The Trayvon Factor: Playwrights and Theatres Are Revisiting Issues of Race on Stage in the Wake of the Martin-Zimmerman Verdict

By Simpson, Janice C. | American Theatre, December 2013 | Go to article overview

The Trayvon Factor: Playwrights and Theatres Are Revisiting Issues of Race on Stage in the Wake of the Martin-Zimmerman Verdict


Simpson, Janice C., American Theatre


KEITH JOSEF ADKINS WAS ON HIS way to the opening-night party for Classical Theatre of Harlem's production of A Midsummer Night 's Dream when he got a text message with the news: A Florida jury had acquitted George Zimmerman of second-degree murder and manslaughter charges in the shooting death of Travvon Martin.

In the 17 months between Martin's death and die jury's verdict, the case of the overzealous neighborhood-watch volunteer and the 17-year-old, hoodie-wearing black teenager (who had been visiting his father's fiancee in the gated Florida community that Zimmerman was guarding) had sparked a national debate about stand-your-ground defense laws, racial profiling, white privilege and other hot-button issues. And Ad kins, co-founder and artistic director of the New Black Fest, a New York City-based theatre festival, was so upset by the outcome that he skipped the party and went home.

Days later, still struggling to sort out his feelings of rage, disappointment and confusion, Adkins decided to look for solace and answers where he'd always found them: in the theatre.

"Theatre is one of the few public forums in which people can engage and have conversation and feel comfortable and feel protected," Adkins says. A playwright himself, he knew he didn't want to put the burden of responding to die case on the shoulders of just one writer. "I just felt, 'Let me find writers whom I know are from diverse backgrounds and diverse perspectives,'" he recalls thinking. "That way the conversation can be wide."

Adkins e-mailed six playwrights lie knew personally or by reputation and asked if each would write a 10-minute play exploring issues that the Martin-Zimmerman case had raised. The count-me-in responses came back almost immediately.

"It was kind of a no-brainer," says Dan O'Brien, who won the inaugural Edward M. Kennedy Prize for Drama Inspired by American History for his play The Body of an American, a docudrama about the photographer who took the Pulitzer-winning picture of a dead American soldier being dragged through the streets of Mogadishu in 1993. Adds O'Brien, "I'm very excited by trying to bring theatre and poetry closer to things that are actually happening right now and affecting lots of people."

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Encouraged by such responses, Adkins went on to reach out to some 10 theatre companies he'd worked with over the years and asked if each would stage an evening of the Martin-Zimmerman plays in some form. Among those expressing interest were some heavy hitters--the Alliance Theatre in Atlanta, Center Stage in Baltimore, the Goodman Theatre in Chicago, Center Theatre Group in Los Angeles and the National Black Theatre in New York. The Martin E. Segal Theatre Center at the CUNY Graduate Center in Manhattan quickly nabbed the right to present the package's world premiere and scheduled a reading for Dec. 5.

Meanwhile, Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company in Washington, D.C., signaled its strong support for the project by scheduling its reading of the plays for Feb, 5, the date that would have been Trayvon Martin s 19th birthday. The reading will also serve as a thematic scene-setter for the production opening five days later of Jackie Sibblies Drury's prodigiously titled We Are Proud to Present a Presentation About the Herero of Namibia, Formerly Known as Southwest Africa, form the German Sudwestafrika, Between the Years 1884-1915, a sly look at the tensions that surface when an integrated group of actors rehearse a play about a German act of genocide against an African tribe.

Like Drury, the playwrights who signed on to Adkins's project--its formal title is "Facing Our Truth: Ten-Minute Plays on Trayvon, Race and Privilege"--are mainly in their thirties and forties, part of the post-Civil Rights Era generation that is redefining the discussion of race in the American theatre. Some, like Dominique Morisseau, whose play Detroit '67 is the first in a planned trilogy about that troubled city, are known for their intentionally political work. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

The Trayvon Factor: Playwrights and Theatres Are Revisiting Issues of Race on Stage in the Wake of the Martin-Zimmerman Verdict
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.