A controversial voice in American theatre brings us a play that demands we explore society’s and our own history with race.
When the Lafayettes descend upon a crumbling Arkansan plantation to liquidate their dead patriarch’s estate, his three adult children collide over clutter, debt, and a contentious family history. As they sort through a lifetime of hoarded mementos and junk, the discovery of a gruesome Southern relic unleashes crackling accusations, repressed fears, and more questions than answers. A challenging play on race, family, and if it’s possible for history to ever stay in the past.
ap pro pri ate
1. suitable or fitting for a particular purpose, person, occasion, etc.
2. belonging to or peculiar to a person; proper.
3. to set apart, authorize, or legislate for some specific purpose or use.
4. to take to or for oneself; take possession of.
5. to take without permission or consent; seize; expropriate.
6. to steal, especially to commit petty theft.
Dates & Times
- Jamil Jude, Director
- Markas Henry, Scenic Designer
- Kevin Brainerd, Costume Designer
- Richard Devin, Lightning Designer
- Jason Ducat, Sound Designer
- Kristin MacFarlane, Props Designer
- Jada Suzanne Dixon, Actor
- A. Phoebe Sacks, Stage Manager
- Dane Torbenson, Fight Choreographer
- James Brunt, Directing and Production Assistant
Diana and Mike Kinsey
Shamos Family Foundation
The Harold and Mimi Steinberg Charitable Trust
Yone and Frank Wells
How do you prepare for a show so maddeningly relevant? How can you understand the context, the characters, the emotion better? Simply read the news. These are articles our team has found helpful in preparing for Appropriate and we thought you’d enjoy having access to them as well.
Play and the Playwright
Spotlight shines brighter on ‘Appropriate’ playwright Branden Jacobs-Jenkins by LA Times. Branden Jacobs-Jenkins discusses his writing style, influences, and musings on Appropriate. Full article here.
Playwright Branden Jacobs-Jenkins Broaches Race and Family in Appropriate at the Signature Theater by Vogue. I play with the visual nature of race and how it works in a theater space or any kind of storytelling place. One of my initial impulses was to ask how invisible can I make it, while still obviously charging the room. . . . When I read all the plays that I “stole” from, they were always about race or identity in a specific way, but they were never talked about as such. – Branden Jacobs-Jenkins” Full article here.
‘Appropriate’ unearths ugly family dynamics in epic dramatic fashion by LA Times Reviewer Charles McNulty. “But the history that has been banished to the periphery is more restive than usual. The unmarked slave cemetery on the property, overlooked by family members during annual summer visits, begins to haunt them after a photo album containing pictures and postcards of lynchings is discovered.” Full review here.
A Squabbling Family Kept in the Dark by New York Times Reviewer Ben Brantley. Brantley praises Jacobs-Jenkins for his ability to subvert tried and true tactics of American Theater in his plays. Full review here.
Branden Jacobs-Jenkins from the Heart by the New Yorker. This article from the New Yorker tackles Branden Jacobs- Jenkins’s history in the theater, as well as his failures and successes in capturing “a three-hundred-year history of black people in the theatre”. Full article here.
America’s Racial Legacy
Video from HBO’s Last Week Tonight with John Oliver on the Confederacy and how we memorialize it in America. Watch here.
Fighting White Supremacy Means Owning Up to American History by The Nation. “America’s putrid racism has often been cloaked by depictions intended to make it seem respectable.” Full article here.
A Noose at the Smithsonian Brings History Back to Life by the New York Times. “The person who recently left a noose at the National Museum of African American History and Culture clearly intended to intimidate, by deploying one of the most feared symbols in American racial history. Instead, the vandal unintentionally offered a contemporary reminder of one theme of the black experience in America: We continue to believe in the potential of a country that has not always believed in us, and we do this against incredible odds.” Full article here.
America’s Complicated History with its Confederate Past from CNN:”White Southerners had told themselves a story in which slavery did not play a leading role,” Edward Ayers, a historian and former president of the University of Richmond in Virginia, told PBS’ Newshour. “The story was that men like Robert E. Lee had risen up to fight against a tyrannical federal government that was trying to take away the rights of the states.” – Full Story
We should treat Confederate monuments the way Moscow and Budapest have treated communist statues by Washington Post. “Perhaps we’re too accustomed to it to notice the absurdity, but it is unquestionably absurd: Each day, thousands of black, shackled defendants appear before judges in courthouses guarded by memorials to a cause that believed those defendants’ ancestors were little more than livestock.” – Full article here.
Who are White Nationalists and What do They Want? by CNN. “The term white nationalism originated as a euphemism for white supremacy, the belief that white people are superior to all other races and should therefore dominate society, according to Oren Segal, director of the Anti-Defamation League Center on Extremism.” – Full article here.
Lynching Photographs, by Dora Apel. A book about the history of lynching photography in America and how our morbid fascination promotes racial violence. Available here.
Torture Culture: Lynching Photographs and the Images of Abu Ghraib is a scholarly article by Dora Apel that addresses the shocking similarities between historic lynching photographs and the torture photos that emerged from Iraq in the War on Terror. This article also has an interesting connection to Body of An American, the next show in the Curious ’17-’18 Season. Full article here.
