Summer is often a time when people flock to the theatre for a chance for a little escapism. But not everyone is keen on “Cats” so it is nice to have choices locally.
Mixed Roots Collective, with assistance from Actors’ Theatre of Grand Rapids, are co-producing a brand new locally written play about being black in our city and how to have these conversations with our kids. In short, this play’s arrival comes at a time when many of our headlines reflect much of what is happening within this production, making its timing downright eerie.
And this is where the timing is working in favor of this new play, which will be workshopped at Dog Story Theater before it debuts in 2017. (This is common for new works of art before their world debut.)
Each of these performances present a powerful 90-minute staging of the work in an intimate space with audience members invited to join the cast and crew for a talkback session.
“THE TALK” tells the story of performance artist Chantelle Redmayne as she is presenting her first installation at an arts festival. The stakes are high because she believes that if she can win the prize money, then her dream studio could become a reality.
But as more people begin to see this new art piece that includes just two chairs with a black boy dressed as an adult, the reactions this work creates in the city threaten to destroy her chance of winning the prize money she needs. And that's before the police show up.
“THE TALK” is written by Playwright Randy Wyatt, who is an associate professor of theatre at Aquinas College. Wyatt, a member of the Dramatist’s Guild, wrote this play while he was on his sabbatical. His plays have been published and produced around the world. “THE TALK” will debut as a time-based performance art piece at in ArtPrize 2017.
“I believe the work I’m most interested in arises from the identification and examination of ‘empathy gaps’ in culture,” says Wyatt, “THE TALK, to me, is more about finding shared empathic ground about the primal protective urges associated with parenting, and how that looks filtered through current tensions around race.”
The cast is filled with many veteran actors with incredible resumes and includes Roman Jeffries as Malcolm Redmayne, Carrie McNulty as Patty Curtis, Amisha Groce as Chantelle Redmayne, Zoe Gibson as Shelby, Sammy A. Publes as Lionel Redmayne, Jennifer Jelsma as Robyn, Joe Anderson as Keith Dyerson, Eric Hand as Gerry Dinsmore, and Jon Clausen as Don Curtis.
The production will be directed by the multi-talented and longtime Grand Rapids artist Amy McFadden with Kyle Los on sound design and Janelle Mahlmann as stage manager.
It is to the best of my knowledge the first local work of theatrical art devoted to the realities of being black in modern America and during a time we are all engaging in the topic presented by Black Lives Matter.
Admission: $15. Seating is general admission.