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Renowned director examines the complexity of brotherhood in ‘The Brothers Size’

Director Monty Cole, Steppenwolf Theatre (Photo credit: Lowell Thomas)

Steppenwolf is unafraid to bring theater that makes you think about the world around us. With that being said, Steppenwolf for Young Adults presents The Brothers Size by ensemble member Tarell Alvin McCraney and directed by acclaimed director Monty Cole. A Chicago native, Cole directs a talented cast in McCraney’s tale that weaves together poetry, music and Yoruba mythology.

The Brothers Size tells the story of two brothers, Ogun Size, who is hardworking and heartbroken and Oshoosi Size, who recently returns home from prison. It is a hard, honest look at the complex bonds of family, particularly, brotherhood. I got a chance to talk with Mr. Cole about the play and what about the tale that drew him to direct.

What has been the greatest lesson you have learned as a director?
With every production, I’m finding myself closer and closer to the artist I want to be. I think so often in a capitalistic society we focus on trying to create the perfect product. Our worth is determined by repeated artistic success. It’s a hard place to be if you’re an artist who’s constantly dissatisfied and constantly searching, constantly experimenting with how to express yourself.

In the rehearsal room, I talk a lot about how the process of creating something is a spiral – no bullseyes. We’re working together, collaborating to make something great by the end of the spiral, but until then we have to understand that there’s a process. Nothing will be perfect day one. I see that in both the way I create work and curate my life and career.

What was it about this play that appealed to you on a personal and professional level?
I saw the play in the Upstairs Theatre at Steppenwolf and it changed me. Its use of language, the acting, the simplicity, the deep metaphor, the vulnerability of black men trying to care for each other – all of it grabbed me by the waist. I think the first time I ever directed was excerpted from The Brothers Size. So much of the play is about the exhausting duty a black man has to his brother, his culture, his nation and his own freedom. How do we care for one another? How do we imprison one another and how do we eventually liberate one another? It covers all of this on a very potent, emotional level.

What would you like to do artistically in the future?  
Most of my efforts right now are in trying to figure out how to straddle a career in theatre and [television] and film. I’ve been working on creating a roster of behind-the-camera projects for the next year. I believe some stories are meant to be told on stage and some stories are meant to be told in other mediums. I recently gave myself a singular goal: make your heroes into your colleagues. That definitely starts here with production on the Steppenwolf stage.

The Brothers Size runs Oct. 2-19 at Steppenwolf Theater, 1650 N. Halstead