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BWW Interview: Jake Nice of SLIDE BY at AT&T Performing Arts Center Elevator Project

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BWW Interview: Jake Nice of SLIDE BY at AT&T Performing Arts Center Elevator Project Two local DFW artists are coming together in AT&T Performing Arts Center's next show in the Elevator Project lineup. Slide By is a play written by our very own Thomas Ward and produced and directed by Elevator Project alum, Jake Nice.

Slide By is a dark, satirical comedy set a week after the Columbine shootings in Chad Squire's (the main character) old high school where he is substitute teaching. Learning that there has been a threat to the school, he finds most teachers have stayed home, and those that haven't are probably armed. With the help of his old friend, Dave and a new substitute Susan, Chad tries to get through the day while also dealing with some anger still lingering at a former mentor still working at the school. The scariest part of the story is Chad's troubling admiration for the Columbine shooter.

Nice and Ward have worked together before in the DFW theatre community. They made a connection in previous productions and even talked about difficult topics such as toxic masculinity and white privilege and how it affects our society today. Once Ward wrote Slide By, he wanted Nice to direct. I asked Nice how difficult it was to direct a show that deals with this difficult subject matter in this current political climate. "I feel like it's useful to look back in history, at least in the case of the Columbine shooting, and be able to ask 'What was the zeitgeist?' Seeing hopelessness on the rise for students today because their schools are becoming more unsafe is troubling. And this play deals with that."

You would think that this play with it's heavy and dark material would be a drama, but Ward chose the play to be a satirical comedy. Where it can be so easy to poke at shooter stereotypes to make it funny, Nice says Ward leans away from that. "Thomas Ward approaches each character with compassion. They are going through a constricting time and are dealing with confining school policies of a changing environment." He continues by saying, "It's easy to alienate yourself from the perpetrator of mass violence. But Ward asks the audience, 'What are we missing? Can we understand this person?' That's really what we tried to communicate to the actors throughout this process and approach this with compassion." Scenic designer Justin Locklear scenic design sets the play in a high school gymnasium elevating the sense of danger by all being in one room together. Locklear has also performed in early readings of the play and was integral to the process.

I asked Nice how important programs like the Elevator Project are to our local community. "Up until 2018, when I pitched We're Gonna Die by Young Jean Lee, there were very few individuals using the Elevator Project to produce shows. It was me and Adam Adolfo that year that produced as individuals. Most of the time it's small up and coming theaters without a space. Resources are limited as an independent producer and without the help of the Elevator Project, I wouldn't have half the resources to produce this important show." He gives a lot of credit to Amanda West, Director of Production at AT&T Performing Arts Center for being such a blessing to the process and offering brilliant ideas to lighting design and production.

What does Nice want audience members to know when they see this production? "Come in with an open mind. Have a shared experience with fellow audience members. With it being a comedy, laughter is the best medicine to be able to digest this difficult subject matter."

Come and support a locally written and locally produced work, Slide By at the AT&T Performing Arts Center. The production opens January 16 through the 26 in the Studio Theatre. You can buy your tickets here.


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