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The Intern Files: My First Day as a Goodman Intern, Part 2

July 2, 2013 in Blog

By Kendra Benner

I stepped in the theater, and a smiling security guard greeted me. He handed me a guest pass, and I rode up the elevator to the fourth floor, the Education & Community Engagement department’s home.

When I pictured business offices, I had always imagined something from, well, The Office. Drably dressed employees, a curmudgeonly boss, and empty white walls. But the Goodman’s offices were far from ordinary. I saw employees smiling and laughing, there was a woman wearing aqua blue skinny jeans, and the walls were lined with autographed posters from productions past – including a poster from A Christmas Carol featuring a jolly Scrooge. I knew I had chosen the right place.

I met the outgoing Education interns who would teach me everything I needed to know. We entered the narrow room where the interns were housed, which they dubbed “The Intern Closet.” I didn’t know if I was supposed to laugh or not, so out of my mouth emerged a half-hearted nervous giggle.

Where all the magic happens: the intern closet.

Where all the magic happens: the intern closet.

I was tasked with learning the ropes of my job in the next eight hours. And what ensued was a whirlwind of crash courses.

“Do you know how to Mail Merge?”

“Okay, I just finished updating the manual. You should probably start reading it.” [Commence reading 100-page binder]

“Have you heard of Tessitura?”

“So we’ll be in Little Village the 18th, Humboldt Park the 22nd, Rogers Park the 25th, and Pilsen the 29th.”

“Okay, so to access the program, you enter this password every time, then you look at the keychain, then you enter that password that pops up, and then you’re in.”

And finally:

“Oh! Today we’re having the Bob Forum.”

“What’s the Bob Forum?” I asked. It sounded important.

“All the interns get to sit down with Bob Falls and we basically can ask him whatever we want.”

Um — pause. Bob Falls. As in Robert Falls? As in the artistic director of the Goodman? On the first day of my internship I was meeting the commander-in-chief of the theatre. I wasn’t sure if this was a fluke or divine intervention.

Robert Falls

 

I racked my brain for things I wanted to know: What is the process of commissioning a play? What is your approach to directing? How do you feel about theater critics?  I had all of my questions ready to go, but once I got in there, I simply wanted to listen. I listened to Bob talk about his childhood in a small town in Illinois, his directing experience in college, his love for the Chicago theatre scene, his path to the Goodman, and his more than twenty-five years spent as artistic director here, putting on new plays and re-imagining classic ones.

Between all of the anecdotes and nuggets of wisdom, I really heard one message – one that I’d heard before from Mr. Dennehy. As an artist, you simply have to go for it. Try anything. Explore everything. Move to the other side of the country. Fly across the ocean to Africa. Befriend people you have nothing in coming with. Apply to an internship you think you have no chance of getting.

Because there’s nothing worse than questioning what would have happened if you had gone for it – and there’s nothing better than knowing the answer.

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The Intern Files: My First Day as a Goodman Intern, Part 1

June 27, 2013 in Blog

By Kendra Benner

All my life I’ve been told it’s important to have a dream job.

What’s mine? I have so many interests – theater, journalism, education, entrepreneurship – I’ve never been able to pick just one job.

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Contemplating a future in journalism circa 1999.

My dream was more about where I was working than what I was doing. For me, in my teenage years and in college, my dream was to work at Goodman Theatre.

I think the special culture of the Goodman is infectious – once you experience it, you want to keep coming back for more. I got my first taste when I was seventeen. I was part of Cindy Bandle Young Critics, a program for Chicagoland girls where I learned how to write reviews of plays and improve my reporting skills – a perfect combination of my beloveds, theatre and journalism. Every other Saturday morning I trekked to the Goodman for the program workshops, excited to find out what amazing actor, director or writer I would get to interview next.

Fast forward two years. I entered my freshman year at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, a precarious university choice for a staunch northerner. A lot of people were surprised by my choice to go to school in that foreign land (also known as the South). But, I think it makes sense in light of the story behind it – a story that was written by the Goodman.

One of my most memorable moments as a Young Critic at the Goodman was hearing Brian Dennehy speak about his career in theater. He told us that to be successful theater artists, we had to continuously step outside of the theatre world. He said the key to becoming a great person of the theatre is being a great person of the world – study subjects you’ve never explored before, meet people from all corners of the Earth, and jump into all colors of experiences.

