Director of Alley’s coming-of-age comedy ‘High School Play’ explains why he’s connecting with the masses

“THEY WERE QUITE goofy and goofy in a lot of ways,” director and Houston native Tiffany Nichole Greene says of her high school drama teachers. “But at that time, it’s the people who inject energy into you and give you that space to express yourself.”

Greene no doubt draws on her formative experiences as a drama student to helm Vichet Chum’s coming-of-age comedy, High school play: a festival of nostalgia, which runs until February 13 at the Alley. Despite its subtitle, high school game isn’t just an early flashback for old drama nerds.

Its story is set in Carrollton, Texas, where the Riverside High School drama troupe is reeling after losing the previous year’s one-act play competition. When new kid Paul arrives from New York, the troupe’s coaches seize the opportunity to cast him as the leader in SIX DEGREES OF SEPARATION, a play about a con man who takes advantage of a group of wealthy white Manhattanites by convincing them that he is the son of Sidney Poitier. Paul, who is black and from the big city, quickly finds himself at odds with the small-town beliefs of his fellow actors and the larger community of Carrollton. “There’s something about Paul’s presence that exposes others,” Greene says. “Because its perspective is bigger, this world seems smaller.”

Greene brought Chum’s piece to the Alley’s attention, knowing it would reach and connect with a large audience. “There are a lot of universal themes in the play that I think everyone can relate to,” says Greene. “But what’s special is that it’s told through the voices of Texans.”

As an independent director, Greene is known for giving voice to women and people of color in classic repertoire productions such as Romeo and Juliet and A raisin in the sun, where Ruth’s perspective comes into its own. “She’s the underdog in this story,” says Greene. “There’s a way to stage that and allow it to be present in a way that allows us to see the play differently.” But, as seen in high school game, new perspectives are often met with setback, which Greene counters with his deeply felt and humanistic theatrical approach. “At the end of the day, people are people,” says Greene. “If you can reach into people’s souls, that’s the connection, and they’ll realize that this thing that felt so foreign to them, now feels really familiar to them.”

Ricardo Dávila as Rich, Daniel Velasco as Dara, Sabrina Koss as Kailee, Jarred Tettey as Paul, Mai Le as Allison, Kaiya Scott as Sophie and Melissa Pritchett as Mrs. Blow in the Alley Theater production of High school play: a festival of nostalgia. Photo by Lynn Lane.

Daniel Velasco as Dara and Jarred Tettey as Paul in the Alley Theater production of High school play: a festival of nostalgia. Photo by Lynn Lane.

The Cast of Alley Theater production of High school play: a festival of nostalgia. Photo by Lynn Lane.

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