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Set on a college campus in Vermont, Spinning into Butter is a new play by a major young American playwright that explores the dangers of both racism and political correctness in America today in a manner that is at once profound, disturbing, darkly comic, and deeply cathartic. Rebecca Gilman challenges our preconceptions about race relations, writing of a liberal dean of s Set on a college campus in Vermont, Spinning into Butter is a new play by a major young American playwright that explores the dangers of both racism and political correctness in America today in a manner that is at once profound, disturbing, darkly comic, and deeply cathartic. Rebecca Gilman challenges our preconceptions about race relations, writing of a liberal dean of students named Sarah Daniels who investigates the pinning of anonymous, clearly racist letters on the door of one of the college's few African American students. The stunning discovery that there is a virulent racist on campus forces Sarah, along with other faculty members and students, to explore her feelings about racism, leading to surprising discoveries and painful insights that will rivet and provoke the reader as perhaps no play since David Mamet's Oleanna has done. Spinning into Butter had its world premiere at the Goodman Theatre in Chicago in May 1999 and will open at the Vivian Beaumont Theater at Lincoln Center in New York in April 2000.


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Set on a college campus in Vermont, Spinning into Butter is a new play by a major young American playwright that explores the dangers of both racism and political correctness in America today in a manner that is at once profound, disturbing, darkly comic, and deeply cathartic. Rebecca Gilman challenges our preconceptions about race relations, writing of a liberal dean of s Set on a college campus in Vermont, Spinning into Butter is a new play by a major young American playwright that explores the dangers of both racism and political correctness in America today in a manner that is at once profound, disturbing, darkly comic, and deeply cathartic. Rebecca Gilman challenges our preconceptions about race relations, writing of a liberal dean of students named Sarah Daniels who investigates the pinning of anonymous, clearly racist letters on the door of one of the college's few African American students. The stunning discovery that there is a virulent racist on campus forces Sarah, along with other faculty members and students, to explore her feelings about racism, leading to surprising discoveries and painful insights that will rivet and provoke the reader as perhaps no play since David Mamet's Oleanna has done. Spinning into Butter had its world premiere at the Goodman Theatre in Chicago in May 1999 and will open at the Vivian Beaumont Theater at Lincoln Center in New York in April 2000.

30 review for Spinning Into Butter

  1. 5 out of 5

    Audrey

    This play tricks you. You think it's going to be a revealing and blunt discussion about how white people feel about their own racism and how they get called out on try to tell its story. But that's precisely what the play is. The central character - a black student who, it turns out, had been sending racist notes to HIMSELF - never gets a voice and the lead character - an admittedly racist white woman - seems to "save" him in the end. GAH! This play tricks you. You think it's going to be a revealing and blunt discussion about how white people feel about their own racism and how they get called out on try to tell its story. But that's precisely what the play is. The central character - a black student who, it turns out, had been sending racist notes to HIMSELF - never gets a voice and the lead character - an admittedly racist white woman - seems to "save" him in the end. GAH!

  2. 4 out of 5

    Bren

    review coming soon.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Daniel

    I was not at all familiar with this play before reading it. Gilman's name sounded familiar but I couldn't name anything she'd written. I am sure that will change for me. Judging simply by the title, I suspected that this play would deal with racial issues and I admit to having second thoughts because I just wasn't looking for a didactic lesson on race. Fortunately, what I got was not a lesson on race but a lesson on racism. And...surprise, surprise...from a "white" perspective! How novel! How dar I was not at all familiar with this play before reading it. Gilman's name sounded familiar but I couldn't name anything she'd written. I am sure that will change for me. Judging simply by the title, I suspected that this play would deal with racial issues and I admit to having second thoughts because I just wasn't looking for a didactic lesson on race. Fortunately, what I got was not a lesson on race but a lesson on racism. And...surprise, surprise...from a "white" perspective! How novel! How daring! And, being Caucasian, it actually reached me in a way that a play never has before. The play is about one individual on a college campus who is forced to face her own feelings of racism. Outward, she appears level-headed, intelligent, and very sympathetic to racial issues. But of course sympathy is perhaps not the right emotion to have. Inward, the woman struggles with her views on 'blacks' and admits that one of the reasons she took a job at a college in Vermont was to get away from the black population. One of the most beautiful aspects of this play is that it takes a major issue, and brings it in to focus through one individual -- and a likable individual! It forces us to look at ourselves and how similar we may be to this character. There are no clear answers, only lots of soul-searching questions, but the play does end with a spark of promise. A really fantastic script.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Rachelle Urist

