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Palmer Park’ spotlights racial tension

Michelle Golden as Linda Hazelton, Alex Boyles as Martin Townsend, Mahmoud Osman as Fletcher Hazelton and Ashley Kobza as Kate Townsend in the Ohio State University Department of Theatre's production of "Palmer Park."

Racial tensions and social class struggles will be brought to life in the production of “Palmer Park.”

The production, written by Tony-nominated playwright Joanna McClelland Glass, is centered on a Detroit neighborhood and follows the race riots of 1967.

Palmer Park, the Detroit neighborhood in the production, faces the complications of integration. Children integrate from a working-class neighborhood to a high-performing school in Palmer Park, causing life-threatening circumstances.

The Ohio State Department of Theatre will open the fall season with “Palmer Park” Thursday. The performance is in the Roy Bowen Theatre in the Drake Performance and Event Center and runs through Nov. 21.

“I hope it will raise awareness about some issues we continue to face in this country today,” said Maureen Ryan, production director of “Palmer Park.”

Ryan, a professor at OSU, said the production deals with issues of segregation and education. One of the issues is a lack of funding in lower-income school districts.

“I think the play is incredibly entertaining, engaging and emotionally charged,” Ryan said.

She said it is important to note the production is a true story.

“The playwright who wrote this story lived this,” Ryan said. “Because she lived it, it is incredibly honest and emotional.”

Ten characters will tell the story of “Palmer Park” in the full-stage production. Five performers are OSU graduate students, and five are undergraduates.

“It’s a beautiful cast, and with what we give each other on stage, it’s a constant growing experience,” said Mahmoud Osman, OSU theatre student and “Palmer Park” actor.

Accompanying Osman on stage are Alex Boyles, Michelle Golden, Ashley Kobza, Aaron Zook, Charlesanne Rabensburg, Moopi Mothibeli, Kayla Jackman, Liam Cronin and Angela Henderson.

“You do grow from seeing other’s performances and what the cast members give you. Being around a great cast is really cool,” Osman said.

Osman said he has been impacted by the story of the play.

“Forty years ago seems like a long time, but some parents and grandparents lived through this,” he said. “I never realized the impact.”

Osman said he has learned so much about the impact of race rights.

“You can also see parallels,” he said. “Unfortunately, some schools are still dealing with this today.”

Osmond said he expects to see the crowd filled to capacity for “Palmer Park,” one of two full-stage productions this quarter.

The original “Palmer Park” premiered in Canada at the Stratford Festival in the Studio Theatre in 2008.

For tickets, call (614) 292-2295 or e-mail theatre-tx@osu.edu. Tickets are $18 for the general public, $15 for OSU faculty, staff and alumni, and $12 for students and children.

“Palmer Park” will run at 7:30 p.m. Thursday through Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday. It will also run at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 12, 13, 19 and 21.

The next full-stage production for OSU will be “Summer and Smoke,” a Tennessee Williams play from 1948. It is about a Mississippi romance and will run the week following the final showing of “Palmer Park.”

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