World Premiere

An Issue of Blood

by Ensemble Playwright Marcus Gardley | directed by Chay Yew
April 3 – May 3, 2015

It’s 1676 in Virginia – a time when class, not color, defined an American’s destiny. ​H​istoric figure and wealthy landowner Negro Mary​​ believes a vile curse has been cast upon her family and land. But her plans to break the curse are thwarted by a secret wedding, an interracial love triangle, and a crime of passion. Can Mary cheat fate and change the course of history? Or will ​their lives end in ​​division and destruction? In An Issue of Blood, Victory Gardens Ensemble playwright Marcus Gardley and Artistic Director Chay Yew (​​The Gospel of Lovingkindness) look to a pivotal moment in our collective past to understand how we arrived in our tumultuous present.



Click to view: An Issue of Blood Student Study Guide

Public Programs is an event series designed to enhance your experience by exploring the themes and issues within Victory Gardens’ Productions. Connecting our theater to the world beyond the stage and rehearsal room, Public Programs events bridge ideas, provoke dialogue, and deepen the relationship between our audiences and our productions.

After every performance of AN ISSUE OF BLOOD (unless otherwise noted)
Join us for one of our intimate post show conversations. Led by members from the Victory Gardens community—artistic affiliates, subscribers, Artistic staff, Teen Arts Council members, and community partners— reflect on what you’ve seen and share your response.

Fri April 3rd, 2015 | After a performance of Sideshow Theatre Company’s ANTIGONICK
In Victory Gardens’ An Issue of Blood and in Sideshow’s Antigonick, issues of state­-sponsored violence and inequality are brought to life through dynamic historical lenses. How can Greek tragedies and the stories of America’s first slaves bridge the gap between our past and present? In partnership with Sideshow’s Side Series, join this post-­show conversation with human rights advocate Keisa Reynolds (We Charge Genocide) and participants of Victory Gardens’ We Must Breathe as we open old wounds to uncover new ways of healing

Pre Show Spoken Word Performance Series
April 7th, 11th, 16th, 18th, and 24th, 2015 | 7:00 p.m
Last December, you heard them slam at We Must Breathe – an evening of performance pieces created in the wake of the national outcry stemming from the deaths and verdicts of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, and countless others. Now, select poets return to Victory Gardens to continue the conversation in the best way they know how—through their art. Join us for select pre­-show performances in the lobby as these spoken word artists take the mic and share their truths.

Wednesday Night Out | Wed April 8th, 2015
6:30pm cocktail get together at Victory Gardens | Special Afterwords
Racial tension in Chicago’s queer neighborhoods is on the rise. Claims of “racism” and “white boys’ town” have surfaced more and more in the last decade. How do queer people of color find solace in deeply segregated Chicago? In partnership with Center on Halsted, enjoy pre­-show cocktails and free appetizers from Fiesta Mexicana, then stick around for this timely post-­show conversation.

Special Afterwords | Thurs April 9th, 2015
When Victory Gardens announced a change in the season from A Wonder in My Soul to An Issue of Blood, it was born out of playwright Marcus Gardley’s need to respond to the recent deaths of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, and countless others. A historical drama set in the late 1600’s, An Issue of Blood critically examines our history to understand our present. Join Marcus Gardley (playwrights ensemble member) and Chay Yew (artistic director) as they discuss themes, ideas, and the new play process of bringing An Issue of Blood to life.

Encuentros | Fri April 17th, 2015
6:30pm cocktail get together at Victory Gardens | Special Afterwords
All around the country, undocumented Mexican immigrants are working as indentured servants to ensure their place in America. Whether they’re cleaning houses or building them, the pay is less than adequate and the conditions are even worse. With no legal rights and nowhere to turn, how can these workers ensure their safety and survival? Come early for pre­-show cocktails and free appetizers from Fiesta Mexicana, and stay for this special Afterwords conversation that hits close to home.

Town Hall | Sun April 19th, 2015
Cries of “I can’t breathe” and #BlackLivesMatter have shed harsh light on our country’s struggle with race, discrimination, and police brutality. Systems of oppression and racial inequity date as far back as colonial America – before Ferguson, before Selma, even before slavery. What do we do with a system we’ve inherited? Join us for a performance of Marcus Gardley’s historical drama, then stick around for this crucial town hall conversation as we unearth our roots and discover new ways of moving forward.

Staged Reading | Tues April 21st, 2015 | 7:30 p.m.
Delve further into the mythical worlds of Marcus Gardley at this staged reading of … And Jesus Moonwalks the Mississippi. Presented in association with Congo Square Theater, this 2010 hit is a riff on a familiar Greek tale. Set on the banks of the Mississippi River during the Civil War, a lynched African American man named Damascus is immediately resurrected as a woman named Demeter. With only three days to find her daughter Po’em, she must transmit her song before she has to return to death.