    The work is sharp, consuming, and surprisingly hip for a play steeped in academic jargon. It is compared, on the book jacket, to David Mamet's OLEANNA. I liked OLEANNA enormously, but I think this is the better play. Unlike OLEANNA, which is about sexual harrassment, this play is about racial tensions. It takes place on campus (in one office, to be precise), but it's about racial tensions in the larger arena, too. It's incisive, cuts to the chase, and is an eye-opener. bluntly calling out the wo The work is sharp, consuming, and surprisingly hip for a play steeped in academic jargon. It is compared, on the book jacket, to David Mamet's OLEANNA. I liked OLEANNA enormously, but I think this is the better play. Unlike OLEANNA, which is about sexual harrassment, this play is about racial tensions. It takes place on campus (in one office, to be precise), but it's about racial tensions in the larger arena, too. It's incisive, cuts to the chase, and is an eye-opener. bluntly calling out the would-be tolerant folks for being patronizing, more than "tolerant." The central character, the most sympathetic of the lot, is the one hardest on herself and the one who gets the short end of the stick. A wonderful play. Couldn't put it down. Read it in one sitting.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Andrew

    Kind of a letdown. At the begining of the play I sort of liked it. Then as it went on, almost all of the characters became unlikeable. There were some scenes where things were said that really surprised me. They were uncofortable statements, only because they came out of nowhere, and because of which characters they were comming out of. Only one or two of them remained likable, and they were in it the least. One plot point in my oppinion went nowhere. Characters are mentioned that may have broug Kind of a letdown. At the begining of the play I sort of liked it. Then as it went on, almost all of the characters became unlikeable. There were some scenes where things were said that really surprised me. They were uncofortable statements, only because they came out of nowhere, and because of which characters they were comming out of. Only one or two of them remained likable, and they were in it the least. One plot point in my oppinion went nowhere. Characters are mentioned that may have brought some new life to it, but they never appear. The race subject became very preachy.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Allison Barnes

    I haven't read a story with such unlikable characters in a long time. The dialogue was contrived and flat, and there was absolutely no depth to anyone. The relationship between Sarah and Ross was ridiculous, and I didn't care about them whatsoever - and continued to not care about anyone throughout the entire 112 pages. It truly sounded like it was going to be a well-plotted work, and could have actually gone somewhere, but I didn't find a single redeeming point in the entire drama. I haven't read a story with such unlikable characters in a long time. The dialogue was contrived and flat, and there was absolutely no depth to anyone. The relationship between Sarah and Ross was ridiculous, and I didn't care about them whatsoever - and continued to not care about anyone throughout the entire 112 pages. It truly sounded like it was going to be a well-plotted work, and could have actually gone somewhere, but I didn't find a single redeeming point in the entire drama.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Tessyohnka

    The characters are difficult, some relationships questionable, but there was substance enough to require some thinking/examination. Her use of the Yeats quote is thought provoking and she adds nice touches of humor. It isn't so much about racism as it is about the way whites choose to own up to whatever racism exists within. And while it is troubling when we learn the identity of the perpetrator of the hate crime, it leads us to a possibly important reaction from the central character. The characters are difficult, some relationships questionable, but there was substance enough to require some thinking/examination. Her use of the Yeats quote is thought provoking and she adds nice touches of humor. It isn't so much about racism as it is about the way whites choose to own up to whatever racism exists within. And while it is troubling when we learn the identity of the perpetrator of the hate crime, it leads us to a possibly important reaction from the central character.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Jackie

    Great play about a racist attack and the insuing PR circus acts to maintain the idilic rural Vermont liberal college town feel. Some great characters, that add humor to this subject, that might make this otherwise feel like a 'message' play. Gilman is a fantastic writer and through out uses metaphors from Little Black Sambo in this story. I would want to teach this in a freshman comp 101 class. Great play about a racist attack and the insuing PR circus acts to maintain the idilic rural Vermont liberal college town feel. Some great characters, that add humor to this subject, that might make this otherwise feel like a 'message' play. Gilman is a fantastic writer and through out uses metaphors from Little Black Sambo in this story. I would want to teach this in a freshman comp 101 class.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Ann

    This play is lauded as starting the great dialogue on racism. But very few people of color are represented in the play, or given voice. And, SPOILER ALERT -- the hate crime is "committed" by the student of color who originally reports it, creating an ugly white fantasy. Stupid that Gilman should be given so much credit she doesn't deserve for this one. This play is lauded as starting the great dialogue on racism. But very few people of color are represented in the play, or given voice. And, SPOILER ALERT -- the hate crime is "committed" by the student of color who originally reports it, creating an ugly white fantasy. Stupid that Gilman should be given so much credit she doesn't deserve for this one.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Helen

