Cap and Bells’ ‘White People’ Challenges Social Intolerance
University administration to fund free SJU student tickets
Friday, February 12, 2010
Saint Joseph's University’s Cap and Bells Dramatic Arts Society will continue its 82nd season this month with J.T. Rogers’ dark comedy White People. The show opens Thursday, Feb. 18, at 8 p.m. in Bluett Theatre and runs through Sunday, Feb. 28.
The play, which premiered in Philadelphia in 2000, uses monologues to address issues of racism and xenophobia. The focus of the show is on three people: Martin, an attorney born in Brooklyn and working for a high-powered firm in St. Louis; Mara Lynn, a housewife and former homecoming queen in Fayetteville, N.C.; and Alan, a young professor struggling to find his way in New York City. The characters address the audience directly, telling stories about their experiences with people different from themselves. The confessions reveal hidden intolerance, unconscious racism and mistaken assumptions.
Laura Pattillo, Ph.D., assistant professor of English and director of the show, sees the production as an opportunity for the cast and the audience to consider their own biases. “Each of these characters has a moment in the show where they tell us the things that go on in their minds that they don’t dare say out loud,” she said. “It challenges you to look at whether you have similar unexpressed or unacknowledged thoughts.”
The fact that the characters in the show are ordinary people facilitates the connection between them and the audience. “This isn’t a play about the Klan,” Pattillo said. “It’s a play about your neighbor, or your dad, or your always politically correct professor, all of whom have prejudicial thoughts, whether they choose be conscious of them or not.”
The social message behind White People is so relevant to college students that the University is assuring that any Saint Joseph's student who wants to see the play will be able to do so for free. Through a partnership between the deans’ offices, Institutional Diversity and the Offices of Mission and Identity, Residence Life and Student Life, the administration is covering the cost of all tickets used by SJU students. In addition, faculty from disciplines across the University will lead panel discussions after most performances.
“We live in a world where it is extremely difficult to talk about race,” said Nancy Fox, Ph.D., associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. “The opportunity for all of our students to have the common experience of seeing this play will give them the context they need to continue the discussion about race on campus and across the country.”
“We live in a world where it is extremely difficult to talk about race,” said Nancy Fox, Ph.D., associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. “The opportunity for our students to have the common experience of seeing this play will provide them with the context to begin the discussion about race, both on campus and in our nation."
“It’s not a comfortable play to watch, and it’s not supposed to be,” Pattillo said. “It doesn’t offer any answers, but dares you to find your own.”
White People contains strong language, adult situations and descriptions of graphic violence, and is not suitable for children.
Performances run Thursday through Saturday, Feb. 18-20, and Friday and Saturday, Feb. 26 and 27 at 8 p.m., with a matinee on Sunday, Feb. 28 at 2 p.m. General admission is $16; employees and non-SJU students pay $9, and tickets for seniors are $5. Bluett Theatre is located in Post Hall at 56th St. & Overbrook Ave. For tickets, call 610-660-1181 or visit www.sju.edu/capandbells.