Tuesday, September 20, 2011

"The Submission" Left Me Conversation Less

The Submission by Jeff Talbott

I was intrigued by Jeff Talbott’s The Submission. The MCC play is directed by Walter Bobbie, and Rutina Wesley, who I watch each Sunday night on HBO’s True Blood, appears in it. But most of all, the plot seemed interesting. 

So, let’s get a bit into the plot. Danny, a white gay playwright encounters a group of young black kids on the subway. The black kids make disparaging and homophobic remarks to him and this inspires him to write a play about a black mother and her son living in the projects. The play just pours out of him and it is the best thing he has ever written. He submits the play to a festival, but in a self-limiting move, he submits it under a made up black female name - Shaleeha G'ntamobi's – because he thinks that no one will take a play written by a white male about the “ghetto” seriously. The play is well received and the festival decides to produce it and a famous black director takes on the project. Danny is now in a quandary so he hires a black woman to pretend to be the playwright and after it opens the plan is that they will reveal his true identify. Of course, this is not as simple as it sounds and drama ensues.

Last year, The Submission won the first ever Laurents/Hatcher Foundation Award for exploring “cultural authenticity in authorship”. But to me this play is not written or staged to explore authenticity in authorship. This play is about race, specifically relations between white people and black people and the explosive things SOME would like to say to each other. In an interview, the playwright – Nebraskan Jeff Talbott – says that he hopes that the play will start a conversation about what people have said or heard said. However, this black woman left a recent preview at the Lucille Lortel Theatre not in a very talkative mood - conversation less and hoping for more than explosive words.  

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