a 2017-2018 Season for Trump’s America
as our theatres finalize their royalty arrangements and plan for the rollouts and announcements of next year’s seasons, i've been thinking a lot about the season i would choose to produce in the trump-fronted america in which we now find ourselves. in the past few months, a number of my friends & colleagues have asked me for suggestions about scripts that address the political climate in which we now must create our work. i began curating a list, which turned into a kind of season, which then needed a youth series, and was then supplemented by a black box series, & on & on. there’s no way to create a comprehensive list, but what i’ve settled on is a six-show mainstage season, a four-show second-stage series, and a four-show youth touring series.
(the parameters for script selection in this season are admittedly biased, since this is my imaginary season. i realize there’s a clear bias toward playwrights who are women & writers of color - but let’s be honest: we are in a “Trumps’s America” because those voices have not yet been heard as often and as loudly as they should.)
the major issues i wanted to address through my art (& consequently, in this first full season under a Trump administration,) are: the environment, the american working class, regognition of our racial history, the state of our public schools/education, organized religion and the beliefs & behaviours of american christians, police relations as related to race, and the stories of americans who feel left out or left behind. the shows in my hypothetical theatre season are those i feel need to be seen, to awaken audiences, & to provoke necessary dialogue about these issues.
(titles are linked to publisher information, where applicable. all descriptions/summaries are taken directly from the publishers.)
Amidst the idealism and violence of Freedom Summer in 1964 Mississippi, three college students vanish, seemingly without a trace. As the parents of Honey, Linda, and Wes cope with their loss, they become inescapably linked—the heirs of their lost children's dreams. Throughout the next three decades, the connections among these people with very disparate backgrounds are tested against the fire of the country's social and political turbulence. The structure of the play mixes naturalism with a surprising time curve that evokes the whirl of events surrounding the parents' interwoven journeys. (2 men, 5 women -dramatists)
At the start of the Great Recession, one of the last auto stamping plants in Detroit is on shaky ground. Each of the workers have to make choices on how to move forward if their plant goes under. Shanita has to decide how she'll support herself and her unborn child, Faye has to decide how and where she'll live, and Dez has to figure out how to make his ambitious dreams a reality. Power dynamics shift as their manager Reggie is torn between doing right by his work family, and by the red tape in his office. (2 men, 2 women -samuel french)
The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity follows the life of wrestler Macedonio Guerra. As a lifelong fan, he has followed wrestling only to become a "jobber", one who is paid to lose to bigger name stars in the ring. Macedonio then meets Vigneshwar Paduar, an young INdian man from Brooklyn who Macedonio wants to team up with. The wrestling execs go for it, but pitch them as "terrorists" in the ring. Macedonio and Vigneshwar find a way to push the personas to the limits and say what needs to be said. Unspoken racism, politics, and courage are all woven into this play that leaves it all on the mat. (5 men, 3 non-speaking women -samuel french)
2010: Essex County, NJ. When Denitra loses the charter school lottery for her daughter, she must find another way to escape from their underperforming neighborhood school. The answer seems like a risk well worth taking, but may end up requiring a bigger sacrifice than she ever could have imagined. Set over a half-century after Brown Versus The Board of Education, Lines in the Dust questions how far we've come and more importantly, where we go from here. (2 Women, 1 Man - a Luna Stage Commission)
Set in a time-bending, darkly comic world between heaven and hell, The Last Days of Judas Iscariot reexamines the plight and fate of the New Testament's most infamous and unexplained sinner. "An extraordinary play…not since Angels in America have I seen a play so unafraid to acknowledge the power of the spirit…" —The Guardian (UK).(10 men, 5 women [doubling] -dramatists)
