A new play byRebecca Gilman
Directed byDaniel Sullivan

Newhouse Theater

During its premiere during the summer of 1999 in Chicago, audiences were buzzing excitedly about the new American play SPINNING INTO BUTTER. It wasn't just the sharp, funny writing of the talented young author, Rebecca Gilman. Her play's subject matter also provoked heated conversations about racism in America today. SPINNING INTO BUTTER is a searing, comic expose of political correctness at a small Vermont college. A crisis erupts when racist notes are posted on the dorm room door of one of the school's few African-American students. Sarah Daniels, the newly-hired dean of students, races to defuse the whirlwind of emotions spun up by students and faculty, but before the play reaches its surprise ending, she and the other whites on campus must first confront their own conflicted feelings about race. The play's title, as some of you may have already figured out, refers to the folk tale of Little Black Sambo. In that story, a group of menacing tigers rob Sambo but wind up arguing with each other, chasing around a tree, spinning faster and faster until they turn into a yellow blur of butter, which Sambo pours on a stack of pancakes and eats! "The mystery of who wrote the notes is eventually solved, but the real story of the drama lies in Sarah herself," adds Richard Christiansen of the Chicago Tribune. He continues, "She is a funny, frank, and pragmatic person, unlike other fustian species of academia we meet at the school. She means well. She wants to be helpful to minority students. She arranges for a scholarship for one student, but in so doing, she gets it all wrong. All she can do is try to work her way through it. 'You don't become a better person overnight,' she admits, but in the end, in a saving gesture of humanity, she makes a start toward healing." Originally from the small town of Trussville, Alabama (near Birmingham), playwright Rebecca Gilman had been living in Chicago for six years after finishing a graduate degree at the University of Iowa. Coincidentally, there was a real-life incident at the time at the University of Iowa involving racist e-mails received by some minority students there, but the central event of SPINNING INTO BUTTER actually derived from an episode at Middlebury College in Vermont in the early 1980s, when Gilman was a student there.