'Smart People' opens rehearsals in full swing

by John Moore | Sep 21, 2017
Making of 'Smart People'

Photos from the first day of rehearsal for the DCPA Theatre Company's 'Smart People,' which features Tatiana Williams, Timothy McCracken, Jason Veasey and Esther Chen. To see more, hover your cursor over the image above and click the forward arrow that appears. Photos by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.

Sharp comedy takes on the ways in which racism pervades American culture just as the national pendulum swings.

By John Moore
Senior Arts Journalist

Smart People is a thought-provoking new comedy about all the ways in which racism pervades American culture. And it took playwright Lydia R. Diamond eight years to finish it.

Imagine taking on that incendiary subject just as Barack Obama was about to assume the presidency, and completing it the same year he would cede it to Donald Trump.

"She started the play at one time in our collective zeitgeist, and she finished it at a completely different time in our collective zeitgeist,” DCPA Theatre Company Associate Artistic Director Nataki Garrett said Tuesday at the opening rehearsal for Smart People, which marks her Denver directorial debut. 

Smart PeopleThe collective national pendulum, as gravity seemingly demands, had fully swung. And Garrett believes the only way today’s highly polarized Americans are ever going to find common ground and genuine connection again is if they slow down and stop talking long enough to meet somewhere in the middle.

"What's so awesome about something swinging wildly back and forth is the part that's in the middle," said Garrett. "Not the extremes where we all seemingly live now, but the space where we do come together and we are able to find intersection.”

And that’s what Diamond butts up against in her critically acclaimed, four-person comedy that has its first performance Oct. 13 in the Ricketson Theatre.

More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

Diamond’s story, set on the eve of Obama’s historic 2008 presidential election, centers on four "smart people" with Harvard connections: A surgeon, an actress, a psychologist and a neuro-psychiatrist who is studying how the brain responds to race. As their relationships evolve, the four discover that their motivations and interpretations are not as pure as their wealth of knowledge would have them believe.

Diamond was inspired to write Smart People by a news report about an actual neuroscientist who was studying the potential link between bias and brain chemistry. He hypothesized that a person's chemical composition can cause him to be biased, prejudiced or racist.

"For me, the play is kind of like going back to the scene of the crime: Going back to the beginning of something to try to figure out where we are now," said Garrett.

“This play intersects with these four highly intellectual people who keep smacking up against each other like two rocks trying to make a spark. They are trying figure out, 'Well why don't you believe what I believe? Because if I believe that something is really important and true, then you should also have that belief.’

“That's what sparks the comedy: You have these four sexy, crazy people who are almost too smart for their own good all colliding around these ideas. But if they could just stop talking and give in to each other's ideas, they might actually be able to hear something.

“I think ultimately, Smart People is a call for people to listen."

John Moore was named one of the 12 most influential theater critics in the U.S. by American Theatre Magazine in 2011. He has since taken a groundbreaking position as the Denver Center’s Senior Arts Journalist.  

Smart People: Ticket information
SmartPeople_show_thumbnail_160x160Lydia R. Diamond. This acclaimed new play is a biting comedy that follows a quartet of Harvard intellectuals struggling to understand why the lives of so many people – including their own – continue to be undermined by race. No matter how hard they research, question and confront the issue, their own problems with self-awareness make it difficult to face the facts of life.

  • Presented by the DCPA Theatre Company
  • First performance Oct. 13, through Nov. 19
  • Ricketson Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex
  • Tickets start at $25
  • Call 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
  • Sales to groups of 10 or more click here
Previous NewsCenter coverage of Smart People:
Cast announced for Smart People: Fresh and familiar

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ABOUT THE EDITOR
John Moore
John Moore
Award-winning arts journalist John Moore has recently taken a groundbreaking new position as the DCPA’s Senior Arts Journalist. With The Denver Post, he was named one of the 12 most influential theater critics in the US by American Theatre Magazine. He is the founder of the Denver Actors Fund, a nonprofit that raises money for local artists in medical need. John is a native of Arvada and attended Regis Jesuit High School and the University of Colorado at Boulder. Follow him on Twitter @moorejohn.

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