Monday, March 29, 2010

Why The Good Negro?

Posted by Artistic Director Robert Falls

For many of us, the great civil rights struggle of the 1950s and 1960s lives in our minds through indelible images: the solemn faces of black children being taunted by white picketers as they enter a newly integrated school; silent masses of sit-down strikers at a Woolworth’s lunch counter; the ruins of a bombed-out church, a tomb for four innocent girls; the unforgettable face of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. as he addresses tens of thousands on the Washington National Mall. These snapshots (and scores of others like them) captured the tumultuous battles of the civil rights movement and transmitted them to the world, battles which have taken on the mythology of legend in the half-century since they were fought.

But what is the truth behind this mythology? In her fascinating new play The Good Negro, Tracey Scott Wilson explores the challenges facing the leaders of one potentially virulent battle in the civil rights war in an unnamed city in Alabama in the watershed year of 1962. Though the incidents in The Good Negro are fictionalized, the obstacles faced by the characters are based in reality: the difficulties in mobilizing a populace cowed by centuries of oppression, the in-fighting among the movement’s organizers about the best ways in which to wage the battle, the constant surveillance of the group’s activities by an FBI team determined to quash the unrest. And there are other, thornier obstacles: the tensions between the needs of the movement itself and the needs, both personal and political, of the people propelling the movement. With unflinching honesty and unerring theatricality, Wilson shows us a part of the movement that is not revealed by those iconic photographs: the private torments the organizers endured to create the public face—the face of what would be considered a “good” leader in the civil rights movement.

First produced last season in a collaboration between the Dallas Theater Center and the Public Theater in New York, The Good Negro highlights the enormous complexities that are inevitably part of every political struggle. As in her previous play The Story (produced at the Goodman in 2005 in a powerful rendering by Resident Director Chuck Smith, who is staging The Good Negro), Wilson honors the drive for racial equality in America without avoiding the difficult questions that confront that drive, the unavoidable clash between private ethics and public good. The Good Negro is an insightful, eloquent and at times painfully human view of what is inarguably the most important social and political movement of our country’s history. It is a view that demands to be seen—and one that I know you will find compelling.

Robert Falls
Artistic Director

We hope you are as excited as we are about The Good Negro! Please share your questions and comments with us, below.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The Stuff Actors Dream Of

Posted by Janet Ulrich Brooks (Mrs. Lippincott, Lithuanian Woman, Clara
Barton, Actress)

A True History of the Johnstown Flood hits the stage today in technical rehearsals! This is the most exciting time in the rehearsal process, as the work of every artist on the project comes together for the first time. During this time in the process, I stand back and am dazzled by just how many people it takes to make a play—and not many of them will be getting much sleep this week. :)

Until now, all of the people involved in creating the many elements of this show have been working in their own shops, rooms and studios. Actors are especially anxious to enter the world of the play with props, costumes, lights and sound…and this particular play is so rich in design. I’m writing this as I watch the clock tick—another hour before I leave for the theater—and I just can’t wait to get there! We are getting closer and closer to sharing this amazing story with audiences.

The process to this point has been very deep and rewarding. Working on a brand-new play is always exciting, but working on a brand-new Rebecca Gilman play under the direction of Bob Falls is the stuff actors dream of. It is thrilling to be a part of this collaboration, and I can’t wait to see it all realized.

Goodman Theatre has been so welcoming and generous with its resources. Having a crack literary team in on the process has been invaluable. Their dramaturgical information has deepened the rehearsal process, and will in turn deepen every audience member’s experience of the show.

Also, I wish everyone could follow the stage management team around for even just a day. This is not a job for the weak! They are the conduit through which ALL information is organized and disseminated. It’s staggering to witness their skills, without which we would all not be able to function. :) Imagine being responsible to—and for—so many people. Alden Vasquez and Jamie Wolfe should get a Parents of the Year Award!

Time to go...

Looking forward to seeing you at the theater!

—Janet Ulrich Brooks