play about historic African genocide confronts contemporary racism

(Chapel Hill, N.C.—Feb. 4, 2016) PlayMakers Repertory Company continues its Mainstage Season Feb. 24-March 13 with “We Are Proud to Present a Presentation About the Herero of Namibia, Formerly Known as South West Africa, From the German Südwestafrika, Between the Years 1884-1915” by award-winning playwright Jackie Sibblies Drury. Special events associated with the show begin Feb. 8.

Set in a present-day rehearsal hall, it’s the story of a theater group preparing a performance piece on a little-known episode of early 20th century genocide. Things take a jolting turn when the actors – three black and three white – tap into personal resentments and ingrained prejudices. Tensions mount as they expose more of themselves than they ever wanted to. An emotionally charged journey into the past, “We Are Proud to Present…” was hailed by The New York Times as Drury’s “breakout work.”

The Washington Post raved, saying “We Are Proud to Present …” is “a genuine thunderbolt … devastatingly funny … dangerous and primal.” Backstage Magazine said the play delivers “90 minutes of original, enlightening, pulse-pounding theater.” The New York Times also called it “incendiary” and “inventive,” describing the play as “impressively navigat[ing] the tricky boundaries that separate art and life, the haunted present and the haunting historical past.”

Seattle/San Francisco-based director Desdemona Chiang helms the production. Last season, she directed “4000 Miles” for PlayMakers, where she also directed “Hairspray” for PlayMakers’ Summer Youth Conservatory (2014) and worked on “The Making of a King: Henry IV & V” (2012).

Chiang describes “We Are Proud To Present…” as “a spirited play about a group of ambitious young theater artists who come together to create a piece about a largely unknown atrocity, untaught in schools, and invisible in the global conversation, except for a few elite historian circles.”

“As these artists move deeper into the process, they cannot help but interrogate themselves, their personal assumptions and unconscious biases. Despite the noblest of intentions, the results are often powerful, surprising, and terrifying. The performance will also provoke hearty laughter, both the delightful and the ‘oh-no-he-didn’t’ variety. As with any artistic endeavor truly worth undertaking, this one is full of challenge, risk and danger. It provides no answers, but is a step forward in our continuing but complicated conversations about society and race.”

Performances will take place in the Paul Green Theatre in the Center for Dramatic Art on Country Club Road. Show times will be 7:30 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays and on Saturday, March 5.

In conjunction with the production, PlayMakers will host “The Vision Series-Directors in Conversation,” a behind-the-scenes preview with Chiang, Feb. 17 at 6:30 p.m. in the Paul Green Theatre. The event is free and open to the public. Participants share coffee and hors d’oeuvres provided by series sponsor Jujube Restaurant, learn about the vision for the show and get a sneak peek at the sets and costumes in progress. Reservations are appreciated. Call PlayMakers’ box office at (919) 962-7529 to RSVP.

Other special events will include:
• Feb. 8, 7 p.m.: “In the Wings,” presented by PlayMakers and the Durham County Library. Cast and creative team members (designers, actors and production personnel) discuss the plays at the Southwest Regional Library, 3605 Shannon Road, Durham;
• Feb. 15, 6 p.m.: a discussion with the director and cast at The Granary Café, Fearrington Village, Pittsboro;
• Feb. 24, 25 and 26, 7:30 p.m.: preview performances;
• Feb. 27, 7:30 p.m.: opening night performance;
• March 1: an all-access performance for attendees with special needs, with sign language interpretation and audio description;
• March 2 and 6: free post-show discussions with members of the creative team;
• March 5, 2 p.m.: open captioned performance;
• March 12, 7:30 p.m. and March 13, 2 p.m.: free post-show “Mindplay” discussions sponsored by the North Carolina Psychoanalytic Society.
UNC-TV is co-producing sponsor for the play.

PlayMakers’ Mainstage Season concludes with Stephen Sondheim’s Tony Award-winning musical “Sweeney Todd” (March 30-April 23) followed by “The Real Americans” by Dan Hoyle (April 27-May 1) in the PRC2 second stage series.

For information and to purchase tickets, call (919) 962-7529 or visit http://playmakersrep.org/. Individual ticket prices start at $15.

Coverage note: Media are welcome to cover “The Vision Series” preview with Desdemona Chiang at 6:30 p.m. on Feb. 17. Photography, videography, lights and flashes are not restricted. For assistance, call (919) 962-5359.

About PlayMakers

Based in UNC’s College of Arts and Sciences, PlayMakers is the professional theater in residence at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the Carolinas’ premier resident professional theater company. New York’s Drama League has named PlayMakers one of the “best regional theatres in America.”

PlayMakers contact (for press information, interviews, photos and art): Connie Mahan, (919) 962-5359, cmahan@email.unc.edu.