Aurora’s Paramount Theatre will present a free virtual reading of Pretended, a new play about a Haitian adoptee in search of truth and identity, written and directed by Chicago actor, playwright and director Lanise Antoine Shelley, Thursday, January 14, at 7 p.m. CT. Tickets are free but reservations are required. Reserve online at ParamountAurora.com/Inception-Project.
Pretended is the first new work to be developed via Paramount’s new Inception Project, a new works development initiative designed to support and amplify BIPOC and marginalized voices while creating artist driven, courageous, thought provoking new work in a radically inclusive environment.
Pretended is a dramatic comedy in which writer/director Shelley draws from her own life experience as a Haitian adoptee raised by a single white mother to dissect and debunk misconceptions around adoption and move audiences to a place of racial healing. Shelley achieves this with her story about Elly, an intercultural adoptee who finds herself pregnant and moving to Seattle to gain familial support. As told from the rare lens of an adoptee’s perspective, Elly, and the audience, are confronted with the definition of family and how we cannot always choose the route in which we love someone.
Starting this week, Paramount’s New Works Department is coordinating eight days of online rehearsals via Zoom. The cast includes Aneisa J. Hicks (Elly), Erik Hellman (Sean), Garrett Young (Clayton), Caron Buinis (Vicky) and Mildred Marie Langford (Juliana and Soo). The final reading will be recorded and presented on January 14th as a free virtual event for Paramount subscribers, supporters, residents of the local community and the state of Illinois, and all theater professionals interested in new work.
The reading is followed by a live, interactive discussion in which Shelley and a panel of outside experts will reflect on the play and respond to audience questions. Panelists include Dr. Juliana Deans, a Ph.D. in Marriage and Family Therapy and an interracial adoptee who has reunified with biological family members; Melissa Guida-Richards, an adoptee, podcaster and author of the forthcoming book “What White People Should Know about Transracial Adoption”; Dr. Charmaine Borda, an Afro-Caribbean immigrant from Jamaica who survived abuse in and out of the foster care system; and Douglas Brown, whose family adopted three biological sisters from Perú eleven years ago.