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Rutina Wesley Talks Returning To Stage In Parody About White Playwright Who Pretends To Be Black

Photo of Tambay A. Obenson By Tambay A. Obenson | Shadow and Act September 12, 2011 at 7:55AM

Alerted you to this back in July. Performances have begun, as of September 8 at the Lucille Lortel Theatre, here in NYC.
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Alerted you to this back in July. Performances have begun, as of September 8 at the Lucille Lortel Theatre, here in NYC.

Refresher... True Blood star Rutina Wesley heads back to the stage to star alongside Tony Award nominee Jonathan Groff in a new play by Jeff Talbott, titled The Submission.

The play centers on a white gay playwright Danny Larsen, who poses as a black female playwright and pens a drama about an African American family, under the name Shaleeha G’ntamobi, for which he earns lots of acclaim.

The full synopsis again:

Shaleeha G'ntamobi's stirring new play about an alcoholic black mother and her card sharp son trying to get out of the projects has just been accepted into the nation's preeminent theater festival. Trouble is, Shaleeha G'ntamobi doesn't exist, except in the imagination of wannabe-playwright Danny Larsen, who created her as a kind of affirmative-action nom-de-plume. But a nom-de-guerre may prove more useful as the lies pile up, shaky alliances are forged, and everyone dear to Danny must decide whether or not to run for cover as the whole thing threatens to blow up in his lily white face.

Rutina plays as an actress named Emilie Martin who the playwright hires to be his physical "front" - Shaleeha G'ntamobi.

As I said before, the story has potential; it just depends on what angle the writer takes. Immediately reminds of Percival Everett's Erasure (not exactly the same story, but if you've read the novel, I think you'll understand where I'm coming from), and wonder if that was any inspiration for Talbott here.

In an interview with Broadway.com, Rutina shared her interest in the script, stating:

I was sent the script and was immediately intrigued. It’s got so much fire and asks such interesting questions. Who has ownership over stories these days? As an actor I want to be inspired and challenged mentally and physically, and this play calls for all of these things, especially playing a character like Emilie Martin who has so many textures and layers. I can’t even put into words how happy I am to be here. I’ve been dying to do a play. The last time I was on stage was when I did In Darfur at the Public in 2007, and ever since I’ve been saying, “Play, please?” I’m honored to come back, especially in a new play. I get to put my stamp on it, and I’m excited and nervous about that.

It's worth noting that she's no stranger to the stage. In late 2006/early 2007, she co-starred alongside Julianne Moore in the Broadway presentation of The Vertical Hour.

I'm curious enough to see it, and might, if ticket prices aren't sky-high as they generally are for theater. If I do see it, I'll review it here. Besides, I'd like to get it in before Hollywood options the film rights :)

Here are Rutina and the rest of the starring cast talking about the play and their respective parts.

This article is related to: Things That Make You Go Hmm..., Theater, casting


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