Phoenix Theatre presents
By Branden Jacobs-Jenkins
“an exceptionally brilliant piece of writing.” —Time Out Chicago.
Phoenix Theatre, the Sheldon’s resident community theatre company, presents the 2015 Obie Award winning “Best New American Play,” Appropriate. Every estranged member of the Lafayette clan has descended upon the crumbling Arkansas homestead to settle the accounts of the newly-dead patriarch. As his three adult children sort through a lifetime of hoarded mementos and junk, they collide over clutter, debt, and a contentious family history. But after a disturbing discovery surfaces among their father’s possessions, the reunion takes a turn for the explosive, unleashing a series of crackling surprises and confrontations.
There will be a post-show discussion co-presented by the Human Rights Commission after Saturday and Sunday’s performances.
Mature content advisory: this play contains strong language, dramatized family conflict including a physical fight, and subject matter related to sexual crimes and racially motivated hate crimes. Content may be offensive to some, and discretion is advised. Not recommended for those under age 15.
Appropriate is presented by special arrangement with Dramatists Play Service, Inc., New York
Other resources for more information
The majority of the following resources were gathered by Curious Theatre Company, and are reproduced here from their website at www.curioustheatre.org/event/appropriate. The Phoenix Theatre team utilized this resource guide as a jumping off point for our own research on Appropriate, and we invite the local community to utilize it as well.
Play and the Playwright
• MacArthur Foundation Fellows Program. Short video of Jacobs-Jenkins discussing his work, plus biographical information, and links to information on the artist’s most recent work. Available here.
• Spotlight shines brighter on ‘Appropriate’ playwright Branden Jacobs-Jenkins by LA Times. Branden Jacobs-Jenkins discusses his writing style, influences, and musings on Appropriate. Full article here.
• Playwright Branden Jacobs-Jenkins Broaches Race and Family in Appropriate at the Signature Theater by Vogue. I play with the visual nature of race and how it works in a theater space or any kind of storytelling place. One of my initial impulses was to ask how invisible can I make it, while still obviously charging the room. . . . When I read all the plays that I “stole” from, they were always about race or identity in a specific way, but they were never talked about as such. – Branden Jacobs-Jenkins” Full article here.
• ‘Appropriate’ unearths ugly family dynamics in epic dramatic fashion by LA Times Reviewer Charles McNulty. “But the history that has been banished to the periphery is more restive than usual. The unmarked slave cemetery on the property, overlooked by family members during annual summer visits, begins to haunt them after a photo album containing pictures and postcards of lynchings is discovered.” Full review here.
• A Squabbling Family Kept in the Dark by New York Times Reviewer Ben Brantley. Brantley praises Jacobs-Jenkins for his ability to subvert tried and true tactics of American Theater in his plays. Full review here.
• Branden Jacobs-Jenkins from the Heart by the New Yorker. This article from the New Yorker tackles Branden Jacobs- Jenkins’s history in the theater, as well as his failures and successes in capturing “a three-hundred-year history of black people in the theatre”. Full article here.
America’s Racial Legacy
• Video from HBO’s Last Week Tonight with John Oliver on the Confederacy and how we memorialize it in America. Watch here.
• Fighting White Supremacy Means Owning Up to American History by The Nation. “America’s putrid racism has often been cloaked by depictions intended to make it seem respectable.” Full article here.
• A Noose at the Smithsonian Brings History Back to Life by the New York Times. “The person who recently left a noose at the National Museum of African American History and Culture clearly intended to intimidate, by deploying one of the most feared symbols in American racial history. Instead, the vandal unintentionally offered a contemporary reminder of one theme of the black experience in America: We continue to believe in the potential of a country that has not always believed in us, and we do this against incredible odds.” Full article here.
• America’s Complicated History with its Confederate Past from CNN:”White Southerners had told themselves a story in which slavery did not play a leading role,” Edward Ayers, a historian and former president of the University of Richmond in Virginia, told PBS’ Newshour. “The story was that men like Robert E. Lee had risen up to fight against a tyrannical federal government that was trying to take away the rights of the states.” – Full Story
• We should treat Confederate monuments the way Moscow and Budapest have treated communist statues by Washington Post. “Perhaps we’re too accustomed to it to notice the absurdity, but it is unquestionably absurd: Each day, thousands of black, shackled defendants appear before judges in courthouses guarded by memorials to a cause that believed those defendants’ ancestors were little more than livestock.” – Full article here.
• Who are White Nationalists and What do They Want? by CNN. “The term white nationalism originated as a euphemism for white supremacy, the belief that white people are superior to all other races and should therefore dominate society, according to Oren Segal, director of the Anti-Defamation League Center on Extremism.” – Full article here.
• Lynching Photographs, by Dora Apel. A book about the history of lynching photography in America and how our morbid fascination promotes racial violence. Available here.
• Torture Culture: Lynching Photographs and the Images of Abu Ghraib is a scholarly article by Dora Apel that addresses the shocking similarities between historic lynching photographs and the torture photos that emerged from Iraq in the War on Terror. This article also has an interesting connection to Body of An American, the next show in the Curious ’17-’18 Season. Full article here.
• Slaves Forgotten Burial Sites, Marked Online by the New York Times. A recent project to find and document all forgotten slave cemeteries in an effort to stop building over these historical monuments is discussed here. Full article here.
White Fragility and Racial Bias Today
• The Sugarcoated Language of White Fragility – HuffPost, Anna Kegler
• I, Racist – Those People, John Metta
• How I talk to white people about racism – The Daily Dot, Clay Rivers
• White Debt – New York Times, Eula Biss
• When Whites Just Don’t Get It, Part 6 – New York Times, Nicholas Kristof
• White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack – Peggy McIntosh
• The Case for Reparations – The Atlantic, Ta-Nehisi Coates
• Money, Race and Success: How Your School District Compares – New York Times, Motoko Rich, Amanda Cox, and Matthew Bloch
• Ten Ways to Combat Hate – Southern Poverty Law Center