Friday, November 13, 2009

Talking About Race Without Talking About Race

A month ago, I attended an exclusive blogger event for Superior Donuts. Last week, Jeffrey Richards Associates held a similar event for David Mamet's Race, featuring David Alan Grier, Kerry Washington, Richard Thomas, and James Spader. This time, the event was set up like a press conference rather than having the actors move from table to table. The main difference was that in the case of Superior Donuts, we had an idea of the plot and the characters each actor was playing, but the plot of Race has been so heavily guarded that the cast were limited in what they could say. Richard Thomas said, "It's difficult to talk about a play you can't talk about really." But he went on to make a good point, that talking about a play in terms of plot can be reductive.

As it is Mamet, we can also draw conclusions about the language and style of the play. Of course, there will be a lot of cursing, though Thomas lamented that he only has one "fuck." Thomas compared Race to Oleanna in that it will get people talking. "I think it is provocative. I don't think it's shocking for the sake of being shocking," Thomas said.

Mamet is also directing the production. None of the actors have worked with the playwright before, but they are glad to have him as a director, especially because the playwright and director aren't at odds with each other.

This play promises to spark debate. "I think it's hard to know what someone will think or ask when they are leaving because a lot of it will depend on who they identify with--what gets triggered for them, what do they relate to, what stands out to them, where do they see themselves, where do they hear things they never thought of before-- and that will be different for every single person," Washington said. I hope they follow in Oleanna's footsteps and implement a talkback series.

Race begins previews on November 16 at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre and officially opens on December 6. Click here to listen to a podcast of the event.

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