Writing a World Premiere
"Adventurous theater in Astoria"

-- The New York Times

Writing a World Premiere

By Cheryl L. Davis

 Cheryl L. Davis

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Cheryl L. Davis

I wrote Carefully Taught some years ago, when a director friend learned about a theater with a dark weekend in between productions. I’d already been kicking around the idea – but now there was a space and a deadline, so it was time to go to work.  The White and African-American teachers were already clear in my mind, but the trans-racial casting of the daughters sprang from an encounter with a young White woman, who in an attempt to jovially bond with me, came up to me and said “Yo yo, Cheryl!” and threw her arms into a rapper pose.  I was surprised, and after that noted that there were a number of  “wankstas” out there.  Once the idea for “Lot” came to me, “Valerie” flowed from my own experiences growing up when I was occasionally accused of “sounding White”, or better yet, “acting White.” After that, Cindy/Cie was inspired by a number of Asian-American newscasters, and Michael/Senator just made perfect sense as two sides of an opposing coin.  When the role of the media started to grow in the script, the Rev. Mornow just seemed to follow naturally (and I’ll admit, that bit of casting tickles me quite a lot.)

I set the play aside and had pretty much forgotten about it until Dev Bondarin became the Artistic Director of APAC and asked if I had anything that she could include in her new reading series.  I dug Carefully Taught out, and looked at the world around me.  A world where claims of “reverse discrimination” are still being made, where racial tension (especially in schools) has only heightened. The transracial casting seems even more apropos now that accusations of “cultural appropriation” are common, and you probably saw some of that this past Halloween, where “Indians” and “Mexicans” merrily partied with each other. (And did you see the picture of the young White boy dressed as Malcolm X that went viral?) Turn on your radios and listen to Iggy Azalea and Macklemore – and then watch the videos and see the pale faces that go with their raps. Watch Beyonce swinging her long blonde tresses, and just try and get a ticket to the hottest ticket on Broadway, which features African-American, Latino, and other actors of color rapping America’s Founding Fathers. This is the world of Carefully Taught. We hope you enjoy it – because it’s the one you already live in.

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