There Are No Men or Boats in Third Rail’s Production of “Men on Boats”
On the surface, “Men on Boats” seems a conventional play. Written by Jaclyn Backhaus, it’s a rollicking tale of the 1869 mission to explore the Colorado River, when a group of 10 intrepid adventurers, financed by the U.S. government, struck out to survey one of the last remaining pieces of the American frontier. But two sentences in the script’s casting notes transform the play into something different: “The characters in Men on Boats were historically cisgender white males. The cast should be made up entirely of people who are not.” What that something is, though, isn’t easy to pin down.