Scene Change: "-isms" examined at the Goodman Theater

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IMG_0801.JPGBy Sydney Paul, Class of 2012

This is his tamest work I've seen yet", exclaimed a spunky old lady from the front of the audience. The seasoned theater enthusiast was referring to Race, a rather controversial play by Pulitzer Prize winning playwright, David Mamet. Her proclamation began a rather lively post-show discussion between audience members about social issues, like race, which many believe should spill out of the theater and onto the streets.

On January 26th, 2011, a little more than a dozen students took the opportunity to attend the play at the Goodman Theater. The trip was sponsored by OMSA, ORCSA, Chicago Studies, and Arts Pass at the Logan Center for the Arts. Arts Pass hosts several events throughout the year where students can get can discounted tickets to attend shows, but also have in depth discussion with UChicago faculty about relevant underlying topics.

Race, which has received favorable reviews, has been getting a lot of buzz for its controversial nature. The plot surrounds the case of a rich old white man accused of sexually assaulting a young black woman. The audience witnesses the discussions between the accused and his legal counsel, which consists of three attorneys--two black and one white. The fast-paced dialogue is consistently charged with social issues such as racial, gender, and class inequalities that provide an abundance for further discussion.

Before the show, students took part in a private discussion with Naomi Schoenbaum, a Bigelow Fellow and Lecturer in Law at the UChicago Law School, and Elizabeth Rice who is the Education and Community Assistant at the Goodman Theater. Schoenbaum spoke about the legal aspects behind the Race's plot and touched on range of topics including the contentious relationship between U.S. law and racial history, as well as the recent Dominique Strauss-Kahn case.

"I believe that Naomi did a great job of preparing students for what they were about to see and beginning what was going to be a very difficult conversation in an intimate environment" said Leigh Fagin, Program Coordinator for the Logan Center for the Arts. "We knew it would be controversial, and discussion-worthy, and wanted to make sure that those interested in not only theater, but in the topics of race, the legal system and gender politics, had the opportunity to see this Pulitzer Prize winning Chicago playwright's work."

Students were deeply engaged in both discussions before and after the play. Open conversations about such sensitive issues not only within the University, but with local Chicagoans in these settings is a refreshing experience--something that the University is striving to continue and certainly succeeding through these events.

"We hope that every student has a quality arts experience before they graduate, and the Arts Pass programs provide a more accessibly, behind-the-scenes look at some of the amazing arts and cultural organizations that Chicago has to offer" said Fagin. "[We] all felt very strongly that this would be an important play to include in our programming this year."

"Chicago is an amazing city to experience the arts from museums and award-wining improv, to dance performances and storefront theaters. I hope that this encourages them to explore things outside of what is familiar, and that through our programs, we can help create memorable experiences that will help define their future as arts audience members when they graduate."

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