ON ROMANCE AND RACE

The Nashville Repertory Theatre presents ‘Smart People’

The Nashville Repertory Theatre production of Lydia R. Diamond’s “Smart People” brings one of the most important and volatile topics in American culture to center stage in a funny and thoughtful production that pulls no punches. Set just before Barack Obama’s 2008 election, race and romantic intentions collide among four racially diverse Harvard intellectuals. The play examines the unexpected racial prejudices and misunderstandings that can arise even among friends who are well-educated and socially aware.

“I love the four characters,” says actress Christine Lin — who co-stars in the play with David Ian Lee, Tamiko Robinson Steele, and Shawn Whitsell. “They're very funny, sharp individuals and the way they talk to one another is very direct. I think because of their intellect they're able to get to the heart of matters very quickly. The writing is so sharp — the issues are very complicated, but you can see all the factors at work. Whether people are in work relationships, romantic relationships, or even friendships, the dynamic of race is always there. What I really enjoy about this play is that it's entertaining but it also leaves the audience with a lot to talk about afterwards.”

A native of Chicago who now resides in Los Angeles, Lin says that director Jon Royal excelled in getting the cast members to examine their own attitudes about race and how that informed their portrayals of the characters.

“We got to know each other by doing exercises about our identities — which aspects of our identities are at the forefront in different areas of our lives,” Lin says. “For me personally, I talked a lot about being an Asian-American, and the question came up, ‘Do I feel like I must represent all Asian-Americans when I meet new people?’ Coming from L.A. where there are a lot of Asian-Americans, I didn't. But, now that I've been in Nashville for a few weeks, it makes me think more about how I'm presenting myself to other people and how I fit into a stereotype and also work against it.”

Lin says gaining self-awareness about the way you view your own racial identity, the way you view others, and a deeper understanding about the perceptions and prejudices that everyone carries are more important than ever in American society. But conversations and self-discovery don’t have to be a dry and formal affair.

“I think people will really have a good time at this play. It's so funny and so interesting,” she says. “There’s also gender dynamics and sexual politics at play. It's not just about race; it's about what it means to be human and how being smart doesn't automatically mean that you're a nice person.”

“Smart People” previews Feb. 8-9 and runs Feb. 10-24, 2018 in the Johnson Theatre at the Tennessee Performing Arts Center. Tickets are $25 for previews and start at $45 for the regular run. For three performances Feb. 14, 21, and 22, any unsold tickets will be available on a pay-what-you-can basis from the TPAC box office approximately one hour before the play. Throughout the play’s run, unsold rush tickets will be available approximately one hour before showtime at $20 for adults and $10 for students. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit www.nashvillerep.org or call the TPAC box office at 615.782.4040.

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