When a young African American is shot for a pair of basketball shoes, sales triple among white teens. Are ghetto-glorifying commercials to blame, or is it the white CEO that only sees dollar signs? Luckily, there’s a new pill on the market guaranteed to cure racism. HONKY is a darkly comedic look at five people, white and black, as they navigate the murky waters of race, rhetoric and basketball shoes. (6 men, 2 women [flexible casting] -dramatists)
The New Black Fest’s HANDS UP: 7 Playwrights, 7 Testaments, by Dennis A. Allen II, Idris Goodwin, Nambi E. Kelley, Nathan James, Nathan Yungerberg, Eric Micha Holmes, Nsangou NjikamNambi Kelley, NSangou Njikam, Dennis Allen II, Eric Holmes
In light of the police shootings of Mike Brown in Ferguson, Missouri and John Crawford III in Beavercreek, Ohio, among others, The New Black Fest commissioned seven emerging black playwrights to write 10-15 minute monologues that explore their feelings about the well-being of black in a culture of institutional profiling. The collection includes: Superiorty Fantasy by Nathan James; Holes in My Identity by Nathan Yungerberg; They Shootin! Or I Ain’t Neva Scared… by Idris Goodwin; Dead of Night… The Execution of… by Nambi E. Kelley; Abortion by Nsangou Njikam; Walking Next to Michael Brown by Eric Micha Holmes; and How I Feel by Dennis A. Allen II. (6 men, 1 woman -samuel french)
The Zoo Story, by Edward Albee & The Dutchman, by LeRoi Jones (double bill)
Zoo Story: A man sits peacefully reading in the sunlight in Central Park. There enters a second man, who longs to communicate so fiercely that he frightens and repels his listener.With provocative humor and unrelenting suspense, the young savage slowly, but relentlessly, brings his victim down to his own atavistic level as he relates a story about his visit to the zoo. (2 men -dramatists)
The Dutchman: A lascivious blonde tries every vulgar way she knows to pick up and seduce a decent black youth in a subway car. Failing, she resorts to humiliating him. This breaks the facade of his decency, as he descends to her level for a spitfire fight and decrees that murder of the whites by the blacks "would make us all sane." She stabs him and, as other whites dispose of his body, primps for her next Black victim. (1 man, 1 woman -samuel french)
Thyme is fifteen, an A student, and three months pregnant. Erry is eighteen, the opposite of book-smart, and lives with his wife, Thyme, in the bedroom of her parents' Harlem apartment. Erry gets a job in construction, but his health slowly begins to deteriorate: occupational lead inhalation. Besides Thyme's obsessions with all the mechanics of the maturing fetus inside her and with the option of delivering in water, she has recently become fascinated with urban politics of the environment: why communities of color are consistently housed in the most hazardous areas. (2 men, 3 women -dramatists)
No Child is a tour-de-force exploration of the New York City public school system. An insightful, hilarious and touching master class not to be missed by anyone who is concerned about the state of our education system and how we might fix it. (1 man or 1 woman [or flexible casting, up to 16 actors] -dramatists)
Cootie Shots: Theatrical Inoculations Against Bigotry for Kids, Parents and Teachers, edited by Norma Bowles with Mark E. Rosenthal
Cootie Shots is an imaginative assortment of plays, songs and poems designed for young audiences from kindergarten through sixth grade. Created by Fringe Benefits in collaboration with over five hundred educators, administrators, therapists, theatre artists, youth and parents, Cootie Shots provides a fun and constructive way to promote tolerance and celebrate diversity by presenting role models of many different races, nationalities, cultures, classes, genders, sexual orientations, abilities, religions, ages and appearances. Cootie Shots provides children with an opportunity to see beyond "isms" and conveys the message that every man, woman and child deserves to be treated with respect. (kb's note: completely flexible cast sizes - great for high school students/classes to perform for elementary/middle schools.)
Have You Filled a Bucket Today? is a modern take on the golden rule with humor, heart, and larger-than-life characters. Based on Carol McCloud’s award-winning books, the play tells the story of Trey, a 4th grader who learns about bucket filling from his camp counselor Mimi, Professor Smarty Pants III, and Bucket Filling Fairy (BFF), a magical creature who speaks in rhyme. This theatrical adaptation is a fun and effective way for schools and theatre companies to address bullying.
(^this is wishful thinking, i know. i pray for the day our seasons actually could look like this (& still be funded...) —until that time, let's share the work that will get us there. feel free to add your own thoughts & titles in the comments!)