by Joshua Harmon
Originally produced at Lincoln Center Theater, New York, NY
February 15 to April 29, 2018
About the Premiere Production:
Synopsis: ADMISSIONS focuses on Bill Mason and his wife Sherri who have been the headmaster and head of admissions, respectively, of Hillcrest, a second-tier New Hampshire boarding school for fifteen years. Over the course of their tenure, this very liberal and progressive couple has been working aggressively to diversify the student body. When they arrived at Hillcrest, the student population was 94 percent white. Deeply committed to making the school more accurately reflect the country in which it is situated, Sherri has increased the proportion of students of color from six to 18 percent, a figure she considers still embarrassingly low.
Bill and Sherri’s whole-hearted dedication to diversity is put to the test when their son Charlie, an outstanding Hillcrest student and athlete who has had a passionate desire to attend Yale since he was a child, learns that his application to the university has been deferred. Complicating matters, Charlie discovers that his classmate and best friend Perry, whose father is African-American, has been admitted to Yale even though his academic performance and extracurricular accomplishments are nowhere near Charlie’s level. Concluding that Yale has made its decision based principally on race, Charlie lashes out and claims to be a victim of reverse discrimination. In turn, he unilaterally pulls his application from Yale and all the other schools he applied to and tells his parents that he has decided to attend a community college. He then informs them that he has written an editorial for the Hillcrest student newspaper, publically asking his parents to donate his college tuition to endow a scholarship for a student of color at Hillcrest. How deep does Sherri and Bill’s commitment to diversity go? Are they true believers or—when they react explosively to Charlie’s actions—hypocrites?
Artistic Statement: Like Joshua Harmon’s previous work (BAD JEWS, SIGNIFICANT OTHER), ADMISSIONS is both funny and witty. It is also seductive—and, perhaps, controversial—as it confronts issues that have not much been explored in the theater, at least not in a comedic and biting manner. Even though the play has ample humor, Mr. Harmon’s no-holds-barred approach is likely going to press a great many audience members’ buttons. In ADMISSIONS, the writer takes aim at racial diversity in private schools, white liberal guilt, and political correctness of all kinds. His play is humorous and sad and true, but it is also wrapped in a bright ribbon of satire. What is admirable about ADMISSIONS is that Mr. Harmon has dared to tackle hallowed, yet thorny, contemporary issues by skewering them with great humor and satiric wit. These are topics that liberals take seriously and, by and large, believe should be treated seriously. But satires—whether they are written by Molière or George S. Kaufman or, in this instance, Joshua Harmon—are often dangerous because they go into the realm of the outrageous and they have the audacity to take on subjects that are considered sacred cows.
Grant Statement: A grant from the Edgerton Foundation will allow LCT to schedule an additional rehearsal week. This will be helpful as Mr. Harmon has written some meaty roles that include lengthy speeches, particularly Sherri and Charlie. That latter role requires a young performer and an extra week of rehearsal will allow the director more time to work with the actor, whose stage experience may be limited.
Director: Daniel Aukin
Set Designer: Riccardo Hernandez
Lighting Designer: Mark Barton
Costume Designer: Toni-Leslie James
Sound Designer:Ryan Rumery