Common Ground made a monumental effort to bring performer Scott Turner Schofield to campus for a three-day residency. Schofield is, as his website describes, “A man who was a woman, a lesbian turned straight guy who is often called a fag.”
The leaders of Common Ground first set out to bring Schofield to Knox when they saw him at last year’s Big Gay Conference. They petitioned student senate for a larger than usual budget, cooperated with multiple clubs and organizations on campus, and finally advertised and promoted his visit through posters, emails, and word of mouth.
It definitely paid off, since over 300 students were affected in some way by Schofield’s workshops, meal dates, class visits, performances, and post-show discussions. In fact, 300 is a conservative estimate.
Schofield held two workshops targeting specific groups on campus during his residency. The first, entitled “Strange Bedfellows: Fraternities, Sororities, and LGBTQ Communities on Campus” was geared towards building a relationship between the Greeks and the LGBTQ community by identifying their similarities and mutual challenges.
Schofield made it clear that he would consider the workshop a success if it started a healthy dialogue between these surprisingly parallel organizations. When obstacles that one group faced were brought up in the discussion, in most cases they applied to the other. When the two columns Schofield had labeled “Greeks” and “Queers” were filled with almost identical issues copy and pasted from one column to the other, Schofield stepped back and said, “I think you smell what I’m cooking here.”
He clarified the definitions of gender, sex, and sexuality as well as answering the questions that arose concerning where to draw the line between the three. Simply being informed about the topic at hand made discussion much easier among students instead of just through Schofield’s facilitation.
The absence of mutual members between Common Ground and campus sororities and fraternities was recognized as a challenge that prevented the “cross-pollination” between of ideas and activities. Schofield said that his ideas were received more favorably at Knox than at other places, yet that doesn’t mean there isn’t progress that can be made.
The workshop itself was well-attended, but the real effects of Schofield’s visit were measurable when Greeks showed up to the Common Ground meeting on Monday to further discuss the topics sparked by his workshop.
Schofield’s second workshop, “Page to Stage: Making Performance for Social Change,” was an opportunity to discuss the tactics and successes (as well as failures) of various forms of social activism specifically through performance.
Schofield performed his own piece, “Urban Transit,” and shared some anecdotes about its efficacy as well as the process he underwent to arrive at the finished product.
In response to some students’ trepidation about the dangers of expressing a new and different opinion in a public setting, Schofield said that, “as a radical and an activist, I still want to be considerate.” He says he adopts a “hi, come talk to me,” attitude instead of an approach other performers might take that imposes a performance upon an audience that does not expect or perhaps even consent to the role thrust upon them.
Yet, as one Knox student noted, in order to drive home a point, “it takes a subjective experience for someone to take it to heart.” With that said, Schofield put the students to work by encouraging them to design their own kernel of social activism either in a solo or group performance. The final products were presented at the end of the workshop.
Junior Ellie Poley, a member of Common Ground and an integral force in bringing Schofield to campus, said, “Scott’s residency model worked well for Knox” and that she “hoped other clubs would realize their guest’s abilities to communicate with students and not just perform.”