Answering the ‘Buzzer’ on Gentrification

As a professional playwright with two decades of experience, Tracey Scott Wilson is no newbie to the world of theater.

Her newest project, Buzzer  is currently playing in Chicago’s Owen Theater, centers on Jackson, a young, successful Black attorney determined to build a life in his childhood neighborhood that is transforming due to gentrification.

Joining him are his girlfriend and best friend, both White. It isn’t long before the trio is forced to confront the simmering racial and sexual tensions that exist both inside their home, and outside their shared apartment.  We caught up with Wilson, who also writes for “The Americans” on FX, to learn more about the inspiration and appeal of this onstage experience.

JET: What was your inspiration behind the play?

Tracey Scott Wilson: My inspiration was my own experience seeing neighbors that had been gentrified and my own experience being gentrified as well while living in New York. So it is sort of something that I have lived my whole life and something that I have had a lot of experience with.

JET: Could you describe the different issues that are portrayed in the piece and why they are important?

TSW: The play deals with race, gender, gentrification and fear.  Jackson (Eric Lynch) is an upper-middle class African American male who came up and went on to great success in Harvard College and Harvard Law and he is a partner at a law firm. He has a White girlfriend named Suzy (Lee Stark), who is a teacher at a new school. And he also has a best friend Don (Shane Kenyon) who comes from a prestigious White family that has a lot of money, but he moves in with Jackson and Suzy to recover from his various issues. So they all go to live with each other in this neighborhood and see some issues that they have never had to deal with before. It also looks at the class issues within these relationships and how they survive with each other.

JET: Why would these different things be important to the audience?

TSW: I think it is something that is happening all over the country now. Neighborhoods are being taken over and transformed, which has definitely been an issue in almost every urban city in this country with Detroit being the most extreme example. In Chicago, it is something that has been happening for a really long time, so I just feel like it’s a good way to talk about these types of topics.

JET: With February being Black History Month do you think that the story is more relevant now?

TSW: I don’t think it is relevant because it is Black History Month. I think that it is an issue that is of particular interest to the entire country right now. The income gap is growing wider and wider and this is just happening more and more. So I think that the issue is going to be around.

Stay tuned for more from Buzzer and to see if it plays in a city near you.  If you’re in the Chicago area, check it out at the Goodman Theatre until March 9. For more information, click HERE.