“From White Plains” comes to Xavier University: Director & Former New York cast member Craig Wesley Divino discusses the show

By: Alex Spindler ~Staff Writer~

The Xavier University Department of Music and Theatre’s season is slated to premiere Michael Pearlman’s timely drama, “From White Plains,” this coming February.

In a production straight out of New York City, “From White Plains” finds its first collegiate premiere as part of the Music and Theatre Department’s second official season.

The original New York production of “From White Plains” was nominated for three New York Innovative Theatre Awards in 2012, won the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation Award for Best Off-Off Broadway Production in 2012 and was a New York Times critic pick. Director of Xavier’s production and former cast member of the show’s original production, Craig Wesley Divino, discusses his journey with the drama and what it’s like to breathe new life into a fresh piece of theater.

Xavier Newswire (XN): Tell me a bit about the play. What’s something about “From White Plains” that separates it from other dramas like it?

Craig Wesley Divino (CWD): It began in the spring of 2012. The primary playwright, Michael (…) Pearlman collaborated with the original cast members. We went back and forth, talking about what the play could be (…) it was written very live. You can call this a “gay bullying play.” However, it isn’t polemical nor does it present a single point of view. A lot of different viewpoints are expressed and the characters are complex. Just because a guy was a jerk to everyone when he was 17 doesn’t mean he’s not a complete being at 32. What is it to go back to those times in your life and re-examine who you are?

Original Off-Broadway cast of “from White Plains:” Jimmy King, Aaron Rossini, Karl Gregory and Craig Wesley Divino.
Original Off-Broadway cast of “from White Plains:Jimmy King, Aaron Rossini, Karl Gregory & Craig Wesley Divino.

XN: As an original member of the Off-Off-Broadway cast, tell me about your experiences as an actor in the show versus a director at Xavier.

CWD: We have a really interesting life with this show. It started as an Off-Off-Broadway showcase production. We booked the theater before we had a script. We got the opportunity to upgrade the company from its small, Off-Off-Broadway company. We then worked at the Signature Center on 42nd Street. (…) There is a new regional life for the show: Boston, Chicago and Ithaca, NY. Directing the show is very exciting. I can approach the play as just a play with four very talented actors. There’s some value in saying ‘this show needs to be done, now.’

XN: What can this play and its themes tell us about bullying and how our actions have repercussions?

CWD: The audience witnesses four sides of an argument and the experiences are really personal. There is no hero or villain. What does it mean to say, ‘I was just a kid?’ The points of view of these very realistic, human beings don’t follow the traditional unilateral story line of good versus evil. We aren’t trying to provoke a particular response. We want people to ask questions. We discover more of its complexity over time. There’s something about these four characters that allow people to explore the play and its themes.

XN: If you could say anything to persuade as many people as possible to see “From White Plains,” what would it be?

CWD: Something that stands out about the responses that people have to “From White Plains” is that they’re personal. People want to talk, to express their own stories and how the play speaks to their lives. The play is sexy, there’s humor, and it provides an opportunity for people to rethink and discuss their point of view on what is really a very complex issue.

From White Plains” runs Feb 14 – 22 in the Gallagher Student Center Mainstage Theatre. Tickets are available for purchase online at http://www.xaviertheatre.ticketleap.com.