by Rita Charleston
Blending awkward workplace comedy with intense racial tension, “Rasheeda Speaking” is currently running at Allens Lane Theater, 601 West Allens Lane, through Dec. 3. This workplace thriller examines the realities of so-called “post racial” America when two middle aged female co-workers – one black and one white – are driven apart by the machinations of their boss. A chilling power struggle ensues that spins wildly out of control.
Written by Joel Drake Johnson and directed by Scott Grumling, this Philadelphia regional premiere of the critically-acclaimed play is an acidic depiction of race, power and friendship. Grumling, who has acted before at Allens Lane but never directed there, is proud to be making his directorial debut as he leads the cast in this recent off-Broadway hit.
According to Grumling, 48, “At the core of this play is the theme of racial inequality, a topic that is extremely relevant today. In the play I don’t make judgments, but rather allow the audience to make their own judgments based on their own individual perceptions as events unfold. I want them to think, and that’s what I believe theater is supposed to do. I don’t have an agenda. I’m simply trying to demonstrate what could happen if we don’t have any conversations.”
And what’s more important to Grumling “may be the fact that this play is being showcased at Allens Lane, where we have such a diverse audience.”
Grumling, brought up near Morgantown, PA., says he always had an interest in the theater, especially during his high school years, but went on to study actuarial science at Lebanon Valley College. After graduation, his job took him to Hartford, Connecticut, and eventually Boston, where he got involved once again in theatre. In fact, while in Boston he performed in such venues as the New England Conservatory and the Boston Center for the Arts. He has twice won for Best Actor at the ACT/Conn (Association of Community Theaters in Connecticut) Annual Drama Festival.
In 2001 the actor/director moved back to the Greater Philadelphia area to continue his career and his involvement in theater. Since then Grumling has directed “Don’t Dress for Dinner” at the Narberth Community Theatre, “The Miss Firecracker Contest” at the South Camden Theatre Company and others. He has acted at Allens Lane before but says he’s having a wonderful time today using his talents to direct.
Grumling insists he doesn’t have a preference for either directing or acting. He says, “With directing you can bring a show to life, and as an actor your performance can breathe life into a character. I also believe that being a director helps me as an actor, and vice versa.”
Today, Grumling enjoys working as an actuary as well as working in the theater. “During the day I use the right side of my brain at my job, which pays the bills. But since theater is such a creative outlet, when I do it I use the left side of my brain to get a lot of joy bringing compelling stories to the stage, which I think is very important.”
For tickets or other information, call 215-248-0546.