Crowns

Crowns
Invite

June 30 – August 12, 2012 In the Albert
Approximate running time: 1 hour and 40 minutes

  • Rich and beautiful”— Chicago Tribune
  • Chicago's best 'Crowns' production yet” — Chicago Sun-Times
  • There is something about 'Crowns' that warms the soul”— Chicago Tribune
  • The hat is most definitely where it’s at” — Chicago Sun-Times
  • Taylor [has] gathered some of the finest black divas in Chicago (and beyond)” — Chicago Sun-Times
  • Inspiring” “Stirring work” — Time Out Chicago

Regina Taylor’s gospel musical sensation returns to the Goodman, promising audiences a joyful good time.

When Chicago-born Yolanda is sent down South after the death of her brother, she finds strength in the tales of the wise women who surround her—and the powerful rituals connected to their dazzling hats. This jubilant musical traces the roots of Gospel through contemporary hip hop, fusing rich storytelling with abundant “hattitude” into a stirring coming-of-age tale. Crowns is a not-to-be-missed celebration of song, dance, cultural history—and glamorous headwear.

Groups of 10 or more save on single tickets! Visit our groups page for more information.

  • Audiences are raving about Crowns!
    Hear what audiences are saying about the gospel musical sensation, Crowns.

  • Scenes from Crowns
    Take a glimpse of a few special scenes from Crowns in this montage.

  • The Making of Crowns
    Take a journey into the creative process of playwright and director Regina Taylor and her cast and crew as they rehearse for the 10th anniversary production of Crowns.

  • Crowns Kicks Off Gospel Fest
    The cast of Crowns gave a sneak peek of the gospel sensation in Millenium Park to open the Chicago Gospel Music Festival.

  • Crowns Open Call
    Learn about how two of the main roles for Crowns were selected through an open call audition.

  • Crowns
    Playwright and director Regina Taylor describes her play Crowns and the inspiration behind the work.

  • Crowns Cast Members Perform at Trinity United Church of Christ
    Playwright Regina Taylor and several Crowns cast members paid a visit to Trinity United Church of Christ on Sunday, April 29, 2012.

  • Crowns Sings: "How I Got Over"
    Jasondra Johnson (Velma) and Shari Addison (Ensemble) sing the gospel classic "How I Got Over" in Crowns.

See All Videos
  • Stars Come Out to See Crowns
    Crowns playwright and director Regina Taylor (center) with Denzel and Pauletta Washington (who stars as Wanda in the play) following the July 21 performance at Goodman Theatre.

  • Stars Come Out to See Crowns
    Denzel Washington together with his wife, Crowns star Pauletta Washington, following her July 21 performance at Goodman Theatre.

  • Stars Come Out to See Crowns
    Governor Pat Quinn congratulates Crowns star Felicia P. Fields following her July 21 performance at Goodman Theatre.

  • Stars Come Out to See Crowns
    The cast of Goodman Theatre's Crowns with special guests Board of Trustees Chairman Ruth Ann M. Gillis, Governor Pat Quinn and Denzel Washington following the July 21 performance.

  • Stars Come Out to See Crowns
    Chicago Bears defensive end Israel Idonije congratulates Crowns playwright and director Regina Taylor following the July 21 performance at Goodman Theatre.

  • Stars Come Out to See Crowns
    Board of Trustees Chairman Ruth Ann M. Gillis and Governor Pat Quinn congratulate Crowns playwright and director Regina Taylor following the July 21 performance at Goodman Theatre.

  • Crowns Rehearsal Photos
    Mother Shaw (Felicia P. Fields) and Yolanda (Marketta P. Wilder) in the 10th anniversary production of Regina Taylor's Crowns at Goodman Theatre.

  • Crowns Rehearsal Photos
    Felicia P. Fields as Mother Shaw (center) with ensemble members Shari Addison, Yusha-Marie Sorzano and Laura Walls in the 10th anniversary production of Regina Taylor's Crowns at Goodman Theatre.

  • Crowns Rehearsal Photos
    Jasondra Johnson (Velma) demonstrates "hattitude" in the 10th anniversary production of Regina Taylor's Crowns at Goodman Theatre.

  • Crowns Rehearsal Photos
    (Left to right) Ensemble members Shari Addison, Melanie Brezill, Kelvin Roston and Laura Walls in the 10th anniversary production of Regina Taylor's Crowns at Goodman Theatre.

  • Crowns Rehearsal Photos
    (Center) Kelvin Roston (Ensemble) dances in the 10th anniversary production of Regina Taylor's Crowns at Goodman Theatre.

