Audience is jury in Normandale Community College’s presentation play Defamation

By Steven Geller - Director of Media and Public Relations

Normandale Community College will host a public presentation of the play Defamation on Tuesday, February 10 at 8:30 a.m and 5:30 p.m. as the keynote event of Success Day, We the People: Expanding Perspectives. Beginning its fifth season, Defamation is a riveting courtroom drama with a twist: the audience is the jury.

In this case of a striving African American professional woman suing a wealthy Jewish businessman for defamation, the real issues on trial are race, religion and class, all of which the audience/jury must openly untangle in order to reach a verdict. The resulting conversation comes at a critical time as numerous indicators show American society is becoming less integrated and accepting of differences.

The show will be held at the Lorenz Auditorium, and is free to the community and public.

"Whether we like it or not, we still have major divides in this country. Most of us still go to bed at night in cities, communities and neighborhoods that are segregated by race, religion, ethnicity and/or class," said Defamation playwright Todd Logan. "I wanted to write a play that encourages greater tolerance and understanding by spurring self-examination and promoting compelling civil discourse."

Defamation began its run at a time when studies indicate the U.S. is becoming a less tolerant nation. Recent polls show the following: perceptions that race relations are improving dropped from 56 to 33 percent from 2008 to 2012 (Gallup); trust among major religions dropped from 49 to 33 percent in 2011 (Ohio State University); and schools nationwide are more segregated today than at any point since the late 1960s (2007 UCLA study).

"My hope is that people become aware of the preconceived notions and implicit biases we harbor every day and then empathize with others more often, thereby combating prevailing trends," Logan said. "Making the audience the jury and then inviting the 'jury' to dialogue with me and the cast after a verdict is reached provides a forum to start exactly that process."

Presented by Canamac Productions, Defamation is a twist on the he-said-she-said story. African American businesswoman Regina Wade, the owner of a small design firm on Chicago's south side, brings a civil defamation suit against Arthur Golden, a real estate developer from wealthy, white Winnetka on the north shore. Wade is claiming Golden ruined her reputation and her business by accusing her of stealing his heirloom watch during the course of a business meeting.

During the course of the trial, lawyers on both sides elicit testimony regarding segregated neighborhoods and private club memberships, racial and religious discrimination, and the hardships and privileges of class.

Defamation has received much acclaim since premiering in 2010. Defamation has been performed for over 17,500 people with audiences in the Chicagoland area, Sanibel Island, FL, Nashville, TN, Worcester, MA, Cleveland, OH, and Jackson, MS. The play runs 70 minutes, followed by 15 minutes of open jury deliberation. After a verdict is reached, audience members are encouraged to explore issues further during a Q&A session with the playwright and cast.

About Todd Logan
Logan is a filmmaker, playwright and humorist. His past work includes the play Botanic Garden directed by Olympia Dukakis; the independent film With a Family Like Mine...; and humor pieces published in The New York Times and The Boston Globe, among other notable publications.

About Defamation
Since its premier in 2010, Defamation has been performed for high schools, universities, law schools, civic and religious organizations, and places of business from Chicago to Jackson, Mississippi. Defamation's structure is unique - a 70-minute courtroom drama followed by 15 minutes of facilitated jury deliberation by the audience. For more information, including video from the play, videos of audience deliberations, testimonials and booking information, visit DefamationThePlay.com.