His words simmered in my mind for months. When the time came to choose between UNC and a university closer to home, I thought of Mr. Dennehy’s advice. Great thespians jump into the unknown, and “The Southern Part of Heaven” was definitely an unknown. It was a scary prospect, but when I thought of Mr. Dennehy’s words, the risk felt right – and my decision to don light blue and white was official.

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Posing at halftime during my first UNC football game.

As my decision to be a Tar Heel was set in stone, so was my dream to work at the Goodman. My love for risk-taking, my taste for live performance, and my passion for theater as an avenue for social change – so many things about me were shaped by this theater. I wanted to use my passions to give back to the organization – and discover how much more there is to learn at Goodman.

For three years my dream lingered in my mind, until the moment in early February when I told my Dad, “I have to be a Goodman intern.”

I dove into the application process. The Goodman had many different internships to choose from, but I set my sights on the Education & Community Engagement internship. Theater has been a special teacher in my life, and I wanted others to experience that, too. I admired the Education department’s belief in using theater for social change through its educational programs – like showing high school students students the power of their creative voices in the General Theater Studies summer program. This was definitely a movement I wanted to be a part of.

Three months, seven resume drafts, two interviews and one overjoyed “I got it!” phone call to my parents later, and my dream had come true.

Enter, the first day of my internship. I felt excited and prepared – and I tried to walk with the post-makeover professional confidence of Andy Sachs in The Devil Wears Prada.

 one time an assistant left the desk because she i dont k - Andy Sachs

 There were five minutes until I had to leave for the train station. I started to pack up my bag when I realized – there was no packing list for internships. What kind of stuff was I supposed to bring? I didn’t want to be the awkward-exploding-backpack kid on the first day, but not having enough supplies would be embarrassing.

Commence frantic Googleing. An article from “InternQueen.com” popped up. That sounded legit. I shoved everything in my bag that the article listed – a notebook, five pens, makeup, hairpins, socks, comfy shoes, an umbrella, train schedule, mints, cell phone, laptop, pony tail holders, my Goodman ID and a train pass.

Me, overpack? Never.

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Striking a pose at the most happening place in Naperville, the train station.

Next stop: Union Station. I hopped on the train and surveyed the people who surrounded me – businesspeople – iPhone in hand, shiny shoes on foot. Toto, I have a feeling we’re not in Naperville anymore. That was until…I sat on the train directly across from a girl from my high school. “Hey, Kendra! How’s school going?” she said cheerily, breaking my cover as a classy urban professional. Oh well, can’t win ‘em all.

As I stepped out of Union Station, bombarded by the sun’s reflection off the Chicago River below and towering skyscrapers above, I was completely taken with the city’s beauty. Wearing the glassy-eyed gaze of a first-time tourist, I didn’t care. My dream was finally coming true, and I felt like the city knew it and was welcoming me in as one of its own.

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Cue George Harrison…this sunshine is beautiful!

My dad and I made the 20-minute walk from the train station to the Goodman, and from the first to the last step, he jokingly tried to pump me up for my first day on the job.

“Hey, Kendra,” he said with a smirk. “Wouldn’t it be cool if, like, you were interning at the Goodman or somethi— Oh, wait. You are!”

I laughed. “Yeah, you’re right Dad. It is pretty cool,” I said, trying not to make a scene in case one of my soon-to-be coworkers was near me. But on the inside, I was bubbling with excitement.

Check out the second installment, coming next week!

Stage Kiss – By Michele Popadich

May 25, 2011 in Cindy Bandle Young Critics

Walking out of the theatre with five pages of quotes soaked with tears of laughter, rock hard abs, and glowing smile on my face, I can gladly classify Stage Kiss as one of the few fabulously creative and hilarious joys of theatre. Playwright Sarah Ruhl has a fresh and satirical awareness of theatre that is brilliantly engaging as well as comical. Rarely are you given the opportunity to watch a production just for the absolute joy of it. But the flutters of laughter that lingered even after filing out of the seats is proof of just how well Ruhl can captivate her audience.

