February 2018

by Jim Reyland

Handmade: Friendships Famous, Infamous, Real, and Imagined by Jim Reyland is available at Amazon.com. Purchase an autographed copy and support a 2018 high school tour of his award-winning play STAND at writersstage.com. jreyland@audioproductions.com

One of the hardest things to do in the playwriting business is to write your play directly inside current events. By that I mean within the last twenty years. Without the benefit of history’s wiser perspective, when you don’t give time, time to percolate, you run the risk of audiences discounting it with “Just saw that on the news.” No matter how compelling the narrative, they may choose to wait for a version with a comfortably long view. While contemporary plays stand and make a statement, they tend to burn quickly. We all want worthy plays to last, and if the time doesn’t resonate, the play could be lost until its relevance comes back around. Thankfully, playwright Lydia R. Diamond hasn’t waited for that. Nashville Repertory Theatre kicks off 2018 with a wonderful new play that took that chance and beat the odds. Smart People is the fourth show of what has already been a strong season for the Rep. Smart People previews February 8–9 and runs February 10–24 at the Tennessee Performing Arts Center.

In Diamond’s play, set just before Obama’s election, the volatile dynamics of talking about race intertwine with the romantic interactions among four racially diverse Harvard intellectuals. A physician, an actress, a psychologist, and a neurobiologist who is studying the brain’s response to race (is it genetic?) all find that discussions about race can be fraught, even among friends who are well educated and socially aware. With barbed wit, this smart play explores the inescapable nature of racism and other tricky topics.

“I want people to know that they’re about to enter a space that’s very much about this very moment that we’re collectively experiencing as a culture. The conversations, and failed attempts at connection that they will observe, are not so distant from our own clumsy day-to-day struggles with the ideas of race, love, identity, and coexistence.”

Smart People director Jon Royal

Directed by guest director Jon Royal, the cast includes David Ian Lee, Christine Lin, Tamiko Robinson Steele, and Shawn Whitsell. Jon offers this insight about his experience working with this strong cast and the impactful new play Smart People.

“The more that I work with this piece, the more that I can see how much these four individuals are really trying, in every aspect of their lives. Their best efforts can’t negate humility and basic listening, though. Being smart doesn’t mean that you can avoid the messiness that accompanies sharing space with other human beings.”

You owe it to yourself to settle into Smart People with its smart words and talented cast. The performances will be held in the Johnson Theater at the Tennessee Performing Arts Center. Tickets are $25 for previews and start at $45 for the regular run. For more information and to purchase tickets, please visit www.nashvillerep.org or call TPAC box office at 615-782-4040.

Also, don’t forget to join the Rep for Inherit the Wind, March 24 through April 21, and the Ingram New Works Festival, May 9–19.

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