When I took my seat at the Ars Nova performance of Underground Railroad Game, I expected to sit back and simply watch a night of spotlighted social and political taboos that seem to plague our past and present society. That was until Teacher Stuart (Scott Sheppard), who is White, and Teacher Caroline (Jennifer Kidwell), who is Black, included us (the audience) in their fifth-grade history project.
When the teachers instructed us to reach under our seats, rip the taped envelope of either a blue or gray soldier, and forewarned us about discomforting subjects, I speculated that we’d partake in the reconciliation of whatever truth was uncovered upon attending the performance.
Then the unfathomable, even to a person like me who can handle a large deal of discomfort, American education system was blazed before our eyes in a combination of horrifying images, over sexualized content, and cutting dialogue. Yet I lived for the moments onstage where we could see that each truth, of the Black American experience and the White American experience, were indeed valid, but different in their own right. This happens to be one of our deepest battles to date in America. We are not exploring both sides of the education, meanwhile, we are in fact living in a different America than our white fellows.
Caroline and Stuart explore this nuance for viewers to, at the very least, walk away knowing that slavery to each party, means, resembles, and reflects a complicated dichotomy. I hate to bring up the Black Lives Matter movement once again here, well, actually, no, I take that back because it is the effort of the BLM vs All Lives Matter movement to prove that color blindness is indeed a form of racism. That’s as far as I’ll go…For now…
And in recognition of the very conversations that will probably always make us uncomfortable, I gathered that it was needed to propel the interracial romance, albeit via a subplot, of Stuart and Caroline. The ambiguous ending may not have provided the closure we long for in watching a relationship played out on stage, but it did alert us to the only virtue that can heal our present condition: honesty.
This play contains sexually explicit material, strong language and mature themes. Recommended for adventurous audiences ages 18 and up. Now running through Nov. 11th get your tickets HERE
Underground Railroad Game:
GOOD MORNING, AMERICA! WELCOME TO HANOVER MIDDLE SCHOOL, WHERE A PAIR OF TEACHERS ARE GETTING DOWN AND DIRTY WITH TODAY’S LESSON. THE NIMBLE DUO GOES ROUND AFTER ROUND ON THE MAT OF OUR NATION’S HISTORY, TACKLING RACE, SEX AND POWER IN THIS R-RATED, KALEIDOSCOPIC AND FEARLESS COMEDY.