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Race takes center-stage in Civic Arts Company’s inaugural production

Jacqueline Thompson and Terry Weiss
Alex Heuer | St. Louis Public Radio
Jacqueline Thompson and Terry Weiss

The Civic Arts Company’s mission is to use arts and education to encourage conversations about race and social injustice, as well as opportunities to remedy those injustices.

The company was founded late last year by Richard Shaw and Terry Weiss. For its first production, the organization chose Jamie Pachino’s theatrical adaptation of Studs Terkel’s book “Race,” which will debut at 3 p.m., Saturday, in the Missouri History Museum’s Lee Auditorium.

On Wednesday’s St. Louis on the Air, host Don Marsh spoke with the play’s director — University of Missouri-St. Louis professor Jacqueline Thompson, and Weiss, the arts company’s co-founder.

“Race” is a one-act play that runs 45 minutes. Its storyline, Thompson explained, is abstract and nonlinear, following a series of vignettes and monologues, instead of a traditional story structure.

“It’s different beats and moments,” she said. “It’s just these little pieces that intertwine to tell the whole story.”

Thompson said the playwright, Pachino, did a good job of highlighting current issues such as affirmative action, gentrification, stereotypes and internalized racism in the script.

After its debut at the Missouri History Museum this weekend, “Race” will begin touring at local schools. Weiss and Thompson said they wanted to focus on an audience of young people because they saw a need for youth to process their own thoughts about issues of race in St. Louis.

“They need that outlet to express what their experiences are, and a lot of times they don’t get that opportunity,” Thompson said. “When is there a time in school to really flesh out those things?”


Speaking about students who live in less affluent neighborhoods, Weiss explained that constant exposure to certain media content can cause mental and emotional challenges for some.

“To know that there’s another world out there from which you’re being excluded is an extremely traumatic thing for those kids,” he said.

In order to create a space where students are able to reflect upon difficult topics, Weiss and Thompson decided to add an interactive dialogue session to the end of each performance. When the play finishes, the four main actors (who have each received training from the Anti-Defamation League) sit stage-front to engage with the audience about what they just witnessed.


Related Event

What: Civic Arts Company Presents "Race" by Jamie Pachino

When: 3 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 22

Where: Missouri History Museum’s Lee Auditorium, Lindell and DeBaliviere in Forest Park

More information.

St. Louis on the Air brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. St. Louis on the Air host Don Marsh and producers Mary EdwardsAlex Heuer and Kelly Moffitt give you the information you need to make informed decisions and stay in touch with our diverse and vibrant St. Louis region.

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