    This play touched on some things that I don't believe I've seen talked about before and I thought it was important that the issue was dealt with, but I did wish that it was more drawn out and there was maybe some more resolution, but I love Rebecca Gilman as a playwright and she writes, or at least I think, very strong-willed female characters that I can appreciate. This play touched on some things that I don't believe I've seen talked about before and I thought it was important that the issue was dealt with, but I did wish that it was more drawn out and there was maybe some more resolution, but I love Rebecca Gilman as a playwright and she writes, or at least I think, very strong-willed female characters that I can appreciate.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Daniel

    I know it's a play ... but so is Shakespeare! A great examination of perception and the crazy loops it puts us through. Feeling versus social consciousness versss morality. It's all here .... And you can read it in 45 minutes. I know it's a play ... but so is Shakespeare! A great examination of perception and the crazy loops it puts us through. Feeling versus social consciousness versss morality. It's all here .... And you can read it in 45 minutes.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Taylor

    Miami needs to do this play. Questions of racism have never been so frankly discussed on our campus as they are in Gilman's play. It is not the most eloquent in dialogue, characterization, etc, but the message is clear, crisp, biting and refreshing. It leaves you with both frustration and hope. Miami needs to do this play. Questions of racism have never been so frankly discussed on our campus as they are in Gilman's play. It is not the most eloquent in dialogue, characterization, etc, but the message is clear, crisp, biting and refreshing. It leaves you with both frustration and hope.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Izetta Autumn

    An examination of race at an elite private college - the central character is a white woman dealing with guilt and misunderstandings of race. Sarah Jessica Parker was rumored to have purchased the rights to this and to have made it into a movie for HBO.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Connie

    Interesting and unflinching look at racism in higher ed.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Georgia

    I just read this book. It is funny but the point is so very important when it comes to issues of race of identity.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Carolyn

    I really enjoyed the humor and honesty of this play. Great dialogue and spirit in this.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Pat

    A moving play about political correctness and the ongoing issues of racism set against the backdrop of a college campus

  18. 4 out of 5

    Sarah Kleist

    This play was interesting and asked wonderful social questions. Definitely unique. I liked it.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Andrea Izzy

    A well-written play but I liked some of her other work better. I think it was a little messy towards the end of the play, while the beginning was very tight and put together.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Marzenka Collins

    Boring, talks about racism with only one non-Caucasian character given voice Would rather poke my eyes with forks than read it again P.S. Petra, really?

  21. 4 out of 5

    Tanya

    A great play about a dean of a college exploring racism and political correctness.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Susie

    This was good, it just wasn't as good as her other plays that I've read. This was good, it just wasn't as good as her other plays that I've read.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Cheryl

    (because of Daniel's review) (because of Daniel's review)

  24. 4 out of 5

    Sonya

    navel gazing- thought loop play.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Jase

    it was interesting

  26. 5 out of 5

    Meg

    I thought this play was absolutely incredible- but full disclosure, I was maybe born to play the role of Sarah Daniels. Its an incredible look at issues of racism, even in places like liberal arts colleges, among well-educated, "progressive" academics who believe they know better. It's also a fairly scathing review of what it is to be in academia... maybe not for everyone, but I found it a timely and well-written piece that I would love to see sometime in the near future (hopefully featuring me I thought this play was absolutely incredible- but full disclosure, I was maybe born to play the role of Sarah Daniels. Its an incredible look at issues of racism, even in places like liberal arts colleges, among well-educated, "progressive" academics who believe they know better. It's also a fairly scathing review of what it is to be in academia... maybe not for everyone, but I found it a timely and well-written piece that I would love to see sometime in the near future (hopefully featuring me on the stage).

  27. 4 out of 5

    Julia

    It was definitely ambitious, and I liked the way it discussed the objectification of black people even by well-meaning white liberals, but ultimately I'm personally not all that interested in the moral struggles of white people grappling with their racism. I can definitely think of a few people I'd want to recommend this to. It was definitely ambitious, and I liked the way it discussed the objectification of black people even by well-meaning white liberals, but ultimately I'm personally not all that interested in the moral struggles of white people grappling with their racism. I can definitely think of a few people I'd want to recommend this to.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Leah

    A play that deals with racism. It's main point is we should just see people as people, not group them based on race. It makes you think. A play that deals with racism. It's main point is we should just see people as people, not group them based on race. It makes you think.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Neha Gandra

    it was pretty good but also for the kind of topics it was addressing, i wish it had been less wishy washy and more powerful

  30. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth

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