Wallace said in order to get the audience where he wanted with "Race," he had to get his actors there first, and he wanted them nice and uncomfortable, which wasn't easy. Three of his actors are local theater regulars, some of them with dozens of plays under their belt.
"I was fortunate enough to get four people who were very comfortable with who they are," he said and laughed. "So I had to work a little bit."
Mace, for example, had to be pushed to become comfortable (or at least comfortable sounding) uttering the dreaded N-word.
Wallace said, "It was really uncomfortable for him because that word isn't normally in Tim's vocabulary."
Mace, who seems like a pretty mild-mannered guy, agreed. Using racial epithets isn't something he's ever done. It wasn't even something he heard in the house he grew up in, and the word makes him almost queasy.
Still, as hard as it was to have to say the word, it was harder to make it sound natural coming out of his mouth.
"I had to repeat it over and over," he said. "It sounds ridiculous, but the way you do that is you tell yourself, this isn't me. I'm not him."
The play is supposed to encourage a dialogue about race, and Mace said it's already done that. At rehearsals, the actors have frequently discussed their own thoughts and experiences.
Wallace said, "No one likes to talk about race. It's an uncomfortable subject -- unless you have an agenda you're trying to push."
Wallace said race isn't necessarily something many people think a lot about in West Virginia.
"It's certainly not our biggest issue," he said. "That, I think, is poverty. But race does come up, and it's something we need to discuss.
"This play is a good way to bring people together to discuss race."
And even if it makes people squirm in their chairs a little (or a lot), Mace and Wallace say it's a good time.
Mace said, "One of my first acting teachers said entertainment doesn't need to be laugh-a-minute. It's a willful occupation of the mind. This is a play that will keep you engaged, keep you thinking, and I think that's good, too."
"Heavy can be a hard sell," Wallace added. "But we're hoping people come out anyway."
Reach Bill Lynch at ly...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5195.