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Talkback Heaven

“The final line is spoken, the audience applauds, the actors take their bows. But at an increasing number of theaters, the night isn’t over. Audiences often settle back into their seats. It’s time for the talkback, a chance to discuss the play with the actors, the director or sometimes the playwright.”

Betty Reid Soskin and Irma Herrera at Marsh Berkeley Talkback

These are the opening lines in an article in the LA Times, “The theater talkback: Why they're popular, and why playwrights aren't always pleased:. Click here to read article.

When the Marsh offered me the opportunity to present Why Would I Mispronounce My Own Name? at their San Francisco Theater for the initial seven-week run, I knew that I wanted to have talkbacks, although I had a different idea in mind. It wasn’t to discuss my play, it was to engage the audience with the work of thought leaders from the Bay Area’s social justice community. I wanted audiences hear about the wide-ranging activities that are addressing the many forms of discrimination that (unfortunately) have been flourishing in the past several years. My intuition was correct, folks have loved the talkbacks.

I personally knew the majority of talkback speakers I wanted to invite. And I also reached out to folks I had never met. I had heard them speak at conferences or seminars or I had read something they had written. Almost every person I invited accepted my invitation, and they gave me permission to tape and disseminate videos of these conversations.

The talkback speakers were gracious, entertaining, and had so much to say. I’m so pleased to finally share these videos with you over the next few weeks, each is between 25-35 minutes.

When my play was extended in SF for six weeks, I invited additional folks. I am also having talkback speaker in Berkeley. However, there will be some performances where there is no invited guest. I will use these opportunities for the audience to share their name stories, and to ask or comment about the issues raised in my play.

I'm so pleased to provide videos and bios of five of those speakers (not in the order of their appearances, except for Rinku Sen). Stay tuned for the rest of the videos, they will appear in future blogs.

For now I introduce you to the following:

Rinku Sen

Rinku Sen is a writer and a political strategist. She is currently Senior Strategist at Race Forward, having formerly served as Executive Director and as Publisher of their award-winning news site Colorlines. Under Sen’s leadership, Race Forward has generated some of the most impactful racial justice successes of recent years, including Drop the I-Word, a campaign for media outlets to stop referring to immigrants as “illegal,” resulting in the Associated Press, USA Today, LA Times, and many more outlets changing their practice.

Her books Stir it Up and The Accidental American theorize a model of community organizing that integrates a political analysis of race, gender, class, poverty, sexuality, and other systems. She is also a James O. Gibson Innovation Fellow at PolicyLink. Rinku Sen writes and curates the news at

Click here to watch.

Carlton Larson

Carlton F.W. Larson is a Professor of Law at the UC Davis School of Law, where he has taught American constitutional law and Anglo-American legal history since 2004. Before joining the UC Davis faculty, Professor Larson was a litigation associate at the Washington, D.C. law firm of Covington & Burling, and a law clerk to Judge Michael Daly Hawkins of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. He earned his undergraduate degree, summa cum laude, in History from Harvard College and his law degree from Yale Law School, where he was an Articles Editor of The Yale Law Journal and Executive Editor of The Yale Journal of Law & the Humanities. He is the author of the law review article, “Naming Baby: The Constitutional Dimensions of Parental Naming Rights.”

Click here to watch.

Victoria Plaut and Christopher Bridges appeared together.

Victoria Plaut

Victoria Plaut is Professor of Law and Social Science at UC Berkeley, School of Law, where she also serves as Director of the Culture, Diversity, and Intergroup Relations Lab. She teaches courses on implicit bias, law and psychology, and the psychology of diversity and discrimination. A social psychologist by training, Dr. Plaut has conducted extensive empirical research on diversity and inclusion, published in her field’s top journals, and co-edited a book, Diversity Ideologies in Organizations. She has also written articles for other audiences, including “Inviting Everyone In,” in Scientific American’s 2014 State of the World’s Science issue. Her research has been supported by the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, and private organizations. She has worked with Fortune 10 companies, nonprofits, law firms, courts, schools, and universities as well as with global business and science leaders on addressing biases and creating more inclusive work and educational environments. Learn more about Culture, Diversity, and Intergroup Relations Lab at

Chris Bridges

Christopher Bridges is a graduate of Northeastern University School of Law. He also holds an MS in Criminal Justice from Michigan State University and a BS in Political Science and BA in Criminal Justice, both from North Carolina Central University. Chris began his legal career in 2012 with the ACLU of Northern California as the Racial Justice Project Fellow, where he worked on school to prison pipeline issues as a member of the Education Equity team. Chris began his work at the Equal Justice Society in Oakland as the Butler Koshland Fellow and was later hired full time to focus his advocacy on school discipline and education issues as well as inequities within the criminal justice system. To aid in these efforts, Chris is using social science, structural analysis, and real life experiences to help broaden conceptions of present-day discrimination to include implicit bias.Learn more about Equal Justice Society at

Click here to watch video of talkback with Victoria and Chris.

Tom Saenz

Tom Saenz is the President and General Counsel of MALDEF and leads the organization in pursuing litigation, policy advocacy, and community education to promote the civil rights of all Latinos living in the United States in the areas of education, employment, immigrants’ rights, and voting rights. Saenz rejoined MALDEF in August 2009, after four years on Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's executive team. He previously spent 12 years at MALDEF practicing civil rights law, including four years as litigation director. He has served as lead counsel for MALDEF in numerous cases including challenges to California Proposition 187, California Proposition 227, and California congressional redistricting. In 2016, Saenz argued before the U.S. Supreme Court in United States v. Texas, representing intervenors defending Obama Administration deferred action initiatives. Saenz graduated from Yale College and Yale Law School; he clerked for two federal judges before initially joining MALDEF in 1993. Learn more about MALDEF at

Unfortunately, due to a technical glitch (OK, my human error), only a few minutes of my conversation with Tom Saenz is available.

Click here to watch.

THIS Sunday 2/10

If you live in the SF Bay Area come to this Sunday’s show at the Berkeley Marsh where I have another wonderful talkback speaker.

Michael Nava is the author of an acclaimed series of eight novels featuring gay, Latino criminal defense lawyer Henry Rios who The New Yorker, called “a detective unlike any previous protagonist in American noir.” The New York Times Book Review has called Nava “one of our best” writers.

His 2016 novel Lay Your Sleeping Head, a reimagining of the first Henry Rios novel published 30 years ago, was named by the Lambda Literary Review “one of the literary events of the year.” In January 2019, Michael launched the Henry Rios Mysteries Podcast, which adapts Lay Your Sleeping Head into an 18-episode podcast inspired by classic radio theater. His new Rios novel, Carved in Bone, will be published in spring, 2019 by Persigo Press, Michael Nava’s fledgling publishing company. He is also the author of an award-winning historical novel, The City of Palaces, set at the beginning of the 1910 Mexican revolution. His website is

For tickets and more info about this and future shows visit:​

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