Post-show discussion – Sunday, August 27

We invited guest panelists to join us for Sunday’s post-show discussion; it’s a trend we’re hoping to continue and to build on in an effort to bring in people who have a professional and/or personal connection to the stories we’re telling and the issues they raise. On Sunday we welcomed Nicole Woods, formerly the Director of Minority and Cultural Affairs at Northwestern University‘s School of Medicine, and Venu Gupta, who held the same position at Northwestern’s Law School. They’ve both spent a good part of their careers dealing with race, ethnicity and identity in an academic environment, and it was fantastic to get their perspective on Spinning into Butter.

The first few questions were addressed specifically to Nicole and Venu – we talked about the ways in which college administrations respond to overt racism like the notes taped to Simon’s door, we talked about the effects of political correctness on bureaucratic paperwork, and we talked about the realities of scholarship applications and the boxes we all have to figure out how we fit into to get what we want from an institution.

Venu said at one point in the discussion that she had been on both sides of the conversation between Sarah and Patrick at different times in her own life – the student who refuses to be defined as something they’re not, and the administrator who’s trying to help in a difficult situation.

The audience had questions for the cast as well – we talked again about the non-presence of Simon on stage, the definition of Nuyorican, and the dramaturgical work that the actors went through in preparing for rehearsals.

My favorite question of the discussion was a classic teacher question (I actually called the questioner on it, and yes, she was in fact a teacher) – if you were to write the next chapter of this story, what would Sarah and Simon each do next? It’s a great question to kick around – we have the central character in the show and the central character to the story (even though he never appears) both starting over as the play ends. We don’t know anything about where they’re going or what their plans may be, but it was clear from the response to this question that everybody’s hoping for the best for both of them.

A few people hoped that Simon would get some kind of counseling or help, and that he would be able to start fresh in an environment where he would be able to build his confidence and sense of identity. There was a near-unanimous opinion from the cast and the audience that Sarah should get away from academic institutions and find a new line of work. Kerry added that she’s certain that Sarah will find a great guy very soon.

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