Decked out in emerald sequins and a tiara, an ethereal Diana Ross graced the Court Theatre on Friday, Sept. 24 during the opening performance of “WHITE,” a play written and directed by James Ijames.
“Make’m laugh, make’m cry, make’m call their senator,” Ijames said, reflecting on the impact of the play. “But by any means necessary, make’m do something. Can’t change anybody’s mind if they're asleep.”
Powerful and funny, “WHITE” explores many serious systemic social issues, such as racism and sexism in modern America. It does so in an unconventional way, presenting a white man who believes his gender and race cause him to be silenced and create inequality in his life. The show illustrates how in modern times, women and people of color are left questioning whether they are hired or included because their presence and work is valued or merely to a benchmark. Moreover, packed in these 90 minutes, the show explores the identity struggle and inequalities faced by young black women while also highlighting the innerworkings and difficulties that arise in interracial relationships.
The play starts with art curator Jane, who excitedly discusses her debut exhibit at a prestigious museum, the aim of which is to highlight the artwork of new and diverse voices. She rejects the work of her friend Gus, as he is a white male and does not check the boxes. Upon being visited by the “goddess” Diana Ross, Gus decides to enlist the help of actress Vanessa to get his artwork in the museum. Together Gus and Vanessa create the persona of Balkonaé, a gay black woman whose “fierceness” wins over Jane and gets the artwork in the exhibit.
Ijames is a Philadelphia-based performer and playwright. He has four Barrymore Awards, two for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Play and two for Outstanding Direction of a Play. Ijames is also the recipient of the 2011 F. Otto Haas Award for an Emerging Artist recipient. Additionally, Ijames is a professor for both Villanova’s highly esteemed graduate Theatre program and for undergraduate theatre minors or students seeking to learn more about the art.
“WHITE” will be running until Oct. 3. Tickets are available online and at the Box Office located in the John and John Mullen Center for Performing Arts with discounts for students, seniors and groups.