Chicago actors Boyd Harris and Layne Manzer announce the founding of Cole Theatre, working under an Equity contract with non-profit status. With the tagline “victory of the people” as its battle cry, Cole Theatre is an arena for underused and under-sung artists to rise up and be seen louder and clearer. The name “Cole” is Greek for “people’s victory.”
The new company’s inaugural show will be Mike Leigh’s Ecstasy, staged at A Red Orchid Theatre in Old Town, August 25-September 28.
Harris and Manzer are familiar faces in Chicago theater–from storefront to Equity houses–and have been instrumental in the founding and growth of programs and companies serving the Chicago theater community.
“This is not a group of 20-somethings out of college,” said Harris, Cole’s artistic director. “Cole Theatre is made of artists who’ve been active in the Chicago theater community for many years. ‘Victory of the people’ is our rally cry, and our victory is working and producing in concert with those loved and highly regarded artists we know should be working more.”
Defying the prevailing wisdom of startups, Cole is coming out of the gate big and ambitious with a Seventies-era period drama and a six-member ensemble cast. Ecstasy will be directed by Jeff Award-winner Jonathan Berry.
“I’ve always been drawn to the struggle of the underdog,” says Manzer, Cole’s managing director. “‘Victory of the people’ implies to me common people and not ‘Victory of kings.’
“The choice of Ecstasy as our inaugural production has to do with the underdog’s journey to get to a better place. A group of middle- to lower-class people finds their own victory within a change in the way they look at what that victory is. Victory is not in achieving more money, a bigger home, more children, rather finding peace and happiness in one’s own situation.”
The last major mounting of Ecstasy in Chicago was Roadworks Productions’ in 1997, a dazzling production that moved to Los Angeles with Nick Offerman in the cast. A second show, to be staged in spring 2015, will be announced soon.
More information about Cole Theatre’s productions and programs is available at www.coletheatre.org or by phone at (773) 327-1066.