RACE - A Look Inside: Henry Brown
"One of this characters most fascinating monologues is delivered at the top of the show. Here, the African American attorney suggests that most white people maintain the following views about black people:
HENRY: You want to tell me about black folks? I'll help you: O.J. Was guilty. Rodney King was in the wrong place, but the police have the right to use force. Malcolm X. Was noble when he renounced violence. Prior to that he was misguided. Dr. King was, of course, a saint. He was killed by a jealous husband, and you had a maid when you were young who was better to you than your own mother.
Brown is an insightful, no-nonsense lawyer who is the first to detect just how toxic the Charles Strickland case will be to their law firm. He thoroughly understands the justice system and human nature, so he foresees how both white and black jurors will react to Strickland's case. He is a good match for his law partner, Jack Lawson, because Brown, despite Lawson's keen understanding of prejudice, is not so easily fooled by the crafty young attorney, Susan.Like other "wake up call" characters featured in Mamet plays, Brown's role is to shed light on his partner's poor judgment of character. " ThoughCo.Com "Race" by David Mamet, A Play About Skin, Sex, and Scandal"
Actor Kerwin Thompson plays Henry 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?
The challenge of Mamet plus the fulfillment I get from performing meaningful work. Nothing means more to me than using my work to foster understanding and improved relations.
OOB:What intrigues you about Mamet’s work in general?
High language, plot complexity, and dialogue intricacies.
OOB: What or who has inspired your portrayal of Henry?
Johnnie Cochran and Clarence Thomas inspired my portrayal of Henry Brown the most. Johnnie for career excellence & self-love; Clarence for career excellence & self-hate.
OOB: What has the rehearsal process been like?
Absolutely nerve-wracking. Never before has a play given me a tension headache every single day. Understanding and delivering the play correctly is most challenging, but finally conquering the play has been extremely rewarding.
OOB: Do you think audiences in 2017 will be receptive to a play that deals with the subject of race so bluntly?
If they buy a ticket, yes. Mamet did not hide the subject matter in the title. Those who buy a ticket are ready to deal with matters of race. The opposite is probably true of those who choose not to buy a ticket.
OOB: What kind of challenges has this show presented for you?
1. Having 2 directors was a gift (added perspective) and a curse (conflicting visions).
2. Mastering the intricacies of the delivery of the dialogue.
3. Understanding the complexities of Henry Brown (Mamet gives no backstory).
OOB: Would you take on this role again, if you had the opportunity?