  • Crowns Rehearsal Photos
    Alexis J. Rogers as Jeanette in the 10th anniversary production of Regina Taylor's Crowns at Goodman Theatre.

  • Crowns Rehearsal Photos
    (Center) Yusha-Marie Sorzano (Ensemble) dances in the 10th anniversary production of Regina Taylor's Crowns at Goodman Theatre.

  • Crowns Rehearsal Photos
    (Center) Marketta P. Wilder as Yolanda in the 10th anniversary production of Regina Taylor's Crowns at Goodman Theatre.

  • Crowns Rehearsal Photos
    E. Faye Butler as Mabel in the 10th anniversary production of Regina Taylor's Crowns at Goodman Theatre.

  • Crowns Rehearsal Photos
    Pauletta Washington as Wanda in the 10th anniversary production of Regina Taylor's Crowns at Goodman Theatre.

  • Crowns Rehearsal Photos
    (Left to right) Kelvin Roston (Ensemble), Shari Addison (Ensemble), Melanie Brezill (Ensemble), Laura Walls (Ensemble), Marketta P. Wilder (Yolanda), Felicia P. Fields (Mother Shaw), Alexis J. Rogers (Jeanette), E. Faye Butler (Mabel), Pauletta Washington (Wanda) and Jasondra Johnson (Velma) in the 10th anniversary production of Regina Taylor's Crowns at Goodman Theatre.

  • The Cast of Crowns Visits Trinity United Church of Christ
    Crowns cast members Marketta Wilder, Jasondra Johnson and Laura Walls sing in front of the congregation. Photo by Ted Wilson.

  • The Cast of Crowns Visits Trinity United Church of Christ
    Regina Taylor speaks in front of the congregation. Photo by Ted Wilson.

  • The Cast of Crowns Visits Trinity United Church of Christ
    Regina Taylor talks about her inspiration for Crowns. Photo by Ted Wilson.

  • The Cast of Crowns Visits Trinity United Church of Christ
    Laura Walls, Mrs. Monica Brown Moss and Regina Taylor. Photo by Dawn Stephens.

  • The Cast of Crowns Visits Trinity United Church of Christ
    Laura Walls, Mrs. Monica Brown Moss and Regina Taylor. Photo by Dawn Stephens.

  • The Cast of Crowns Visits Trinity United Church of Christ
    Mrs. Monica Brown Moss, Regina Taylor and The Rev. Dr. Otis Moss, III, Senior Pastor. Photo by Dawn Stephens.

  • The Cast of Crowns Visits Trinity United Church of Christ
    Kelvin Roston, Mrs. Monica Brown Moss, Regina Taylor, Laura Walls and The Rev. Otis Moss, III, Senior Pastor. Photo by Dawn Stephens.

  • Crowns Rehearsal Photos
    Playwright and Director Regina Taylor with music director Fred Carl during rehearsal for her 10th anniversary production of Crowns at Goodman Theatre.

  • Crowns Rehearsal Photos
    (Left to Right) Melanie Brezill (Ensemble), Marketta P. Wilder (Yolanda), David Jennings (Preacher), Fred Carl (Music Director), Kelvin Roston (Ensemble) and Alexis Rogers (Jeanette) on rehearsal break for Regina Taylor's 10th anniversary of Crowns at Goodman Theatre.

  • Crowns Rehearsal Photos
    Cast members rehearse for Regina Taylor's 10th anniversary of Crowns at Goodman Theatre.

  • Crowns Rehearsal Photos
    Ensemble member Shari Addison rehearses for Regina Taylor's 10th anniversary of Crowns at Goodman Theatre.

  • Crowns Rehearsal Photos
    Ensemble member Laura Walls rehearses for Regina Taylor's 10th anniversary of Crowns at Goodman Theatre.

  • Crowns Rehearsal Photos
    Ensemble member Yusha-Marie Sorzano (center) dances in rehearsal for Regina Taylor's 10th anniversary of Crowns at Goodman Theatre.

  • Crowns Rehearsal Photos
    Orchestra member Rubén P. Alvarez rehearses Regina Taylor's 10th anniversary production of Crowns at Goodman Theatre.

  • Crowns Rehearsal Photos
    Ensemble member Melanie Brezill rehearses Regina Taylor's 10th anniversary production of Crowns at Goodman Theatre.

  • Crowns Rehearsal Photos
    Kelvin Roston (Ensemble) and Marketta P. Wilder (Yolanda) rehearses Regina Taylor's 10th anniversary production of Crowns at Goodman Theatre.

