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Issue Date: March 2014 Issue

Deal Maker

by Cassie Smith

Nearly every day, we buy things. Whether it's Starbucks coffee, gasoline or a warm coat, Americans are consumers through and through. But do we ever stop to think about the business practices behind these goods?

Playwright Joel Hammer examines this question in his latest work, Made In America, running March 7 through April 6 at Dobama Theatre. "There is this whole chain that happens that we don't think about — let alone where it happens," says Hammer, a former artistic director at Dobama Theatre.

Pulled from Hammer's experience as a sales manager, the play follows Esther, a black saleswoman, and Barry, a white sourcing specialist, as they meet at a hotel bar to close a business deal. When Barry discovers the materials Esther is peddling were made in China, not America as she let on, things go awry.

Hammer, who portrays Barry, says he's witnessed firsthand some of the dirty business practices the play depicts.

"I know some guys who will buy a product overseas and stick it in a 'Made in America' box," he says.

Hammer hopes the play will challenge the audience to ponder how Americans do business.

"Everything is bought and sold, and that's our foundation, just that kind of commerce," he says. "Some of it is fair and some of it makes sense, and I think a lot of it is a little bit despicable if you really dig into it."

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