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Park Ridge producer, Lincolnwood director for “Chagall in School”, Theater Wit, Chicago, August 26-October. 9.

Park Ridge resident Charles Grippo has a special affinity for the works of playwright James Sherman. That’s why his Grippo Stage Company is producing the world premiere of Sherman’s “Chagall in School”, the third Sherman play produced by Grippo. The show runs from 26 August to 18 October. 9 at the Wit Theater.

“I think he’s an absolute genius,” Grippo said of Sherman. “He is one of the most amazing playwrights we’ve ever had in Chicago. The stories and themes are so universal that anyone can relate to them. And his dialogue and characters are just fantastic. “

Grippo admitted he didn’t know much about Marc Chagall, the Russian Jewish artist who is at the center of “Chagall in School”, except that he was an impressionist painter, until he read Sherman’s play.

“I had no idea about this aspect of his life and the Russian revolution,” he admitted. “I thought, ‘This is an amazing story and a story that needs to be told,'” Grippo said.

The producer believes it is a universal story. “This is an artist who tries to create his own art and follow his passion and how things can get in the way,” said Grippo. “We all have dreams and passions that we want to realize in our lives and sometimes there are obstacles and we have to fight trying to overcome them”.

World premieres can cause stress because the script is often changed during the rehearsal process. Playwright Sherman is witnessing all the rehearsals and rewriting the whole time. This did not affect his relationship with Grippo, who jokingly stated: “So far we have not killed each other.”

It may help that Grippo did not participate in many tests. “There is a lot of work to be done for a producer behind the scenes,” explained Grippo. This involves hiring people for the many tasks involved in producing a work, selling tickets, and many other chores.

An important task that playwright Sherman handled was choosing the director: Georgette Verdin.

Grippo is satisfied with this decision. “I’m so proud of her and so happy that she is directing our show,” he said.

“James Sherman knew my work as a director well,” Verdin said. Sherman sent Verdin the script, which he said he found intriguing, particularly because of the “conversations the piece was having about artistic integrity and the role of art during social and political upheaval,” he said. .

The producer and playwright are calling the show a comedy, but there’s so much more to it, the director said.

“It’s nice to stretch the comedy muscles again, especially right now,” he said.

Verdin also admitted he didn’t know much about Chagall when he accepted this project, but he did a tremendous amount of research to prepare to direct this show. This included reading a book based on a 2018 exhibition on Chagall at the Jewish Museum, as well as Chagall’s memoir, “My Life” and a biography of Chagall.

“But I also enjoyed jumping to YouTube and listening to art historians lecturing on Chagall,” said the director.

Verdin’s research made her extremely impressed by Chagall. “He’s been really true to himself over the years,” he said. “He remained committed to his subjects and his style and did not feel the need to conform to any particular artistic movement.”

“Chagall in School” addresses this problem.

“James (Sherman) did a great job of basing the show on great historical accuracy,” Verdin said. “But it’s a made-up story, so he had to take a creative license.”

The director thinks this is the right time for a show like “Chagall in School”.

“It’s a really interesting time to watch a piece about artists in Russia, given everything that’s going on, giving us an idea of ​​a historical period that was also characterized by many upheavals, and how it was for the artists they created within. of Russia, ”Verdin said.

Verdin concluded that the show “deals with some pretty heavy themes. Yet we do it with humor and comedy. This is going to feel really good for people right now. “

For more information on “Chagall at School”, visit grippostagecompany.com.

Myrna Petlicki is a freelance journalist for Pioneer Press.

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