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Patrick Sims, deputy vice chancellor for diversity and inclusion at UW-Madison, speaks during a Cap Times Talk at Mt. Zion Baptist Church.

For many, "classical theater" brings to mind William Shakespeare, Anton Chekhov and Samuel Beckett. Today, many predominantly white theater companies are grappling with that schema as they make room for more diverse voices. 

“There’s a misperception that if it’s classical (theater), classical language, it doesn’t mean people of color," said Gavin Lawrence, an actor, theater director and playwright, in a recent Cap Times cover story.

American Players Theatre in Spring Green is staging the play "Fences" by August Wilson as part of its 2019 season. Cap Times theater critic Lindsay Christians used that production as a gateway into a broader conversation about race and theater for a Cap Times Talk at the Mt. Zion Baptist Church on Tuesday evening.

The talk featured APT artistic director Brenda DeVita, actors Gavin Lawrence and David Alan Anderson — who play Gabriel and Troy in “Fences” respectively — and Patrick Sims of the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Sims founded Theatre for Cultural and Social Awareness and is now the university’s deputy vice chancellor for diversity and inclusion.

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