Simonson, Eric 1960-
SIMONSON, Eric 1960-
PERSONAL: Born June 27, 1960, in Milwaukee, WI. Education: Attended Lawrence University, studied art, scenic design, and directing. Hobbies and other interests: Baseball.
ADDRESSES: Agent—Geddes Agency, 1633 North Halstead St., Chicago, IL 60614-5517.
CAREER: Director, actor, and writer; member of Steppenwolf Theatre Company, Chicago, IL, 1993—. With Steppenwolf Theatre Company, directed The Secret Rapture, 1991; The Song of Jacob Zulu, 1992, then Broadway, 1993, and Australia; Evelyn & the Polka King, 1993; Slavs! 1994; Nomathemba, 1995, then Kennedy Center, New York, 1996; Mother Courage and Her Children; and Inspecting Carol. Acted in Steppenwolf Theatre Company's touring production of Grapes of Wrath. Also directed stage productions The Normal Heart, Next Theatre, Chicago, 1987; Bang the Drum Slowly, Huntington Theater Company, Boston, 1994; Bok Choy Variations, Minnesota Opera Company, 1995; Abington Square; Kiss of the Spider Woman; Othello, Court Theatre, Chicago; Coriolanus, Next Theatre, Chicago; Anna Christie, Milwaukee Repertory Theatre, Milwaukee, WI; La Boheme, Minnesota Opera; The Magic Flute, Minnesota Opera; Kunckle, Next Theatre; Hamlet, Huntington Theatre Company; and The Southpaw and The Wind Cries Mary, both San Jose Repertory Theatre, 2002.
Director of films, including Ladies Room L.A., 1999; On Tiptoe: The Music of Ladysmith Black Mambazo, 2000; (and actor) Hamlet (television movie), Hallmark Entertainment, 2000; (and producer) On Tiptoe: Gentle Steps to Freedom, 2000; and Topa Topa Bluffs, 2002. Guest star on The Ben Stiller Show, The Untouchables, and Seinfeld.
AWARDS, HONORS: Princess Grace Award; NCCJ Award; Antoinette Perry Award nomination for The Song of Jacob Zulu; Academy Award nomination for On Tiptoe: The Music of Ladysmith Black Mambazo.
(Adapter) Bang the Drum Slowly (radio play), adapted from the novel by Mark Harris, produced by L.A. Theatre Works (Venice, CA), 1992.
(Adapter) The Southpaw (radio play), adapted from the novel by Mark Harris, produced by L.A. Theatre Works (Los Angeles, CA), 1994.
(Adapter) Bang the Drum Slowly (play; produced at Steppenwolf Theatre Company, Chicago, 1994), adapted from the novel by Mark Harris, Dramatists Play Service (New York, NY), 1995.
(With Ntozake Shange and Joseph Shabalala) Nomathemba (play), produced at Steppenwolf Theatre Company, Chicago, 1995.
(Adapter) Slaughterhouse-Five; or, The Children's Crusade (play), adapted from the novel by Kurt Vonnegut, produced by Steppenwolf Theatre Company, Chicago, IL, 1996.
(Adapter) The Last Hurrah (play), adapted from the novel by Edwin O'Connor, produced by Huntington Theater Company, 1999.
On Tiptoe: The Music of Ladysmith Black Mambazo (screenplay), 2000.
(With Jeffrey Hatcher) Work Song (play), produced at Milwaukee Repertory Theater, 2000.
(Adapter) Moby Dick (play), adapted from the novel by Herman Melville, produced at Milwaukee Repertory Theater, 2002.
SIDELIGHTS: Although he is primarily a director, Eric Simonson has also written several plays himself, many of which are adaptations of well-known books. Simonson has adapted the works of famous authors Kurt Vonnegut and Herman Melville, and two of his plays, Bang the Drum Slowly and The Southpaw, are baseball stories adapted from novels by Mark Harris. Simonson was drawn to them because of his own love of baseball, a passion that dates back to his childhood in Milwaukee: he was in attendance for the first ever Milwaukee Brewers game, in 1970.
Two of Simonson's creations, Nomathemba and the film On Tiptoe: The Music of Ladysmith Black Mambazo, showcase the famous South African musical group Ladysmith Black Mambazo. Simonson first met Joseph Shabalala, the leader of Ladysmith Black Mambazo, when the two worked together on the award-winning play The Song of Jacob Zulu, which Shabalala help to write and Simonson directed.
