Students portray activists through virtual acting showcase

Acting+student+Josephine+Baiden+%2723+delivers+a+monologue+as+labor+leader+and+civil+rights+activist+Dolores+Huerta+as+a+part+of+the+acting+showcase.

Lucas Cohen-D'Arbeloff

Acting student Josephine Baiden ’23 delivers a monologue as labor leader and civil rights activist Dolores Huerta as a part of the acting showcase.

The Performing Arts Department premiered “Speak Truth to Power: Voices From Beyond the Dark,” a set of excerpts by playwright Ariel Dorfman featuring students in The Actor and the Stage courses May 7.

The show consisted of students performing as historical and modern-day figures

Students read monologues and scenes portraying activists from the past and present, including civil rights leader John Lewis, women’s rights advocate Malala Yousafzai, labor leader Dolores Huerta and commentator Van Jones. The two sections of the acting course worked with different scripts and their performances were livestreamed separately over Vimeo. Following both performances, actors participated in virtual discussions so audience members could ask questions about the creative process.

Performer Josephine Baiden ’23 said Dorfman’s material was rich with detail and allowed students to explore the motivations and emotions behind the historical figures described.

“These speeches were already so powerful, so it wasn’t really hard to conjure up a passion in performing them,” Baiden said. “I could tell that everyone was able to understand the situations of the people who we embodied and the messages of equality and hope that they are spreading.”

Baiden said the opportunity for actors to work through the text on their own and choose activists to portray made the performance more compelling.

“[Performing Arts Teacher Bev Meyer] had instructed us to select speeches that really resonated with us,” Baiden said. “I think this is what really made the show— us being able to talk about things that are so important to us and spreading the word. I didn’t even know about half of these stories until we crafted the script, which is why it is so important to me that we were able to share them with the world.”

Katie Hadsock-Longarzo ’23, who portrayed Vietnamese journalist Doan Viet Hoat and Ugandan LGBT advocate Frank Mugisha, agreed with Baiden and said the performance allowed her to connect with real-world issues.

“It was surreal and intriguing to learn about and play these human rights activists,” Hadsock-Longarzo said. “Their stories were so inspiring and heart-wrenching at the same time. It was difficult to try and imagine the pain and anguish they felt in their struggles to fight for their causes.”

Although the performance was held over Zoom, participants said the process was enjoyable

The contents of the performance were recorded during acting classes over Zoom. However, Baiden said the streamlined use of technology prevented the virtual format from hindering actors’ performances in the end.

“With online school, in general, there is a very special kind of separation from our peers,” Baiden said. “Eventually, though, we were able to make it work. I thought it was very satisfying to see the final product, and I know during dress rehearsals, I got chills from everyone else’s performances, so I hope we were able to convey that to an audience.”

Performing arts Technical Director and Teacher Aaron Martin said he was deeply touched by the actors’ dedication and spirit in communicating the activists’ plight while he edited the performance.

“This is a very powerful and moving piece, and even as a technician in this process it was hard to deny the empathy this piece extracts from the viewer,” Martin said. “A very well done class project indeed.”

Hadsock-Longarzo said the ultimate goal of the project was to promote and uplift figures who have helped advance human rights but whose names are not commonly known.

“We wanted to bring awareness and bring new life to people who took risks to fight for what they believed in,” Hadsock-Longarzo said. “Their stories have been forgotten or unknown. These impactful stories that we as students might not have known are now being told.”