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Interview Wed Jan 29 2014

Preview: Buzzer's Eric Lynch Gives Gapers Block a Sneak Peek

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Theater is a choice platform that artists often use to open a dialogue about issues that people tend to otherwise brush under the rug. Buzzer by Tracey Scott Wilson is a play that aims to open audience's minds to the complex issues underlying urban gentrification. While the play takes place in Brooklyn, the issue of neighborhood gentrification is no stranger to Chicagoans.

In the production, Jackson, now a successful graduate of Harvard Law returns to the neighborhood in which he grew up. He brings along his white girlfriend and best friend (who has a set of troubles all his own) and soon, the three face exploding tensions in the surrounding neighborhood and amongst themselves.

Eric Lynch, who plays the smart, successful and charismatic Jackson in Buzzer gave Gapers Block a preview of how the issues of sex, race, love, fear and money are tackled in this dark comedy.

Why is Buzzer relevant to a Chicago audience?

I think it's very relevant to a Chicago audience. The way gentrification functions in Chicago is a little different than in New York, but, as you're probably aware, gentrification is a hot, buzzing topic in Chicago. We see a lot of neighborhoods turning over and the way that people respond to that — the way it's boiled down — it's usually in very simplistic terms, when actually the issues of gentrification are much more complex. So basically we're trying to initiate some more honest conversation regarding that. You see news stories that are boiled down into Twitter feeds or even on CNN when actually the deeper meanings are much more complex. So I think it's relevant to Chicago in that way.

Oh I completely understand. I live up in Edgewater and they're re-facing the whole thing. It seems like a totally different place.

Oh yeah — I live right on the border of Uptown and it seems like Uptown is one of those neighborhoods that it looks like changes are beginning to happen there very very slowly. I'm interested to see what happens going forward.

Will you tell me a little bit about Jackson, your character?

Well Jackson is absolutely brilliant. He is an exceptional human being by any standards. He grew up in this kind of decimated community, but through luck and other advantages, he has worked himself up. He went to Exeter, which is one of the top prep schools in this country; and then he went to Harvard and then to Harvard Law and he is right on track to be the partner in a high stakes law firm. He is a character who has started from very very humble beginnings to now has made himself into success, and he's very driven and motivated to reach the next level — and that's the beautiful thing in him.

How do you relate to him?

There are some similarities. My life is not nearly as extreme. My beginnings were not as humble. My heights were not of Harvard Law, but there are some similarities in that I was a very studious and smart young kid and I lived in the city, so I felt some ostracization. You know, by my African American friends, I'd be called "white" because I was reading and studying science books. But I was still African-American so I didn't always fit in with the white kids at school and so, basically opening up that dialogue we'd use little code words. The first time you get called "white," you don't really notice. The hundredth time it's like, "Okay, I'm a little confused. Why are you commenting on how I talk?" So I do feel a little bit of what Jackson's struggle was in the extremes of his life and how he's had to navigate them.

So kind of like being stuck between worlds and not really fitting?

Yeah, and actively moving into a different world. He has to behave in certain ways that aren't familiar to his surroundings growing up, but he's great at navigating that.

What is your favorite part about being in this production?

I'd definitely have to say the process and the people that I'm getting to work with on a daily basis. This is my first time working at the Goodman and these are a lot of the people that I'm seeing in the room or around are people I've looked up to for years. The first professional show I ever saw was at this theater and having the ability to work with extremely capable people, I never have to worry about anything getting done. You always have complete confidence and faith and that frees you up to really just explore the play and your character without any of those extra worries.

That's really neat! I feel like not too many people can say they now get to work at the place that first inspired them.

Yeah it's so true. I mean it's kind of ironic and funny to me that the name of the season for the Goodman is "The Dream Season." I'm working at the dream theater. It's beautiful and makes you take a step back.

What should an audience member expect when they see the show?

Well I hope that the audience first of all has an enjoyable and entertaining night. The play is very funny. On a little bit bigger scale, they can expect to ask themselves questions that they may not have asked before. One of the beauties of Tracey's play is that it's three characters in a house but they are so well fleshed out so at certain points audience members will sympathize with one character then later, not sympathize with them. When the end of the play comes, audiences are going to have to ask themselves if they agree with who they sympathize with, and it should create some interesting dialogue. I think every character is extremely justified in how they go about what they do on stage.

~*~

Buzzer runs Feb. 8 through March 9 at the Owen Theater at the Goodman, 170 N. Dearborn St. Tickets ($10-$40) can be purchased on the Goodman Theater's website, by calling 312-443-3800, or at the box office.

If you're interested in continuing the conversation about urban gentrification, you can attend one of Buzzer's events. On Feb. 16, the Artist Encounter will bring together the minds that created the play. This is a great chance to interact on a more intimate scale with those who took Buzzer from a script on paper to a full-blown production. It's free to attend, but be sure to reserve a spot!

If you're a young professional, "Buzzer and Brews offers a great chance to hang out with the cast and crew and grab a few beers after you've seen the play and heard from Buzzer director Jessica Thebus. Tickets ($60) are available on the Goodman's website. Both events take place at the Goodman Theater, 170 N. Dearborn St.

 
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Architecture Tue Nov 03 2015

Paul Goldberger Describes the "Pragmatism and Poetry" of Frank Gehry's Architecture in His New Book

By Nancy Bishop

Architecture critic Paul Goldberger talks about Frank Gehry's life and work in a new book.
Read this feature »

Steve at the Movies Fri Jan 01 2016

Best Feature Films & Documentaries of 2015

By Steve Prokopy

Read this column »

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