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Pegasus Players: Homeless Theater Company Says 'We're Not Done'

By Adeshina Emmanuel | October 22, 2013 6:31am
Blacula: Young, Black and Undead
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Pegasus Players

UPTOWN — Pegasus Players hopes to raise $10,000 to support its new production, "Blacula: Young, Black and Undead," the theater company's first play since it lost its home at the former Hull House Association center in Uptown to a developer's plan for a new apartment complex.

The play puts a new twist on the 1972 cult classic. It centers on Franklin Park, a "blipster," (black hipster) with a rocky love life, according to the theater, which was founded in 1978 and has been in Uptown since 1984.

Park decides to launch his own company to prove his ambition to his ex-girlfriend Nicollet — but discovers she's already dating a man named Mufasa — who happens to be an ancient African vampire.

 Real estate developer  Dave Gassmann  bought Uptown's former Jane Addams Hull House Association community center out of foreclosure for about $1 million in May, and with it, a part of Chicago theater history.
Hull House Community Center in Uptown to be Converted to Apartments
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"Blacula: Young, Black and Undead," will run from Oct. 29 to Dec. 1 at Chicago Dramatists, 1105 W. Chicago Ave. in Wicker Park.

Pegasus Players has already poured about $10,000 into the production, and launched an Indiegogo campaign earlier this month to try to come up with $10,000 more. The theater company still has about $8,500 to go, according to the campaign page.

Pegasus Players could have cut some costs if the play were performed in Uptown, at the Leo Lerner Theatre in the basement of the former Hull House center at 4520 N. Beacon St. — but that theater is no more and the company is instead renting space from another theater to kick off its 2014 season.

Pegasus Players Artistic Director Ilesa Duncan said it's "been a bit of a challenge just trying to get back on our feet." The moving process was difficult, and the company had to "get rid of" a lot of equipment and costumes for lack of storage.

It feels like "starting over," said Duncan, who is also directing the play.

A coalition of actors, playwrights, theater advocates and historic preservationists led by American film director Stuart Gordon tried but couldn't save the Leo Lerner Theatre from real estate developer David Gassman's plan to convert the building into an apartment complex.

Pegasus Players had been in the building since 2010, after moving from its former longtime home at Truman College. The space used to house the Organic Theater, and later served as a launching pad for the renowned Black Ensemble Theater before Pegasus Players resided there.

Gassman refused to sell the property to its would-be saviors. And the city declined to landmark the building, which had belonged to the Hull House Association prior to its bankruptcy in 2012.

In June, the city granted Gassman a zoning change he needed to proceed with the project, which was backed by Ald. James Cappleman (46th) and a local block club.

Duncan, a Bronzeville resident, said she "could talk about how I'm sad" but didn't.

"I'm just looking forward to doing this show and making a statement about how we're doing," she said.

Duncan replied with a coy "maybe," when asked if Pegasus Players was coming back to Uptown. National Pastime Theater Artistic Director Laurence Bryan has hinted that a partnership of some sort between the two companies is brewing in Uptown.

"Our plans are to stay in Uptown, if we have a place to land," Duncan said.

"Blacula" playwright Reggie Edmund, a Hyde Park resident, called what happened with the theater "disgusting."

He said that he takes a lot of pride "in saying that Pegasus Players is my real artistic home, and I'll ride for them until the wheels fall off."

The "amazing thing about Pegasus now being somewhat homeless is that there's a fight," he added. "There's a need and a desire to make '[Blacula: Young, Black and Undead]' a standout show."

"Not only does it have to prove that Pegasus is not weakened by the horrible loss, but it also shows that Pegasus has been around for a long time and will be around for a long time to come. A lot of companies would just be quiet and sit in the corner, but they're saying, 'We're not done.'"

Tickets to "Blacula: Young, Black and Undead," cost between $15 and $25, and can be bought here.