Middlebury Acting Company, in collaboration with Town Hall Theater and Vermont Stage, presents The American Dream Project, a monthly online play reading series for people interested in reading seminal plays and discussing their themes of racial and economic inequality.
The series, held every second Sunday from December through May 2021, convened via Zoom to discuss a play participants will have read prior to gathering. A moderator facilitated the conversation and local and guest artists read aloud selected scenes from each play. Moderators offered ideas and or questions to think about while reading each play.
The Featured Plays
Spinning Into Butter by Rebecca Gilman
Sunday December 13 at 4pm
A crisis erupts at a small Vermont college when racist notes are posted on the dorm room door of one of the school’s few African-American students. Sarah Daniels, the newly-hired dean of students, races to defuse the whirlwind of emotions spun up by students and faculty, but before the play reaches its surprise ending, she and the other whites on campus must first confront their own conflicted feelings about race. Moderated by: Rebecca Strum.
Sweat by Lynn Nottage
Sunday January 17 at 4pm
Winner of the 2017 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, the play, based on the playwright’s interviews with residents of Reading, Pennsylvania tells the story of a group of close friends struggling to stay connected when their factory is at risk of collapse. When backed up against the wall and left with neither income nor hope, people sink into racism almost by reflex. The ramifications of humanity’s anger hangs over the play, yet Nottage hints at the power of forgiveness and redemption. Moderated by Margo Whitcomb.
The Royale by Marco Ramirez
Sunday February 14 at 4pm
Charismatic African-American boxer Jay “The Sport” Jackson has a burning desire to become the undisputed heavyweight champion of the world. Jackson’s fight begins long before the match, though; it takes careful negotiations to convince the white reigning titleholder to even recognize him as a worthy opponent and enter the ring.
The play is about the life of the outsider in American culture. Set in 1905, deep in the midst of Jim Crow, it explores one man’s struggle while reflecting a much broader one. It is also a play about a brother and sister who protect each other but don’t agree on what that means. Moderated by Nicolas Caycedo
Topdog/Underdog by Suzan-Lori Parks
Sunday March 14 at 4pm
Two brothers, Lincoln and Booth, locked in a battle of wits as quick as their game of Three Card Monte, struggle to come to terms with their identity and what history has handed them, even their names. With her trademark explosive language in this powerful 2002 Pulitzer Prize winning play, Suzan Lori-Parks explores the deepest of connections, and what it means to be a family of man. The play was the number-one choice in last year’s New York Times list of “The 25 Best American Plays Since Angels in America.” Moderated by Ro Boddie.
The Niceties by Eleanor Burgess
Sunday April 11 at 4pm
Zoe, a black student at a liberal arts college, is called into her white professor’s office to discuss her paper about slavery’s effect on the American Revolution. What begins as a polite clash in perspectives explodes into an urgent debate about race, history, and power. Moderated by Bill Hart.
Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom by August Wilson
Sunday May 16 at 4pm
Inspired by the real-life Gertrude “Ma” Rainey, This visceral American classic serves as the 1920s chapter of August Wilson’s epic American Century Cycle. What begins as a routine recording session becomes more strained as tensions rise between the members of a blues band and the owners of the recording studio. The white producers mean to exploit the talents of the band—especially the gifted and impulsive Levee—but when Ma insists on having things her way, tensions are enflamed and the play builds to an unexpected climax. Moderated by Ro Boddie.