Theatre NOVA in Ann Arbor is welcoming Admissions, a play that stirs up conversations about issues surrounding racial diversity.
The Masons, a family long advocating for diversity values, begin to question those values when their teen son is denied admission to an Ivy League school — not because he’s Jewish, the son believes, but because he will not add to the university’s racial diversity.
The situation fills the script of Admissions, a Joshua Harmon play making its Michigan debut Sept. 20-Oct. 13 at Theatre NOVA in Ann Arbor, where new plays are the focus.
Diane Hill, producing artistic director, plays mom Sherri Rosen-Mason, dean of admissions at a New Hampshire prep school, where her husband, Bill (Joe Bailey), is headmaster. They have worked years to diversify their admissions.
“The issues brought up in this play are just a small part of a much larger conversation,” says Hill, a multi-theater and film actor who founded and appeared in the discontinued Two Muses Theatre, a nonprofit in West Bloomfield, and was a theater professor at University of Detroit Mercy.
“I find it so interesting because you have a character who is liberal, progressive and proud of her work, but, despite her best intentions, her private aspirations have somewhat blinded her to what was really happening with the minority students she was recruiting,” she says. “It’s one of those plays that will stir up a lot of conversation as it’s also very funny.”
Jewish playwright Joshua Harmon’s earlier work, Bad Jews, was presented in 2015 by the Jewish Ensemble Theatre (JET). That is a dark comedy about cousins fighting over a gold chai saved by their grandfather.
Admissions was chosen to open Theatre NOVA’s fifth season because it tackles current issues and was considered powerful and relevant.
“It seems we are living in a period of accelerated hatred and more overt discrimination,” she says. “In many ways, we abhor it so much that we’re almost needing to disassociate ourselves from it.”
The play, directed by David Wolber, also features Jeremy Kucharek as Charlie Luther Mason, Sarah Burcon as Ginnie Peters and Cynthia Szczesny as Roberta.
In an interview on the Lincoln Center Theater blog, Harmon expressed his ideas for Admissions:
“This play is trying to hold up a mirror to white liberalism while remaining very conscious of the fact this is just one narrow slice of a much larger conversation … In real life, most people are not all good or all evil. Most of us live somewhere in between, whether or not we like to admit we do.”
Admissions runs Sept. 20-Oct. 13 at Theatre NOVA, 410 W. Huron, Ann Arbor. $22 and pay-what-you-can. (734) 635-8450. theatrenova.org.