New Performance Company Tackles Race Politics in ‘White People’

From left, Andrew Kelly, Josh Webb and Sarah Geesaman get tough conversations going in an independent local production of J. T. Rogers’ play, “White People.”

When a group of Loudoun twenty-somethings embarked on some tough discussions about race, they decided to bring the conversation to the broader community.

The result is a new, limited-run local production of New York-based playwright J.T. Rogers’ play, “White People,” that tackles issues of racism—both subconscious and overt—and is designed to get audience members talking about their own assumptions. Performances run May 4 and 6 at StageCoach Theatre Company in Ashburn.

“At the heart of the topic of race politics is a lot of assumptions,” said the show’s 22-year-old director and co-star Josh Webb. “I’ve been asked why I’m doing this play because it seems like it’s just criticizing white Americans. To me, having read the script, it’s not that at all. It’s about acknowledging that we all have assumptions that we make about other people.”

The show’s producers are a group of young people from mostly conservative backgrounds who had their own assumptions challenged by the play, said the show’s marketing director Andrew Carleton.

“The production itself was really organically developed,” Carleton said. “It almost got together as kind of a book club and some of the conversations were really challenging and we wanted to share that with our community.”

The show is independently produced in collaboration with StageCoach, which is providing the venue. And while the show’s three stars are current or former students at Purcellville’s Patrick Henry College, there’s no official tie to the school.

The play, which premiered off-Broadway in 2009, is built on three detached but interspersed monologues from characters wrestling with guilt and prejudice and is a definite departure from the usual suburban community theater fare—which tends to focus on family-oriented musicals. StageCoach’s new space in old Ashburn offers an intimate venue for the sometimes funny, sometimes uncomfortable and definitely not kid-friendly material.

Webb plays Alan, a well-intended liberal New York professor whose biases are revealed in his fixation with a bright African-American student, and who reaches a boiling…

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