Commissioned to be the inaugural production of Victory Gardens Theatre’s 12 million dollar renovation of the historic Biograph Theater, Denmark is an evocative drama about freed slave Denamark Vesey, who allegedly organized a slave rebellion in Charlestown, South Carolina in 1822.
What is our commitment to fulfill our personal hopes and dreams, versus our obligation to a greater public good, at a time when the need for that greater good is dire? The provocative questions raised in the world premier of Denmark in 2006 share remarkable similarities to conversations held in the recent history of the United States of America.
“…Smith’s play – a skillfully constructed and superbly acted drama that poses the questions about the exceedingly thorny issue of just who is a freedom fighter and who is a terrorist.” – Hedy Weiss Chicago Sun-Times
“…playwright Charles Smith cleverly contemplates whether there’s all that much of a difference between what people think is true and what actually forms reality.” – Variety
“This debut play continues many of the themes of economic justice and personal challenge that Smith has been exploring for years at Victory Gardens and beyond. Like many of Smith’s complex works Denmark is based on a historical figure – in this case Denmark Vesey, a black man from turn of the 19th century Charleston, S.C. A brilliant man, Vesey (Anthony Flemming III) buys his freedom after getting lucky with a lottery ticket, and he has great success in a capitalist life. But with the injustice of institutionalized slavery gnawing away at his soul, Vesey ultimately has to confront the predicament faced by all who set out to change their worlds: Should one work expediently or try to blow up the opposition?
Smith also is pondering that other rub that seems to reoccur with men of politics, be they ancient or modern, black or white: What are the personal responsibilities of a man with bigger fish to fry? Must the romantic partner of a political leader always have to indemnify him from personal betrayal?” – Chris Jones Chicago Tribune
“The mix of faith, mysticism and idealism is pitted against prejudice, superstition and paranoia in a brilliant and memorable work.” – Joe Stead Steadstyle Chicago
“Smith deftly delivers these themes through complex characters that whether black or white are neither completely good nor completely bad, and who seem real and contemporary without sounding anachronistic.” – John Olson Chicago
“Oh…it was wonderful and complicated and mesmerizing.” – An Incidental Critic
Denmark received a developmental workshop at the Madison Repertory Theatre as part of the 2005 Madison New Play Festival. The World Premiere of Denmark was directed by Victory Gardens Theater Artistic Director Dennis Zacek, who also directed the workshop. The World Premiere featured Velma Austin, Anthony Fleming III, Kenn E. Head, Raoul Johnson, Joe Van Slyke, and A.C. Smith.
Cast requirements: 6 men, 1 woman
Set requirements: Unit Set, various locations.
Approximate running time: 2 hours