  • Crowns Rehearsal Photos
    Playwright and Director Regina Taylor speaks with the cast during rehearsal for her 10th anniversary production of Crowns at Goodman Theatre.

  • Crowns Rehearsal Photos
    E. Faye Butler (Mabel) rehearses Regina Taylor's 10th anniversary production of Crowns at Goodman Theatre.

  • Crowns Rehearsal Photos
    Pauletta Washington (Wanda) rehearses Regina Taylor's 10th anniversary production of Crowns at Goodman Theatre.

  • Crowns Rehearsal Photos
    (Left to Right) Felicia Fields (Mother Shaw) and Laura Walls (Ensemble) rehearse Regina Taylor's 10th anniversary production of Crowns at Goodman Theatre.

  • Crowns Rehearsal Photos
    Alexis Rogers (Jeanette) rehearses Regina Taylor's 10th anniversary production of Crowns at Goodman Theatre.

  • Crowns Rehearsal Photos
    Marketta P. Wilder (Yolanda) rehearses Regina Taylor's 10th anniversary production of Crowns at Goodman Theatre.

  • Crowns Rehearsal Photos
    Jasonda Johnson (Velma) rehearses Regina Taylor's 10th anniversary of Crowns at Goodman Theatre.

  • Crowns Rehearsal Photos
    Choreographer Dianne McIntyre rehearses Regina Taylor's 10th anniversary production of Crowns at Goodman Theatre.

See All Photos

The African Roots of Crowns

By Tanya Palmer, from OnStage Magazine, June 2012

Late in Regina Taylor’s Crowns, the character of Yolanda, a young woman struggling to understand who she is and where she came from, tells us, “The more I study Africa, the more I see that African Americans do very African things without ever knowing it.” Crowns is filled with these “African things”—from the music and movement that infuses the show, to the values and beliefs that its characters uphold and, of course, to the elaborate hats that give the musical its title.

Many cultures and religions have a tradition of covering the head. In Africa, the earliest evidence of headwear is found in Algeria and dates to the Neolithic period, between 11,000 and 3,000 BCE. Among the images etched onto the rocky walls of various prehistoric sites are depictions of archers and dancers wearing feathers, animal skins and horns on their heads. In sub-Saharan Africa, what one wears on one’s head communicates important information about gender, age, status in society, membership in an association, rank in an organization or affiliation with a deity. headwear also has a strong spiritual significance: for the Yoruba peoples of southwestern Nigeria and the Republic of Benin, the head is considered the point through which the soul enters the human body. The Yoruba also believe that the physical head (ori ode) is no more than the outer shell of an inner, invisible head known as the ori inu, which is associated with personal destiny.

The most elaborate headwear is usually reserved for leadership—political or religious leaders and the social elites—while the lowest-ranking individuals on the social ladder may be denied the right to wear anything at all on their heads. For the African American women in Crowns, whose ancestors survived the Middle Passage and slavery, the act of wearing an elaborately decorated hat connects them to their African roots while simultaneously asserting their socioeconomic status here in America. As Wanda, one of the women in the play, tells us, “In my mother’s day, hats were a sign of status for black women. Once you got up on your feet and started working, you bought yourself a hat.”

The reasons for wearing a hat, as we discover in Crowns, are as myriad as the hats themselves. But while the “hat queens” in the play may at times be driven by fashion, vanity or a desire to assert status, hat wearing is also a spiritual act—inextricably linked to worshipping God. As Wanda tells us, “When I get dressed to go to church, I’m going to meet the King, so I must look my best.” Two of the North Carolina churches described in the play—the Church of God in Christ and the holy Trinity Church—are part of the Pentecostal movement. Pentecostalism is a charismatic religious movement that emerged in America at the turn of the twentieth century. The name is derived from the New Testament book The Acts of the Apostles, where on the Day of Pentecost the holy Spirit descends on the followers of Christ, giving them spiritual gifts including the gifts of healing, prophecy and speaking in tongues. African American Pentecostalists trace their origins to the Azusa Street Revival, a Pentecostal revival meeting founded in Los Angeles in 1906 by African American preacher William Joseph Seymour. But many of the rituals, practices and beliefs associated with African American Pentecostalism can trace their roots further back to traditional African spirituality. In Black Fire: One Hundred Years of African American Pentecostalism, author Estrelda Y. Alexander notes, “Pentecostalism… is as African as choral music and dance. Prayers for healing, speaking in tongues, and similar phenomena were a part of many traditional African religions long before the arrival of European missionaries.” One such tradition is the “ring shout,” an ecstatic dance most closely associated with the Gullah people of the South Carolina and Georgia Sea Islands. Recreated in Crowns, the ring shout is a fusion of counterclockwise dancelike movement, call-and-response singing and percussive hand clapping and stick beating, and is clearly African in its origins.

