Constructed verbatim from interviews with residents of Charlottesville, VA.
Written and Performed by Priyanka Shetty
Directed by Joe Bishara
#CHARLOTTESVILLE is a solo play about the Unite the Right white supremacist rally and the events that took place between Aug. 11-12, 2017, in Charlottesville, Virginia. It is constructed verbatim from interviews with local residents who were impacted by the events and its aftermath. The play explores the deep-seated racial inequities that have existed historically in Charlottesville, Virginia - home to three of the founding fathers who played a major role in the development of the American Democracy - and how it escalated to one of the most terrible manifestations of racial violence during the "Summer of Hate."
The Abbey Theater of Dublin will offer a limited number of tickets for an in-person experience on Feb. 19 and Feb. 20 at 7 p.m., which will simultaneously be live streamed for those who choose to watch the performance from home. Encore on-demand streams will be available Feb. 21 through Feb. 28. Tickets are $10 per household and are available for purchase at DublinOhioUSA.gov/abbey-theater.
Lighting Designer: Brendan Michna
Composer: Heather Mease
Sound Engineer: Wade Blair II
Videographer: David Crone
Production Manager: Jim Ziolkowski
Dialect Coach: Monica Blaze Leavitt
Dramaturg: Anna Sorrentino
Publicity: Shirley Blaine
Production Assistant: Emma Winder
Production Intern: Mary Jackson
I originally wrote #CHARLOTTESVILLE as an ensemble play that was performed by a cross-generational, multi-ethnic group of performers. I wasn't entirely convinced about rewriting this as a one-woman show. However, considering that the two other plays in the triptych (The Elephant in the Room and The Wall) are solo shows, I wanted to explore the possibility of allowing this piece to exist in a solo form. I am hopeful that this new version will have the ability to reach more people quickly because it is a timely play with a very important message, and there's an urgency associated with sharing it, given our current political climate. While the characters in this play are fictional, they represent the voices of the people of Charlottesville who came forward to share their experiences with me. This play is a heartfelt attempt to respect and honor those voices to the best of my ability.
The most asked question I have faced regarding this production is...why? Are you trying to make a political statement? Is this some sort of response to what happened in Washington D.C.? Do you have some sort of agenda? The answer to each one of these questions—no. We wanted to tell a story—a story that should never need to be told—the story that in America today, people are being targeted simply for who they are—whether it’s their gender, their religion, their lifestyle, the color of their skin or their occupation. Violence seems to have replaced baseball as America’s national pastime. How do we stop the bleeding? Can we, as a society, celebrate our differences rather than use them as a vehicle for judgment and hatred? It is my hope that our production arrives at a moment when we are prepared to listen and energized to respond. The choice is ours.
The events of August 11-12, 2017 in Charlottesville, Virginia changed the way that many Americans view the alt-right movement in the US. The Alt-Right, which to that point had largely been an online movement, had seemingly suddenly manifested as a sea of individuals willing to congregate in public and share their beliefs offline. The movement had been brewing for nearly a decade prior to the #UniteTheRight rally in Charlottesville; the term “Alternative Right” itself was coined in 2010 by white supremacist Richard Spencer, who directly instigated the events in Charlottesville.
In May 2017, Spencer hosted the protest now colloquially known as the “tiki torch rally” to fight the removal of a Robert E. Lee monument from Charlottesville’s Market Street Park (formerly known as Lee Park). This divisive event, which escalated into protestors shouting anti-Semitic slogans and white supremacist chants, would only be a prelude to the events that took place mere blocks away in August.
The major white supremacist acts of violence of the 2010s are all connected by a thread that leads to and from Charlottesville. The 2015 massacre at a Charleston church, the 2018 shooting at Tree of Life Synagogue, the 2021 insurrection of the Capitol, and so many other violent events, continue to remind us that this movement is large, violent, and ever-growing.
The events in Charlottesville continue to shift how Americans, and more specifically, the residents of Charlottesville, see themselves and their communities. This play tackles the unsettling world we now find ourselves in and asks us to consider how we can intentionally re-build our sense of community in the wake of senseless, violent, misguided tragedy.