Trouble in Mind: A Play That Defies Time at the Arena Stage

10/5/2011, 12:48 p.m.

Though "Trouble in Mind" was a hit with audiences, in addition to garnering the accolades of critics, the production was doomed due to internal friction. Mirroring the problems encountered in the fictional "Chaos in Bellville," real life drama on the play included a clash between the original director and cast that prompted Childress to step in as director.

"Trouble in Mind," is a sardonically funny look at the racial constraints of theater in the past for African American actors and actresses, but has present day parallels with roles that are now being put forward by Hollywood, particularly in the recent movie release of Kathryn Stockett's "The Help." When "Trouble in Mind" was optioned for Broadway, the producers requested that Childress revamp the play to be more upbeat with a happy ending.

After many attempts that were dissatisfying to both Childress and the producers, the plans to take the play to Broadway were ultimately scrapped, and "Trouble in Mind" was assigned to relative obscurity until Irene Lewis brought it out into the open in Richmond's CenterStage 2007 production, which featured most of the same cast as appears in the Arena Stage incarnation.

"Theater is all about taking risks, and Alice Childress certainly took a risk in writing a piece like "Trouble in Mind" at such a turbulent pint in our nation's history," said Managing Director of Arena Stage, Edgar Doble. "Childress was ahead of her time, but the messages in the show are still just as meaningful today. We are excited to begin our season with this brilliant work by one of America's trailblazing playwrights."

In honor of Childress' birthday on October 12th, there will be a special program, "Black Face in the Media" on Wednesday, Oct. 12th from 6-7 p.m. Visit www.arenastage.org for tickets and showtimes.