L.A. Theatre Works Performs “In the Heat of the Night” at Pollak

L.A. Theatre Works performed In the Heat of the Night at Monmouth University’s Pollak Theatre on Thursday, Feb. 5.

The play tells the story of a colored detective named Virgil Tibbs from Pasadena, CA, working on a murder case in Montgomery, AL, with the Chief of police and his officers.

In the 1960’s, those of color were not respected or viewed as an educated race, and as the audience we were able to witness this throughout the series of events. Although Mr. Tibbs is a man of intelligence, he is constantly overlooked because of his color and is angered by the idea that authority figures of equivalent government position were belittling him. Towards the middle of the play, the Chief and the officers of Montgomery form an exceptional partnership with Mr. Tibbs, and although it was not accepted by their people, they respected him for his character.

With hopes of delivering a strong message to the audience about individual rights and discrimination, the play ends with a scene parallel to the opening of the show. In the beginning of the play, Mr. Tibbs holds out his hand to Chief Gillespie, hoping he would return the gesture and shake hands, but the Chief refuses and proceedes with his lecture. In the last scene, Tibbs is waiting for his train to return home and hopes to shake hands with Chief Gillespie. Once again, the Chief refuses and walks away, leaving Tibbs with his last goodbye.

During a Q&A with the director and actors, an audience member asked why the director ended the show with the Chief still refusing to shake hands with Tibbs. The director explained that towards the beginning of their tour, the Chief shook hands with Tibbs in the final scene, but some time ago he had changed his mind. His reasoning was that if he had kept the hand shake, then this would mean that discrimination is dead and absent in our society, but that is not the case. Discrimination is still very real and alive whether you are there to see it or not.

In the Heat of the Night

was a phenomenal production that sent a great message to our student body about issues that we still deal with today. Although discrimination may not be happening to you, it can be happening to the next person.

IMAGE TAKEN from pas.appstate.edu