The world premiere of Preston Lane’s “Actions and Objectives” took place at the Triad Stage this past weekend. On Friday, April 7, a cast of fifteen local actors and seven creative team staff members came together to help perform an unrestrained political play within a play about the contemporary South.
“Actions and Objectives” takes the setting of the fictionalized Hawboro, a repeat of Lane’s last three plays including “Providence Gap,” “Common Enemy” and “Radiant Abundant.” Hawboro, is a small Southern town situated in the Piedmont Triad of North Carolina that was finally in a state of tranquility after the recent debacles with the Zebulon Zebras in Lane’s last play “Common Enemy.”
The construction for Hawboro’s new theater is finally complete – just in time for the town’s celebration of their centennial anniversary. Eleanor Blessing, performed by Cinny Strickland, hires a New York director, Sharon Harmon, played by Lisa Kitchens, to create and direct a play about the founding of Hawboro and the Blessing family mill.
Suddenly, the play strikes up controversy between the town’s locals and the New York director and her dramaturge, performed by Neila K. Ettienne. Everyone is beginning to question the real story of Hawboro’s history that is even unknown to the last living family member of the Blessing family.
This show represents the continuous strife in the United States’ South, with recent examples of the social unrest that has taken hold of our country in the past decade. The mixing of past and present inequality forces audience members to question what it really means to have Southern pride.
“Actions and Objectives” showcases the constant reluctance many white United States’ citizens have when talking about race. It opens the conversation about white people’s’ misunderstandings and lack of willingness to understand the struggles that the black community has faced due to white supremacy.
The way the play unfolds it makes audiences question more and more about what it means to be a racist and how many white people subconsciously own their privilege while denying that it is there. As one character said, “white people don’t care about race…except for white liberals sometimes”. The writing of “Actions and Objectives” is phenomenal in the way it does not ask questions, but demands them of you as you watch the performance.
The play also showcases the continuous tensions between the North and South. “Actions and Objectives” plays on the stereotypes that each region has about the other. Sharon, the director in the play, makes the claim that Southerners are unintelligent, and an actor in the play’s play claims that Northerners do not know Southern history. One scene particularly makes you question about the Confederate flag’s real significance – was it a sign of slavery or heritage?
Another important contemporary matter the show makes you question is what it means to support a cause? While one character undergoes police brutality, a Black Lives Matter protest breaks out in the town of Hawboro. Through these scenes, there is an interrogation of millennials protesting style, all of the hashtags, pictures and social media posts, that makes one wonder if we are only doing it to seem culturally woke.
Though Preston Lane assures the audience through his director’s note that Hawboro is “most definitely not Greensboro,” his play alludes to many of the struggles during the Civil Rights movement in the Gate City. One character’s line in particular, “change takes time,” was a motto here in Greensboro from the forties to the sixties. The Blessing family in Hawboro represents wealthy families in cities, such as Greensboro, where they insisted on keeping the white status quo.
“Actions and Objectives” musters up a simultaneous feeling of hope and cynicism that makes the play’s narrative deeper, while the cast performs their characters with a raw and natural talent that enliven the character’s emotions. This play relates to young audiences through the character’s slang and current social topics, while relating to older generations that remember when these issues spiked heavy interest during the Civil Rights movement.
Overall, Preston Lane made another political statement out of a play. “My ideal political theater doesn’t tell us what to think; it asks us to examine why we think what we think we think,” said Preston Lane after the production of “Common Enemy.” “Actions and Objectives,” makes you constantly question and wonder: how do we go from here? How can we truly make equality equitable for everyone?
This play starts the conversation about the relevant social topics we are encountering today. It stirs things up. It makes you question. It is a great show if you want to truly think. “Actions and Objectives” runs till April 23rd. If you are interested, make sure you save a date, because tickets will most likely go fast.