A New Play Celebrating the Origins of Black Theatre Premieres in Playhouse’s TheatreWorks

Playhouse on the Square presents IF PEKIN IS A DUCK, WHY AM I IN CHICAGO?

Written by Ann E. Eskridge, and the winner of the 2021 NewWorks@TheWorks National Playwriting Competition, Presented by Playhouse on the Square in partnership with super sponsor Dr. Thomas Ratliff

Tickets are available now at playhouseonthesquare.org or by calling the box office (901) 726-4656.  If Pekin is a Dick, Why Am I in Chicago? will also be streamed nationwide on the streaming platform Showtix4U. Tickets to stream the production are available now. Visit www.showtix4u.com and search Playhouse on the Square.

A gangster in 1920s Chicago kidnaps a lyricist and a composer to win a bet saying he can find two men to write music better than the music that is currently popular. Although the composer is willing, those times remind the lyricist of his failing talent and unrequited love.

Director and Playhouse on the Square alum, Antonio Horne (The Legend of Georgia McBride, The Gospel at Colonus) leads a very talented cast of actors, singers, and dancers through this “play with music,” as it weaves between the vaudeville and minstrel theatre scene of the late 1800s and the pre-prohibition 1920s. The story revolves around gangster, Big Man played by Playhouse on the Square Resident Company Member, Curtis C. Jackson (Cabaret, The Miraculous and the Mundane) and his desire to bring The Pekin Theatre back to the glory of its yesteryears. Chicago’s The Pekin Theatre is credited to be the first black owned theatre in the country. Trey Oliver and Christian Tripp make their Playhouse on the Square debut as real-life composer Joe Jordan and lyricist Alfred Anderson.

Playwright Ann E. Eskridge is deeply connected with the story of The Pekin Theatre and its two heralded music contributors. Lyricist, Alfred Anderson, and his wife Hazel lived in Eskridge’s grandmother’s rental home until their passing. Eskridge recounts her time as a young girl sharing stories and recipes with “Aunt” Hazel.  Her curiosity about “Uncle” Alf, his music, and poetry led Eskridge to deep dive into his life and soon a play developed from her research.

The World Premiere, presented at TheatreWorks@TheSquare, takes the audience from the present to flashes of performances on The Pekin Theatre stage performed by music recording artist, Keia Johnson, Resident Company Member Samantha Miller (The Wizard of Oz, The Legend of Georgia McBride), Associate Company Member, Courtney Noisette (The Wizard of Oz, Shanktown), and local actor and influencer, Anthony (AJ) James.

If Pekin is a Duck, Why Am I in Chicago?  Is the winner of the 2021 NewWorks@TheWorks Playwriting Competition, held annually by Playhouse on the Square. The competition provides an outlet for new playwrights to showcase their work and have a chance to see their play produced on a professional level. A panel of local directors, actors, and designers review all submitted scripts and select finalists to receive staged readings. After the readings have been presented, two plays are chosen and receive world premieres in an upcoming season at Playhouse on the Square’s third performance space, TheatreWorks@TheSquare. The production is also streamed nationwide through the streaming platform service Showtix4U.

The complete cast and crew of If Pekin is a Duck, Why Am I in Chicago? is as follows:


Dupree: Marcus Cox
Big Man: Curtis C. Jackson*
Nettie: Keia Johnson
Soldier Boy: Jeremiah McDonald
Tenna: Samantha Miller*
Salada: Courtney Noisette**
Joe Jordan: Trey Oliver
Alf Anderson: Christian Tripp
Sylvester: Jonathan Stewart Mosley
Jackson, et al: Anthony (AJ) James


Director: Antonio Horne
Music Director:  Ashley K. Davis
Vocal Director: Thomas “TeKay” King
Stage Manager: Emma White**
Scenic Designer: David Galloway
Lighting Designer: Melissa Andrews
Props Master: TBA
Costume Designer: Kathy Kovarik
Sound Designer: Joshua Crawford
Production Manager: Phillip Hughen
Technical Director: Michael Jurkovich

* Resident Company Member

** Associate Company Member

Performances will run Thursday-Saturday with an 8:00 pm curtain and with a 2:00 pm curtain on Sunday.  For tickets, call the Box Office at (901) 726-4656 or visit the website www.playhouseonthesquare.org. Visit www.showtix4u.com and search Playhouse on the Square to live stream performances.  Follow with social media using #PEKINPOTS. Group rates are available.

Special ticket pricing for opening weekend is $30.  The Pay What You Can performance is Thursday, January 19th.

For questions and booking, please contact Playhouse on the Square Director of Community Relations, Marcus Cox (901) 937-6496.

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