Steppenwolf Theatre Company is presenting the world premiere of King James by ensemble member Rajiv Joseph, staged by acclaimed Tony and Obie Award-winning director Kenny Leon in Steppenwolf’s Downstairs Theater, March 3-April 10, 2022 (opening March 13). Featuring ensemble member and Artistic Director Glenn Davis alongside Chris Perfetti (ABC-TV’s “Abbott Elementary”), this fast-paced, witty and deeply felt comedy is the story of an unlikely friendship forged by fandom, told through the lens of “King” LeBron James’ career and legacy. The two friends’ shared love of basketball and verbal games of one-on-one help them navigate the hopes, desires and fears they have bottled up since childhood.
Single tickets to King James ($20 – $88) are available online at steppenwolf.org and 312-335-1650. King James is co-commissioned and co-produced by Steppenwolf Theatre Company and Center Theatre Group.
King James is the latest play from Cleveland native Rajiv Joseph, who burst onto the American theatre scene with Pulitzer Prize finalist Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo, which had its world premiere at the Kirk Douglas Theatre in 2009 before going on to Broadway in 2011-where Glenn Davis starred in the production alongside Robin Williams. Joseph and Davis formed a strong friendship and working partnership that grew from that production.
Playwright and ensemble member Rajiv Joseph shares, “I have always been interested in how sports intersects with our personal and spiritual lives. As a child, growing up in Cleveland, I had to manage a lot of heartbreak and disappointment brought on by the struggles of our local teams, but I still loved how sports brought people together, and how the shared love of a team or an athlete could foster connection and community. I started writing King James to explore those feelings, but, as I wrote it, I became fascinated by something else that I think I always knew, but had never put into words…which is that certain people (more often than not, young men) who struggle to express their feelings, are able to do so by talking about sports. Which is to say, the debates, arguments and impassioned pleas of rabid fans can often be decoded to reveal something deeper, that has nothing to do with sports.”
“I’m thrilled to return to the Steppenwolf stage for the first time in three years for King James,” says Artistic Director Glenn Davis. “Rajiv and I bonded during Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo on Broadway and have been close collaborators ever since. He is a master of the two-person play so when he came to me with the idea for this play, a funny and sincere meditation on friendship, I was compelled to say ‘yes’ instantly. I feel very fortunate to go on this journey with King James and I think Steppenwolf audiences are going to love this incredible and relatable new work by one of America’s premier writers.”
Steppenwolf is one of 70+ Chicagoland performing arts venues that have agreed upon COVID-19 vaccination and mask requirements for all audiences, artists and staff. For the most up-to-date policies at Steppenwolf, visit steppenwolf.org/welcomeback.
Press openings: Sunday, March 13 at 6 p.m.; Tuesday, March 15 at 8 p.m.
“King” LeBron James’s reign in Cleveland brings promise, prosperity and renewal to a city in desperate need of all three. It also brings together two unlikely friends in a bond forged by fandom. Told over 12 years (from LeBron’s rookie season to an NBA Championship), King James is an intimate exploration of the place that sports occupy in our lives and relationships.
Ensemble member Rajiv Joseph’s clever and fast-paced comedy traces the arcs of two friends whose turbulent relationship is best navigated through their shared love of basketball-and the endless amiable arguments that erupt from that love. All the while, the promise and burden of LeBron’s talent and legacy loom large.
King James creative team includes Todd Rosenthal (Scenic Design); Samantha C. Jones (Costume Design); Lee Fiskness (Lighting Design); Rob Milburn and Michael Bodeen (Sound Design); Polly Hubbard (Dramaturg); Gigi Buffington (Company Voice and Text Coach); Tom Pearl (Director of Production); JC Clementz, CSA (Casting Director); Laura D. Glenn (Production Stage Manager); and Jaclynn Joslin (Assistant Stage Manager). For full cast and creative team bios, visit steppenwolf.org/kingjames.
Lia Chang loves to tell stories that are diverse and inclusive – as an actor, a multi-media content producer, award-winning filmmaker, and a performing arts photographer and documentarian. Photo archives: Lia Chang Theater Portfolio collection,1989-2011, housed in the AAPI collection in the Library of Congress’ Asian Reading Room; Lia Chang Photography Collection in The Billy Rose Theatre Division of the New York Public Library. Awards: 2000 OCA Chinese American Journalist Award, the 2001 AAJA National Award for New Media. Lia is an AAJA Executive Leadership Graduate (2000), a Western Knight Fellow at USC’s Annenberg College of Communications for Specialized Journalism on Entertainment Journalism in the Digital Age (2000), a National Press Photographers Association Visual Edge/Visual Journalism Fellow at the Poynter Institute for New Media (2001), a Scripps Howard New Media Fellow at the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism (2002), and a National Tropical Garden Environmental Journalism Fellow (2003). A co-founder of Bev’s Girl Films, Lia makes films that foster inclusion and diversity on both sides of the camera. She stars in and is the Executive Producer for the indie films Hide and Seek (AA Film Lab’s 2015 72 Hour Shootout Best Actress Nomination), Rom-Com Gone Wrong, and When the World Was Young (2021 DisOrient Film Audience Choice Award for Best Short Narrative). Lia has also appeared in the films Wolf, New Jack City, A Kiss Before Dying, King of New York, Big Trouble in Little China, and The Last Dragon. Along with an extensive career in Off-Broadway productions, favorite stage credits include her debut as Liat in a national tour of South Pacific with Barbara Eden and Robert Goulet and playing Joy in Signature Theatre’s revival of Sam Shepard’s Chicago. www.liachang.com, www.liachangphotography.com