Special Afterwords | Thurs April 23rd, 2015
Since September 11, 2001, the rate of hate crimes against Muslims in the United States has quintupled. In 2015 alone, three Muslim American students were shot in the head in Chapel Hill, North Carolina; an Arab American man was brutally attacked by two white men at a supermarket in Dearborn, Michigan; police in Austin, Texas arrested a man for threatening to bomb an Islamic center ­- and the list goes on and on. In a culture of prejudice and fear against Muslim Americans, how do we hold each other accountable for shattering the stigma? Engage in this special Afterwords conversation shedding light on one of the most widely misunderstood communities in America.

Special Afterwords | Fri April 24th, 2015
The issue of immigration in America is complex ­- at best. Though immigration itself can be traced as far back as Irish and African indentured servants in colonial America, the vast majority of South Asian immigrants didn’t come to the US until after 1970. With Mexican immigration most commonly in the limelight -­ how can we illuminate the stories of South Asians? What other stories aren’t being told? Following the performance, join us for this special Afterwords conversation shedding light to immigration in the South Asian community.

Pre­show Performance | Special Afterwords | Sat April 25th, 2015 | 6:30 p.m
Though race and privilege on college campuses are often considered taboo topics, every college and university faces them. From misperceptions to underrepresentation, students of color are sometimes forced to navigate institutions that may not always protect them. Grab a pop and free pizza and watch young local artists respond at a pre-­show performance, then stay for a special Afterwords conversation investigating race & privilege on college campuses.

Special Afterwords | Tue April 28th, 2015
Earlier this month, the Jewish community celebrated Passover ­- an eight-­day festival commemorating the emancipation of the Israeli slaves in ancient Egypt. What does it mean to celebrate this holiday in America, a country with deep roots in slavery? How has a history of oppression shaped American and Jewish culture? Join us for this timeless post­show conversation addressing old wounds and new waves.

“An Engaging, Distinctive and Committed Work. What’s immediately striking about Marcus Gardley’s very ambitious new play is its setting: Virginia in 1676. This fine writer offers a rare look at a moment when a country not yet a country might have gone in another direction.”
Chicago Tribune

“Savvy. Heartfelt. Stirring.”
Time Out Chicago

“An Important Play. Powerful.”

“The urgency spurring Marcus Gardley to write his play about America’s earliest history is echoed in performances sustaining its passion for every second of its swift 90 minutes.”
Windy City Times

Marcus MARCUS GARDLEY (Playwright) is a poet-playwright who is the current recipient of the 2015 Glickman Award. He was the 2013 James Baldwin Fellow and the 2011 PEN Laura Pels award winner for Mid-Career Playwright.The New Yorker describes Gardley as “the heir to Garcia Lorca, Pirandello and Tennessee Williams.” His play The House that Will Not Stand was commissioned and produced by Berkeley Rep and had subsequent productions at Yale Rep and the Tricycle Theater in London. He is an ensemble member playwright at Victory Gardens Theater where his play The Gospel of Lovingkindness was produced in March and where he won the 2015 BTAA award for best play. In 2014, his saga The Road Weeps, the Well Runs Dry about the migration of Black Seminoles (a tribe of African American and First Nations People) from Florida to Oklahoma had a national tour. He has had several productions some of which, include: Every Tongue Confesses at Arena Stage starring Phylicia Rashad and On The Levee which, premiered in 2010 at Lincoln Center Theater 3. He is the recipient of the 2011 Aetna New Voice Fellowship at Hartford Stage, the Hellen Merrill Award, a Kellsering Honor and the Gerbode Emerging Playwright Award. He holds an MFA in Playwriting from the Yale Drama School and is a member of The Dramatists Guild. Gardley is a professor of Theater and Performance Studies at Brown University.


