BWW Interviews: Black Lab Theatre's Cast of THE SUBMISSION Talks Race, Sexuality, Civil Rights, and Language

As temperatures dropped on January 2, 2013, I sat down with Jordan Jaffe, Ross Bautsch, Matt Benton, Candice D'Meza, and Darcy Cadman to discuss Black Lab Theatre's upcoming production of Jeff Talbot's controversial and comedic drama, THE SUBMISSION. The Off-Broadway gem took New York City by storm when it opened in September 2012. Jordan Jaffe and his talented, intellectual, and young Houston cast are ready to affect Houston audiences in many of the same ways that the New York production affected its audiences. Prior to a rehearsal, I met with Jordan Jaffe and his cast at Frenetic Theatre on Navigation. The venue is known for not having central air or heat, so we huddled close together and relied on keen, intellectual observations about the play, race, sexuality, civil rights, and language to keep us warm.

Me: How did you decide to produce THE SUBMISSION?

Jordan Jaffe: I saw the play when I was in New York last fall. I left the theatre, and I just thought to myself, "I'm going to do this play." I just loved it. I thought it would really be a great play to do here. So, it was just love at first sight. I knew I was going to do it.

Me: In your own words, what is THE SUBMISSION about?

[The cast looks around at each other. Candice D'Meza laughs.]

Ross Bautsch: Well, at its base, it's about a guy who writes a play. He puts a ghost name on it. He thinks it's going to help it get produced. It's about a Black family trying to escape the projects. He puts it on. He hires Emilie [played by Canice D'Meza] to be his stand-in. And, basically, the pit falls of that. What ends up happening with that is all these crazy problems start arising, and all these questions about race and gender politics are kind of brought up and they all bubble forth. So, it's about how these characters deal with that and what they discover along the way.

Matt Benton: I think THE SUBMISSION is a story about stories; who's story holds more weight in their own eyes and in the other person's eyes. It's about conflicts of interest. I think there's a lot of pride in THE SUBMISSION too.

Candice D'Meza: For me, personally, I think it's about all of the unchecked biases that we have that we don't really realize in this Obama America. I think especially-what are we Generation X? [Jordan Jaffe nods yes.] Generation X and Y, we tend to think that we're so much more open than our parents and grandparents, and haven't realized there's still a long way to go.

Darcy Cadman: And, I would finish by saying that it's somewhat about need. Sort of, need versus...[Pauses]...want, and kind of how those play up against each other. What's seemingly needed or what's wanted just for one's self in some ways.

Jordan Jaffe: I also like this particular play for Houston in that we have one of the strongest gay communities in the country. I think this play brings to light a lot of issues between two communities, the gay community and the African-American community, that we might not think about necessarily, unless it's kind of brought to our attention. But there are some pretty deep tensions there within these kind of two civil rights movements, especially when you think about what's going on with gay marriage now. There's just a lot of tension all around.

Me: On a personal level, how does THE SUBMISSION speak to you? What does it mean to you?

Candice D'Meza: That's pretty complicated. I think...[Pauses][Pauses]. As a Black woman, and I have a lot of friends and relatives that are a part of the gay community as well, I think it puts me-it's like an interesting juxtaposition for me to be part of two communities, and some pockets of these communities are at odds with each other. That is highlighted in the play, but, for me, personally, it's nice to do something that kind of increases awareness because that's where I live. You know, the two communities are mixed. My sister is a Black, gay woman. So, I think it's important to highlight the positive relationship between the two communities. I'm glad to be a part of something that's really going to leave the audience with a lot to consider on both ends-racially, as far as gender, and as far as sexuality. So, I'm very proud to be a part of it. I really support the overall message.

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David Clarke David Clarke has had a lifelong love and passion for the performing arts, and has been writing about theatre both locally and nationally for years. He joined running their Houston site in early 2012 and began writing as the site's official theatre recording critic in June of 2013.

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