The BIG ARTS production of Defamation, now showing through March 2 at the Herb Strauss Theater, is a courtroom drama that literally pulls the audience right into the action. Written by Todd Logan, Defamation follows a realistic lawsuit in which the plaintiff is claiming defamation of character against the defendant. Did the defendant's accusation of a petty theft lead to the destruction of the plaintiff's business? Was racism or religious or social prejudice involved? As a member of the audience, you also become a member of the jury and at the end of the closing arguments you will be asked to render a verdict. The results will surprise and challenge you.
From Quintessential New Trier in New Trier Township, IL
Evanston playwright Todd Logan, who has penned everything from humor columns for the NewYork Times to the light-hearted screenplay, With a Family Like Mine, turns his attention toward the hot-button issues of race, class and religion in Defamation, a new play in which audience members decide the outcome of a complicated court case between an African American plaintiff and a white real estate developer from Winnetka.
From JUF [Jewish United Fund] News in Chicago:
Members of the audience are transformed into jurors in Jewish playwright Todd Logan's crime drama Defamation on tour this fall. As Judge Adrian Barnes introduces himself and the show, audience members learn that they will decide the verdict of the case being presented.
From Campus Activities Magazine in Prosperity, SC:
How do you get the members of an audience to challenge their preconceived notions about race, class, religion, gender and even the law? You make them the jury in Defamation, a riveting one-act courtroom drama about an African-American professional woman who sues a successful Jewish real estate developer.
From Evanston Roundtable's newsletter in Evanston IL:
Evanston playwright Todd Logan contributes a unique production to the popular courtroom drama genre with his new play, DEFAMATION. This world premiere drama of a fiery encounter between an African American businesswoman suing a Jewish North Shore real estate developer. As trial and play unfold, the collision of race, religion, and class becomes prominent and at times as tangible as the characters themselves. ….And make no mistake, the audience will have some serious work to do to follow the intense proceedings and construct meaning from legal charges, the characters' lives, and the challenging interactions between the seven onstage characters.
Naples Daily News "'Defamation' calls audience perceptions into question"
By Chris Silk
"Defamation" isn't about defamation at all.
"It's a play about the audience and they don't even know it," author Todd Logan told me after Tuesday night's performance. A professional tour from Chicago presents the play through Saturday at the BIGARTS Herb Strauss Theater on Sanibel
WBEZ - National Public Radio "Audience becomes jury in racially-charged court drama"
By Lynette Kalsnes
An Evanston playwright hopes to make his audience members examine their own religious and racial divisions. He's written a play called Defamation. It's about a civil lawsuit so, on its face, it would seem to be common theater fare; however, the twist with Defamation is that the audience acts as the jury. And, Defamation is playing in unusual venues such as schools, churches and synagogues. Evanston playwright Todd Logan is intrigued by a big question: If people of different races and religions go to bed in different places each night, what does that say about us?
He got the idea to explore this question after he had with his niece. At the time, he was living in Winnetka, and his niece was 12. She told him: "You know, we hate people from Winnetka."
"And I said, 'Really, why is that?' and she said, 'Well, You don't have any black people, and everybody's rich.' And I said to her, 'Well, if you hate people from Winnetka and I live here, that means you also hate your uncle.' It reinforced the notion stereotypes are dangerous."
Chicago Tribune "Play looks at race, religion and class"
By Brian L. Cox
Last spring, Emily Wasielewski and more than 100 other New Trier High School students were made "jurors" as part of a performance of the play "Defamation," in which an African American woman from the south side of Chicago has filed a defamation lawsuit against a wealthy Jewish man living in Winnetka. The 90-minute performance is set in a courtroom with five actors, and tells the story of a professional African-American woman who is invited to the home of a successful Jewish man in Winnetka for a potential business project.
Last week, I attended one of those uniquely Jackson events that national media never seem to know about when they paint us with a broad brush. It was a performance of "Defamation," a play by a Chicago playwright that allows the audience to act as jury and decide whether a black woman or a Jewish man should win a defamation suit she brought against him because he assumed she stole a watch from him and then caused her to lose business as a result.
Much like the film "Crash," the play has all sorts of circular prejudice messages wound up in it and some powerful lessons about ingrained racism most of us never see, especially if we're white and part of the majority culture.
I left the theater with my notions shaken and twisted. I love when that happens (eventually). Todd Logan, the Evanston, Ill., playwright who scripted Defamation, is quite a provocateur. His play "is a take-no prisoners courtroom drama about a South Side African-American woman who sues a North Shore Jewish real estate developer." This is an in-your-face mashup of race, class, religion and law that gives you a view of two very different worlds…and then enlists you to take a stand. Right then and there as the jury! We need the frank conversations this play fearlessly ignites. I highly recommend it.