On a beautifully crafted stage in the Owen, Stage Kiss is set on an exquisite mock stage that gradually transforms with ease but manages to add to the humor. Beginning with a hysterically uncomfortable audition, the play becomes the rekindling of an old flame between He and She. Having been separated for some time now, the have just been cast for leading roles of a horrible play directed by an ambitious but completely mindless director. As implied by the title, kissing is a primary objective and is what eventually leads to the couple falling back in love. What sets this play apart from others is its generous dose of laughter. It not only establishes a risqué relationship with two people who are already involved with other people but it introduces a diverse cast of brave actors playing characters who are truly one of a kind. Ross Lehman plays the director obsessed with a play that even the actors can’t take seriously. Erica Elam plays He’s schoolteacher girlfriend whose energetic happiness is far from contagious but most definitely amusing among the overly theatrical actors. Finally, Jeffrey Carlson may not have a leading role, but steals the spotlight with his brain dead comments and carnivorous methods of kissing. Jenny Bacon (She) and Mark L. Montgomery (He) have a keen sense of comedy. Although Ruhl gave them a marvelous script to work with, the humor would not have been quite the same without the overly awkward or overly passionate kissing scenes. Quite simply, their reactions are priceless.

The play clearly mocks theatre. But the absurdity of a play within a play also mirrors life. The circumstances of the play He and She perform in are nearly identical to their current situation. Likewise, even her husband and daughter are played by the same actors who play her husband and daughter in the play. Clearly, trying to make sense of the circumstances is a difficult thing to do, showing how ridiculous theatre and life can be. But Ruhl’s unique sense of comedy and intelligent creativity, brings life to theatre…whether the play the audience watches, or the play within it…regardless, Stage Kiss has a distinctive voice of it’s own, one that will leave you breathless.

Stage Kiss – By Karina Kim

May 25, 2011 in Cindy Bandle Young Critics

Goodman Theatre’s ‘Stage Kiss’ brings fresh and clever humor to the stage by Karina Kim The Goodman Theatre’s new production “Stage Kiss” by Sarah Ruhl is a refreshing new comedy that puts a clever edge on mundane life. Under longtime coworker Jessica Thebus’ direction, an outstanding Jenny Bacon plays She (as the character is called), an overly dramatic struggling actress who falls in love with her old lover, He, portrayed by Mark L. Montgomery. They start an affair together similar to what’s happening in the plays they perform. As their acting jobs change, so do their relationships. The two actors desire to become the characters they are playing. She even goes so far as to say in the play: “I want to be Aida Wilcox!” Ruhl cleverly expresses the characters’ dramatic demeanors, despite their bland and relatively uneventful lifestyle. Even though the characters are only named He and She, they are vibrant and very expressionistic. The sets in the plays within the play are ornate, even though the “real-life” sets are dreary and plain. Ruhl’s use of these techniques just add to the irony and humor of the production. It shows the two actors desire to become the characters they are playing. As She once said in the play: “I want to be Aida Wilcox!” Another cast standout is She’s husband, played by a hilarious Scott Jaeck. The set designs are beautiful and detailed. From the apartments to the “sets,” all of the designs are very fitting and complement the theater nicely. However, the plot is a bit inconsistent. Even though I won’t deny there were times I was crying from laughter, the script is a bit shallow–it is not gushing with depth and meaning. It’s just a simple theme with great acting. Ruhl’s use of slapstick comedy and clever phrases such as “giving bacon to a starving vegetarian” will give the audience a great time at the theater. The drama within the comedy just adds to the hilarity. Whether on an outing with friends or family, this new production by The Goodman is a play you will definitely fall in love with.

Mary – By Chevelle Blackburne

May 25, 2011 in Cindy Bandle Young Critics

As the audience settles to the 80’s boy band playing in the background, Mary opens to a packing college student named David. He and his lover make plans to venture apart on this winter break until he and John decide to visit David’s parents together in Massachusetts, for the first time. Upon David’s arrival he and his parents joyously reunite until he is left alone with his father where they both are found speechless. As time goes on, John appears in time for dinner with the family, served by nigger Mary. As was the audience, John is shocked at such a derogatory term so freely spoken towards the family help, or any person at all. This then causes David to speak out towards his parents and brings the effect of the term to his parent’s radar. Yet, his parents, and even Mary, stick with the reasoning that the term helps to differentiate Mary from the Caucasian Mary who lives down the street. Meanwhile, his parents feel offended by their son as he believes they don’t suspect their son to be gay and John his boyfriend.

