By Janice Malone
NASHVILLE, TN — Playwright Lydia R. Diamond’s hit play “Smart People” is coming to the Nashville Repertory Theatre. With a cast of only four actors, the play’s been described by critics as being “…a sexy, serious, and very, very funny modern-day comedy of manners.” – Variety.
The Nashville production stars Tamiko Robinson Steele, Shawn Whitsell, Christine Lin and David Ian Lee. The storyline is set just before Obama’s election, the volatile dynamics of talking about race intertwine with the romantic interactions among four racially diverse Harvard intellectuals. The characters are: a physician, an actress, a psychologist, and a neurobiologist who is studying the brain’s response to race (is it genetic?), all find that discussions about race can turn unexpectedly, even among friends who are well educated and socially aware.
Actress Tamiko Robinson Steele stars as the character “Valerie” a role she says immediately grabbed her attention. “I love how honest and unapologetic she is about who she is and how she carries herself,” shares Tamiko during a recent phone interview. “The things she believes in and the mistakes that she’s made, she’s very open and honest about that too. There are no facades about her. I really appreciate that about the character.” Ms. Robinson Steele is a Nashville native and alum of Tennessee State University. Some of her numerous acting credits include Nashville Children’s Theatre’s The Snowy Day & Other Stories, The Hundred Dresses and Rosa Parks and the Montgomery Bus Boycott, to name a few of several roles.
Jon Royal is the director of Smart People. His most recent experience with Rep audiences was as an actor in Superior Donuts. Jon is a Nashville native, a graduate of Middle Tennessee State University and grew up attending Rep performances. Past directing credits include: And in This Corner: Cassius Clay, Rosa Parks and the Montgomery Bus Boycott, Othello, Passing Strange, and others. Jon says he readily accepted the chance to direct Smart People. Jon says: “I immediately wanted to direct the play. I liked it because it’s about our world today. The play is a great way to start a dialogue about race from people of all walks of life.”
Smart People shows that no matter how smart and intelligent one might be in their professional or academic life, it still doesn’t mean that you’re exempt from listening, being vulnerable and the hard work that it often takes to communicate effectively with other human beings. “After watching Smart People, I hope it will inspire audiences to want to do something different almost immediately, such as become a better listener, to look at people in a different way, or to make an effort to see a person for who they really are,” adds Jon.
Smart People runs Feb 10 – 24, 2018 at TPAC’s Johnson Theatre. Tickets start at $45 and can be purchased at nashvillerep.org or by calling (615) 782-4040.