'This Is Not The Play' Director Talks Race In Theater
Jake Beamer is the director of the upcoming play “This is Not the Play,” which premieres at The Bard’s Town on June 9. The production, which has only been staged publicly once before by the Cleveland Public Theatre, has been described as “a gritty, in-your-face comedy that digs into what we naturally turn away from -- racism.”
“This play is about an African American playwright who is commissioned to write a play for a white audience, and she doesn’t really know how to do that,” Beamer says. “So this play takes place in her mind and it’s kind of a workshop, if you will, with the playwright and the characters that she creates.”
The cast for which The Playwright has written is pretty basic on paper: White Girl 1, White Girl 2, The Man (white), and White Woman. Beamer says the issue of diversity in theater -- which is intelligently addressed in this play -- is one that appeals to him on both a personal and professional level.
“On the one hand, I am a white theater artist but on the other hand, I am also a gay theater artist," Beamer says. "And while I don’t like to equate the suffering of any kind of race or cultural group, I think there is an understanding when you aren’t in the majority.
"Theater is tough to tackle sometimes, because we do have color blind casting where we aren’t supposed to see color, and I understand that viewpoint completely. I would love to see a gay "Romeo and Juliet" or a black "Julius Caesar" or an Asian “Raisin in the Sun’ -- but then that brings up the interesting point of why certain plays were written, and does that change the playwright's purpose for writing the play.”
Beamer says it was intriguing to direct a play that tackles issues of diversity with a cast whose overwhelming homogeneity was built into the script. He says that this choice by playwright Chisa Hutchinson urges viewers to consider issues of race that fall outside the walls of the theater.
“I thought it was smart, I thought it was funny, and I thought it was poignant considering our current political, racial and socioeconomic climate,” Beamer says. “What I like about this play in particular is that it presents the issues in a way that is understandable and relatable, and funny -- which is where the comedy comes in -- but it leaves you asking questions”
“This is Not the Play” runs at the Bard’s Town June 9 through June 19. More information can be found here.