Surprisingly, Mary reveals her own discrimination towards gays. She proceeds to steal David and John’s KY lubrication in hopes of stopping their sexual ‘sin’ as she called it. This act provides evidence to her belief that “God wants [them] to help gays turn away from sinful desires.” Her plan soon after consists of convincing her husband, Elroy, to shoot John with a BB gun in his ‘family jewels’. The guilt that before long erects brings Mary and Elroy to end the previous belief and their ‘homophobia’ or fear of homosexuals.

In another effort to provide Mary with more freedom, David sways his mother to pay for reading classes for Mary. In the future, many wonderful and tragic events take place. John and David get married in 2005, however Elroy has passed. Later, Mary continues through school to major in theology and becomes an ordained minister at age 81 by which time David’s mother has passed away and almost a year later John dies of AIDS.

Nevertheless, Mary graduates and speaks at the graduation as the oldest person to graduate from her college. Once she invites David upon the stage, due to passing of her good friend David’s mother, she advances to denounce David’s sexuality on stage, in public in efforts to once again stop his sinful actions and “end practice of homosexuality”. As it turns out her beliefs are just as lithe as before, yet become stronger against homosexuality. After David, appalled, leaves Mary alone on the stage, she piercingly condemns this practice and challenges anyone who’ll listen to join her ‘army’ in the struggle to terminate the evil brought with homosexuality.

Unexpectedly, playwright Thomas Bradshaw challenges his audience to not believe what they see but base their judgment of this humorless theme on our own values and what we believe is right. This is the first dramatic piece of my viewing where the message was to be chosen and not presented. I cheerfully applaud his addition of humor to so many scenes when carrying such a deep topic. Also, I feel like this production connected a lot of dots between racism and sexual [orientation] discrimination. Many a person has avoided this topic in conversation to keep from sharing their own personal beliefs. Many people also believe that one has nothing to do with the other. However, I believe Mary presents the idea that discrimination is an undying, human quality that we all shall overcome.

Subtly, Bradshaw incorporates many small details for the quick and observant people watching. These included my favorite actor Eddie Bennett, who played John, who often wore snazzy sweater vests with matching socks. Much of the character’s actual pizzazz emerged from Bennett himself. He was to blame for his baby-clap filled excitement and his inflection-full speech giving his character the proper stereotypical homosexual nature. The mother’s personality also stood out as she seemed to feel no guilt or bad feelings, especially from her own deeds. Her happy-go-lucky spirit easily brings up the tone of any scene and her ignorant disposition lightened the reality of the play itself. I only hope the audience witnessed the most positive and just attitude surface from the overall show.

Mary – By Michele Popadich

May 25, 2011 in Cindy Bandle Young Critics

“Mary,” written by Thomas Bradshaw, is daring, controversial, and easily loved or hated. I adored it. You simply cannot walk into the theatre with preconceived agitation otherwise you’ll miss the beauty of taking such a risk. It is performed on the Owen stage, presenting delicate subjects in an engaging way, leaving the audience with a lot to think about. Set in the early 1980’s, we meet a gay couple David (Alex Weisman) and Jonathon (Eddie Bennett) who visit David’s family in southern Maryland. Although his parents are suspicious, David hasn’t formerly announced that he is gay. This homosexual relationship becomes an afterthought while eating dinner when Jonathon witnesses David’s mother nonchalantly referring to their domestic worker as “nigger Mary.” David’s concern with this issue boils over, asking Mary her opinions of her position in the house. She seems unconcerned with her stature, but her deeply religious beliefs lead her to be far more concerned about a gay relationship. Later Mary does express the desire to learn to read and saying, perhaps the most powerful line of the play, “Emancipation is a lie.”

As mentioned, it’s of vital importance to know that the characters in “Mary” have opinions that most audience members will disagree with or will even find offensive. But there aren’t many writers that are courageous enough to explore the depths of racism and homosexuality and somehow keep the audience laughing. Particularly Mary’s views on gay relationships are very contrary to today’s society which is much more accepting. Without comparing your views to Mary’s, it is really quite interesting to listen to her beliefs. Likewise, David’s mom has a strict opinion on racism, especially since she considers Mary’s position at the household to be nothing out of the ordinary. Her outlook is outwardly racist. It helps paint this ridiculous picture with vivid colors and most importantly gets the audience thinking about this delicate material. It forces you to consider the fact that discrimination has left a sour remembrance in our history. Simply put, if you can put your beliefs to the side for the duration of this rather short production, you will walk away with a broader insight as you have just seen a play that dares to cross into dangerous territory.