Simonson's most original piece, Work Song, is a play composed of three vignettes about the life of architect Frank Lloyd Wright that he wrote in collaboration with playwright Jeffrey Hatcher. "I feel lonely working alone," Simonson told Damien Jaques of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, explaining why he chose to write that play collaboratively. "I have always done better when I work off someone else's writing." The resulting play, Chris Jones wrote in a review for Variety, "captures much of the Lloyd Wright enigma without ever resorting to theatrical cliches about the hubris-filled constructions of egotistical architects."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Contemporary Theatre, Film, and Television, Volume 32, Gale (Detroit, MI), 2000.
American Theatre, April, 1994, Steven Drukman, review of Bang the Drum Slowly, p. 10; April, 1995, Stuart Spencer, review of Journey Songs, pp. 29-30.
Arizona Daily Star (Tucson, Arizona), April 21, 2002, Kathleen Allen, review of Work Song, p. D1.
Back Stage, February 14, 1992, Jonathan Abarbanel, review of Bang the Drum Slowly, p. 39; April 2, 1993, Roy Sander, review of The Song of Jacob Zulu, p. 48; May 12, 1995, Jonathan Abarbanel, review of Nomathemba, p. 19; September 20, 2002, Damien Jaques, review of Moby Dick, p. 41.
Boston Herald, October 22, 1999, Terry Byrne, review of The Last Hurrah, p. 22.
Chicago, April, 1990, Anthony Adler, review of Abington Square, pp. 89-90; July, 1992, Anthony Adler, review of The Song of Jacob Zulu, p. 52.
Commonweal, May 7, 1993, Gerald Weales, review of The Song of Jacob Zulu, p. 19.
High Fidelity, July, 1981, John Toms, "Tulsa Spotlights Young Artists," pp. MA31-32.
Houston Chronicle, March 3, 1998, Everest Evans, review of Bang the Drum Slowly, p. 3.
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Damien Jaques, review of Moby Dick, p. 4; September 3, 2000, Damien Jaques, review of Work Song, p. 1.
Newsweek, April 5, 1993, Jack Kroll, review of The Song of Jacob Zulu, p. 61.
New York, April 5, 1993, John Simon, review of The Song of Jacob Zulu, p. 84.
New Yorker, April 12, 1993, John Lahr, review of The Song of Jacob Zulu, pp. 105-107.
New York Times, March 25, 1993, Frank Rich, review of The Song of Jacob Zulu, p. B1; April 22, 1996, Jon Pareles, review of Nomathemba, p. B1; November 6, 1996, Ben Brantley, review of Slaughterhouse-Five; or, The Children's Crusade, p. B3; August 17, 2001, Stephen Holden, review of Hamlet, p. B8.
San Francisco Chronicle, October 28, 2002, Robert Hurwitt, review of Wind Cries Mary, p. D6.
Seattle Times, July 10, 2000, John Hartl, review of Bang the Drum Slowly, p. E5.
Star-Ledger (Newark, NJ), Stephen Whitty, review of Hamlet, p. 27.
Theatre Journal, December, 1991, Judy Lee Oliva, review of The Secret Rapture, pp. 535-555.
Time, April 5, 1993, review of The Song of Jacob Zulu, p. 65.
Variety, February 3, 1992, Lewis Lazare, review of Bang the Drum Slowly, p. 86; April 27, 1992, Lewis Lazare, review of The Song of Jacob Zulu, p. 101; March 29, 1993, Jeremy Gerard, review of The Song of Jacob Zulu, p. 88; April 24, 1995, Lewis Lazare, review of Nomathemba, p. 61; September 18, 2000, Chris Jones, review of Work Song, p. 47.
Wall Street Journal, April 5, 1993, Edwin Wilson, review of The Song of Jacob Zulu, p. A14; October 18, 1993, Joel Henning, review of Evelyn & the Polka King, pp. A12, A14; October 22, 1996, Joel Henning, review of Slaughterhouse-Five, p. A20.
Steppenwolf Theatre Company, http://www.steppen wolf.org/ (March 14, 2003), "Eric Simonson."*