At the beginning of the choreopoem “Confessions in Living Color(ed),” the audience was invited to react whenever and however they needed to, whether it was crying, laughing or anything else.
Laughing and crying were both appropriate responses to the production, which ran from April 18-21 at 7 p.m. in Kresge Recital Hall.
The performance was a glimpse into the lives of college-aged students, based off people senior Monica Prince interviewed in Eugene, Ore.
Although, as the title suggests, the poems examine what it means to be a man or woman of color in modern America, the play also examines a variety of other topics including love, gender, sexuality and faith.
The performance’s concluding poem, “A Lesson in Fullness,” sums this all up by saying, “it’s not about color — unless it is. It’s not about sex — until it is. It’s not about faith — except it always is.”
To get into character, the actors listened to or watched the interviews of the people their characters were based on. Freshman Rodrigo Arcibar was able to Skype with the man who inspired his character, Nathan.
In a talkback following a performance, Arcibar said he was drawn to the character of Nathan from auditions when he first read his poem “Come Get Me,” which Arcibar described as a “praise to God.”
Although Arcibar felt connected to his character, freshman Kathryn Todd said she could not be more unlike her character, the self-destructive Jada.
“I am nothing like Jada,” Todd said. She was surprised when she got the role, and even asked Prince “are you sure you want me to say these things?” Todd, a first time actor, said she struggled to “embody [Jada] without becoming that person.”
For freshman Jan Rondina, the trick was not creating another persona, but finding the one he never noticed. When he started work on the character of Daniel, he was not sure he had the rage to play the role.
However, when he examined his life more closely, he said he saw that “it’s not that it hasn’t happened to me, it’s just that I was oblivious.”
Although senior Jeremy Shaw is a psychology major, he said his lack of acting experience meant that it was initially difficult to evoke the emotions he could identify so easily.
At first he said he felt “immature compared to” his character Cordell, but as he got into the role, Shaw found himself growing towards the character.
“I feel very grounded now, just like Cordell,” he said.
Working on a play that dealt so frankly with the topic of race was enlightening for the Caucasian dancers and crew members who worked on the choreopoem.
Junior Cole Atcheson, the play’s lighting coordinator, said he would “always have these thoughts” on how to eradicate the problems the play highlighted, but while watching the play he realized how flawed that thinking is.
“There’s no way to make [the problems] go poof,” Atcheson said. At the same time, he said the choreopoem exposed him to the benefits of many new ideas.
The play’s first and last poem ended with the phrase, “I am a thing of beauty, and what I say matters,” and in the Kresge seats on those nights, people were listening.