On Tuesday, Oct. 27 at 7:30 p.m., the much‐admired drama, “Race” will make its debut, sponsored by the department of communication and performance at ETSU.
This controversial story was written by screenwriter David Mamet and it will be directed by ETSU’s Herb Parker, associate professor of communication and performance.
“The play is about an alleged rape of an African American woman by a very wealthy powerful white man,” Parker said. “He has come to a law firm seeking representation for the potential trial and he’s chosen a particular law firm because it has two black partners.”
According to Parker, the accused perhaps he feels cynically and that this might present him in the best light if he can present African Americans defending him.
“From there, the entire play takes place in the conference room of the law firm,” Parker said. “While the attorneys are trying to put together this defense for him, a great many questions get asked about the issue of race in the United States of America.”
This includes the issue of women’s rights, possibly the issue of affirmative action, as well as the issue of what we think about race.
“Can black people be racists? Are white people racist? And is it possible to get past those things?” Parker asks.
During the course of the evening, you learn a great deal about the people in the conference room, as well as the potential defendant. Parker hopes that by the end there will be many questions raised from the play.
Another very important factor Parker wants anyone to know before seeing the play is that it contains rough language and adult themes.
Parker chose to put on this specific production for many reasons; in some ways it was a technical choice.
“This semester we’re also producing “Rent” the musical, which will play in the Bud Frank Theater beginning Nov. 19,” Parker said. “Since it’s [Rent] such a large cast and with such large production values, we wanted to do a smaller cast play, with smaller technical needs.”
In addition to Parker’s desire to challenge his students, as well as the audience, he chose this play for more than just technical reasons.
“It also gives them very meaty roles,” Parker said. “There is only four actors, every role is a great role. In addition to my desire to offer that, we did have technical needs in producing a smaller show.”
One of Parker’s favorite parts of being a director is exploring dramatic literature.
“It’s the opportunity to continue to work with actors, and to allow them to bring their unique talents and interpretations to the material as they work together, that’s a process that I’ve always loved,” Parker said. “Watching actors work, watching them make decisions and discoveries and grow in the process.”
According to Parker, his hope is that they [the audience] will have to take something away from this.
“I would say most of all it’s important to me that they ask questions of themselves. Ask questions maybe of ideas they had, maybe had never had, then continue with dialogue,” Parker said. “I would hope that the audience leaving would go have a cup of coffee and sit down and talk about the play.”
Although there are only four main actors, there is a lot more work to be done than just what you see on stage.
“My cast and my crew has done wonderful work during this entire process,” Parker said. “It really is a showcase for these four actors, and for this marvelous theatrical space that we really are using as a main stage for the first time.”
The play will be held in the Campus Center Building in studio room 205.
Michael Lee, whom has been acting his entire life, plays Charles, the defendant and one of the four starring roles, says that when he is looking into auditioning for a show, he doesn’t think you should ever go into that audition set on one specific role.
“I think it’s more important to do your best at the audition and the director will have faith in you in casting you in the part that’s right for you,” Lee said. “So as I went into the audition for “RACE,” I was very keen on doing my best.”
Lee made sure he did all the necessary research for the role before going into the audition. He has also been in four shows at ETSU in his time as a student, “Tradin’ Paint,” “Bald Soprano,” “Trojan Women,” and then “RACE” will be his fourth.
“I think my favorite scene is the opening of the third scene, where you basically have two lawyers confronting my character, Charles, on something he wrote when he was younger,” Lee said. “It was just a postcard, which to me seems so insignificant, and you realize how one simple decision can change your entire life course.”
According to Lee, his favorite aspect of being an actor is the ability to act in all areas of life.
“Most people go through their day to day as one person and one person only, Lee said. “But I have the fortunate task of being able to portray everybody.”
Tickets are $7 for students and $15 for general admission.
You can purchase tickets by visiting www.etsu.edu/theatre or by calling 439‐6511.