By using likeable characters and artistic presentations, the controversial nature of “Mary” is much easier to accept. Gay, straight, bisexual, or none of the above, it’s absolutely impossible not to fall in love with the flamboyant and colorful relationship that Jonathon and David have. Although their relationship is scandalous and harshly criticized, they are the life in a play that has many dark topics. Whether David passionately plays his violin for about five seconds or Jonathon gives the most priceless expression at dinner with “nigger Mary,” they prove that unconventional relationships are possible. Likewise, Mary remains close to your heart despite her fixed opinions about homosexuality. Especially when she is finally given the opportunity to learn to read, a momentous amount of happiness can only be felt for someone who has endured such an injustice so silently. Artistically, the gradual acceptance of Mary as a member of the family instead of a servant is displayed in a unique and memorable way.

A disappointing ending, however, almost ruined the entire production. To conclude a play that successfully engage the viewers with a final, blatant, offensive blow may have been a way for Bradshaw to continue the unexpected nature of his work, but for me was unnecessary. Ending included, however, Bradshaw’s piece was memorable in its potent effect, daring subject matter, and courageous creativity.

Mary – By Cindy Avila

May 25, 2011 in Cindy Bandle Young Critics

Perhaps the most thought provoking and controversial production produced at the Goodman Theatre, the performance of Mary is one of artistic divinity.  Within an astonishing 90 minutes, playwright Thomas Bradshaw transports his audience into a world we all would much rather choose to not call reality.  Moreover, each of the four actors are no longer simply people but symbolize their own greatest struggle.  Topics of racism in America, our established system of education, generation gaps, tradition, the current war to fight for “equality for all” under the Constitution, and, more interestingly, whether we should leave things “the way they are.”

Homophobia and racism has the most mind explosive effect on audience members, especially when the two are so directly similar it proves that our values as Americans are still not yet acceptable.  The reaction to each character and each scene caused varying reactions in the theatre, whether it be from the common theatre folk or those who clearly thought they were going to see a movie.  Young and old filled the seats to see the performance of Mary, unsure what to fully expect.

Most controversial in the play was the acceptance that all humans are flawed characters to a grander picture.  Realizing that African Americans are still not fully equal and gays are certainly in desperate need of emancipation for being condemned for all these years, audience members are able to self reflect on their own stereotypes and the society in which they live.  The end, which Bradshaw chooses to end with a shock and awe, demonstrates that even those who are educated can become oppressive.

So contemporary is Bradshaw’s work that even Proposition 8, the discriminatory fight against same sex couples is currently taking place.  All parents and children must go see the newest version of this extraordinary and thought provoking performance, unlike anything I’ve seen this season and certainly will result in high expectations for those to follow.

