This week, Zach Theatre is streaming its award-winning 2019 show, "Notes from the Field," for free after gaining permission to do so from playwright Anna Deavere Smith.
This remarkable show that explores the school-to-prison pipeline — and "prison nation" — that faces mostly youths of color could not be more timely as daily protests call out not only specific cases of police brutality but the systemic racism that undergirds that violence.
You need to reserve a ticket at no cost to access the online stream from now through midnight June 14. You can do so at tickets.zachtheatre.org.
Be sure to join one of the "Community Conversations" via Zoom at 6 p.m. June 11 or 2:30 p.m. June 14. Find out how at ZachTheatre.org/CommunityConversations.
These types of moderated group chats about race — audiences broke into groups midway through the show’s second act — proved to be a key to the impact of the live "Notes from the Field."
The stories and performances were unforgettable, but the chats revealed immediately how many ways the characters and their stories could be interpreted.
Here’s part of what I wrote in 2019:
Facilitator: "How are you coming to this conversation? "What’s going on with you? In one word."
Hesitant at first, the guests in the Green Group reply one at a time: "Children." "Interesting." "Disappointed (I can expand on that later)." "Learning." "Perspective." "Powerful."
The Green Group of invited audience members, one of several such batches scattered around the theater, sits facing each other in the lobby of the Kleberg at Zach during a break in a recent tech rehearsal.
To the side waits veteran Austin actor Zell Miller III, who, along with Carla Nickerson, Kriston Woodreaux and Michelle Alexander, plays multiple characters in "Notes from the Field," a docu-drama that began life as a solo-actor show by and for Anna Deavere Smith, better known outside of the theater world for her commanding movie and TV performances.
Midway through the second act of this show ... the trained and paid facilitators lead up to eight small groups in community break-out discussions. ...
The facilitators try to accomplish this perfect state of temporary social equilibrium by repeating five rules or agreements.
• Open-mindedness: Listen and respect all points of view.
• Curiosity: Seek to understand, not to persuade.
• Brevity: Aim for short, focused and honest comments.
• Individuality: Speak for yourself, not on behalf of a group.
• Challenge yourself: Step out of your comfort zone.