world cup adidas boots Kitchen Theatre kicks off season with ‘Smart People’
Play about race, prejudice opens Thursday in Ithaca
Starring in the Kitchen Theatre production of “Smart People” are, from left, Jake Lee Smith, Shannon Tyo, Folami Williams and Bryan Michael Wood.(Photo: Provided)The Kitchen Theatre Company opens its 2017 18 season this week with the regional premiere of “Smart People,” Lydia R. Diamond’s provocative play about whether our beliefs and prejudices are hard wired into our personalities, running Sept. 7 24.
Directed by Summer L. Williams, associate artistic director of Boston’s Company One Theatre, the play revolves around the intersecting lives of four Harvard intellectuals: a white neurophysicist, his Asian American girlfriend who’s a psychology professor, an African American surgical intern, and an African African woman who just earned her MFA in acting.
“Lydia’s approach to those topics comes from a place of wit, humor and levity,” said M. Bevin O’Gara,
the KTC’s new producing artistic director, who worked on the world premiere of the play when she was at Boston’s Huntington Theatre Company.
“So while the play puts you in some very uncomfortable places, what I like about it is that it jumps from something very uncomfortable to something that’s easy to laugh at to something that makes you question yourself for laughing at it. It’s that kind of emotional ride that I think is really exciting.”
The political climate in the country has changed over the past year, making “Smart People” especially timely.
“That’s one of the things that makes theater hard to program you have to do it so far in advance, it’s hard for it to be as immediate and necessary,” O’Gara said. “But what’s been so exciting is I started programming the new season in February. I picked this play early in the process, but the difference from when I picked in February, cast it in June and rehearsed it during the events in Charlottesville is vastly different. It feels even more vital now.
“Lydia has said, ‘I didn’t realize I was writing the play for this moment and not the one I was writing it in.’ It takes place in 2007 but there are aspects of it that feel so potent for this moment in general.
“One thing that has shifted is the desire, an awareness of how many of the conversations need to happen. And in many cases an attempt to start those conversations in this play illustrates how hard those conversations are, in a way that I hope will really excite the audience members to look to themselves and to each other to start digging that up.”
About the show
The ensemble cast of “Smart People” features Bryce Michael Wood (“King Lear” and “Spamalot” at Connecticut Repertory Theatre) as Jackson, Folami Williams (“Othello” at Classic Stage Company and “Concrete Orange” at the Guthrie Theater) as Valerie, Jake Lee Smith (“Buried Child” and “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” at NYU) as Brian, and Shannon Tyo (“Kentucky” at Ensemble Studio Theatre and “The White Snake” at The Old Globe) as Ginny.
This production will feature scenic and lighting design by Tyler M. Perry (“Clean Alternatives” and “Throw Pitchfork” at the Kitchen), costume design by Lisa Boquist (“Birds of East Africa” and “Precious Nonsense” at the Kitchen),
and projection and sound design by Rasean Davonte Johnson (“Cymbeline” at Yale Repertory Theatre and “You Got Older” at Steppenwolf Theatre).