Columbia College Chicago Theatre Department’s Mainstage Season Features Toni Morrison’s ‘The Bluest Eye’ at Getz Theatre Center March 13-23

The Columbia College Chicago Theatre Department‘s 2023-24 Mainstage Season continues with The Bluest Eye, Lydia Diamond‘s stage adaptation of the groundbreaking novel by Toni Morrison. The production runs March 13 through 23 in Studio 404 of the Getz Theatre Center of Columbia College, located at 72 E. 11th St. in Chicago’s South Loop. Student discounts are available. For tickets and more information – including a complete cast and production team list for this LIVE, IN-PERSON production – click here.

Ashley Keys

The production is directed by Columbia College alum Ashley Keys ’22, a graduate of the Theatre Department’s Theatre Directing program. Keys leads an all-student cast and a production team of Columbia College faculty, alumni, and students.

Toni Morrison

The Bluest Eye, published in 1970, was the first novel by Toni Morrison, who went on to win both the Pulitzer Prize and the Nobel Prize in literature.

Lydia R. Diamond

In 2005, Chicago’s Tony Award-winning Steppenwolf Theatre Company commissioned playwright Lydia Diamond to adapt the novel for the stage. Diamond’s play premiered at Steppenwolf in 2006 and has subsequently been produced at theatres around the U.S.

Students rehearse Columbia College Theatre Department’s mainstage season presentation of “The Bluest Eye.” (Photo: Julie Lucas)

The Bluest Eye recounts the tragic life of an 11-year-old young Black girl in 1940s Ohio, Pecola Breedlove, who wants nothing more than to be loved by her family and schoolmates. Instead, she faces constant ridicule and abuse. She blames her dark skin and prays for blue eyes, sure that love will follow. With rich language and bold vision, this powerful adaptation of an American classic explores the crippling toll that a legacy of racism has taken on a community, a family, and an innocent child. (CONTENT ADVISORY: Mentions of sexual violence, mentions of incest, domestic abuse and child abuse.)

Students rehearse Columbia College Theatre Department’s mainstage season presentation of “The Bluest Eye.” (Photo: Julie Lucas)

The American Library Association has reported that The Bluest Eye has been the target of numerous attempts to have the novel removed from school libraries and curriculums. The ALA placed the novel on on its lists of the Top Ten Most Challenged Books for 2006, 2014, 2013, 2020, and 2022. The ALA lists the book as the 15th-most banned book in the decade 2000–2009 and the 10th-most banned book 2010–2019.

Students rehearse Columbia College Theatre Department’s mainstage season presentation of “The Bluest Eye.” (Photo: Julie Lucas)

In her director’s note for the program for Columbia College’s production, Keys writes: “When I first read The Bluest Eye, I was in an airport, and I had to stop myself from openly crying. Not because it was so sad (it is) but because of how much I and many others can relate to this story. It touches on topics that make you uncomfortable but are honest and hard. That’s something Toni Morrison and Lydia Diamond do so well. They create stories that get under your skin and stay there until you confront what they mean for you. What The Bluest Eye means for me is love. How love is shown in the little things. Learning what love is and isn’t. Learning what loving yourself is as a Black person in a world that centers whiteness and how that can seem like a nearly impossible task. The truth is that it’s not impossible. It can hurt and take time but, in the end, it’s worth it to learn how to love yourself and your blackness. This play has helped not only me, but the entire cast look deep into their own perception of what beauty and love is. How showing love in small ways can change a day around. Every day, this cast and creative team have shown love to each other and in turn has translated that love to beautiful artistry you can see onstage. I’ve learned so much from them and they have learned from each other.”