Mary – By Nora Cowlin

May 25, 2011 in Cindy Bandle Young Critics

I’m not sure how to describe Thomas Bradshaw’s “Mary” other than repeating what the couple sitting next to me quickly dismissed it as- a sitcom. Receiving predictable and almost canned-sounding laughter from the audience, it felt like watching just that. The characters were all well executed, David and Jonathan seemed as much in love as college students could be, and everyone else fit perfectly into their almost comically stereotypical roles- the slightly racist parents, the happily naive and subordinate servants. Moments such as Elroy and Mary plotting to shoot flamboyant Jonathan in the crotch, or mom Dolores buying her husband James a contraption to help him overcome his erectile dysfunction, force the audience to share a laugh over their love-able antics and momentarily forget the whirlwind of problems surrounding the characters. For starters, the main character David has just returned home from college with his partner Jonathan, the only problem is that he’s not formally out to his parents and wants them to think that he and Jonathan are just friends. Of course, his parents are quick to catch on but decide to respect his privacy and wait for him to come out in his own time. On the other hand, Elroy and Mary, the household servants, are equally quick to catch on to the nature of David and Jonathan’s relationship but decide to take matters into their own hands, plotting ways to remind them that homosexuality is a sin. One has to admit that it does sound remarkably like a sitcom plot. That is until you remember that it’s 1983 in the middle of the AIDS crisis, and Jonathan realizes that a past partner of his may have contracted the disease. If that’s not enough the nature of Mary and Elroy’s employment is quickly called into question. Mom Dolores and dad James are perfectly comfortable calling Mary “n-word Mary” to distinguish her from a neighbor, and it quickly unfolds that not only has Mary’s family worked on the estate since long before emancipation but that she is also illiterate and isn’t paid for her work. And so the plot unfolds. As the play continues along its humorous yet somewhat predictable plotline it seems that a happy ending is in sight. The characters were undoubtedly still dealing with their issues, but there was still a lightheartedly theatrical air about it. And just when the play seems to end, there’s a major plot twist in the last 10 minutes of the performance. As the final scene continued, everyone in the room seemed to grow more fidgety and uncomfortable, some people openly expressing their dismay. The curtains suddenly close and without a curtain call or applause, the house lights go on and the audience is left sitting in shock over what they’ve just seen. Without divulging what happens or even who’s involved, it seems that this final scene wasn’t included as a continuance of the plot but rather as a way to stir up the audience, almost as if Bradshaw were looking to strike a controversy. I just wish Bradshaw could have found a way to do so without ruining the integrity of so many of his characters. After all, there’s no such thing as bad press for a show like “Mary”. Mary runs through March 6 at the Goodman’s Owen Theatre. Tickets are $10 – $42.

Mary and Her Bullets – By Vanity Robinson

May 25, 2011 in Cindy Bandle Young Critics

Where’s the KY Gel? It might be necessary for some to ease the rough swallow of Thomas Bradshaw’s Mary. Not that it is of any surprise that a Bradshaw play should leave the audience in a state of discomfort and maybe even paralyzed by disapproval and I’ve only had the opportunity of viewing Mary and researching the others.

Set in Maryland during a time period where the effects of the Civil Rights movement seem to have come and gone and the gay liberation movement begins to pick up speed, the play features a mouth full of crunchy controversy.

The son of wealthy parents, David (Alex Weisman) returns home from college with his friend Jonathan (Eddie Bennett),  convinced that his family does not suspect  is his lover. In reality, his father, James (Scott Jaeck ) and mother, Dolores (Barbara Garrick), are fully aware of their son’s lifestyle and resent him for nothing more than attempting to hide it from them. David’s reluctance towards “coming out” to his parents is justified by his living during the AIDS crisis and being raised in a family so conservative that the dinner is still served to the mother and father seated at opposite sides of a long white table by their slave. So she’s not exactly a slave but she does handle domestic duties, live in a cabin in the yard with her husband, and work… without pay. This is the way her family has lived ever since Emancipation stripped them of the formal title “slaves”.

Very religious and grounded in her convictions, Mary is troubled by David’s homosexuality. She sees it as her “God given duty to save his soul” from the eternal hellfire reserved just for homosexuals. David, meanwhile, has no idea about Mary’s intentions as his boyfriend Jonathan begins to open his eyes upon the racist lifestyle his parents have set up here in their Maryland home. David and Jonathan have some issues of their own as secrets are revealed.

This sets the plot up for its spur of conflicts including the death of David’s father,  presumably from cancer. His death was played out in an interesting transition of scenes which perked up my obsession with technical theatre. In the first section, Dolores and James are seated in their chairs for dinner as Mary stands before them ready to serve their food. The next section they are in the same positions except James is gone from the table. In the next section Mary has taken James’s seat and the two women laugh and chatter all the while enjoying each other’s company. The next time the light comes up both women are seated and each are reading a book, signifying Mary’s success in the literacy class.

Bradshaw puts faces on homophobia and racism. It could be your loving and nurturing mother or her equally warm childhood friend exposing  ignorance around us.

As provocative and honest as it may have been, it was not so much the play that brought me discomfort, but rather the audience. Prior to my seeing the play my mother came back and told me about her own experience as a spectator. She mentioned the elderly couple laughing right along with a gay couple at the satirical racism and ridiculous convictions presented around it. She also mentioned how the elderly couple became mute and upset at the religious ranting against homosexuality. The gay couple went so far as to get up and walk out of the theatre when Mary expressed her bizarre intentions for David’s salvation.

