the transformative power of live theater


30th Anniversary Poster: Native Son

Illustrator Valencia Spates created this compelling poster revisiting our critically acclaimed production of Native Son in 2018!

The longing for social justice ignites a palpable rage in Richard Wright’s classic novel, Native Son. Set in 1930s Chicago, where opportunities for African-American men like Bigger Thomas are elusive, writer Nambi E. Kelley’s gripping adaptation focuses on the inner workings of the protagonist’s mind as events violently and irrevocably seal his fate.

Remembering: Native Son

LA Times Critic’s Choice, LA Drama Critics Circle Awards for Lighting Design (Andrew Schmedake) and Sound Design (Jeff Gardner)
  • “Electrifying…Razor-sharp focus and clarity from director Andi Chapman and her stellar Antaeus ensemble steer us through wild leaps in time” —Philip Brandes, Los Angeles Times
  • “Stunning … brilliantly adapted … Just at the moment you think you’ve wrapped your mind around the narrative or imagined what comes next – the story propels itself forward like the next chapter of a novel that has way more than three acts to cover.  This is all the more remarkable given that the play takes just over 90 minutes. … ‘Native Son’ is a play that deserves the talent and sophistication that Antaeus brings.” —Anthony Byrnes, KCRW “Opening the Curtain”
  • “I believe Richard Wright was essentially saying, ‘Look America at what you have created. This monster that is Bigger Thomas.’ Nambi E. Kelley, on the other hand, is saying, ‘Look at the man [Bigger] and empathize.’ … Nambi’s adaptation is a love note to Black Men. She is saying that you, Black Man, are enough, as you are. You don’t have to see yourself the way the world sees you. This is the lesson she has gifted Bigger in her adaptation. We get to see how a boy discovers himself, albeit through the most tragic of circumstances. But unfortunately, that’s been the story for millions of Black Men throughout history. Too often we’ve been made to discover ourselves, our manhood, in the most ominous situations. We try to shed a little empathy on that in this play, which I felt the novel lacked. I like Native Son, the novel… but I love Nambi E. Kelley’s adaptation and Andi Chapman’s Direction.” —Cast Member Jon Chaffin, as quoted in Broadway World
  • “The archetypal struggle in which Bigger finds himself is absolutely classical. Our tragic hero is trapped in circumstances beyond his own making, no less so than Oedipus is locked into his own tragic spiral. All the elements of fate force him to hurtle down a violent path toward its inevitable — yet empowering — conclusion.” —Antaeus 2017/18 Co-Artistic Directors Bill Brochtrup, Rob Nagle, and Kitty Swink

About the Artist

Valencia Spates

Valencia Spates is an Illustrator and Storyboard artist living in Los Angeles and working in Animation. She has a passion for creating works that can inspire others with colors and striking visuals. Along with drawing and painting in traditional and digital mediums, she loves anime and traveling.

Check out Valencia Spates’s work online:
Website | Instagram

Creating the Poster:

For this piece I really wanted to really emphasize the rat that haunts Bigger physically and mentally. Like rats that infest a neglected building, this rat follows Bigger as a shadow presence watching his every move, waiting to infest him completely, caused by the harshness of racism and the society he was born into.

|   Featuring:
Ellis Greer, Noel Arthur, Jon Chaffin, Matthew Grondin   |
Photographer: Geoffrey Wade
|   Featuring:
Jon Chaffin, Mildred Marie Langford   |
Photographer: Geoffrey Wade
|   Featuring:
Victoria Platt, Noel Arthur   |
Photographer: Geoffrey Wade

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