Straight White Men by Young Jean Lee will receive a workshop reading directed by Chelsea Haberlin in the Spring of 2017.
Matthew Moreau (Managing Producer): Alright, so, uh. I’m Neworld’s resident straight white guy interviewing Chelsea, our new Associate Artistic Director about the play Straight White Men. Chelsea, what is this play about?
Chelsea Haberlin (Associate Artistic Director): It’s the story of three 40ish men who come home to have Christmas with their 70ish father and it begins like any sort of naturalistic regional theatre play. They play board games, they have conversations, they reminisce about things from their childhood, they goof around like men do and then they start to get into what it means to be a straight white man. And they don’t do that by overtly discussing what it means to be a straight white man, they do that by having the kinds of conversations that straight white men have. They do that by living the lives that straight white men live and really digging into their privilege.
Click below for full audio of Matt and Chelsea’s interview.
CH: I heard an interview with Young Jean Lee on the radio. She’s a woman of colour, she’s Asian, and she identified that because she is Asian and a woman all she has to do is make things in the world and she’s political and she’s contributing and she’s making the world a better place because she doesn’t have the privilege that white people have. She doesn’t have the privilege that white men have specifically. And she identified that straight white men who are woke, who are aware, have a much further journey. If they want to contribute to society they have to do so much more, they have to be so much more aware, they have to be so much more politically active. She really identified that as being unique and it was something she hadn’t thought of before. And it was something I hadn’t thought of before actually as a white person myself. And it really kind of raised in me feelings of guilt about my privilege and it made me think about my current situation.
So, the other thing that she said that I found really interesting was that she was in this, she talked about the reason that she wrote the play, she was in this writers group with a bunch of queer women of colour and they were constantly bemoaning straight white men. They really did not like straight white men. And they wrote about everything but straight white men. And she said okay what would these men need to do in order for you to hate them less. And they outlined a whole bunch of things. And she went away and she wrote a scene that involved a character that embodied all of these traits that they mentioned. And she brought the scene back to them. She didn’t tell them she’d done this, she just brought the scene back to them and said let’s read the scene and see what you think. And they hated him even more. They hated him so much because he was weak and they disrespected his weakness. Although they said that they wanted these particular traits in him there was something inside of them that still respected the power of the patriarchy and the strength of men. That’s what she identified. And I found that fascinating. And it really made me think ‘well what are these men to do then?’. What is the way that they’re meant to live that is actually valuable? That actually, genuinely contributes to society in a way that isn’t damaging? And that’s a thing I ask myself a lot as someone who’s married to a straight white man, who’s spent most of my life around straight white men, who is a straight white woman. What is the way that we’re meant to live?
Art by Katie So.