Chay CHAY YEW (Director/Artistic Director)joined Victory Gardens in July 2011. For Victory Gardens, he has directed Death and the Maiden, The Gospel of Lovingkindness, Mojada, Oedipus el Rey, and Universes’ Ameriville. His other Chicago credits include Dartmoor Prison and Black N Blue Boys/Broken Men at the Goodman and Po Boy Tango at Northlight Theatre. Chay is a recipient of the Obie Award and DramaLogue Award for Direction. As a playwright, his plays include Porcelain, A Language of Their Own, Red, A Beautiful Country, Wonderland, Question 27 Question 28, A Distant Shore, 17, and Visible Cities. His performance works include Viven and Her Shadows and Home: Places between Asia and America. He is also the recipient of the London Fringe Award for Best Playwright and Best Play, George and Elisabeth Marton Playwriting Award, GLAAD Media Award, Made in America Award, AEA/SAG/AFTRA Diversity Honor, and Robert Chesley Award. He recently edited Version 3.0: An Anthology of Contemporary Asian American Plays for TCG Publications. He was the founding director of the Taper’s Asian Theatre Workshop and producer of Taper, Too. Chay is also an alumnus of New Dramatists and serves on the Executive Board of the Stage Directors and Choreographers Society, and Chicago’s Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events’ Cultural Advisory Council.
E.-Faye E. FAYE BUTLER (Nova Goode) Chicago:Court Theatre, Goodman Theatre, Steppenwolf Theatre, Chicago Shakespeare Theatre, Marriott Theatre, Northlight Theatre. Regional: Arena Stage, Signature Theatre, Centerstage, La Jolla Playhouse, Dallas Theatre Company, Philadelphia Theatre Company, Yale Repertory, Pasadena Playhouse. National & Regional Tours: Mamma Mia, Dinah Was, Ain’t Misbehavin’, Nunsense and Don’t Bother Me…. Awards: six Jeff Awards, three Black Theatre Alliance Awards, an After Dark Award, John Barrymore Award, R.A.M.I. Award, two Helen Hayes Awards, Black Excellence Award, Excellence in the Arts Award, Ovation Award, 2011 Sarah Siddons Society Leading Lady Award, 2012 Lunt-Fontaine Fellow and 2014 Kathryn V. Lamkey Award.
cleavant CLEAVANT DERRICKS (Dozens Goode) previously worked with Chay Yew and Marcus Gardley on Black Odyssey at Denver Center for Performing Arts. Chicago: Pullman Porter Blues (Goodman Theater). Regional: BasketCases Playhouse. Broadway: Revival of Hair, Your Arms Too Short to Box with God, But Never Jam Today, Brooklyn the Musical. TV/Film: Moscow on the Hudson, The Slugger’s Wife, Offbeat, Carnival of Souls, Bluffing it, Miami Magma, Basilisk, World Traveler, “Sliders,” “Thea,” “Drexell’s Class,” “Good Sports,” “Woops!” Awards: Tony & Drama Desk Awards, Dreamgirls; LA Drama Circle Award for vocal arrangements; Tony & Drama Desk nom, Bob Fosse’s Big Deal; NAACP Award for Best Male Performance, The Full Monty, and Debbie Allen’s Twist; Heroes & Legends Award for Outstanding Achievement in Theatre.(Seattle Repertory Theatre), A.R.T., Pasadena
LIzan LIZAN MITCHELL (Negro Mary)—Broad-way: Electra, Having Our Say, So Long On Lonely Street. Off-Broadway: Salt (Actors’ Studio), Ma Rose (Women’s Project), Gum (Women’s Project), Rosmersholm (59E59 Theater), Cell (Ensemble Studio Theater), brownsville song:b-side for tray (Lincoln Center Theater3). Recent Regional Theater: The House That Will Not Stand (Berkeley Repertory Theater & Yale Repertory Theater), Dead and Breathing (Contemporary American Theater Festival), A Trip to Bountiful (Cincinnati Playhouse and Roundhouse Theater). Film & TV: John Adams, The Human Stain, The Preacher’s Wife, Law&Order, Sesame Street, The Wire, Guiding Light, The Good Wife. Awards: Black Theater Alliance Award—Best Actress, Helen Hayes Award-Best Actress, Audelco Award—Best Actress. Numerous Earphone Awards for Book Narration.
Tosin TOSIN MOROHUNFOLA (John Israel First) Off-Broadway: Lucky Duck (New Victory Theatre). Chicago: Pullman Porter Blues (Goodman Theater), The Gospel of Lovingkindness (Victory Gardens Theater), Native Son (Court Theatre). As Resident Artist of the Coterie Theatre: The Wiz, Shrek. As Director: Geek Mythology, Zeus on the Loose and The Presidents! (Coterie). TV: “Empire” (FOX), “Chicago Fire” (NBC). Films: “On Sight,” “Destination Planet Negro,” “Falling Apples,” “Withered World: If Night Comes.” Festival Selection Shorts: “Mouth Breather,” “Rook,” “As a Puzzle,” “Alpha Bravo Charlie.” Tosin is also a member of “Those People” Comedy and “Boomtown! Improv.” Education: University of Kansas.
Steve STEVE O’CONNELL (Constable Mason Esau) Chicago: Dead Accounts (Step Up Productions), Henry V (Chicago Shakespeare), Amadeus (Jeff Award nom-Actor in a Principal Role, BoHo Theatre), The Killer Angels (Lifeline Theatre), Coriolanus (Jeff Award nom—Actor in a Principal Role, The Hypocrites), Pygmalion (Stage Left Theatre, BoHo Theatre), Hostage Song (Signal Ensemble Theatre), The Kid Thing (Chicago Dramatists, About Face Theatre), TimeLine Theatre Company, Red Tape Theatre, Metropolis Performing Arts Centre, Infusion Theatre Company, Theatre Wit, BoHo Theatre (Artistic Affiliate). Regional: Madison Repertory Theatre, Milwaukee Chamber Theatre. Film/TV: Chicago PD (NBC), Chicago Fire (NBC), Betrayal (ABC), The Mob Doctor (FOX), Last Man Standing (Lifetime), Low Winter Sun (AMC). Education: University of Wisconsin-Madison (MFA).
Eleni ELENI PAPPAGEORGE (Calla) Chicago: Antigonick (Sideshow Theatre Company), A Map of Virtue (Cor Theatre), Cock (Profiles Theatre), Northlight, The Chicago Dramatists, Remy Bumppo, Second City, and The North Carolina Shakespeare Festival. She is a Waltzing Mechanics company member with whom she develops and performs original documentary theatre including EL Stories and Over My Dead Body. Education: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (BFA in Acting), Second City Conservatory. Eleni is represented by Stewart Talent & Naked Voices Talent.