Play challenges on social issues
Malcolm Rothman (from left), Richard Shavzin, Brian Rooney, Dorcas Sowunmi in “Defamation.” | Photo by Michael Brosilow.
Oak Park Temple, 1235 N. Harlem Ave., Oak Park
4 p.m. Oct. 28
Information: (708) 386-3937
People don’t often sit down and contemplate issues of discrimination and racism, let alone talk about them.
The play “Defamation,” written by Todd Logan of Evanston, is designed to remedy that.
And talk people will since the play, a courtroom drama, requires the audience to deliberate with one another and declare a winner of the trial.
“I love that the show can potentially challenge anyone’s preconceptions about race, religion, class ... the constructs that are at the core of who we are and touch our lives every day,” Richard Shavzin, director of “Defamation” said in an email. This year, in addition to directing the show, Shavzin, of Chicago, also plays the lead male role of Arthur Golden, a wealthy business man living in Winnetka.
“Defamation” a show about race, religion and class, has begun its third season in productions at variety of venues such as high schools, houses of worship, community centers, and libraries. Many of the shows are open to the public.
The premise is a trial that involves the fictional defendant Arthur Golden, a real estate developer from Winnetka, and the fictional plaintiff Regina Wade, the owner of a small design firm on Chicago’s South Side. Wade files a defamation lawsuit against Golden, claiming that he tarnished her reputation after accusing her of stealing a watch during a business meeting at his home.
The show consists of 75 minutes of testimony touching on a host of issues — class, segregation, religious and racial discrimination — before in a unique twist, the actor playing the judge tells the audience he is not going to adjudicate the matter and it will be up to them to decide who wins the trial.
“What makes the play important is not so much anything in the play itself, but rather its effect on an audience,” Shavzin explained. “If one audience member sees a play and opens his or her mind to a new idea, or rethinks an old one — that’s what makes a play or any work of art important.”
Logan, 58, is a humor writer and filmmaker as well as a playwright, and also lived in Winnetka for many years. He said that while writing the play he wondered how it was going to end until finally realizing that, “I did not have to have that answer, that the audience could decide that.”
The seed for the show was first planted seven years ago after Logan attended a play reading with a friend and fellow playwright. After the reading, they went out for drinks with some of the cast. Three of the people joining them that night were African American. Logan noticed at the time that he could not remember the last time he had socialized with African Americans.
The experience began a process of self-examination, he said.
“When I went home that night, I started asking myself questions, ‘how did it come to pass that in spite of my personal views on civil rights, civil liberties and my political views that are progressive, how did I end up back on the North Shore in a town whose racial makeup has changed very little since I left the North Shore in 1971 to go to college?’ ”
He said he hopes to generate conversation among audience participants, “because I believe conversation can lead to greater empathy and tolerance and understanding.”~.
Information on booking the show is available at DefamationThePlay.com. ~