22, 2012, at Stage 773, 1225 W. Belmont Ave. Performances are Thursdays at 7:30p.m., Fridays and Saturdays at 8p.m. and Sundays at 3 p.m. Single tickets are $28 on Thursday and Sundays and $32 on Fridays and Saturdays. On Thursdays and Sundays, senior and student tickets also are available for $20. Tickets can be purchased online at www.Stage773.com , by calling the Stage 773 box office at 773.327.5252 and in person at the theatre.

About The Artistic Home

The Artistic Home is an Equity theatre company noted for their innovative and intimate presentations of rarely-produced classics. Audiences may know The Artistic Home from their recent Jeff-recommended production of "A Touch of the Poet" or the 2011 Jeff Award-nominated "Sweet Bird of Youth." In the past three years, The Artistic Home has produced 16 new works as part of its Cut to the Chase studio series, as well as the late night "How To Act Around Cops."

For more than 12 years, The Artistic Home has consistently produced compelling theatre on the north side of Chicago. Starting as an ensemble of thirteen actors, the company has evolved into a group of thirty actors, directors and artistic associates, collaborating to bring timeless stories of human emotion to the Chicago community. First formed in 1998 with the belief that the actor is at the heart of great theater, the company strives to give birth to unforgettable moments; to touch audiences who are increasingly distanced from human contact; to readdress the classics and explore new works with passion.


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