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‘Stop and Think’…and Learn

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As different as black and white: playwright Jeff Talbott explores themes of racial division, equal opportunity, gender equality, and more in The Submission at Frenetic Theater.

‘The Submission’ inspires viewers to do all three.
by Donalevan Maines

Fighting words pop like grease off a frying pan in Jeff Talbott’s controversial “comic-drama” The Submission.

“It is the perfect post-2012 election play,” says Black Lab Theatre’s Jordan Jaffe, who is directing the show’s regional premiere at Frenetic Theater.

“My generation believes that they live in a post-racial, post-sexual politics world,” explains Jaffe, a recent college graduate, “but Talbott questions that cultural premise in a way that shocks the audience out of their seats.”

The Submission won best new play from the Outer Critics Circle Award, and the 2011 Laurents/Hatcher Award for The Submission’s recent off-Broadway production.

In Houston, Ross Bautsch is Danny Larson, a struggling white gay author who writes a gritty play about an alcoholic black mother and her card-shark son trying to get out of the Projects. However, to enter it in the country’s most prestigious new play festival, he creates the “affirmative action nom de plume” of Shaleeha G’ntamobi.

“My generation believes they live in a post-racial, post-sexual politics world.”—Jordan Jaffe, Black Lab Theatre

When the play gets accepted for a full production—the festival thinks it’s found the next Lorraine Hansberry, who wrote A Raisin in the Sun—Danny hires an African-American actress, Emilie, to impersonate the play’s purported author (G’ntamobi) at rehearsals.

What starts as a misguided deception becomes increasingly antagonistic as Emilie starts taking ownership of the play. She and Danny, along with his partner Pete and best friend Trevor, dissect words in Danny’s script and throw down a few of their own.

For example, “What is a Blony?” you ask. It’s a Tony, usually not for a leading role, that a black actor gets when the “win seems a little suspect,” explains Danny. “There are Blonys, Bloscars—you know…”

Emilie doesn’t like that. And she thinks that as a white guy, Danny doesn’t know anything about bigotry. How dare he compare being gay to her life as a black woman in America! (Has she never heard about Matthew Shepard?)

Matt Benton portrays Pete, Candice D’Meza costars as Emilie, and Darcy Cadman is Trevor in Black Lab Theatre’s production.

“We’re very excited to present this cutting-edge drama in Houston,” says Jaffe.

The Associated Press wrote, “The Submission is a raw, unsentimental play about race and gender that exposes the quiet prejudice and intolerance among even our most progressive thinkers. It is both uncomfortable and impossible to not watch…. As for Talbott, it’s a pleasure to see what he’s capable of.”

Backstage wrote, “Fearless, whip-smart, and hyper-articulate, Talbott’s incendiary political comedy-drama asks hard questions about our supposedly post-racial world…. The Submission is an important play. It makes you stop and think.”

What: The Submission
When: January 11–27
Where: Frenetic Theater,  5102 Navigation Blvd.
Tickets: $25, $20 seniors, $12 students
Info: blacklabtheatre.com or 713/515-4028

Donalevan Maines also writes about Tye Blue in this issue of OutSmart magazine.

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Don Maines

Donalevan Maines is a regular contributor to OutSmart Magazine.

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