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Lab Theater producing Southwest Florida premiere of ‘Fairview’


The Laboratory Theater of Florida will present the Southwest Florida premiere of Jackie Sibblies Drury’s Pulitzer Prize winning play Fairview from August 3-20. Radical, conceptually bold, edgy and impactful, Fairview is not what it first appears to be.

Fairview features a sitcom-style family preparing for a birthday party. An unwelcome group of observers co-opts the story, disrupting the action in this sometimes surreal, often humorous and profoundly thought-provoking play that takes a hard look at societal constructs regarding race.

“This play is about the white gaze,” says Artistic Director Annette Trossbach. “Specifically, this play is about what it is like for this African-American family to be watched by, surveilled by, judged by this dominant white culture… and what that surveillance and observation does to the subject. How do these family members change their behavior once they understand that they are under constant scrutiny – and, bigger picture, who gets to define what is and is not acceptable in Black culture?”

The play opened Off Broadway at Soho Repertory Theatre in 2018. When it won the Pulitzer for Drama the ensuing April, the Pulitzer committee called the play “a hard-hitting drama that examines race in a highly conceptual, layered structure, ultimately bringing audiences into the actors’ community to face deep-seated prejudices.” 

Writing for New York Stage Review, Jesse Oxfeld described Fairview as “the play about race America needs now.”

Director Brett Marston whole-heartedly agrees.

“I directed this play because I felt it was very timely, and I believe as a culture we continually need to assess our belief systems and/or values,” Marston asserts. “I ultimately believe we need to be a fair and equitable world…and I think it is the responsibility of theater to allow audiences to learn, reflect, observe, and possibly influence. It is my hope that Fairview serves as a vehicle to challenge the viewers to assess and reflect on any biases they might have and walk aware from this theater experience with an increased awareness of themselves and how they might contribute to a more equitable world for all.”

DuckDuckGo’s 30-second “Watching You” television commercial shines a light on just how uncomfortable all of us are with the thought of a tech company like Google watching every search we make and click we take. But imagine how that discomfort would increase exponentially and seep into everything we say and do if we became aware that members of another race were watching our every move – and commenting unfavorably on much of what they saw!

“[T]his idea of being watched by someone as a person of color — there is automatically some sort of sense of suspicion, especially if the watcher is a white person,” said playwright Jackie Sibblies Drury in an interview about Fairview. “And so we started from a place of trying to create what in the theater felt like a normal black family, and then introducing the idea of someone watching that family — and that watching [changes] their behavior and the course of their lives.”

The effect is pervasive and insidious. For many, if not most, African American people, the fact that white people are watching and judging their behavior based entirely on white standards and white expectations goes much, much farther than merely altering behavior. It invades, nay co-opts their interior monologue – the way they actually think about themselves, their families, friends and their communities as a whole.

In this respect, Fairview comments on the tension between perception and reality and the whole idea of fairness on both sides of the racial divide.

With the topic of race being all but expunged from the curriculum in our schools and legislatures around the country acting to limit or marginalize the political power and voice of people of color, Fairview is indeed a play we all need to see at this point in the experiment we call American democracy.

July 18, 2022.

Go here for play dates, times and ticket information.

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