Of Equal Measure
by Tanya Barfield
directed by Leigh Silverman
originally produced at Center Theatre Group,
Los Angeles, CA.
through July 27, 2008
Set in and around the White House during the Wilson administration, Of Equal Measure's catalyst is the segregation of African-Americans in civil service at the onset of World War I. The play follows the actions of both the Presidential Cabinet and the character of Jade, an ambitious African-American stenographer in the White House who has access to strategic information. As the Cabinet explores how to integrate the United States into high-stakes global politics and begins removing black federal workers from their jobs, Jade has to decide what kind of American citizen she will be. This is further complicated when the United States enters World War I and Jade's younger brother, whom she has looked after since the two were orphaned, becomes prime fodder for the draft. Jade witnesses first-hand the paradox of Wilson bringing the United States into the war in order that "the world be made safe for democracy," while trampling civil rights at home by ordering the segregation of black federal employees and imprisoning individuals critical of the war effort. The effects that these actions have on Jade, her job, her family, and her country fuel a compelling story that resonates both socially and politically in today's world.
When I first read an early draft of Tanya Barfield's Of Equal Measure, I knew immediately that it was a play I wanted on our stages. It is smart, deeply engaging, and especially relevant as we enter an election year. Set during the Wilson administration, at the juncture of historical transformation, Of Equal Measure raises crucial questions about civic responsibility on both a micro and macro scale. It is my hope that Tanya's thoughtful examination of this important and highly-complex segment in our country's history will generate meaningful dialogue about our political past and present, as well as what it means to be American.
Of Equal Measure is the first of many Center Theatre Group commissions arranged through our New Play Production Program that we ourselves will produce and that I hope will grace stages across the country. We launched the New Play Production Program during my first year at Center Theatre Group with the goal of bringing a variety of new and topical American plays to our stages. Given the importance of this new program to our mission and artistic vision, the world premiere of Of Equal Measure is a certainly a milestone for the institution.
Director: Leigh Silverman