TheatreWorks’ “Confederates” proves timely in election year

A talented young newspaper reporter grapples with an ethical dilemma when he learns something that could derail an outstanding presidential candidate in “Confederates” by Suzanne Bradbeer.

Presented by TheatreWorks Silicon Valley, this world premiere couldn’t be more timely, given that this is an especially contentious election year.

What reporter Will (Richard Prioleau) learns is that the candidate’s naive college-age daughter, Maddie (Jessica Lynn Carroll), has posed for a nude photo with a strategically placed Confederate flag. She says that the photo was for an art project and that the flag had been handed down from her great-great grandfather, a Confederate army officer who saved the lives of many men at Gettysburg.

The boyfriend who took the photo and e-mailed it to her says he’s deleted it. However, there’s no assurance that it won’t pop up again and be discovered by someone to use against Maddie’s father.

Therefore, Will and his older, more experienced colleague, Stephanie (Tasha Lawrence), urge her to get in front of the issue and possibly defuse it by allowing them to write an article containing her explanation.

Complicating the issue for Will is that he is a black man who, like many other black people, has experienced the prejudice that the Confederate flag symbolizes. He’’s also looking for a way to ensure that his job with the paper is more than temporary. Likewise, Stephanie wants to keep her job after being offered and refusing a buyout.

Yet another complication is that Will and Maddie know each other from an arts camp when they were younger. In the meantime, he has become the single father of a 3-year-old girl, whom he adores and wants to protect.

That’s a lot to pack into 90 minutes without intermission, but playwright Bradbeer manages it, thanks in large part to director Lisa Rothe and the cast. All three actors are well cast, but Lawrence as Stephanie sometimes talks too fast to be readily understood.

The play is episodic with numerous scene changes, but they’re smoothly accomplished on Andrew Boyce’s revolving set with lighting by Pamila Z. Gray, sound by Brendan Aanes and costumes by Noah Marin.

Local audiences first had a chance to see the play at TheatreWorks’ New Works Festival last summer. It was so well received that it has become the main stage production that precedes the festival this year. The 15th annual New Works Festival will feature two plays, three musicals, a next-generation musical event and other events Aug. 12-21 at the Lucie Stern Theatre in Palo Alto.

“Confederates” will continue through Aug. 7 at the Lucie Stern, 1305 Middlefield Road. For tickets and information about it and the festival call (650) 463-1960 or visit


About the Author

Judy RichterJudy reviews San Francisco Bay Area theater and writes feature articles about activities of the Stanford women's basketball team and Fast Break Club. A longtime Bay Area journalist, she is retired from the San Francisco Chronicle, where she was a writer and copy editor.View all posts by Judy Richter →