Despite Controversy, the Show Must Go On

Potomac’s Cast Comes Together to Put on the Best Production Possible of The Diviners



The cast of The Diviners prepares for a rehearsal.

Jessica Raman, Managing Editor

On May 12th and 13th, The Potomac School theater department will be putting on “The Diviners,” by Jim Leonard, Jr. a play that raises uncomfortable questions about the portrayal of difference as disability. The play, set in the Great Depression, follows the story of Buddy Layman, a mentally disabled boy, living in a small town in Indiana. Because of his disability, Buddy is treated poorly by the townspeople. The original play both begins and ends with elegies given by two townspeople at Buddy’s funeral, and the bulk of the play flashes back to the events leading to Buddy’s death. 

The decision to put on this play was not without controversy. Various members of the cast of thirteen felt that it would be unethical and ableist to have an able-bodied actor play a character with a disability. These sentiments are reflected in a more general movement in the international theater community to have actors play characters who reflect their identities. 

Following discussions with the faculty director, Ms. Fisher-Phillips, the theater department decided to continue with “The Diviners” under one condition: that they make it clear that their show is intended to spread awareness around ableism so that Buddy’s treatment by the townspeople should serve to educate the audience about discrimination against the disabled community. Karina Satoskar ‘25, who plays diner owner Goldie, explained, “We’ve been able to shape it into really what we want, and even if it’s a little different from the original message, we found a message that’s going to work for us.”

And so, the show went on. As the cast and director continued to work and rework the play, a substantial amount of the original script was cut. While the original play stands at about two hours, the Potomac version will be only 45 minutes. Harriet Falkoff ’25, who plays a comical character, said, “We were just trying to cut it to keep it short and sweet because sometimes if a powerful play is too long, you don’t get the idea.” On the other hand, as Noah Hess ’25, who plays farmhand Dewey, commented, “Sometimes, when you are taking a longer show and cutting it down into a shorter show, some nuance can get lost.” Karina added, “Sometimes the message can get lost when you cut down a show.” She continued, “We’re going to portray the characters to keep the same meaning that would be portrayed in a longer show.”

Harriet and Karina both reflected on how supportive and sensitive the cast has been during the entire process. Harriet commented, “Everyone supports each other, so everyone is aware of how everyone is feeling”, and Karina added that, despite any initial doubt, “We’ve reached a collective idea of how we want to portray the message of the show and how we’re going to work together to do that”.Even faced with a challenge, the community came together to listen to and support one another. Break a leg, cast of “The Diviners”!