The Challenges of ‘Race’

Race by David Mamet, the Omaha Playhouse’s latest production in the Howard Drew Theatre, presented plenty of challenges for director Amy Lane and cast.

Lane’s Husband, an attorney in Omaha, provided some interesting legal perspective for the actors going into rehearsals.

“There’s a lot of legal aspects of the play that he came in and was very helpful in discussing with the actors. But mostly, he talked about thinking like a lawyer,” Lane said. “That changed a lot of how we looked at different scenes. Thinking about it as an actor was different than thinking about why they would be bringing up certain topics and strategizing all the way throughout. That was really fun.”

The design of the show was very simplistic. Race is a very minimal play. There’s only one setting with very few light and sound cues. The focus, Lane said, is clearly on the actors, on the dialogue, and on the plot.

“We wanted the focus to be on this discussion and dialogue of these hot button topics,” Lane said. “It’s very minimal but very realistic. It was fun to create it. Everybody here at the Playhouse has said that when the show is done they want that office to be theirs!”

One of the challenges in rehearsal for the actors was tackling the dialogue known throughout the theatre world as ‘Mamet-Speak’. David Mamet is known for having a very unique writing style that involves lots of repetition, short sentences, constant interruption, and a very distinct use of punctuation. Lane described it as a ‘jazz of literature’.

“It is, in some ways, like learning how to speak another language,” she said.

Lane also said that the issues brought up in the show raise needed questions and conversations not only in the theatre world, but in Omaha and the nation at large.

“In American theatre right now, the question of diversity is huge,” Lane said. “There’s more and more writers of color bringing their own voice to the scene which is very important. Of course, many of those writers are asking for roles that have actors of color. This is something that, especially in the American theatre scene, is happening a lot. And here is David Mamet, a white man, giving his take on this conversation. What is happening with our nation in regards to race and prejudice? What do we feel about it?”

Race runs through June 8th at the Omaha Community Playhouse.

Cold Cream looks at theater in the metro area. Email information to coldcream@thereader.com

posted at 01:48 pm
on Monday, May 12th, 2014

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