An interview with playwright Greg Kalleres about the West Coast premier
By Alejandra Enciso Guzmán
Greg Kallares felt inspired while writing TV commercials for Jordan and Nike during his undergraduate years in New York. As his insight into the advertising industry grew and his own writing progressed he felt the need to write a play.
“I was very much inspired by the industry,” Kalleres told the San Diego Free Press. “It is a very white industry. I was struck by how white it was and how comical it became to watch people discuss the demographics with a certain level of discomfort.”
In addition to being funny, weird and awkward, he also described his advertising experience as very revealing. The end result was “Honky,” a satirical look at five people, white and black, as they navigate the murky waters of race, rhetoric, and basketball shoes.
The play opens with the news that a young African American has been shot for a pair of basketball shoes as sales triple among white teens. “The play is very much about language,” Kalleres said. “What can and can’t be said. What should or should not be said.”
Behind the Title ‘Honky’
Thomas, one of the main characters, Kalleres explained, is a black shoe designer who works for a company whose demographic is young black males. Thomas grew up in a wealthy white neighborhood with a very good education, which results in his friends in the poorer, black neighborhood calling him honky. This piece essentially addresses the character’s identity issue.
“Honky, which is authentically an insult, is a very powerless word. It is almost comical to think about it as an insult,” Kalleres said. “The title really references the power of words.”
This exploration of the power of words will resonate in San Diego because it attracts such a diversity of people searching for better opportunities as well as for being a geographical border point between Mexico and the United States.
Kalleres, an Indianapolis native currently based in Brooklyn, came to America’s finest city this past weekend for the previews of “Honky.” His sister teaches at UCSD, so San Diego is familiar territory. He is happy to be working with the talent at San Diego Repertory Theatre on this play.
“From the very beginning they have been extremely open and very welcoming. Throughout rehearsal I will run into a question or two,” he added jokingly.
As a freelancer, Kalleres pays the bills by writing commercials. He’s written copy for Google and Twitter, and when he worked full time at the international advertising agency Wieden+Kennedy, he wrote for ESPN. He’s currently working on a pilot for Fox.
“When I am in the need of new pants or a piece of bread, I’ll write a commercial. Advertising has been very good to me …” he said. But Kalleres describes theater as being his first love, and it’s for that reason that he refuses to stop writing for the stage.
“Honky” opens on Saturday, November 15 and the production will run through December 7 at the Lyceum Space in downtown San Diego.
“It is a very funny and entertaining play. But I also think that people will see things in themselves,” Kalleres said. ” I think it will give you something to talk and think about when it comes to our comfort level with race in this country.”
Ticket prices start at $31 and range to $75. Student price is $18.
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