Discovering Mamet's Race

Discovering Mamet's Race

Posted by: Goodman Theatre at 01/25/2012 03:13 PM

By Charlie O'Malley, Literary Intern

“When a white person asks a black person a question such as, ‘What is it like to be black?’ the black person knows that it is not a question as a means of inquiry and discovery, but a test for which the white person perceives a right or wrong answer of which that white person is presumed to be the judge. This it seems to me is the role that David Mamet has assumed as the author of Race, and his authority, ability and means to do so is not because of any scholarship or social practice that may give him any particular insights into issues of race, but because he is an entitled, privileged white male in contemporary American society whose name is David Mamet.”

So said Carlyle Brown, playwright, performer and author of Dartmoor Prison, presented in the Goodman’s 2011 New Stage Amplified Series, in a discussion on David Mamet’s play Race, moderated by the Florida Studio Theatre. Mamet’s play has created a firestorm of discussion since its 2009 New York premiere. The Goodman is very excited to bring the discussion to Chicago this winter, and if you haven't already you can buy tickets here.

Race tells the story of three lawyers, two of them African American and one of them white, who find themselves facing the task of defending a white man accused of raping a black woman. In an electrifying display of the tight plotting and rich dialogue for which he is renowned as a dramatist, he weaves a thorny web of suppositions, half-truths and ingrained biases. Mamet’s play begins a discussion on race but the play itself becomes both the discussion forum and the discussion topic at the same time, raising the question: can we talk about race and can we talk about talking about race?

In an article published in The New York Times about the play, Mamet wrote, “As a Jew, I will relate that there is nothing a non-Jew can say to a Jew on the subject of Jewishness that is not patronizing, upsetting or simply wrong. I assume the same holds true among African Americans.” These words are very closely paraphrased in Race by the character Susan. This is just the beginning of the paradoxical whirlwind of debate that the play creates.

Race begins performances tomorrow night! Directed by Goodman Resident Director Chuck Smith, and with a cast of Goodman favorites (Patrick Clear and Marc Grapey) and newcomers (Geoffrey Owen and Tamberla Perry), the Goodman’s production promises to challenge and question, and will be supported by a series of enrichment events, including an Artist Encounter discussion on January 18 ($5 general public, free for Subscribers and students) and CONTEXT event on February 6 (free, reservations required).

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