SETTING & SYNOPSIS
The story takes place in 2012, a pivot point in the history of race relations in America when a cycle of tension will soon spark a conflagration. It is set in the fictitious town of Bainbridge, home to the elite Ellery University, a community that prides itself on progressive politics and inclusion.
PROFESSOR CHESTER WASHINGTON III, an African American scholar, comes home to find the front door jammed and his life’s work about to be put to the test. When SERGEANT TIM O’CONNOR, a white police officer, responds to a 911 call and assumes Washington is the burglar, he’s stunned to be accused of racism and digs in his heels. He arrests the professor and retrofits his police report to justify his actions. The professor’s daughter, CHLOE WASHINGTON, a performance artist and cultural critic, produces a video about the incident that goes viral.
U.S. PRESIDENT MICHAEL RIVERA weighs in, and his comments, stripped of context, launch a media circus that overshadows the vital issues — and reveals the media’s lust for spectacle. Meanwhile, an anonymous source sends O’Connor a link to a recording of the 911 call, which calls his actions into question. Later, Chloe follows O’Connor, expecting to catch him doing wrong, but when she sees him trying to revive a woman, she helps him, and together they save her.
O’Connor’s fellow police officers, led by OFFICER CHANDRA JONES, an African American woman, hold a press conference to affirm their support for him. O’Connor urges Jones to hold off, but she doesn’t listen. With the media circus in high gear, President Rivera invites the professor and the policeman to join him for a beer at the White House, an event the media dubs the “Beer Talks.”
Hoping to reconcile with Washington, O’Connor goes to his house and finds Chloe fixing the jammed front door. They acknowledge saving the woman’s life but argue when she accuses him of falsifying the police report about her father’s arrest. He suggests Chloe’s social commentary is too angry, which dances with a racist trope. Washington chastises him, adding that he is unqualified to teach cultural competency.
O’Connor, alone at home, listens again to the 911 call, reviews his police report, and amends it.
In the run-up to the “Beer Talks,” a morning talk show team trivializes the Washington/O’Connor incident by speculating about which beer each participant will drink. At the White House, O’Connor apologizes to Chloe and says he has done something important. He is interrupted, though, and he and Washington are led to the Rose Garden. The president calms the waters and sends Washington and O’Connor on a “listening tour” with the goal of healing the country’s racial divide.
Washington asks O’Connor if he would approve of Chloe filming the tour. O’Connor agrees but before setting ground rules, Chloe bursts in and starts filming, which infuriates him. The argument turns to racism, with Washington stating that it’s in America’s bloodstream and shining a light on O’Connor’s lack of awareness of his own privilege.
O’Connor hands Washington the amended police report, shocking him and Chloe. They agree there’s a chance that they could help create positive change.
The tour begins. As they spend time together and hear people’s stories of racism, from police brutality to micro-aggressions, O’Connor watches Chloe’s videos; Chloe learns that O’Connor is a widower; Washington acknowledges the dangers of police work. Trust is gained, lost and cautiously regained.
Washington observes O’Connor and Chloe growing fond of each other and flatly tells O’Connor not to pursue her. O’Connor denies the attraction However, Washington is on track: a day later, in a tender moment, O’Connor and Chloe nearly kiss but feeling conflicted, she pulls away.
Chloe posts clips to social media that reveal the tensions between O’Connor and her father. She insists she is capturing truth; O’Connor says she’s motivated by half-truths, as they mean more retweets.
The listening tour ends at a town hall in “the People’s Republic of Bainbridge,” their hometown where O’Connor arrested Washington. The self-righteous residents are in disbelief that such an incident could have happened there.
At a screening of her documentary at the White House, Chloe overhears a conversation and mistakenly thinks O’Connor has admitted to stonewalling her father on the day of the arrest. O’Connor tries to explain. Feeling deceived, Washington blames O’Connor for destroying their progress and accuses him of wanting Chloe, with a scorching “Some things never change!”
O’Connor and Chloe are both shocked. Chloe implores that this is “our life” now and says they have to fix it. Rivera appeals to their better judgment: “Don’t turn away from your victory/It’s nothing short of alchemy/From movement to reality/The doubt you feel, no doubt/Is vital to the story.”
Their fragile hope is restored.
Arriving home after the screening, Washington is with the same driver as on the day of the arrest. Suitcase in hand, he walks to the front door, puts the key in the lock, and he freezes. He looks at the driver.
Fade to black.
(L-R) Kevin Cirone, Ron Williams and Briana Maia rehearse
(L-R) Liliane Klein as 911 caller Mariana Engel. Ron Murphy, ensemble.
(L-R) Liliane Klein, Ron Murphy
Photos by Joe Wrinn
(L-R) Christian Figueroa as President Michael Rivera, Kevin Cirone as Sgt. Tim O'Connor and Ron Williams as Professor Chester Washington III "raise a glass" during the workshop presentation
(L-R) Kevin Cirone, Ron Williams, Briana Maia, Liliane Klein, Ron Murphy, Tyla Collier and Steven Martin rehearse with music director Scott Nicholas
Photos by Joe Wrinn