Friday, January 27, 2012

Conversations on Race

By Nazihah Adil, Institutional Giving Assistant

On January 18, Goodman Theatre hosted an Artist Encounter featuring Race. Through intimate conversations about the process of creating theater, the Artist Encounter series connects audiences with theater artists who bring productions to life on stage. The Race event engaged attendees in a conversation that both illuminated the production and acted as a catalyst for deeper exploration into its themes. With the Chicago Sun-Times’ Laura Washington as moderator of the conversation, Goodman Resident Director and director of Race Chuck Smith took to the stage alongside a distinguished group of theater artists to discuss the role of artists in advancing dialogue about race in America.

One panelist, Teatro Luna co-founder Coya Paz, maintained that theater should be “at the forefront of civic discourse.” Its capacity to challenge audiences to think critically and proactively about contemporary issues raised by the plays on stage and its power to impact tangible social change is unparalleled. This is especially true at a theater like the Goodman, whose commitment to the city it serves both on and off the stage is reflected in the institutional values of quality, diversity and community. In Race, the latest work by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright David Mamet, two high-profile lawyers—one black, one white—are called upon to defend a wealthy white client accused of raping a young African American woman. This compelling crime mystery is a ruthless examination of guilt and oppression set against the backdrop of the complex legal system. True to its name, Race delves into the complex minefield of race, sex, gender and class.

Race is but one of the productions this season that reflects the diversity of our community and our nation. Over the last 30 years, the Goodman has made cultural diversity the fabric of the institution, beginning with the work on stage and continuing into its relations in the community. Included in the 2011/2012 Season are two world premiere productions, The Convert and Fish Men, both by writers of color, and a revival of the gospel musical sensation, Crowns, written and directed by Goodman Artistic Associate Regina Taylor. The Goodman sustains its commitment to cultural diversity through a variety of artistic and education and community engagement initiatives, including the development and production of new plays featuring artists of color, the expansion of the New Stages Series, collaborations with culturally specific theater companies, and the diverse artists of the Goodman Artistic Collective, whose talents and ideas allow the Goodman to give voice to a wide range of visions.

Race is not the conversation about race, but a conversation, which, as Smith articulated, sounds the “opening bell” for an honest discussion of a complex issue. Coupled with its education and community initiatives and the remainder of the diverse works in the 2011/2012 Season, the Goodman promises to offer a season reflective of the diversity of the society in which we live.

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