In the play White Guy on the Bus, one character asks, “What is a melting pot? You throw stuff in, and eventually, it boils over.”
And for Michael Leeds, that line illustrates why the play is such a good fit for GableStage at the Biltmore.
“Miami is such a melting pot,” says Leeds, the director of GableStage’s latest production, penned by Bruce Graham. “And in a political climate where racism is constantly stoked to further divide the country, all of us were eager to use our creativity to dig into a piece that isn’t afraid to show... the possible consequences of our actions.”
August 11 through September 9, White Guy on the Bus is making its Southeast premiere. About morals, racial bias, and economic divides, the off-Broadway play centers on a wealthy white businessman and a struggling black single mother who ride the same bus every week.
“[It’s] a riveting story of how a family deals with an unexpected loss, what it takes to strip away their moral rectitude, and how racism motivates us in ways we’re not even aware of,” says Leeds, a South Florida-based director, teacher, and playwright.
This is GableStage’s fifth and penultimate production of the 2017-18 season. The play was described as “a riveting, thought-provoking piece of theater” by the New York Times and as “pungent” and abrasive” by the Guardian.
Leeds tells New Times the play checks off all the boxes that he and Joseph Adler, GableStage’s producing artistic director, look for when they select a show: It’s “relevant to the issues of our time” and “presents complicated characters forced to confront themselves.”
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But for Leeds, the biggest element White Guy on the Bus holds is a look at “how fragile our moral compass is.”
“It's like those scratch-off lottery tickets where you suddenly see aspects of yourself, inherent racism — both black and white — and the repressed violence in all of us,” he says. “When the cast and I were sitting around the table reading the play and sharing our experiences with racism or being different, it was interesting to hear the thoughts of this predominantly white cast and the sole African-American.”
Leeds continues, “You know, there's that old expression ‘You can't really know someone until you walk in their shoes.’ But what I got out of those talks, and what I think this play presents, is that what's more important is the path we choose to walk.”