Sanctions looks at who is really being helped – and hurt – in today’s college football
Put yourself in the shoes of Claire Torrance, a fictional academic advisor who runs a tutoring program for college athletes at a Division I football powerhouse just emerging from NCAA sanctions. Your job is to keep the players academically eligible, which in turn keeps the school making money. Lots of money. But the football program at the unnamed university you work for remains rife with racial stereotyping, sexual assault and academic dishonesty. How much are you willing to sacrifice for a school that is determined to look the other way?
Bruce Graham’s compelling drama Sanctions, loosely based on an academic scandal at the University of Georgia in the 1980s and others since, tackles those incendiary questions from Claire’s point of view. The play opens on Saturday (May 4) at Curious Theatre, with founding company member Dee Covington playing Claire.
“Sanctions asks: ‘How do we look the other way when players fall short of their academic goals and create dangerous situations, whether it’s violence or sexual assault against women?” said Covington. Audience members will watch as the university compromises its integrity and then decide for themselves who is actually being helped, and who is being hurt, she added.
Some might say sports and theatre make for strange bedfellows, but Covington says Sanctions isn’t just a play about sports. “It’s also about inequity, both in sports and academia,” she said. “I hope everyone would just understand that this is our country’s responsibility – and our issue.”
“Bruce Graham is just sort of blunt,” Covington said. “He’s an in-your-face kind of writer with a no-nonsense approach to dialogue. He has gritty people trying to figure out how to lead a better life. He has people with disadvantages trying to figure out how to work the system.”
That said, Covington describes Sanctions as being a very economical script. She describes the dialogue between characters as muscular and visceral. “We’re not thinking about things, we’re acting on them. We’re fighting it out,” she said. “It’s just a very interesting relationship to dialogue.”
Covington believes Sanctions might be especially interesting to audiences in high school and college. The play’s exploration of institutional racism, inequality and the #MeToo Movement are very relevant issues for that age group.
“I think students are in a very different place, so the consciousness they would bring as audience members is really important,” Covington said. “I think young people will get it. I think they’ll like the rhythm of it, the way it moves, the things it talks about, and will bring a real elevated sense of participation in the play. This is their movement.”
Curious Theatre has been producing challenging plays for 21 years, often with a focus on political and social relevance. Covington says Curious has developed loyal audiences who expect shows like Sanctions. And to talk about them after. Curious hosts post-show discussions after every performance.
“It’s a real privilege to be a part of a theatre company that has such a gutsy and opinionated presence in our community, and to be the voice for these issues artistically and creatively,” Covington said.
DCPA Communications Intern Patti Grod, originally from Northbrook, Illinois, is a junior at Augustana College in Rock Island, Illinois, where she is pursuing majors in Communication Studies and French, as well as an experiential minor in Entertainment and Media Industries. Aside from academics and spending this term interning at the Denver Center, you will most likely find Patti at the pool. She swam and played water polo all four years of high school, and has been fortunate enough to continue her swimming career at Augustana.
Sanctions: Ticket information
- Presented by Curious Theatre Company
- By Bruce Graham
- Directed by Chip Walton
- Cast: Dee Covington, Ilasiea Gray, Adeline Mann and Thony Mena
- Performances: May 4-June 15 at 1080 Acoma St.
- Tickets: 303-623-0524 or curioustheatre.org
Dee Covington: At a glance
Dee Covington is a founding member of Curious Theatre Company. As an actor, she was last seen as Empty in The Intelligent Homosexual’s Guide… Other noted Curious acting credits include Toni in Appropriate, Roz in White Guy on the Bus, Margaret in Good People, Veronica in God of Carnage, Bev/Kathy in Clybourne Park (Denver Post Ovation Nominee, Supporting Actress in a Play), and The Homebody in Homebody/Kabul (Best of Westword Award). Selected directing credits at Curious include The Humans, Your Best One, Hand to God, the three-part The Brother/Sister Plays, Collapse and Speech & Debate. She is also the program director for Curious New Voices, a nationally recognized youth playwriting program currently in its 15th season.