“Exit Strategy” is the story of a Chicago public school on the brink of closure. A small group of teachers launch a last-minute battle to save their school, following an administrator who may not actually know what he’s doing. The show premiered in Chicago in 2014, and this week it is opening at Kenny Leon’s True Colors Theatre Company.
“I wanted to do a story about people refusing to let go, [about] people embracing the fight and people hanging on,” playwright Ike Holter tells "City Lights" host Lois Reitzes.
The story features a wide range of voices – from the teachers and students fighting for their school, to the people in the neighborhood and the school administrators – all coming at the issue from their own viewpoints and with their own biases. The cast, which includes familiar faces to Atlanta stages Tess Malis Kincaid and Diany Rodriguez, features a diverse mix of ages and races.
“There’s no stereotypes in this play,” director John Dillon says. “I find it a really interesting play about diversity.” Dillon has directed several shows for True Colors in the past, including “Race” and “American Buffalo.”
As the play deals with the politics and passionate debate surrounding urban and public schools, the True Colors production has hosted conversations with Atlanta Public School Superintendent Dr. Meria Carstarphen as well as having teachers and students at nearby Benjamin E. Mays High School preview the show.
“Anybody who’s had the slightest connection with an Atlanta school will recognize the issues that are in this play as being totally here and now,” Dillon says.
“It’s a play that wants to get the audience hot and bothered,” Holter says. “It’s a play that wants the audience to aggressively choose sides and talk back and have fun and join that fight’s energy.”
“Exit Strategy” is in previews at the Southwest Arts Center now, opens Friday, Feb. 24 and runs through March 19.
The theater is also hosting a preshow talk with Holter on Wednesday, Feb. 22 at 7 p.m.