Jeremy Gillett wrote Black and 25 in America three years ago. But when he started rehearsing the one-man play for a performance Friday, director Tim X. Davis noticed something.
"What you have written about is what people are talking about today," Davis said.
Gillett wrote the play in 2010 to fulfill an independent-study requirement at the University of Kentucky. But the themes of race, stereotyping and a search for identity have been a big topic of discussion around the country lately, particularly in the wake of George Zimmerman's murder trial for killing teenager Trayvon Martin in Florida.
Zimmerman was acquitted in Martin's death, but the circumstances of their deadly encounter — Zimmerman approached Martin when he thought he looked suspicious walking through his neighborhood — amplified issues that have been around for decades.
"There is a character in my play like Trayvon," Gillett says. "He's wearing a hoodie and jeans, not standing straight. From the beginning, you're thinking he's uneducated, no hope, no happiness. When you go deeper, you find that this is not the case, and there is no gun, and this is a bright, thoughtful young man."
Gillett, now finishing work on a master's degree at Arizona State University, says there was a deeper motivation than simply fulfilling an academic requirement.
"I was traveling in Israel, and in Tel Aviv, I was asked if I was a rapper like 50 Cent," Gillett says. "People kept calling me 50 Cent, and I asked someone, 'Why are people calling me 50 Cent?' He said, 'Here, our vision of a black man is a rapper or a gangster.'
"This play is saying it's time to take a few steps together and get past physical appearance," Gillett says. "It is called Black and 25, but it relates to the human condition. Anyone can relate to striving to have a voice and getting people to see you for who you really are."
Gillett has another motivation for presenting the play Friday at Bluegrass Community and Technical College. He wants to highlight the program and teacher, Davis, who helped point him to the stage and the power of theater.
"I want to promote theater and education in Lexington, and how important it is in giving people a voice and opening the door to other cultures," Gillett says.
He has spent the summer as the first national diversity intern with the Broadway League and the Association of Theatrical Press Agents and Managers, learning the business end of presenting Broadway and touring productions. The program aims to diversify the management side of theater, and it put Gillett behind the scenes on a touring production of Memphis, which is about a white disc jockey who brought black music to mainstream radio stations in the 1950s.
"Jeremy's fire is already very high, highly ignited as far as the world of theater and Broadway," Colleen Jennings-Roggensack, executive director of Arizona State's theatrical presenting program, says in a video about the internship.
With Friday's show, Gillett says, "Lexington is where I learned to make my stand in theater, and that's a message I want to bring to people here: that they can make their stand, too."
IF YOU GO
'Black and 25 in America'
What: Jeremy Gillett's original one-man play, presented as a benefit for the theater program at Bluegrass Community and Technical College
When: 7 p.m. Aug. 9
Where: BCTC-Leestown Campus student center, 164 Opportunity Way, off Leestown Rd.
Tickets: $10 at the door; cash or check only
Learn more: (859) 246-6672, On.fb.me/14nEV5e