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By Maggie Gilroy, American Theatre 

Photo courtesy of Kalman Zabarsky

NATIONWIDE: When performances for Kirsten Greenidge’s Luck of the Irish began in 2008, one moment always got laughs. In the play, members of a black family express gratitude that they live in a neighborhood (the play is set in an affluent, predominantly white area in Boston in the 1950s) where they don’t have to worry about getting shot. But in 2012, after Trayvon Martin was shot and killed by George Zimmerman, silence replaced the laughter.

Still, Greenidge doesn’t shy away from addressing racial strife in her plays. Her most recent effort, Baltimore, is about racism on college campuses. The play is part of the Big Ten Theatre Consortium’s New Play Initiative, which is dedicated to commissioning works by female playwrights to be produced at universities across the country. Baltimore is running through Feb. 28 at Boston University, in a coproduction from New Repertory Theatre and Boston Center for American Performance. It will also be produced at the University of Maryland (Feb. 26–March 1) and the University of Iowa (March 24–27). The play is also scheduled to be produced at the University of Nebraska and to have a reading at University of Illinois–Urbana-Champaign.

Greenidge was commissioned in spring 2014, not long before the death of Michael Brown in August in Ferguson, Mo. Several protests also occurred on several college campuses while Greenidge was writing the play, in particular a hate crime in a dorm at the University of Missouri which led to student protests and the eventual resignation of the school’s president. But she chose not to base the action of Baltimore on any one national news story; instead, she created a fictional event that could speak to national discourse. 

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