Slaves Forgotten Burial Sites, Marked Online by the New York Times. A recent project to find and document all forgotten slave cemeteries in an effort to stop building over these historical monuments is discussed here. Full article here.
White Fragility and Racial Bias Today
The Sugarcoated Language of White Fragility – HuffPost, Anna Kegler
I, Racist – Those People, John Metta
How I talk to white people about racism – The Daily Dot, Clay Rivers
White Debt – New York Times, Eula Biss
When Whites Just Don’t Get It, Part 6 – New York Times, Nicholas Kristof
White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack – Peggy McIntosh
The Case for Reparations – The Atlantic, Ta-Nehisi Coates
Money, Race and Success: How Your School District Compares – New York Times, Motoko Rich, Amanda Cox, and Matthew Bloch
Ten Ways to Combat Hate – Southern Poverty Law Center
Other Interesting Articles
The Ecology, Behavior, and Evolution of Periodical Cicadas. A detailed article about the birth, life cycle, and incredible emergence of 17-year periodical Cicadas, which have long been considered symbols of immortality, protection, and rebirth. Full article here.
- What's Appropriate? Director Jamil Jude Discusses Curious's Next Play.
"For so long, we have thought of social-justice work and art as standing at two different ends," he continues. "Twentieth-century artists did that a lot: either/or. We did ourselves a disservice. Now we find things that are highly artistic, where social justice is just part of the artistic fabric." Jude notes that a television show like Blackish is "smart and well done and has a social-justice thing inside of it. I feel like in the work of artists of color, like Frida Kahlo, August Wilson, Lorraine Hansberry, the social justice and the art are so inextricably linked. Curious is aligning themselves inside a tradition where you can't separate them."
- REVIEW: “Appropriate” Exposing The Skeletons In Our Closets Or Not?
Have you ever found something after a loved one has died that made you question their life? Do you have things in your past that you would prefer to keep hidden and not be part of your life’s legacy? Could the same be true for a country and its historical past? Would it just be better to destroy those skeletons in the closet and pretend those things never happened and live in denial of them? Or should we accept and learn from those skeletons while not seeking to profit from them?
- 'Appropriate' a call for America to clean out its bigoted closet
No one in Colorado knows the MacArthur Genius better than Jude and Garrett, who have a broad range of separate and shared experiences directing his work at theatres around the country. Jacobs-Jenkins’ six published plays all address race relations in some way, Garrett said. Neighbors, for example, from a strictly black perspective. An Octoroon from the lens of American history. And Appropriate, which plays at Curious through Oct. 14, from an entirely white lens.
- REVIEW: Appropriate Is an Absorbing, Ghost-Haunted Start to Curious Season
Unlike Germany, which, after years of obfuscation, admitted guilt for the Holocaust and offered victims restitution, the United States has never really acknowledged its foundational sins. Appropriate makes this clear, but through metaphor, art and imagination rather than by preaching. It implies that only the harsh, uncaring winds of history can cleanse the country’s guilt — and they are winds that leave nothing behind but silence and devastation.
- REVIEW: Here’s to the next 20 years
Staying true to its slogan, “No guts, no story,” Curious opens its 2017-2018 season with playwright Branden Jacobs-Jenkins’ Appropriate. Jacobs-Jenkins, part wunderkind part enfant terrible, is a much-vaunted darling of today’s theater scene. He’s a self-described pot-stirrer whose plays aim to provoke and incite thought and conversations about issues of racial inequality. Though it features an all-white cast, Appropriate continues Jacobs-Jenkins’ ruminative explication of what it is to be African American in today’s United States.
- REVIEW: Appropriate at Curious Theatre
As we observe the maneuvering of this hoarder-esque, plantation home by the family left behind, one message from the playwright is abundantly clear: YOU CANNOT BURY YOUR PAST. If we do not purge our demons, they will without a doubt be back to haunt us.
- REVIEW: Appropriate
In case anyone has trouble identifying the large and looming elephant in the room, as noted at the top, it's called #whiteprivilege.
- REVIEW: Powerful play on family, racism, “Appropriate,” opens Curious Theatre’s 20th season
Just as the Smithsonian likes to call itself “the nation’s attic,” this play examines the relics of history in an accounting of the nation’s soul. In 2017, as the nation debates the propriety of statues honoring those who fought to preserve the institution of slavery, “Appropriate” asks audiences to understand the hatred, the anger and the pathologies that evolved as a result of the racist past.
- Curious Theatre Assumes The Mantle Of ‘Social Justice’ In Its 20th Season
After every performance, Curious Theatre hosts discussions for the audience to dissect each play and its themes with the cast and crew. Recently, the conversation went from how racism isn’t confined to the South to the difficulty of talking about these things with our families.
- A family in disarray — what really happened?
This skillfully-written and clearly-directed new work by a widely-praised young black playwright, Brandon Jacobs-Jenkins, peels back layers of stories, set in this old house, which has two cemeteries — one for the white residents and the other for black servants.