Diversity & The Arts
Culture Groups Sit Center Stage With A Variety Of Acts
Published: Monday, April 30, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 19:01
While the Bollywood-style take on A Midsummer Night’s Dream might be the most talked-about theater production this weekend, the AHANA Collective Theatre also showed their dramatic talent this past Thursday at Arts Fest with three one-act comedies.
Amidst the noise of students passing through O’Neill Plaza, a small group of diverse theater students explored cultural diversity in a lighthearted but nonetheless genuine way. The first play performed, titled Dead Bolivians on a Raft, was written by playwright Guillermo Reyes and directed by Thais Menendez, A&S ’14. In the comedy, a young writer informs his Salvadoran parents that his unhappy play about immigration is being casted. The parents, themselves immigrants with high aspirations, wish to be cast in the main roles to show audiences the true story of the immigrant and to ensure that their son’s play has a happy ending. While this play, at first glance, seemed to be written mostly for laughs, it deals with tough questions about the assimilation of immigrants that don’t necessarily have easy answers.
Next came Trying to Find Chinatown. This was the most well known of the three plays, as it was written by Tony award-winner David Henry Hwang. While very funny, the play dealt more seriously and directly with race issues then ACT’s other two selections. Kristin Drew, A&S ’12, and Alexandra Lewis, A&S ’14, played an Asian American street violinist, Ronnie, and a seemingly ignorant white girl, Elizabeth, respectively. When Elizabeth stops to talk to Ronnie about Asian culture, Ronnie becomes enraged that a white stranger dared talk to her about her race as if she could relate. Elizabeth then reveals that she was raised by Asian Americans herself, which causes Ronnie to view race relations in a more level-headed way. Performed captivatingly by Drew and Lewis, Trying to Find Chinatown showed the harm in making assumptions about race through humor and heart.
Last but not least was Classyass, written by playwright Caleen Sinnette Jennings and directed by Hana Hyseni, A&S ’13. Its story followed Ama (Scott Jean, A&S ’14), an African American classical radio host/college student who finds himself in an uncomfortable situation when a listener, BigB (Tadala Jumbe, A&S ’14), comes into his studio to talk to him. BigB appears homeless, and every attempt she makes at conversation is quickly shot down by Ama, who just wants the woman out of his studio. At play’s end, Ama discovers that BigB is actually the daughter of his school’s dean, who left school to work at a homeless shelter due to judgmental peers like Ama. While most of the play squeezes laughs out of an awk
ward situation, its hidden message becomes clear at its end: don’t judge a book by its cover.
Even though all plays were funny, thought-provoking, and well-performed, Classyass stuck with me the most. While both main actors in it were black theater students, little in the dialogue implies that either Ama or BigB need to be African American for the play to be performed. On surface-level, the play does seem to be about race, but its big message is universal. Don’t judge someone by their appearance. The message seems so simple, but it is still worth saying today. AHANA, through all of its arts events, drives this message home effortlessly. Of course, it also celebrates each cultural group individually, but at the end of the day, it manages to unite the entire student body, regardless of race.
Take this year’s ALC Showdown, for instance. Put on by the AHANA Leadership Council, Showdown draws bigger crowds than any other student-organized events, possibly excluding the Fall and Spring Concerts. Many of the dance groups involved in this event are part of cultural clubs at BC. PATU (Presenting Africa To You) featured African American students dancing in a tribal fashion before shifting to the modern with Rihanna. The Hawaii Club also melded their heritage with American music by dancing to traditional Hawaiian music, a Beach Boys tune, and even LMFAO. MASTI, a branch of the South Asian Student Association, brought a unique Indian style of dance to Conte Forum. Irish Step Dance Club brought the intensity and fun of Irish dance to Showdown for the first time. Other cultural groups performed at ALC Showdown as well, and many of them also featured at dance showcases over the weekend at Arts Fest.