Trade with Klan: A Play About Choices
by Donald E. Baker
Resist or collaborate? Risk everything or lie low? Go along or get out? Ordinary people must make life-altering choices as the Ku Klux Klan pits neighbor against neighbor in a small Indiana town in the 1920’s. The religious prejudice and xenophobia of a century ago still echo in contemporary American society.
- Cast Size: 3M 4W
- Running Time: 90+ minutes
- Royalty Rate: $75 per performance
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I had the pleasure of seeing a reading of this play during Friday Night Footlights – Myrtle Beach a couple of years ago. Baker’s play is a haunting reminder that the past has not gone anywhere, and the racism that infected our communities then continue to infect our communities now. There are no easy answers, but perhaps by confronting out past we can begin to imagine and work toward a better future.
Just as “Inherit the Wind” by Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee makes the point that their play isn’t about a specific moment in history — The Scopes Trial — “it could be yesterday; it could be tomorrow,” Donald E. Baker’s cautionary tale “Trade With Klan: A Play about Choices” isn’t just about a small town in Indiana in the thrall of the KKK. It’s about people nurturing their intolerance [so] that they resort to the comfort of bigotry and the assurance of their own self-indulgent righteousness. This is a universal lesson, and worth hearing again and again.
This period piece from Donald E. Baker perfectly captures the rural America of both past and contemporary society, and jolts one out of even the tiniest bit of complacency which may have set in since the change in administration with nearly every well-considered line. As timeless as it is timely, Trade With Klan is ugly, and brutal, and pulls no punches. It is a must read, must produce part of the ongoing American story.
Baker’s Trade With Klan outright reminds us that society has made little to no progress in 100 years. And in fact, today it feels like we’re on the verge of having history repeated, this time with heightened ferocity & defiance. We were living in dangerous times then and if we are not vigilant now, we may very well lose what little remains of our humanity. Conspiracies, resentment, hatred, paranoia, discrimination, sexism, racism, all burn deceptively like grass fire in this riveting dramedy. An unsettling script with exceptional dialogue & exquisitely drawn characters.
This provocative and gripping play, essentially about the KKK and its hold on a insulated, rural community in Indiana, slowly builds in intensity and vividly paints a congregation of followers with blind devotion to an organization of hate and, sadly, considerable power. Baker cleverly references Bible verses about sheep with characters wondering why there are so many of them. Daniel is a protagonist for our times, as well as for those one hundred years ago when the play is set. The title shows us how the Klan offered economic prosperity, and how the sheep gladly followed. Simply stunning!
Goodness. Perhaps it’s partly because I recently consumed Midnight Mass, but this play had me on the edge up through its end. “Something absolutely horrible is going to happen,” I thought. Religion plays a rough and weird spot in my life. To put it simply, even though it isn’t labeled as such and has an ending not of the genre, for me, this is one of the best pieces of horror I’ve consumed in a while. With great dialogue and characters, Baker has made what I’d call a masterwork. Topical, horrifying, and yet, somehow, hopeful. Love can carry over hate.
Donald Baker’s play revisits the mid-1920s to remind us of how deeply frightening religious zealots can be. A town (and state) consumed by the KKK is our scene, and the young preacher Daniel has to decide whether to submit, as even his brother does, or stick to his principles. It is a sad state of affairs that this is even a question, and yet the pressure from his hometown is so intense, and the situation so seemingly unavoidable, it makes one uneasy about the outcome. Gripping and insightful commentary on the religious right!