Now in its eleventh year of producing emerging playwrights in the Black Box, the Roundabout Underground program has achieved a stunning degree of success since we mounted Stephen Karam’s Speech and Debate as the inaugural Underground production in 2007. In the years since their Underground productions, all twelve of our Underground alumni have gone on to fruitful and lucrative writing careers, whether for the stage or for the screen. Over the past two seasons alone, three of these alumni have made their Broadway debuts: Stephen Karam (The Humans, 2016 Tony Award® for Best Play and Finalist for the 2016 Pulitzer Prize); Joshua Harmon (Significant Other); and Steven Levenson (Dear Evan Hansen, 2017 Tony Award for Best Book of a Musical). Both The Humans and Significant Other began in our Laura Pels Theatre, just upstairs of the Black Box at the Steinberg Center. In addition, Underground alumna Lindsey Ferrentino made her debut at the National Theatre in London this past spring with her play Ugly Lies the Bone, which premiered here in the Underground in 2015. Both Lindsey and Joshua Harmon, in fact, will be returning to the Laura Pels Theatre later this season with new plays, both of which we commissioned: Lindsey’s Amy and the Orphans and Joshua’s Skintight. I am so thrilled to watch as our relationships with the Underground writers have grown over the years and given rise to these and other magnificent successes at Roundabout and beyond.
Needless to say, the Underground program holds a special place in my heart, and I couldn't be happier to welcome Jiréh into this family with his extraordinary play. Set in Nashville, Tennessee, during the Civil Rights Movement, Too Heavy for Your Pocket follows four black Nashvillians who encounter the Movement far closer to home than they expected--and approach it with mixed feelings. To Jiréh’s characters in 1961, the Civil Rights Movement isn’t yet the world-famous triumph that we know it to be today. It’s still a revolution in the making with its own challenges and struggles, and the fates of the Movement’s activists are yet uncertain. For prospective protesters, the risks to their person and property are high, the potential sacrifices of livelihood and career are large, and the road to equality and reform is long. Through the perspectives of two vividly-drawn families, Jiréh confronts the realities of protest and the price of social change, reminding us that the true work of revolution often originates not on the floors of our Capitol buildings but in our church basements, classrooms, and homes.
At a time when the question of the cost of protest is an incredibly urgent one, Too Heavy for Your Pocket asks us to face our own attitudes toward political activism and consider what we might be willing to forfeit in the name of justice and social progress. The freedoms of speech and assembly often come at a price for those who need them most, and Jiréh’s play, with vibrant and captivating storytelling, deftly captures the nuances of this contradiction. Too Heavy for Your Pocket serves as a gripping reminder that while the Civil Rights Movement may be decades behind us, the lessons it provides us for our current and future political atmospheres are timeless.
Too Heavy for Your Pocket, under the direction of the exceptional Margot Bordelon, will undoubtedly continue and deepen the Underground’s tradition of excellence, and I am so excited for you to experience the phenomenal work of this creative team. Like all good theatre, Jiréh’s play is sure to spark discussion and inspire a richer understanding of our past and our future. As always, I am eager to hear your thoughts on our season, so please continue to email me at ArtisticOffice@roundabouttheatre.org with your reactions. I can’t tell you how greatly I value your feedback.
I look forward to seeing you at the theatre!
2017-2018 Season, Too Heavy for Your Pocket