Mamet’s “Race” is just one component of this year’s symposium, in which panel topics include racial backlash, Barack Obama’s presidency, the planned 2015 opening of the National Museum of African American History and Culture on the Mall and “transracial adoption and biracial identities.”
Panelists include Joy Zinoman, former artistic director of Studio Theatre; Michael Steele, MSNBC political analyst and the first African American chairman of the Republican National Committee; Kinshasha Holman Conwill, deputy director of the National Museum of African American History and Culture; and Jennifer Nelson, former producing director of African Continuum Theatre.
“Yes, we’ve got more African Americans working in the White House than ever before, and it’s a time to take stock and celebrate,” said Roth. “It’s extremely moving. But there are also troubling elements here that have to be discussed.” He pointed to the “cross-section of conservatives and liberals” on the panels and emphasized that “these are not ‘post-show’ discussions. These are public affairs conversations taking place parallel to the production of the play.”
“This decade has been a time where we’re hearing more playwrights from the African American community and women playwrights than ever before,” said Roth. “What hasn’t happened is the [kind of dialogue] where the white community is being asked to look at itself. That’s what this weekend is doing, in a way.”
All of the issues addressed by the panels “are things that have been murmured about,” said Roth. “But none of us have been participating in face-to-face conversations about this, and this is an opportunity to experience a play and . . . bring some very important thinkers and look at a series of subjects” pertaining to race in modern America.
Tickets to the panels can be purchased through the DCJCC Web site at washingtondcjcc.org. The Root is the program’s digital media sponsor.
“Race” runs through Mar. 17 at Theater J, 1529 16th St. NW, 800-494-8497, www.washingtondcjcc. org/center-for-arts/theater-j.