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YOU TALK WHITE Will Be Performed by Open Book Theatre Company Beginning This Weekend

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You Talk White, a new play by Craig Ester, will be offered  August 13th  – September 17th.

YOU TALK WHITE Will Be Performed by Open Book Theatre Company Beginning This Weekend

Play is a powerful means for learning and growth. Friendships and neighborhood bonds are often formed in driveways with conversation, creativity, and competition, and it's no different with You Talk White, the latest Driveway Theatre offering from Trenton's Open Book Theatre.

The play starts when 12 year old Bell, jumping rope in her driveway, is interrupted by her new neighbor Des running in with a stick sword playing his own game. "You're loud," Bell says. Des is not just the new kid on the block and in school, but he's the only white kid. At first it seems that Bell (played by Bréon Canady) and Des (Joe Gaskill) have too many differences. But Des convinces Bell to play with him, and through their games and conversation they learn a lot about each other, realizing they may not be so different after all.

The play is 30 minutes, and as part of the Open Book Theatre's Driveway Theatre series is designed to tour the metro Detroit area to be played in, you guessed it, driveways! It can also work in parking lots, parks, backyards, and more.

Playwright Craig Ester said "The challenge in writing the show has been time. We have to make the audience fall in love with our characters, and believe their relationship in thirty minutes or less. It was in the discovery that the show should be set on the cusp of our character's teenage years that it began to come alive. When we're kids the joy of play connects us, despite our differences. Hopefully we fall in love with Des and Bell because their games take us back to that time in our lives where we're most open to change, and excited for the prospect of our future."

"I hope that everyone takes away that the art of play is truly transformative," Canady adds. "It breaks down more barriers than we think. It can show you a new world, make you a new friend, or even find you your first middle school 'relationship.' All by simply by playing with someone."

The show is high energy, funny, and sweet, while still addressing many important issues around race. "It's my hope that people see these relatable characters and reflect upon their own inherently biased opinions and feelings," said director K Edmonds. "We all have them, although we hate to admit it." The show deals with issues of race and stereotypes through Bell and Des. "I hope the audience gains understanding that race SHOULD be talked about to all ages. I don't think anyone is ever too young to discuss race because it is engrained in our American culture," Canady said.

The title of the play comes from a story Bell shares about moving to her neighborhood and feeling ostracized when her new friends tell her "you talk white." Edmonds shared that she had a similar experience as a child. "I have been the only person of my race in many places growing up. I have been accused of "talking white", I have been made to feel different and that I have to 'code switch' or change how I talk to be accepted. My mother had the same issues growing up. Perhaps my daughter won't have to experience these things. Perhaps this show will help."

Canady said she relates to her character's struggle. "Bell and I share a lot of the same feelings about craving genuine connection. Bell is willing to do it at whatever cost. That's what puberty will do to you. I, too, changed the way I presented myself when I was younger," she said. "I really understand Bell's desire to fit in. It's natural for anyone at her age. Well, any age actually. I like to think of myself as an adult version of Bell who found self love and acceptance in who she is over time. What I know now is that my blackness is valid. That all forms of blackness are valid. However it appears it is certainly worthy, acceptable, and does not need to be changed." Gaskill also finds connection with his character, saying "Des reminds me a lot of when I was 12 years old. I was the gangly non athletic kid that mostly kept to himself and was bullied a few times because of my interests, being a nerd, or for just being 'weird.'"

"This show fits perfectly into the mission of Open Book: to promote connection through theatrical storytelling" said Artistic Director Krista Schafer Ewbank. Driveway theatre was created last summer as a way to bring theatre out into the community during COVID, and "we found that it truly helps create connection in the communities where people already live, work, and gather. Bringing people together for a fun show that also gets them talking about race, belonging, and community is harnessing the power of play, which is what theatre is, for true community building."

There's another fun connection in this production: the director and playwright grew up in church together. "I know his family well," said director Edmonds of playwright Ester. "His voice in this piece amazes me. It's well written and relatable to many people. It's interesting to see this kid I used to watch in the church nursery become this power house playwright!"

The show is available to come to you, and can be performed on a driveway, in a park, in a parking lot, "really any outdoor space with a flat surface" says Schafer Ewbank. It's only $100 to bring a 30 minute show to a community Downriver, with additional fees for traveling a bit farther afield. The theatre will also put out a donation bucket. "We want to make it affordable for groups of all size, but also pay our artists and help keep our theatre afloat."

"The challenge of writing a Driveway Theatre show is finding creative solutions to problems you wouldn't have in an indoor theatre setting. The structure of two actors and a box, with limited props, and thirty minutes means that the playwright is only limited by their imagination. For me the answer to these problems was digging into the imagination of our characters," Ester said. "Bell and Des have the power to turn a driveway into a volcano, a battlefield, or a racetrack because of their big hearts, and their even bigger creativity. While the structure might seem constricting, what it actually inspires is a fun playground for storytellers to play in." Likewise, hosts and audiences have the opportunity to imagine new ways of bringing together their community to experience live theatre, have a good time, and talk about issues. All though the power of play.

You Talk White, a new play by Craig Ester, will be offered August 13th - September 17th. Bell's been able to ignore the only white kid in the neighborhood - until Des shows up in her driveway wielding a toy sword. Through the banter and play of childhood they consider how they might be friends despite their differences. The show features Bréon Canady and Joe Gaskill and is directed by K Edmonds.

Off Book at Open Book, a completely improvised show, is also available all summer.


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