Indiana Repertory Theatre’s 19-20 season celebrates diverse storytelling
New INclusion Series broadens perspectives on what it means to be an American
Indianapolis, Ind.— The Indiana Repertory Theatre will introduce the INclusion Series this season, a series consisting of three productions within the nine-play season that focus specifically on celebrating diverse storytelling. The selections feature work by female playwrights of color that examine or dramatize stories from the Native American, African American, and Chinese American experiences and include And So We Walked: An Artist’s Journey Along the Trail of Tears, The Watsons Go to Birmingham—1963 and The Paper Dreams of Harry Chin.
“The INclusion Series has come about to broaden our perspectives on what it means to be an American,” IRT’s Executive Artistic Director Janet Allen said. “We are always scouting recent dramatic writing and writers to find work that will resonate with our audiences, and this year we have leaned into work by writers of color, to tell stories from Americans that we may not know much about.”
The series begins with And So We Walked: An Artist’s Journey Along the Trail of Tears, a one-woman show created and performed by Cherokee artist and activist DeLanna Studi. The play is based on her six-week journey traveling the Trail of Tears with her father to better understand their ancestors and history, as well as to learn more about her identity as a contemporary Cherokee woman. On stage October 15 - November 10, And So We Walked is a story of hope and discovery that probes the complexities and conflicts that the Cherokee Nation still wrestles with today.
Running February 1 - March 1, the second production is The Watsons Go to Birmingham--1963, which is based on the award-winning young adult novel by Christopher Paul Curtis and adapted by Cheryl L. West. This story examines the country’s Civil Rights history through the lens of a family, in particular the children ages 6 to 13, as they navigate their lives in tumultuous times. The work provides the opportunity for adults and children to discuss the issues of racism, violence, and a culture of exclusion, while also highlighting moments of enduring love and family antics.
The Paper Dreams of Harry Chin by Jessica Huang, on stage March 25 - April 19, details the life of a man who immigrated to the United States in the 1930s despite the Chinese Exclusion Act, the first American law that prevented members of a specific ethnic group from immigrating to the United States. The production is a surreal journey through past and present as Chin wrestles with his family relationships, identity, language and culture barriers, and his search for a better life in America. Inspired by a true story, Huang’s play opens our eyes to an earlier moment in American immigration, while providing a window into the immigration issues of our own time.
For the productions in this series, the IRT is collaborating with local organizations to draw various communities together through education and theatre. Through post-show discussions, community events, additional programming, and more, the IRT hopes to encourage conversation and reflection surrounding these important stories.
The full 2019-2020 season includes Twelve Angry Men, The Little Choo-Choo That Thinks She Can, And So We Walked: An Artist’s Journey Along the Trail of Tears, Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, Morning After Grace, The Watsons Go to Birmingham—1963, Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express, The Paper Dreams of Harry Chin, and Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility.
INclusion Series packages, season ticket packages, and single tickets are available online at irtlive.com or by calling the Ticket Office at 317.635.5252.
ABOUT THE IRT
Founded in 1971, the Indiana Repertory Theatre (IRT) is the largest professional not-for-profit theatre in the state and one of the leading regional theatres in the country. The mission of the Indiana Repertory Theatre is to produce top-quality, professional theatre and related activities, providing experiences that will engage, surprise, challenge, and entertain people throughout their lifetimes, helping us build a vital and vibrant community.
POINTS OF VIEW
BY JAMES STILL, DIRECTOR
More than 60 years after its early versions (first as a one-hour live television drama, then as a feature-length Hollywood film), Reginald Rose’s Twelve Angry Men continues to make its case for relevance because it is at once simple and straight-forward while also complex and high-stakes. In contemporary popular culture, we see endless stories about the justice system, but almost exclusively through the lenses of lawyers and judges. I’m interested in the ways that twelve citizens who were previously unknown to one another are expected to work through their biases and heated disagreements and come to a unanimous decision based on the facts available to them. Of course, it turns out that “facts” may be subjective, which is one of the many layers of misunderstandings explored in the play. But the idea that twelve citizens (angry or not) can put aside differences to fulfill their civic duty—that is democracy at its most idealistic and personal. It’s also a profound reminder about ways that the American experiment is flawed, rigorous, and steeped in responsibility.
Empathetically, the play offers us an opportunity to experience the messy process of being on a jury, which can arguably be a microcosm of a community (or country) in deep disagreement about … everything. The exploration of point of view is one of the things that draws me to this play. There are twelve points of view, and they are mostly at odds with one another. Alliances shift, votes are changed, and maybe even some minds are changed in the process. In my collaboration with the design team, I wanted to find a way to feature point of view as both metaphor and function. That idea will, I hope, make more sense after you’ve seen our production and experienced how point of view can also change visually from wherever you’re sitting in the theatre.
Something else that I’m thinking about as director of this play is the word “angry.” The title of the play isn’t Twelve Anguished Men or Twelve Irritated Men or even Twelve Vengeful Men. So what are these twelve jurors angry about? And does “angry” mean the same thing in 2019 as it did in 1957? Perhaps the feeling is the same, but the many ways we talk about it now, the range of ways anger is expressed—that feels different. The anger of 1957 seems less direct but strangely more obvious. There is a kind of code to some of the anger explored and expressed in the play. This is one of the ways that makes the play firmly of its time, of its period. Looking at this play in 2019, there’s opportunity for us to experience the many ways class and race can so easily divide a group of people. The conversations we have today may be different in terms of the language we use and a growing consciousness about the legacy of injustice, but there are versions of the play’s many heated conversations still happening today, every day.
There have been essays and articles written (even by fans of the play and movie) that the jury in Twelve Angry Men gets it wrong. That’s a conversation that interests me, too. But in the end I find myself most satisfied by watching how the play examines process rather than outcome. The ending, when it comes, comes quickly. The twelve jurors leave, their civic duty completed. They leave never knowing each other’s names. But in some ways these jurors might profoundly know more about one another than some of the people they call friends.
The IRT produces top-quality, professional theatre that engages, surprises, challenges and entertains people throughout their lifetimes, helping to build a vital and vibrant community.
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