RACE - A Look Inside: Jack Lawson

June 21, 2017

"Lawson has been working with Henry Brown for twenty years, during which time he has embraced Brown's wisdom regarding race relations. When Susan confronts Lawson, correctly believing that he ordered an extensive background check on her (due to her skin color), he explains:

 

Jack: I. Know. There is nothing. A white person. Can say to a black person. About Race. Which is not both incorrect and offensive.

 

Yet, as Brown points out, Lawson might believe he is above the social pitfalls of race issues simply because he understands the problem. In reality, Lawson says and does several offensive things, each of which can be interpreted as racist and/or sexist. As mentioned above, he decides that it would be a wise business decision to conduct a thorough investigation of black applicants at the law firm, explaining that the extra-level of precaution is because African Americans have certain advantages when it comes to law suits. Also, one of his strategies to save his client involves re-wording Strickland's racial hate speech into racially charged erotic banter.

 

Finally, Lawson crosses the line when he provocatively suggests that Susan wear a sequined dress (the same style worn by the alleged victim) in court so they can demonstrate that the sequins would have fallen off if a rape actually took place. By suggesting that she wear the dress (and be thrown onto a mattress in the middle of the courtroom) Lawson reveals his desire for her, though he masks it with a detached attitude of professionalism."ThoughCo.Com "Race" by David Mamet, A Play About Skin, Sex, and Scandal"

Actor Zip Rampy plays Jack in Out of Box's production of Race. We asked him a few questions about the play and his role. 

 

OOB: What initially drew you to Race?

 

When I first read the script, I was fascinated by how the subject of race is discussed from both a legal and social viewpoint.  There are many blunt statements made about how the legal system treats people of color differently, and, simultaneously, how the public has pre-conceived notions of race before even setting foot in the courtroom.  The way Mamet has intertwined these discussions amongst characters from completely different backgrounds is what intrigued me the most.

 

OOB: What intrigues you about Mamet’s work in general?

 

Mamet is an instigator, a provocateur, and, most importantly, a master wordsmith.  He can write dialogue that can make you think, gasp, laugh, or cry...simply by deliberate usage and placement of words.  No matter what you may feel about his work, you can be sure that you will feel something.

 

OOB: What or who has inspired your portrayal of Jack?

 

Jack Lawson is a character who, after 20 years of building his firm, doesn't have quite the same fight in him that he did as a rookie lawyer. He still believes in fighting for his client with everything he has, but he's not really concerned about truth, justice, and all that jazz anymore. He's just doing what the client is paying him for, which is to win the case.

 

OOB: What has the rehearsal process been like?

 

This has been a tough but rewarding rehearsal process. There is so much being said, both in the dialogue and "between the lines", that the script analysis, alone, could take weeks. But working with this cast has made it an amazing experience, especially when discovering those little moments when your actor brains go "Aha!" together and you realize what you are both really talking about.

 

OOB: Do you think audiences in 2017 will be receptive to a play that deals with the subject of race so bluntly?

 

If not now, when? Perhaps the reason why we are still having discussions of race 50-something years after the Civil Rights movement is because we have not talked bluntly enough.

 

OOB: What kind of challenges has this show presented for you?

 

For me, personally, there was the issue of being the only character who never leaves the stage.  I don't get a breather, so I always have to be on my toes. Also, that leads to having the lion's share of dialogue...and it's Mamet dialogue, which has it's own patterns and rhythms (or lack thereof). As far as lines go, this one ranks as one of the hardest I've had to memorize, right behind Proctor in The Crucible and Prospero in The Tempest.

 

OOB: Would you take on this role again, if you had the opportunity?

 

Maybe, but not for a few years.  I think I would like to Charles at some point, though.

 

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