Ryan Hope Travis, head of the Paul Robeson Performing Arts Company, has been transforming the community-based outfit since he took over last year. The Syracuse-specific original stage work Drafters allows us to see the new energy and new faces he is bringing to the fare. For his fast-moving 90-minute script, gender roles and sexual harassment dominate the raucous locker-room talk of a dozen players. Not all the cast is African-American, and the words “race” and “color” are never mentioned. “Wegmans” and “Nottingham High School,” however, are heard.
Drafters concerns a semipro football team called the Syracuse Stallions. With such a weighty and all-enveloping theme, the script allows at least one big speech for each player, the two coaches (Charles Anderson and Bob Brophy), and even the waterboy and his girlfriend. Often speakers stand astride platforms and address the audience through the fourth wall. They also kibbitz with members of the media. Indeed, one of the first crises ensues with a gorgeous but diminutive television reporter (Jazmine Wilkinson), speaking with a cut-glass British accent. Good manners aside, she blasts the Stallions for having the worst reputation in the league for domestic abuse.
We never see any domestic abuse or even hear any rough language, but the dozen jocks can be rattled by feminine presences, or even the feminine-like presence of Test (Rachel “Babyface” Card), a soft-spoken transgender who wants to join the team as a kicker. Among the players with the strongest moments are Shaton Clark as Smooth, Robert Jackson as PG-13, and Dexter McKinney as Blaze, who has just beaten a rape charge.
CNY Jazz Central (441 E. Washington Street), October 23-31 (Thurs-Sat) at 7:30 p.m. $20 (at the door), $15 (in advance), $8 (w/ student ID). Co-sponsored by Vera House, Inc. and Onondaga Community College. Family Guide: subject matter will appeal to mature teenagers and up. For more information or reservations, call 315-491-4738