Anna Ziegler’s timely new drama Actually centers on the aftermath of a date between Tom, an African-American college student, and Amber, a Jewish freshman.
“They go out on a date,” Jaysen Wright, who plays Tom, says, “and what proceeds from there turns into a Title IX hearing.”
Presented by Theater J, Actually touches on issues of sexual consent, gender politics, and racial tensions.
“This play, maybe more than any play I’ve ever done, has really forced me to understand what I believe and why I believe it,” Wright says. “I consider myself a very strong feminist and also a great proponent of the Black Lives Matter movement, and this play respectfully and intelligently puts those things into conversation with one another.”
Wright notes that Tom is “a black character…who is complicated and three dimensional — good and flawed, broken and optimistic, and all of these wonderful kind of contradictions. That’s a real gift as an actor, because a lot of times you’re playing something really flat, something really stereotyped, something that people have seen before.”
The 31-year-old D.C. native started acting in elementary school, and was drawn to it in part due to his burgeoning identity.
“[Growing up] gay and black, I was always kind of struggling to find my place and my voice and to connect with people. Theater was an early opportunity for me…to understand people better and to understand myself better. We all deal with angst and depression and feelings of insecurity growing up. Theater is an artform that allows you to escape your own circumstances and walk in somebody else’s shoes. It gives you a community of people, a family, to work with.”
Theater J’s Actually runs to Nov. 18 in Arena’s Kogod Cradle, 1101 6th St. SW. Call 202-777-3210 or visit theaterj.org.
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