The Daily Gamecock

"Appropriate" debut in South sparks racial conversation

The play begins, the lights dim and the gentle roar of cicadas fills the Trustus Theatre. Artificial moonlight illuminates the stage, shining on an old living room with antique furniture cluttered with dusty debris — a room that is reminiscent of a relative’s home.

"Appropriate," by young playwright Branden Jacob-Jenkins, tells the story of three adult siblings coming back to their dead father's plantation home in the deep South to clean out and salvage what can be sold. As the children try to understand each other’s differences, they discover interesting surprises regarding their father that highlight issues of racism and prejudice.

After rising tensions this past summer due to the removal of the Confederate flag from State House grounds, Jim O'Connor, the director of the play, felt that staging this play in Columbia was a timely and progressive move towards mending previously broken racial relationships. The play promotes thought about the history of race, encouraging those in the audience to think about the past and be a bit disturbed by some of the prejudice experienced by African Americans.

“This playwright has never been done in the South. Trustus Theatre is the first theatre to do any of his [Jacob-Jenkins’] plays in the South,” O’Connor said.

Jacob-Jenkins is a rising playwright who is directing attention toward interesting family dynamics and long-standing racial tensions. In 2014, "Appropriate" won an Obie Award for the Best New American Play. The characters are relatable, and the family dynamics are both comical and relevant.

“(Jacob-Jenkins is an) African-American, writing about racial issues in a more interesting way than I think anybody has ever written about them,” O’Connor said. "I think it’s one of those plays that the two hours you’re in a theatre it’s entertaining, but like good food — healthy food — it gives you a lot to chew on in the future.”

"Appropriate" will be performed at Trustus Theatre Jan. 29 through Feb. 13.