On Tuesday, Above the Fold began previewing at the Pasadena Playhouse in California. That’s close to KPCC 89.3 FM, a short MTA Gold Line ride from the Los Angeles Times and a couple of 134/210 freeway exits east of ABC 7.
Why the media triangulation? Because the author of the play is none other than Bernard Weinraub, former formidable New York Times reporter and husband to Sony Pictures co-chair Amy Pascal. From the official synopsis:
Jane (Taraji P. Henson), an African-American newspaper reporter from New York, flies to a Southern university where three white fraternity members have been accused of raping a young African-American woman. Taking place amidst the shift from print to digital journalism, Above the Fold asks tough questions about the exploitation of tragedy, the cost of success and the dangers that come when ambition collides with truth.
The play began as a “Hothouse” staged reading at the Pasadena Playhouse. Henson’s co-stars include Arye Gross (ABC-TV’s Castle) and TV veterans Kristy Johnson, Kristopher Higgins, Mark Hildreth, Joe Massingill and Seamus Mulcahy. In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Weinraub touched on a critical component of the drama – the rhythms of today’s digital news cycle:
The way people file stories now is far different than it was seven, eight years ago, in terms of filing for Twitter periodically, going for the Web. In the nineties, a White House story – you would have an announcement at ten o’clock, and you’d be able to work on it for five, six hours, and then report and then write it. And now, almost immediately you’re filing. You’re filing for web, you just keep filing and updating. There’s less time to actually report.”
Above the Fold world premieres February 5 and runs at the Playhouse through February 23.
Update (February 12):
Maria Russo, editor-in-chief of Pasadena magazine, has posted a Q&A with Weinraub and Henson. A brief excerpt:
MR: Why did you make the reporter character a woman?
BW: I thought it would be interesting to make her a woman, because a woman comes with a strike or two against her in terms of wanting to go to a place like Afghanistan, and women still have certain barriers that they can’t overcome. There are very few women at the highest level of newspapers right now, not many women reporters overseas, very few African American women reporters overseas. There still is an issue there. So that’s why I made her a woman.
To be honest, in the beginning, the first actresses who played her were not black, and we had this experience in Chicago, it was being read by a theater there, and some of the people in the theater objected to the character of Monique. They thought we were disparaging black women, and I went, what? But I started thinking about it and I thought, there’d be much more dimension in having two African-American women of different classes, ambitions, totally different people, but bound by their race.