Theater Offers Thought-Provoking Play about Race

Posted on 10/5/2016 9:10:59 AM

Scene from  "We Are Proud..."Theater-by-the Grove will present We Are Proud to Present a Presentation About the Herero of Namibia, Formerly Known as Southwest Africa, From the German Südwestafrika, Between the Years 1884 And 1915 as the first production of the season.

This contemporary drama addressing racial oppression and the creative process will be presented October 13–15 and 19–22, 2016, at 8:00 p.m. and October 16 at 2:00 p.m. in the Waller Hall Mainstage Theater.

Written by Jackie Sibblies Drury and directed by guest artist April Daras, this provocative play explores the personal and creative challenges faced by a group of actors attempting to recreate the story of a little-known genocide in Southwest Africa. In the process of devising the presentation, these young and enthusiastic collaborators confront the limits of their own empathy while trying to make sense of humanity’s ability to commit horrific acts. Their creative investigation awakens a hunger to tell the story accurately and unleashes unexpected impulses rooted in a collective history of racial oppression and violence.

According to Daras, “The play forces us to confront and consider how a history of oppression influences our lives today. How we see and identify ourselves individually and collectively is influenced by our shared history. The influential forces of history, recognized or hidden, affect us.”

She further explains that “they have power over how we see and understand others. They also influence our daily interactions and shape our choices about where we live, who we have relationships with, and how we imagine the future of our world.”

In selecting the play, Daras states, “Last spring, while seeking a title for IUP’s Theater-by-the-Grove season, conversations surrounding race, privilege and inclusion were happening all over campus. I was invited to direct a play that would become a department contribution to these ongoing conversations. After reading many scripts, I was struck by Drury’s play.

“It made me laugh out loud, it excited my senses and imagination, and it elicited strong feelings of anger, hurt, and guilt. The play simultaneously inspired and scared me. How might our Indiana audiences respond? Would our production effectively convey the elements of irony in the play? Would IUP students attending the performance interpret the play as an effort to raise awareness, an opportunity for greater understanding, and an invitation for dialogue? Or, might some students perceive the production as an attempt to inflict injury and create division?”

Carrie Cole, assistant professor of integrative theater studies, said, “The questions raised by the play are questions we should constantly be asking of ourselves, our work, and our audiences. They are not easy questions, and there are no easy answers. That's exactly why they need to be asked and why we need to do this play now. If questions are asked with courage and a desire to listen and learn, this gets to the heart of how theater can create the conversations so vital to connecting cultures and communities on multiple levels.”

Because the play will be most effective in a context of audience engagement, Cole and fellow theater faculty member Rachel DeSoto Jackson will host “Courageous Conversations” immediately following each performance. Each conversation will be facilitated by a guest moderator from the IUP community, and audience members will be invited to participate. 

This play contains language and situations to which some audience members may object. It is not recommended for younger children.

Tickets for We Are Proud… are available in advance online or through the Lively Arts online ticketing site. They are also available at the Hadley Union Building, located on Pratt Drive on the IUP campus. Seats remaining will be sold at the door starting one hour prior to the performance. Tickets may also be purchased with a credit card by calling the HUB Box Office at 724-357-1313.

General admission tickets are priced at $15 for regular admission, $12 for senior citizens, and $10 for students. For more information or information about group rates for 15 or more, contact the Lively Arts at 724-357-2787 or e-mail lively-arts@iup.edu.

Theater-by-the-Grove is produced by the Department of Theater and Dance and the College of Fine Arts. It is funded, in part, by the IUP Student Cooperative Association.

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Pictured above: Sniya Johnson, Sydnee Elder (below), Basil Ferguson, Dalton Bright, Grant Hoogstraten, Sequcoy DeShields