Defamation play explores race, religion, class, law

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Defamation, a riveting courtroom drama that explores what happens in America when race, class, religion and the law collide, is coming to Nashville for two performances Nov. 8 and 9 at the John Seigenthaler Center at Vanderbilt University. By asking audiences to serve as the jury in the case, Todd Logan’s Defamation directly challenges them to analyze truth versus presumption. The play has been performed to enthusiastic audiences throughout Chicago and now, in its third season, comes to Nashville for the first time.

“Nashville is extremely pleased to welcome Defamation, a play that encourages people to respectfully and honestly discuss their perspectives on some of the most contentious issues facing our city and our society,” said Caroline Blackwell, executive director of the Metro Human Relations Commission, a presenting sponsor of the performances.

“Our commission’s mission is to seek and find common ground among all Nashvillians; and one of the best ways to do that is for each of us to look inside ourselves and ask why we think and feel the way we do about race, religion, class and other dimensions of diversity. Defamation gives us a rare and wonderful opportunity to do this.”

Chicago playwright Logan’s Defamation is a twist on the he-said-she-said story. Within the framework of a defamation case, the 75-minute play examines stereotypes in unexpected ways by pitting a well-to-do, white Jewish man, the defendant, against a striving black business woman, the plaintiff. The plaintiff is suing the defendant, claiming he ruined her reputation and her business by accusing her of stealing his heirloom watch during the course of a business meeting.

With the audience acting as the jury, the play is written to spur self-examination and promote compelling civil discourse about unspoken opinions and misperceptions always simmering below the surface in our society.

“I’ve wanted to bring Defamation to Nashville since the show premiered three years ago,” said Logan. “This is a city with a rich civil rights history, and a population that is growing more diverse by the day. We hope and expect that we will be playing to a very receptive audience in a very vibrant and open community.”

Besides the Metro Human Relations Commission, other presenting sponsors of Defamation are the Napier-Looby Bar Association and CommunityNashville. The free performances are underwritten by the Thomas P. Seigenthaler Fund for Creativity and the Danner Foundation.

The free Nashville showings of Defamation are open to the public. They will be held Nov.8-9 at 6 p.m. at the John Seigenthaler Center, 1207 18th Ave. S. The play runs 75 minutes, followed by 15 minutes of jury deliberation by the audience. After the verdict is reached, the cast and playwright will engage in a Q&A session with the audience. A $10 donation to benefit the Napier-Looby Bar is requested for the Nov. 8 show. RSVPs are requested but not required to 615/727-1333.

About Todd Logan
Logan is a Chicago playwright, filmmaker 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.

“I was inspired to write Defamation after a personal experience made me realize that, despite the many ways our society is more racially integrated than in decades past, we’re still very divided and afraid to breach the divide for fear of saying the wrong thing or being misinterpreted,” Logan said. “I wanted to write a play that also was a forum for civil discourse, a way for people to safely and honestly express themselves, challenge themselves and move toward understanding.”

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 to much acclaim. The play will be staged for more than 50 diverse audiences during its 2012 fall tour. Defamation’s structure is unique – a one-hour courtroom drama followed by 15 minutes of facilitated jury deliberation by the audience. For those unable to attend or host a show, Defamation is available on DVD along with teaching materials to guide discussion. For more information, including video from the play, testimonials and booking information, visit