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Humorous new play explores race and family secrets

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The Phoenix Theatre, Indiana’s only professional contemporary theatre, has a proud tradition of presenting productions that both challenge and entertain. The theatre’s latest dramatic offering, “River City” by playwright Diana Grisanti, attempts to stay in that same vein as it examines the complicated issues of race and identity in a smartly humorous tale of one woman’s journey through her own very tangled family tree.

The play, set in the West End of Louisville, Ky. ,follows Mary (played by Charlotte, N.C. native Kayla Carter), a biracial woman in an interracial marriage who is pregnant with her first child, as she searches for answers to her family’s past following the death of her orphan father, Edward.

“River City” also stars Bloomington, Ind. native Matt Herndon in his Indianapolis debut as Edward, Mauricio Miranda as Mary’s husband Javier, Julie Dixon as Sister Alice, and Phoenix veterans A.J. Morrison and Ben Rose.

“It’s a very funny, moving play,” said production director Bryan Fonseca. “The play has an overall message of characters looking for where they fit in, in this world; that’s an issue that resonates with where we are as a community and as a society.” 

Carter, who is reprising the role of Mary following the first National New Play Network Rolling World Premiere of “River City” at the Actor’s Theatre of Charlotte, said the play is a must-see for people of all backgrounds. “A lot of the things we are experiencing in the world right now, especially in our country today, the race stuff and the issues in Ferguson with police brutality are talked about in this play,” she said of the production, part of which is set in the late 1960s.

“I think it is important for people to come and see this so they can better understand how history is being reflected in our society today.” Carter said her own personal background allowed her to closely identify with her character. “I have struggled with being two different races my entire life, and finding balance. As I continue to grow up, and with the help of this play, I’ve realized that you can give equal weight to both, and be proud of where you’ve come from, though it isn’t always easy. Knowing your history is a big part of that.”

Following the opening night of “River City,” the Phoenix Theatre will host a multi-ethnic forum titled “Checking the Other Box” at the Central Library on Jan. 10 at 2 p.m. The forum, sponsored by the Indianapolis Neighborhood Resource Center, Recorder Media Group, and Marbaugh Printing, will feature a panel discussion on racial identity. All are welcome to attend.

“River City” opens at the Phoenix Theatre on Jan. 8 and runs through Feb. 1.

For more information on show times, visit phoenixtheatre.org.

Win Tickets to see River City!

We all have funny (and oftentimes embarrassing) family stories. Share yours with us on Facebook or Twitter for a chance to win a pair of tickets to see River City.

Like us on Facebook: facebook.com/indianapolisrecorder.

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Checking the [Other] Box: Multi-Ethnic Forum

Visit the Indianapolis Central Library to hear stories about how multi-ethnic individuals straddle racial divides every day. Attendees are encouraged to give their feedback on how to build a more diverse community. The forum is sponsored by the Phoenix Theatre, Indianapolis Neighborhood Resource Center, Recorder Media Group, and Marbaugh Printing.

When: Jan. 10 at 2 p.m.

Where: 40 East St. Clair Indianapolis, Ind. 46204

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