Emergent Theater: Revolution

By Crystal Hill

For three emotionally and physically grueling months, a group of IU students prepared a production inspired by the life and vision of Dr. Martin Luther King. On Sunday, Jan. 19, the day before Dr. King’s official holiday, IU’s Emergent Theater performed “Revolution” for a packed audience in the WhittenbergerAuditorium at the Indiana Memorial Union. The show was produced and directed by Eric Love, the director of the Office of Diversity Education as well as assistant professor Gustav Weltsek and Darrell Ann Stone, the Senior Associate Director of Student Life and Learning.

Love had the idea of doing a show featuring IU student voices for several years, but the idea came into fruition last year with the show “Catalyst”, a show with a similar theme that was also done in the spirit of Dr. King. During a cast talk-back at the end of the show, the students talked about the difficulties in being vulnerable, as well as the rewarding moments from doing the show. “The best part is how it’s a playground for innovation where we can express our own feelings,” Yusuf Agunbiade said. “We were welcoming of anything that could come out of it.”

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The performances ranged from soulful singing to spoken word to silent theater. Each performance expressed a particular issue or concern: racism, sexism, violence, interracial marriage, individuality, and sexual identity were among a myriad of topics expressed on the stage. When the performers marched down the aisles with grit and anger on their faces, it was clear that ‘Revolution’ was not a mere stage play, but a performance that would engage, challenge, and inspire the audience. Instead of contrived acts written for dramatic effect, each performance was a page out of the cast member’s lives. The cast members were unabashedly vulnerable and their transparency resulted in a cohesive blend of real experiences conveyed on stage.

The theme, revolution, took on a different meaning for many of the students. But junior Nichelle Whitney told the audience what revolution meant to her. “A revolution is something worth fighting for, something you will lay your life down for,” Whitney said.

The audience reactions to the show were nothing less than glowing praise. “I felt like this was group therapy,” an audience member said during the talk-back. “I feel like what happened on stage could happen to us, you all are amazing.” Other members in the audience were awestruck as they repeatedly thanked the student performers for inviting them into their lives.

Once the show officially concluded, the audience members were provided refreshments and were given the opportunity to write their thoughts on perceived injustices and problems on IU’s campus on five white poster boards. Issues involving racism and mental illness stigmas were written down along with “4%”, which symbolized the comparably small population of African-American students on campus.

For those that missed ‘Revolution’, Love stated that there will be a DVD copy available sometime soon (the date has not been announced) and there will be a show next year based on a similar theme.

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