BROWNWOOD, Texas (KTAB/KRBC) – A stage production of the 1984 play The Foreigner by Larry Shue is set to premier at Brownwood’s Lyric Theatre on April 14. A scene near the end of the play that features characters portraying members of the Ku Klux Klan has drawn what one community member calls a “quiet dissension” from some Brownwood residents.

“A very minor part of the play. It occurs at the very end of the production. We do have hooded characters who are part of the Klan,” said play director Nancy Jo Humfeld.

An anonymous Brown County resident sent an Email to KTAB/KRBC, spelling out their distaste for the play’s content and inclusion of the Klansman characters. They called it a “production of questionable taste.”

The Lyric Theater – in Brownwood is putting on a production of questionable taste.  The Foreigner – where racism, and robed KKK characters are pushing the edge of good taste.  Much backlash and quiet dissension is occurring in the little theater that could.

Normally I would not bat an eye over such issues.  But given the division on our country and community – one must ask, why?

Here is the email from the concerned resident:

The art director Nancy Jo Humsfield and Lyric director Eric Evans have chose to put on this controversial play at a unique time.  Language, racist language, fully dressed robed Klansmen, are now on our local theater.  We want to understand why.
I do not desire to be caught in the middle of this spectacle and desire to remain anonymous.  But if you look on their web site and publications you can clearly see they have even announced trigger warnings about KKK being portrayed and glorified on stage.
It begs many questions.  The mere timing of such a production is beyond the pale.  And just right after Easter.  Our little community is in a tailspin.  That – and the KKK is still in existence in Brown County.  We are baffled.  We do not need such hate and focus.
Please look into this for us.  We are bette than this dark comedy.

Humfeld and Lyric Theatre Director Eric Evans refute points in the email, stating the role of the Klansman is in no way “glorified.”

“We are not making light of this at all… They are portrayed as the villains that they are,” Humfeld insisted.

Evans continued, “To me, the theater has done what theater does. It’s spurred conversation… Any time we can dialogue about our history in good environments, we are going to be better for it.”

In the narrative of the play, two Englishmen stay at a Georgia fishing lodge where residents believe one of them does not speak English. This leads to a comedy of errors in which residents begin sharing personal details and secrets with the man, believing he cannot understand them.

“It is absolutely one of the funniest plays I’ve ever seen or directed, or been a part of,” added Humfeld.

The exclusion of the Klansman characters, Evans told KTAB/KRBC, simply because they are unpleasant, would be a disservice to the overall narrative of the play. Noting the difficult subject matter, the Lyric Theatre website does display a note of warning to would be viewers.

Play description and note as it appears on the Lyric Theatre website.

“The entire premise of the show and it’s educational components being, how do we handle people that are different than us?” expanded Evans. “So, it gives them the opportunity to have those conversations if they want to. We just didn’t want them to be surprised when they showed up.”

Humfeld said she has presented the play at least twice before to good reception. She hopes residents will come to their production with an open mind, knowing that the inclusion of the Klansman character is done so to spur positive conversation about the difficult topic, rather than seed discourse or glorify a hate group.