The latest from Austin’s spunky Jarrott Productions is an explosive discussion of race, history, privilege and social justice.
Described by The Washington Post as “a barnburner of a play… about who gets to tell the story of America, and how,” the latest from playwright Eleanor Burgess is directed for Austin’s Jarrott Productions by Jeremy Rashad Brown. “When I first read the script, I was uncomfortable and emotionally torn,” says Brown. “I knew that I had to take on this work for my own personal growth, introspection and oppositional understanding.”
Starring in this provocative new two-woman drama are Austin newcomer Jacqui Calloway and long-time Austin theater fixture Francesca Christian.
Zoe (played by Calloway), a black student at a liberal arts college, is called into her white professor’s office (Janene, played by Christian, in her second role with Jarrott Productions) to discuss her paper about slavery’s effect on the American Revolution. What begins as a polite clash in perspectives explodes into an urgent debate about race, history and power.
A multi-faceted a production such as The Niceties can speak to audiences in many different ways. As director Brown sees it, we are also living in a country and time where people who may share similar social, economic and justice goals simply do not listen to each other. “As a result, we become more divisive and siloed to the point of visceral complacency,” he says. “I am hoping that our audiences continue the conversations and dialogue outside the theatre, genuinely listening and making an attempt to understand one another.”
With its intimate performance space firmly denying the clichėd “everything’s bigger in Texas,” Jarrott Productions embraces an opposing truism—”quality not quantity”—with production values that rival the largest of its competitors.
Cover: The cast and director (center) of The Niceties: Francesca Christian (left), Jeremy Rashad Brown, Jacqui Calloway.
Photo courtesy Jarrott Productions
Julie Tereshchuk is the editor-in-chief of Texas Lifestyle Magazine.