ALL GOD'S CHILLUN GOT WINGS
BY: EUGENE O'NEILL; DIRECTED BY: GODFREY L. SIMMONS, JR.
ASSISTANT DIRECTOR: CAITLIN KANE
CIVIC ENSEMBLE & CORNELL UNIVERSITY
In April 2016, Cornell's Department of Performing and Media Arts and Civic Ensemble presented Eugene O’Neill’s All God’s Chillun Got Wings, a provocative, rarely-produced play about interracial marriage in the 1920s. Jim, a black man, loves Ella, a white woman. She loves him back. They struggle to come together beginning in grade school, continuing through high school and into marriage. Their marriage begins to buckle, however, under the weight of Jim's aspirations and Ella's fears. O’Neill paints a bitter portrait of the pressures that accompanying interracial marriage during the era.
Through Cornell's partnership with local community-based theater, Civic Ensemble, our artistic team used O'Neill's play to facilitate civic dialogue about the persistence of racism and classism in our own communities. As assistant director, I staged several scenes in the play, coached scene work, developed dramaturgical materials for the lobby and program, directed an acapella ensemble that provided live accompaniment during the performance, and coordinated post-show conversations facilitated by students from Cornell's Intergroup Dialogue Program.