WRESTLING WITH THE SYSTEM
BY JANET ALLEN, EXECUTIVE ARTISTIC DIRECTOR
We are delighted to introduce the force that is Dominique Morisseau to our Indiana audiences with this production of Pipeline. A native of Detroit, Ms. Morisseau has enriched our American dramatic literature landscape with a dozen wide-ranging plays that refract the American race experience with a sharp and insightful voice. When I saw Pipeline at Lincoln Center in the summer of 2017, I was literally breathless with the strength of the narrative, the clarion cry of the characters, and above all, the impact of the story itself. Her ability to capture so many pulsing human intersections in a swift 90 minutes without ever getting polemic was so vivid and timely that I couldn’t wait to make a production of this play for our Indiana audiences. The way she has created this piece of theatre makes it very hard to turn away, certainly harder than turning off the television or moving to another less disturbing news story on your feed. Her art causes the content—content we all share responsibility for—to make us wrestle with, and potentially question, our own assumptions about race and education.
What Morisseau does in this play is land the audience in the middle of some of America’s most important issues about young people, particularly young people of color: how do we educate them, how do we care for them, how do we protect them, how do we prepare them? Even these questions point to one of the problems the play identifies: in trying to create systems that will help children thrive, we reduce them to a population, a cohort, a group to be dealt with, rather than a unique set of individuals, each with his or her own unique challenges. The student in this play, Omari, is entirely himself, not just a construct of his time, his generation, his color, his economic status, his family background. And yet how often do we reduce children to statistics, to data points about graduation rates, test scores, college entrance access? Parents and teachers of all socio-economic positions and races battle with these concerns daily, trying to do the best they can for their students in a system that seems rigged for failure. These are some of the primal questions Morisseau raises in this breathtaking play.
It isn’t often that a play comes along with such a superb blend of craft and social content, a blend that impacts and informs us while staying true to itself and its art. And yet the layers of social issues that the play touches and enlightens are extraordinary: not only about education, but about friendship, about love, about economic class, about race, about institutions, about aging, about economic mobility, about family—the list could go on and on. What I hope above all is that we can’t stop thinking about it and talking about it, that the play penetrates our thinking and our emotional lives as no news story can, and that it helps us see, with greater clarity, how we are each a part of the social fabric that has such negative impact on this unique child.
To learn more about Pipeline and purchase tickets, please click here.
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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