by Gabe McKinley
originally produced at Atlantic Theater Company ,
New York, NY .
January 25, 2012
through March 11, 2012
CQ/CX is a compelling new drama by emerging playwright Gabe McKinley. The play follows Jay Bennett, an up-and-coming African-American reporter recruited by The New York Times. Jay aspires to become a famous journalist, but his dreams come crashing down as he becomes the center of a plagiarism investigation. As scandal surrounding Jay grows, truth becomes slippery and racial tensions reach a boiling point. While fictional, CQ/CX is inspired by the true story of African-American reporter Jayson Blair, who was forced to resign from the Times in 2003.
When I first read CQ/CX, I immediately recognized Gabe’s skill as a playwright. Although he’s had relatively few professional productions to date, Gabe has an incredible sense of structure and a smart, direct approach to dialogue that’s evident in this play. One of Gabe’s particular strengths in CQ/CX is the way he handles his main character’s moral compromise for the sake of advancement. He doesn’t attempt to answer the question of “why” Jay did what he did. Instead, Gabe focuses as much on the impact and consequences of Jay’s actions as he does on Jay himself. His character, like that of Jayson Blair, remains something of a cipher. This mystery creates strong dramatic tension and allows Gabe to take on issues like racial politics, gender bias, cultural elitism, and political correctness without weighing the play down.
Gabe’s personal connection to the material also helps make CQ/CX a particularly vibrant piece. Gabe comes from a family of journalists. He also worked for a number of years at The New York Times, where his tenure overlapped that of Jayson Blair. With his background and direct experience, Gabe is able to paint a realistic picture of the dog-eat-dog, competitive world of the newsroom. Through the lens of Gabe’s experiences, we’re able to understand the aggressive and sometimes ruthless motives behind his characters’ actions.
CQ/CX is also a topical story that I believe will resonate with contemporary audiences. It raises difficult questions about the state of our media culture and the meaning and price of journalistic integrity. These are recurring themes in today’s society, especially as traditional print journalism becomes more and more threatened by our digital, “sound-byte” culture. For example, earlier this year a Pulitzer Prize-winning Washington Post reporter was cited for plagiarism when she copied another paper’s coverage of the shooting of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. With this and similar events constantly present in the media, I think this is the perfect time to explore what it means to be a news organization in the 21st century
The costs and risks associated with producing new work are great, especially in New York City where these challenges are amplified by the make-or-break intensity of the press and audiences. The initial response to a world premiere production in New York often dramatically impacts the future life of a play as well as a playwright’s entire career. This makes it all the more imperative that we have ample resources to fully develop and rehearse a new play before its premiere production. In this way, Atlantic’s generous grant from the Edgerton Foundation has been particularly helpful to us. With it, we’ll be able to provide an extra week of rehearsals for our world premiere of CQ/CX. Furthermore, this grant enables us to add six additional tech rehearsals during the play’s preview period.
Act Three-The Reviews
February 1, 2012
February 14, 2012
February 16, 2012
Theatre is Easy
February 17, 2012