A discussion with Detroit-based director Sam White, who is currently in her second and favourite season at the Stratford Festival. She discusses how the Stratford Festival has changed over the years and how she works with her cast and crew to create a unique experience for Alice Childress' "Wedding Band." We also delve into Sam's mentors and inspirations who helped build her up, including her parents, who continue to influence her work, and she talks about her passion for sharing Shakespeare's work in the rust belt.
In this episode, our host, Meres J. Weche, sat down with Sam White, an incredibly talented artist who has directed and produced insightful plays. During their conversation, Sam shares her experience working on the play "Wedding Band" by Alice Childress and offers invaluable insights into the representation of marginalized communities in the arts.
Sam highlights the exceptional collaboration with actors Cyrus Lane and Antonette Rudder, who brought the characters of Julia and Herman to life in a way that made their love story feel real. Despite the challenges presented by the laws of 1918, which forbade interracial relationships, the nuanced gestures and chemistry portrayed by Cyrus and Antoinette created a deeply moving and heartbreaking ending for the play.
During this episode, Sam also reflects on the difficulties faced in 2020, such as the global pandemic and ongoing conversations about race. They emphasize the importance of producing meaningful work, like "Wedding Band," to shed light on the voices of marginalized communities and challenge stereotypes.
Topics and outtakes from our podcast conversation:
"The Realist of the Real": "The thing about Alice Childress, if you sort of investigate a couple of her interviews, is she classifies her work as being the realist of the real. And so the play was written in the sixties, but, yes, based in 1918. And the character, Julia, who's the protagonist of our show, says all of the things in the play that we wish our ancestors could have said. She says all the things that so many of our grandmothers, our aunties, our great-grandmothers, our cousins, our nieces, maybe they couldn't say. She says it all, and there's something really beautiful in that and seeing a black woman say exactly what she means on stage."
— Sam White [00:03:44 → 00:03:54]
The Impact of "Wedding Band" in 2023: "It's exciting that theatres want to tell this story. I don't qualify it as being brave or taking a risk. I don't qualify producing good work as being brave or taking a risk. It's just producing good work and producing a show like Wedding Band that tells the truth."
— Sam White [00:09:00 → 00:09:06]
The Power of Black Collaboration: "It's great to be around people who have that same cultural and linguistic DNA because you don't have to explain certain things. We just understand, you know, what needs to happen in a particular scene, what needs to happen in a particular moment because you can't go to university to learn, you know, a certain cultural context of being Black. It just is. And so it was great being able to work with Black collaborators because I didn't have to be a teacher and teach them what the experience of being Black is like. They're living it."
— Sam White [00:11:03 → 00:11:20]
Representation Matters: "I wanted to see more people of colour in lead roles, not messenger number 3 or servant number 2 -- Yeah. -- but actually leading plays and insignificant roles."
— Sam White [00:16:53 → 00:17:05]
The Importance of Art in Detroit and Beyond: "If you don't have places for people to go see theatre, for people to hear music, for people to do things after work with their families on the weekend, then no one's gonna wanna live there, and that's true for Detroit, and that's true for any city or town on planet Earth."
— Sam White [00:19:43 → 00:19:58]
The Power of Parenting: "My parents, who are the greatest inspiration of my life, my mother giving me Shakespeare, and even my mother and my dad not being here now, continue to be the greatest source of inspiration and creativity. That's the power of great parenting, you know."
— Sam White [00:28:11 → 00:28:20]
Pandemic Creativity: "But what was nice, I think, about the pandemic was that I think for myself and for a lot of artists because we weren't as booked or busy as we usually are, is that we had a chance to do some things maybe we never would have done before like me writing a TV pilot, or maybe some people were painting or doing other things that they had never explore it before."
— Sam White [00:32:46 → 00:32:47]
The Importance of Resources in Theatre: "And I, if I needed some support because what's wonderful about the Stratford Festival is they do have so many coaches. And the creative team is so expansive that I decided I didn't need to know everything if I needed help, I was asking for it."
— Sam White [00:35:10 → 00:39:00]
The Incredible Collaborators: "Cyrus and Antoinette, the whole cast, but those two, they have been incredible collaborators. I mean, I would work with them every time."
— Sam White [00:39:19 → 00:39:29]
Increase in Diversity at the Stratford Festival: "I see more Black people...that's incredible because it makes the work easier for me because I don't like being the only...the loneliest place to be is when you're the only...I am relieved...especially in lieu of the fact that I knew I was coming back...having folks that look like me and being part of the festival this year has been...my favourite season... there are more people of colour on campus...I'm happy about that...I'm so happy that other folks who look like me are here too."
— Sam White [00:42:29 → 00:42:36]
About the show
TOM PATTERSON THEATRE
JUNE 20 – OCTOBER 1
BY ALICE CHILDRESS
DIRECTED BY SAM WHITE
“SOME TRUTH HAS NO NOURISHMENT IN IT.”
House Program: Wedding Band
Runtime: Two hours and 20 minutes, including one 20-minute intermission.*