The Rep goes national with Honky

New PBS series Onstage in America kicks off with noted local production

Filming Honky at the Rep for Onstage in America, airing on PBS stations nationwide.
  • Filming Honky at the Rep for Onstage in America, airing on PBS stations nationwide.
  • Image by Daren Scott

Trailer for HONKY, November 6th at 10pm EST on PBS

At 10 p.m., November 6, a filmed version of the San Diego Repertory Theatre’s Honky will air on PBS’s “OnStage in America.”

This is a huge deal.

In the new series, PBS will use inventive techniques to film “the very best productions from American regional theater” for television. Following the broadcast, the recording becomes part of a new digital library, “viewable for on-demand, streaming, and other digital productions to live on.”

The Rep’s Honky is the pilot show.

“The folks at OnStage are crusaders for sharing with the country the great diversity and quality of American regional theater,” says Sam Woodhouse, who directed Honky at the Rep. “They’ve worked tirelessly on the debut of this series for years. We at San Diego Rep are honored that our production has been chosen to be the premiere.”

The Rep staged Honky from November 15 to December 7, 2014. In the play, Peter writes an ad for a basketball sneaker, the Sky Max. Someone murders Charley Cross, a 14-year-old African American, to steal his pair. Peter and Thomas, who designed the shoe, quest for answers.

The film was shot in three days a year ago, says Woodhouse. “It began the morning after the live stage production closed.” A large film crew came to the Lyceum and set up shop in the conference room. “They brought an LA-based, three-camera professional crew and a director who regularly works on Saturday Night Live.

“They filmed two live performances, plus hours of scenes, close-ups and cutaways, some with the camera onstage and next to the actors. It was fascinating to watch a stage play deconstructed for film.”

Honky filming

Honky filming

Honky is a bold choice to begin the series. Greg Kalleres’ toe-to-toe satire presents conflicting attitudes toward race. He uses inflammatory slurs to exorcise them.

“This play doesn’t pull any punches. It dives bluntly into a bold conversation about race in America. When our audience was a fully mixed group of young and old, Anglo and people of color, some covered their mouths, others laughed loud — this crowd was the most fun to be in — in our little performing space, a cross-section of America listening to a play talking about the most difficult thing Americans have to talk about: race.

“The laughter of recognition at truths being told and masked prejudices being revealed made this a very special event — very much a San Diego Rep event”.

Woodhouse: “As James Baldwin so wisely said: ‘Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.’”

Now the show goes national.

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