Theater holds a mirror up to society, reveals its strengths, weaknesses and contradictions, and is at its best when it tries to resolve them.  The CENTER has chosen to focus this year, an election year, on the ways 20th century American theater addresses these conflicting forces. 

Apparently irreconcilable forces meet head-on in West Side Story - as in the play’s Shakespearean prototype Romeo & Juliet - and they find a uniquely American resolution. Angels in America’s characters secretly suffer from AIDS; for them, sex and homosexuality both establish and sever relationships. Assassins probes whether American culture gives rise to political killers. Safe’s dysfunctional economy and broken school system force the question whether it’s possible to be responsible for yourself and to have a higher purpose.  Below the surface delicacy of Southern womanhood, Steel Magnolias examines cruelty, separation and death. Political commitment to creationism conflicts with intellectual freedom in Inherit the Wind. Amid the dancing and singing of Chicago, we are confronted witha corrupt justice system, racism and sexism.

An unflinching examination of the contradictions within American society is what makes 20th century American theater so powerful.  The CENTER hopes you enjoy - and reflect upon the issues in - this year’s choices.

~Michael Frazier


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