The music in the play—which moves through time from field hollers to spirituals to blues, jazz and gospel to contemporary hip-hop—provides a snapshot of the remarkable contribution African Americans have made to the history of music in the United States, while also demonstrating how those musical forms can trace their roots back to African musical and cultural traditions. The field holler is perhaps the earliest form of African American music, originating in the early days of slavery. A kind of work song, it was used as a form of communication among black plantation workers in the South, and made use of call and response. In sub-Saharan Africa, call and response is linked not only to vocal and instrumental music, but is also a pervasive pattern of democratic participation—in public gatherings in the discussion of civic affairs and in religious rituals. Spirituals, made famous by African Americans in the South, also made use of call and response. As Taylor points out, “Spirituals were African tunes that were married to the poetry of the Bible, making them African American.” The blues, which was born in the Mississippi Delta during the Civil War, also built on these same influences, but in this case the call-and-response pattern was between a singer and a guitar. Beginning in the late 1800s, jazz grew out of a combination of influences, including African American music, African rhythms, American band traditions and instruments, and European harmonies and forms. Black gospel music emerged during the “great migration” as more and more southern blacks moved to urban centers in the North and South after World War I. Chicago is the city most strongly associated with the development of black gospel. According to author Walter D. Best in his book Passionately Human, No Less Divine: Religion and Culture in Black Chicago, 1915-1952, “Black gospel is… deeply influenced by the cadences of the South and southern religion, but it was born in the city and its core reflects urbanization and modern life.” Finally, rap and hip-hop, the most contemporary form Taylor draws on in Crowns, is also deeply rooted in African oral tradition, in particular the Griots and Griottes of West Africa—who are storytellers, poets, praise singers and keepers of community history.

The other perhaps less obvious connection between Crowns and African cultural traditions is the importance placed on one generation passing down knowledge to the next. In Crowns, the teenaged Yolanda travels down South to live with her grandmother and learn about life through her grandmother’s eyes. This journey is what allows her to move forward in her own life. As religious studies scholar Robert Baum outlines in his entry on West African religions in the Encyclopedia of African and African American Religions, intergenerational dialogue is critical in West Africa, as religious thought is often expressed as much through recitation of oral traditions and informal discussions between elders and young people as it is through ceremonies and rituals. Many West African religions also worship the spirits of ancestors. Not everyone can become an ancestor—among the Yoruba and Diola, only people who led benevolent lives become ancestors. They then remain linked to their living descendants, able to offer them advice and assistance by appearing to them in dreams and visions. 

  • Jul 06 2012
    Crowns Guest Vocalists  

    Crowns Guest Vocalists

    Chicago is world-renowned for its gospel community, and as part of a greater effort to connect this gospel musical to the community, select performances of Crowns will feature guest vocalists from the Chicago gospel scene singing the classic hymn How I Got Over. In honor of the city’s gospel tradition and its deep well of musical talent, Regina has tapped local luminaries.

    More
  • Jul 06 2012
    Designer Karen Perry Talks Crowns Garb  

    Designer Karen Perry Talks Crowns Garb

    This week we’re giving you an inside look at the creation of the costumes of Crowns from costume designer Karen Perry. We sat down with her to find out more about the amazing clothing of this tenth anniversary production.

    More
  • Jun 22 2012
    All Hymns Considered—Opus 2  

    All Hymns Considered—Opus 2

    Crowns, gospel

    This week the theater is abuzz with gospel tunes as the Crowns cast prepare for the first preview performance on Saturday. With the launch of the run just days away, we have compiled the second half of our guide to the tunes that inspired this 10th anniversary production of Crowns. Check out these classic hymns—you can also listen to a playlist that includes Opus 1 of “All Hymns Considered” on the Goodman’s YouTube page

    More
  • Jun 11 2012
    All Hymns Considered: The Music of Crowns  

    All Hymns Considered: The Music of Crowns

    Crowns, gospel, video

    A major part of the popular appeal of Crowns is Regina’s seamless integration of several gospel standards into the musical, creating a score that is moving, celebratory, familiar and fun. To get into the spirit of Crowns, we’ve compiled a “greatest hits” guide to some of the classic tunes you may hear in the production. It’s an introduction to the music of Crowns and a mini-history of some of gospel music’s pioneers and most enduring voices.

    More

You May Also Be Interested InFull Season

Sponsors Become a Sponsor

Sponsors