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Evanston native to take part in “St. sebastian”

Evanston native Nolan Robinson graduated from Northwestern University just a year ago but he already has a thriving professional theater career.

Robinson is going directly from a critically-acclaimed performance in “My Brother Langston” at Black Ensemble Theater to the role of Reuben in Refracted Theater Company’s world premiere of “St. Sebastian” by Andrew Kramer at Chicago’s Den Theater, Sept. 15 through Oct. 2.

“It’s kind of cool that I’m working on two world premieres,” said Robinson, who moved from Evanston to Skokie a couple of years ago.

He described his character in “St. Sebastian” as “incredibly smart and witty, especially for his age, being a young teenager. He reminds me of myself in that at any given moment there can be many different thoughts bouncing in my head. I say one and then I say another one. I think that’s exactly what Reuben does.”

Robinson added that even though Reuben is aware that he is surrounded by prejudice and discrimination, “he still tries to find the goodness in the world and the goodness in other people.”

The actor likes the fact that the playwright made Reuben a complex 13 or 14-year-old.

He has “passion about the world but also has an understanding of what it is that divides us,” Robinson said.

Robinson launched his acting career in fourth grade at Willard Elementary School in Evanston, playing the title role in “Robin Hood.”

“Since then, I’ve been in the theater,” he said. “I got more involved in it when I was in middle school.”

Robinson was 17-years-old and a senior at Evanston Township High School when he earned his first professional role at Porchlight Music Theatre. His credits with that theater company include “Spring Awakening,” “Passing Strange,” “Blues in the Night,” “1776,” and “The Scottsboro Boys.”

“A lot of the recent roles I’ve done have been studying or being a standby in shows,” Robinson noted. “That showed me how I work as an actor when I know I won’t be performing all the time.”

One of his favorite roles was that of Youth in “Passing Strange,” for which he earned a 2022 Black Theater Alliance Award nomination for Best Leading Actor in a Musical.

“It was a two-week process,” Robinson noted. “It was part of a series at Porchlight where they bring back old shows and perform them for a few performances. It’s called Porchlight Revisiting. I was in every scene in the show except for one. It was a challenge but also very exciting to see how fast I could learn. It is a pop rock musical. I did things with my voice and body that I hadn’t done before.”

In addition to being an actor, Robinson is a writer. His short film, “Grief Night Club,” was nominated for a student production award at the 2021 Chicago Emmys. Beyond writing the film, he worked as the director, a principal performer, producer, lyricist and choreographer.

Never one to slow down, Robinson is currently writing a television pilot. He also works as a building supervisor and membership service representative at Northwestern’s Sports Pavilion.

“One thing I love about it so much is not only are my co-workers and managers supportive of my career, they acknowledge when I need to go for a performance or I have a rehearsal or have an audition,” he related. They tell him, “Go do your career.”

For more information about “St. Sebastian,” visit refractedco.com.

Myrna Petlicki is a freelance reporter for Pioneer Press.

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