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New Kirsten Greenidge play explores access, equality in education

Celina Colby
Celina Colby
Celina Colby is an arts and travel reporter with a fondness for Russian novels.... VIEW BIO
New Kirsten Greenidge play explores access, equality in education
Playwright Kirsten Greenidge. PHOTO: SIMON SIMARD

On July 17, Company One and American Repertory Theater debut a new play by Obie Award-winning playwright Kirsten Greenidge. Set in a Boston school, “Greater Good” explores access, power and the path to change in the education sphere.

“The version that will be shown this summer,” says Greenidge, “was inspired by my wondering about what happens when we — the collective we — have the urge to help but get caught up and delayed by the fact that often working together can be really difficult. I set it in a school because most of the time we can agree that we want school to be a “good” place for children to learn and grow, but often the “how” of that can be really difficult to sort out.”

(left to right) Christine Power, Dominic Carter, Shahjehan Khan, Brooks Reeves, Rachel Cognata, Becca A Lewis, Blyss Cleveland. PHOTO: ANDREW JAMES WANG

(left to right) Christine Power, Dominic Carter, Shahjehan Khan, Brooks Reeves, Rachel Cognata, Becca A Lewis, Blyss Cleveland. PHOTO: ANDREW JAMES WANG

The show isn’t just set in a school, it’s performed in one, too. During the production, audiences will be led through the halls and classrooms of the Commonwealth School in Boston’s Back Bay. Each scene moves backwards through time, doling out the backstory to a climactic parent council meeting. Audiences will experience these scenes in small groups, as though they, too, are parents assessing change in the space.

In addition to unique staging, the production features an all-star cast including talent of color like Dev Blair of “Straight White Men” at New Repertory Theatre, Dominic Carter of “Twelfth Night” at Lyric Stage, Blyss Cleveland of “For Colored Girls” at Pariah Theatre Company and Rachel Cognata of “Hype Man” at Company One, among many others.

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Greenidge grew up in Greater Boston and chose to set the show here because of the tensions between the area’s liberal, progressive rhetoric and the actions that are ultimately implemented. She says, “Boston has a very rich and complex set of dynamics when it comes to education, to systems of class, wealth, privilege, race, gender and access, and these make it a really wonderful place to set a play.”

Running through Aug. 17, “Greater Good” is presented as part of A.R.T. Breakout with support from the Mellon Foundation’s National Playwright Residency Program administered in partnership with HowlRound.

Greenidge says that after all the hard work of writing and production is put in, there’s vulnerability in showing the play to an audience. “I think as a playwright, as an artist, no matter what, there is a certain element that is similar to what one does when it’s time for cake: you close your eyes and make a wish.” But, she adds, “I hope audience members will come away with a sense that their voice matters.”

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