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IRT’s What I Learned in Paris takes a look at love in the wake of historical election

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Indianapolis—During a year of momentous change in America, Pearl Cleage, nationally recognized author and playwright, was at its center as Maynard Jackson was elected Atlanta’s first African-American mayor.  As Jackson’s press secretary and speechwriter, Cleage’s experiences on his campaign serve as the inspiration for her play What I Learned in Paris, a romantic comedy that makes its Midwest premiere on the Upperstage at the Indiana Repertory Theatre (IRT), March 17 through April 12.

What I Learned in Paris follows five friends and colleagues who have tirelessly worked on Jackson’s campaign and now, in the wake of his election are faced with determining how their lives will change in the days to come. From competing for potential positions on the new mayor’s staff to discovering their true calling, this play follows these individuals as they realize their destinies.

“1973 was a big year in this country and it was also a big year in Atlanta,” said Cleage during an interview with Alliance Theatre. “There were many transitions taking place and the people were going through these changes in a very public way.”

Although What I Learned in Paris at first appears to be political, it is actually a story of the human condition: a love story that’s much deeper than audiences may expect.

“What Cleage does is bring together multiple issues taking place in 1973—new opportunities for African-Americans, and new horizons in women’s rights—and brings them together in a really delightful way,” said Janet Allen, IRT’s Executive Artistic Director. “It’s always a privilege to experience the inside world of a culture—the ‘behind closed doors’ revelations—and she invites audiences to do just that. When I talk to our regional peers aboutWhat I Learned in Paris, we all agree that audiences will be surprised and moved by it.”


What I Learned in Paris is a multi-generational romantic comedy that leverages a moment of possibility and illustrates how lives were changed and opportunities were discovered during Atlanta’s historic election.   But even more, it reminds audiences that it is possible to find lasting happiness in a time of tumultuous change. 

This sparkling comedy, that’s more romance than politics comes to the IRT’s Upperstage on March 17 through April 12. Opening Night is Friday, March 20 and features a live band and 70’s costume party beginning at 6:30 p.m. and champagne toast with the cast after the show. 

The performance is approximately 2 hours and 20 minutes and includes one intermission.

What: What I Learned in Paris

Where: Indiana Repertory Theatre | 140 W. Washington St. | Upperstage

When: March 17 – April 12

Good to Know: Mild drug and sexual innuendos.

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