Places, Everyone

4/15/2021

"Pipeline" - Nya

Ep. 30
This episode is one of two classroom interviews with 11th grade students at Shalhevet high school in Los Angeles, CA. As part of the Exploring Black Narratives program, we studied Dominique Morisseau's play "Pipeline" and interviewed actors who starred in productions around the US. Today's interview is with Andrea Harris Smith who played Nya at the Studio Theatre production of "Pipeline" in Washington, D.C.Pipeline centers on a public high school teacher named Nya whose own teenage son, Omari, attends a private boarding school. Nya’s ex-husband Xavier, Omari’s dad, believes that the private school will give Omari the best education though it’s a distance from his home and Omari would be one of the only Black students in his classes. At the start of the play, Nya calls Xavier with the news that Omari has gotten into an altercation with his teacher. The teacher had pressured him to talk about Richard Wright’s novel Native Son as though Omari were the representative to speak about Black characters. Feeling increasingly cornered by the teacher, Omari physically pushed back and winds up suspended and at risk of being arrested. Nya worries that the school administrators will see Omari’s appearance and respond harshly, channeling him into the school-to-prison pipeline. While Nya is confident in her role as a teacher, she feels inadequate as a parent trying to protect her son.If you'd like to learn more about Exploring Black Narratives, here is an article about the program that I wrote for American Theatre magazine: https://www.americantheatre.org/2021/03/19/the-familiar-and-the-new-teaching-black-plays-in-jewish-high-schools/
4/15/2021

"Pipeline" - Jasmine

Ep. 29
This episode is one of two classroom interviews with 11th grade students at Shalhevet high school in Los Angeles, CA. As part of the Exploring Black Narratives program, we studied Dominique Morisseau's play "Pipeline" and interviewed actors who starred in productions around the US. Today's interview is with Heather Velazquez who played Jasmine at the world-premiere production of "Pipeline" in 2017 at Lincoln Center Theatre in New York.Pipeline centers on a public high school teacher named Nya whose own teenage son, Omari, attends a private boarding school. Omari and his girlfriend Jasmine are among the only students of color at their school. When we meet them, Omari is about to leave school. He has been suspended after an incident in class in which his white teacher singled him out repeatedly as a Black student and Omari physically pushed back. Jasmine is understandably worried about the consequences for Omari. And because she’s in love with him, her desire to shield him is wrapped up in her need to keep him around. While Jasmine and Omari’s relationship is intense, Jasmine’s presence onstage is filled with humor. She’s tough-talking but uncertain. And though she’s onstage only a short amount of time, she’s an unforgettable character.If you'd like to learn more about Exploring Black Narratives, here is an article about the program that I wrote for American Theatre magazine: https://www.americantheatre.org/2021/03/19/the-familiar-and-the-new-teaching-black-plays-in-jewish-high-schools/
1/13/2021

The Power of Speech

Ep. 28
In Will Arbery’s play Heroes of the Fourth Turning, which was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize last year, a group of 20-something friends, all of whom are Catholic and politically conservative, gather for a party to toast their college professor who has become the president of their Catholic university. One of these friends is a young woman named Theresa whose right-wing views cross into alt-right territory. When I watched this play, I found the character of Theresa fascinating, particularly the way she wields speech and language to assert her political views. I agree with almost nothing she says, but her love of debate is thrilling to behold, and her confidence is magnetic. Much of that is due to the actress playing her. Zoë Winters, my guest this episode, starred in Heroes of the Fourth Turning in its world premiere production at Playwrights Horizons and reprised the role for a virtual performance during COVID that happened live on zoom. It was a remarkable difference from the last time I saw Zoë perform, which was in Bess Wohl’s play, Small Mouth Sounds – set at a silent retreat where Zoë’s character Alicia spends the play attempting to withhold her speech. Both plays are about seeking a deeper truth either by speaking out or by being silent. In Heroes, the gateway to truth is vociferous discussion of religion and politics, while in Small Mouth Sounds the gateway is silent reflection. Zoë has performed in numerous roles on stage and screen, so it was a real delight to delve into two of her performances and examine their points of comparison around the power of speech. https://www.zoewinters.com/