Just over a year ago, a glass bottle crashed through a dormitory window — through a pane that bore a Black Lives Matter poster — into a room housing black students.
The repercussions of that incident are still felt today in every corner of the WabashCollege campus, but perhaps more than anything, the events of that night helped shine a light on what it means to be a racial minority on campus. by Wabash.
When the curtain rises at the Ball Theater this week, the Wabash Theater Department will ask a fundamental question: where is our beloved community?
In five performances from Wednesday through Sunday, real stories will be shared about what it’s like for the only student of color in the classroom; what it’s like to see shards of glass strewn all over your dorm floor; what it means when someone assumes you’re Chinese when you’re Korean or Mexican when you’re Nicaraguan.
“I had this idea in class last spring when a student started talking about the incident,” says production manager Heidi Winters Vogel. “It was important and helpful to hear how he felt. When there was a call for equity and inclusion fellows, I thought we could take the opportunity to collect stories like these and to make a play out of it in order to provide understanding; to answer the question: ‘Where is our beloved community?’ »
This core idea took shape, and soon after the start of the spring semester, Professor Vogel, along with seniors Sammy Lebron and Sebastian Wang, began collecting stories. Many of them. And these stories – personal experiences and feelings of anger, grief and frustration – came from students, staff, faculty and alumni.
“There was a wide range of feelings,” Vogel said, “from ‘Hey, Wabash is the best possible place for me’ to ‘I don’t feel heard and I don’t belong here.’ brought to use these stories to create a scenario.
Because these are real experiences from real Wabash, it’s taken a lot of work to get to a place where they can be shared with the wider community. The cast and crew discussed how to communicate the stories without making it an attack on certain people or, perhaps worse, an attempt to heal healing wounds.
Almost all of the 28 people who shared their stories will be identified by name, and video clips of interviews conducted with them will be woven into the fabric of the theatrical play. Instrumental music performed by Robert Borland will highlight and connect individual stories.
“Our goal with this production is to give audiences a sense of deep listening – without judgement,” Vogel added, saying she hopes audiences will think about how each of us can play a part in building this community. “As a white woman, I have to step up and listen — and recognize that things aren’t always the way I see them.”
The journey, however, from lived experiences to creative performance took time, patience and above all trust. Professor Vogel says the participants divided into pairs and small groups to build the trust needed to share and understand their stories. There were regular check-ins to make sure everyone was comfortable; to make sure everyone was listening and understanding.
Some students will act out their own stories, while other actors will act as performers. The design and performance team includes students Dario Banuelos, Malik Barnes, Walter “Josh” Campbell, Khoi Truong, Alex Rotaru, Jamari Washington, Elijah Weddington and K’tren Wilson, as well as local actor Chenel Darby and l teaching assistant Alba de la Cruz. González Vasquez.
It was Darby who helped build a bridge that gave all the performers the confidence to pull off the production.
“Some people were really excited to share their stories, but some weren’t,” Vogel explained. “Chenel said, ‘These people had the courage to share their stories. We have to be brave enough to stage them.
“It’s deep and rich; some stories are very hard to hear,” added the director. “A lot of these people had never shared their stories before, and in doing so, they made discoveries of themselves… And there was always a feeling that, ‘Wow, it felt so good to finally share this with someone.’
Lilly Endowment Inc.’s “Restore Hope, Restore Trust” grant is supporting the production, including hiring guest lighting designer, Erica Lauren Maholmes, whose work illuminates the simple but beautiful stage designed by Adam Whittredge. Andrea Bear is the costume designer.
Sebastian Wang crowns his impressive theatrical career at Wabash as stage manager and assistant director. Ace Dzurovcik, also a senior, designed the sound, while Sammy Lebron designed the projections used in the production, including the storytellers’ music videos.
Performances are free and open to the public, but must be reserved via the ticket office of the Palais des Beaux-Arts. Performances are scheduled from Wednesday to Saturday evening, from April 27 to 30, at 8:00 p.m. There is also a special matinee performance on Sunday, April 24 at 1:00 p.m. to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Malcolm X Institute for Black Studies.
In addition to the production, the cast and crew invite the community for a special lunchtime talk by lighting designer Erica Lauren Maholmes. She will speak and answer questions about her work and art as a black woman in a field dominated by white men in the Korb classroom on Wednesday, April 20 at 12:10 p.m. Lunch will be available from noon in Littell Hall.