Chicago debut of Lemon Andersen’s ‘County of Kings’
By Jessi Virtusio firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @JessiVirtusio November 6, 2013 3:16PM
The Collective Theatre will present the Chicago debut of "County of Kings" with Lemon Andersen on Nov. 8 at the Beverly Arts Center. | Daniella Zalcman photo
‘COUNTY OF KINGS’
♦ 7 p.m. Nov. 8
♦ Beverly Arts Center, 2407 W. 111th St., Chicago, (773) 445-3838
♦ Tickets, $25 for general admission or $75 for the VIP package featuring a cocktail reception following the show and a meet and greet with the Collective Theatre’s founders and Andersen
♦ (773) 359-2776;
Updated: December 9, 2013 9:40AM
Working on the 2009 movie “The Soloist” is what brought performance artist Lemon Andersen (credited as Lemon Anderson in that film) and Harvey-born actor Nelsan Ellis together.
Years later, that connection prompted Thornridge High School alum Ellis to make the call to bring the Chicago debut of Andersen’s “County of Kings” to the Beverly Arts Center.
“It’s a big deal for me,” said Andersen, of New York City’s Brooklyn borough, about the Nov. 8 performance.
“Chicago should be respected as one of the places that theater has done well and it has a lot of talent that comes out of Chicago, not just musicians but young poets, writers, etc.
“I really have the utmost respect for those doing work there. It’s not just about the material but being really prepared.”
The show with the Collective Theatre marks the group’s first production of the season.
In addition to Ellis (who plays Lafayette Reynolds on the HBO TV series “True Blood), the company was co-founded by Thornridge alums Francois Battiste, Veronda Carey, Le’Mil Eiland, Metra Gilliard and Jasond Jones.
Collective Theatre’s mission is to showcase thought-provoking imagery for audiences of diverse cultural and economic backgrounds through historical perspectives, explorative interpretations and experimental new works.
Although “County of Kings” is a stage memoir written and performed by Andersen, he stressed that the production is not presented in an open mike vein.
“I respect it as a play and not as a talent show,” Andersen said.
“It’s still a story to me. The actor is separate from the writer on stage. My job is to always seek truth.
“Like any play, like any actors, it’s to go up and live and exist and hopefully give the audience not just an experience that is just Brooklyn, but a real human journey.
“I’ve spent a lot of years understanding what my job is on stage.”
Andersen has presented “County of Kings” across America and in parts of Europe, Australia and South Africa.
He said his fans from the HBO TV series “Def Poetry Jam” as well as the Broadway show of the same name, for which he won a Tony Award, have followed him to his other projects including “County of Kings.”
“I bring this audience into theater most of the time for the first time. Different countries are attracted to that,” he said, adding that social media has helped him to gain exposure in several markets.
Andersen recently partnered with Nike Basketball to pay tribute to Miami Heat star LeBron James with the “Rubber City Soul” poem, a YouTube video that debuted Oct. 29 to coincide with the first NBA game of the regular season.
Whether it’s working on spoken word or other endeavors, it’s always about performance for Andersen.
“I represent the last 25 years of the American voice, and they’ll see that journey,” he said of “County of Kings.”
“It’s really a journey about a mother’s child. You’ll see time start to pass through this story.”
Jessi Virtusio blogs about music, movies and much more at blogs.southtownstar.com/entertainment.