At first glance “Defamation,” is an old-fashioned courtroom drama – but look again, and it tackles subjects that many of us prefer to avoid: race, religion, class, gender, and our legal system.
Over the course of a business meeting, African-American woman, Regina Wade, is accused of stealing a watch by Mr. Golden, a white Jewish businessman. She then sues him for defamation, believing that the public accusation ruined her reputation, caused financial harm, and resulted in the loss of her business. Here’s the twist: Mr. Golden’s attorney is an African American female, and Ms. Wade’s attorney is a white male. Defamation’s plot in itself examines stereotypes in unexpected ways. And here’s another twist: the audience is the jury.
Written and directed by Todd Logan, the nationally-acclaimed play will be brought to West Michigan for the first time by the Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce on November 17, 2017, as part of their D.E.I. (Diversity, Equity & Inclusion) Summit. Other portions of the summit include educational breakout sessions and the Diversity Visionary Awards Luncheon.
Watch the trailer below for a sneak preview:
“When race, religion, and gender collide – a conversation begins.”
Smart, compelling, and provoking, “Defamation” was written to spur self-examination, challenge preconceived notions, and start a dialogue. From the moment the trial begins, the venue is transformed into a courtroom, and opinions that usually simmer below the surface come into play. “I was inspired to write Defamation after a personal experience that made me realize that, despite the many ways our society is more racially integrated than in decades past, we’re still very divided and afraid to breach that divide for fear of saying the wrong thing or being misinterpreted,” said Logan. “I wanted to write a play that was also a forum for civil discourse, a way for people to safely and honestly express themselves and move toward understanding.”
Much like in real life, there are no dramatic confessions or amazing reveals in “Defamation.” There is only the final verdict decided by the audience. Following that verdict is a post-show discussion, where a facilitator invites the audience to further have meaningful discussions about race, class, and other social divides.
Since it first premiered on November 2010 in Illinois, “Defamation” has been performed over 375 times nationwide, leaving over 60,000 audience members discussing and debating from the car ride home, all the way to the office the next day.
“Participating in Defamation was one of the best interactive learning experiences I’ve had in a long time,” said Sonya Hughes, the Grand Rapids Chamber’s Vice President of Inclusion. “If you want to challenge your sense of empathy and rational response to a case that is full of real-time issues, this is a must-attend!”
To make West Michigan a more vibrant and open community, the Grand Rapids Chamber has made it a mission to fight social division and strive for diversity, equity, and inclusion. Through “Defamation” and the rest of the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Summit, there is a great opportunity to engage in conversation about one of the most pressing social issues today. Only by bringing these issues to the forefront can we spark change and become a more welcoming and inclusive Grand Rapids.
Register here to take part in the exclusive “Defamation” experience at our DEI Summit this Friday, November 17th at the JW Marriott.