I was intrigued by her findings and walked into the Owen convinced to get a good look at the crowd if anything else. I didn’t see anyone walk out from my seat up in the balcony but the shift in energy between the two topics was undeniable… this scared me. I regret not being able to attend the post discussion to hear what was on people’s minds but the rest of the night I contemplated on what could be the cause of the reaction.

I came up with the theory that people were more comfortable with laughing at the racism in the play because we, as a society, see ourselves as above this issue. We are capable of making fun of our forefathers who were not as wise as us. They could not fathom the idea that it is wrong to discriminate against one another because of ethnicity or skin color. That problem is dealt with and we’ve come so far… right? On the other hand, homophobic Christians are here now. They are preventing people from marrying and participating in military and government and anything else you could imagine. This problem is not dealt with. It is rooted in our societies and people didn’t find it funny because it’s sickening that we still have not figured out that it is wrong to discriminate against one another because of sexual orientation or gender. Homophobia is yet alive, racism is not… right?

When I was first asked how I enjoyed the play I said, “I found it simple and a little insulting not so much because he focused entirely on being shocking… but that he provided no new information”. As soon as I finished my sentence I realized that Bradshaw might be on to something. The playwright created for us a raw insight into the lives of these people. He succeeded in many things; one being in pinning the audience down and soiling the pants of the racists and the homophobes so that everyone in the room could identify them with every whiff of air.

Controversial play breaks modern barriers – by Karina Kim

May 25, 2011 in Cindy Bandle Young Critics

Thomas Bradshaw’s new piece “Mary” is a complex play regarding the everyday topics of racism and homophobia. Bradshaw’s tale quickly turns into a very deep and question-raising performance about what is appropriate and socially acceptable. This show at Goodman Theatre  is certainly not for everyone; its use of such controversial topics may cause some people to be very offended.

Bradshaw’s “Mary” takes place in contemporary times, right around the 1980s during the AIDS panic through to present day. It focuses on gay couple David (Alex Weisman) and Jonathan (played by a hilarious Eddie Bennet), who go to visit David’s family’s estate, which hasn’t changed much since the 1800s. David’s family has a servant named Mary ( played by a convincing Myra Lucretia Taylor), who the viewer learns is an illiterate, uncompensated, God-fearing worker for their home. Mary and her husband, Elroy (Cedric Young), live in a cabin on the estate and David’s parents calls her by the derogatory nickname “nigger Mary,” which, according to them, is to differentiate her from their neighbor, also named Mary. Bradshaw’s use of comic irony and sarcasm is a refreshing new look on such a sensitive subject.

The set of “Mary” is slightly ineffective. Although it is a nicely put together set and  a well-used space (located in The Goodman’s Owen Theatre, its smaller of the two), it failed to provide a sense of a change of scenery. I remember being disturbed when David and Jonathan decide to have an intimate moment in the middle of the living room (which at the time was supposed to be his bedroom). I’m sorry, but putting a bed in the middle of the room just doesn’t cut it.

Throughout the show, David’s parents Dolores (Barbara Garrick) and James (Scott Jaeck) play a seemingly unaware, stereotypical southern white family. With a black servant and a former plantation for an estate, it wouldn’t be surprising if they were distant and cold toward their gay son; however, David’s parents focus a lot of their time trying to get their son to come out to them. This just shows Bradshaw’s clever use of a classic stereotype broken into finer, more relatable characters and to show the complex relationship that these characters have. David and and Jonathan spend most of their vacation trying to liberate Mary intellectually and financially. Mary starts to realize that her role doesn’t have to be so submissive. She also loses some of her preconceived theories about homesexuals, starting with David.

The character Jonathan is the most down-to-earth charcter in the play; interestingly enough, he’s from Chicago. His reaction when he first is introduced to ”nigger Mary” gives some comedic relief to the audience. Much of the play consists of David’s attempts to help Mary become more equal with her employers and then educate her. When he finally does, Mary does not quite turn out how he envisioned.

Overall, Bradshaws’s innovative and provocative play “Mary” is a conversation-starting, debate-inducing piece whose ending will either be loved or hated. However, in this reviewer’s opinion, “Mary” is interesting enough to be well worth the price.