Sydney Chatman | Photo provided
‘My life is in your hands,” Gary native Sydney Chatman said to a Chicago postal worker a minute before midnight one day in June.
I’ll explain that later.
In two days, Gary native and passionate theater advocate Chatman is heading to Broadway in New York City, where she will be part of stage theater history thanks to an observership program from the Stage Directors and Choreographers Foundation.
Chatman will be one of two assistant directors to Michael Wilson, who is directing a rendition of “The Trip to Bountiful” starring acting legend Cicely Tyson, as well as Cuba Gooding Jr., Vanessa Williams and Condola Rashad, daughter of veteran actress Phylicia Rashad and sports commentator Ahmad Rashad.
The play will run previews March 30 and opening night is April 23.
Cofounder of a teen and young-adult theater ensemble called the Tofu Chitlin Circuit in Chicago and a 1996 West Side High School alumna, Chatman is excited to be a part of Tyson’s return to the theater after 30 years.
“She is definitely an icon. I mean, we’re talking ‘The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman,’ ‘Sounder!’ ” Chatman said.
Chatman’s job as an assistant director will go beyond standing around and fetching coffee. “Michael Wilson said he wants us involved in the production, so it could be working with the crew or the cast.”
Chatman is one of 25 participants in the national SDCF program, which had more than 50 fellowship applicants last June.
Part of the process included writing an essay and getting a recommendation. She found out she was one of the recipients more than a week ago. She received a list of productions from the SDCF and had to email a director, telling him specifically why she wanted to work with him. Wilson got back to her.
A coincidence for Chatman is the other assistant director for the play is the brother of a former college classmate at Indiana University in Bloomington, where Chatman was involved in theater and founded a theater group called “Black Feet.”
Her passion for black theater included studying and researching black plays, theater companies, playwrights and directors. After graduating from IU, Chatman moved to Chicago and began teaching theatrics at the University of Chicago Charter Schools while she honed her craft at Congo Square Theater.
Chatman also had the great fortune of working with the late playwright August Wilson in
2005 as a stage management intern at the Goodman Theater during a run of Wilson’s “Gem of the Ocean.”
Chatman has a Tony Award in her future. She can thank the postal employee at a Chicago post office for taking her completed SDCF application and postmarking it before the clock struck midnight.