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Performing Perspectives: Discussing Diversity in the Performing Arts

Every other Monday, a diverse group of faculty, students, and others gather together for Performing Perspectives, a virtual conversation series about underrepresented pieces of performing arts. Sponsored by the Department of Theatre and Dance’s diversity, equity and inclusion committee, the open discussions aim to expose people to works created by marginalized artists that they otherwise might not encounter.

The series is a byproduct of conversations that Misha Hadar, an instructor in the department, and Lyndell McDonald, an associate professor, had with students, colleagues, and each other about the rare presence of these works in performances and the classroom.

“This came out of the feeling that there are a lot of materials that students and our culture in general have missed. They aren’t on our stages. They aren’t in our curriculums,” Hadar said. “We want to make sure we have an opportunity to think about these different perspectives, how they’re being performed, where they take shape, and how they can be meaningful to our lives.”

Each installment features a different piece picked by a faculty member. Participants are sent the material beforehand so that they can read, watch, and prepare to actively contribute to what Hadar calls a friendly and relaxed, yet challenging conversation.

So far, the series has covered “Marisol” by Puerto Rican playwright José Rivera, “Stop Kiss” and “R.A.W. (‘Cause I’m a Woman)” by Korean-American playwright Diana Son, and “12 Angry Men…and Women: The Weight of the Wait” by the Billie Holiday Theatre.

McDonald presented both works by Diana Son, while Hadar presented “Marisol,” both of which they thought produced worthwhile and joyful discussion.

“People were so exploratory and brave in their thoughts and wanted to think together,” Hadar said. “Most important to me is the joy of thinking together about these great pieces and being able to discuss what they mean to us.”

The end goal of these discussions is the creation of a course where students can learn about works that are not typically taught, as well as further diversification of materials and a diversion from a singular focus on traditional works and talents in all classrooms. Professors within the department have already been implementing this on the individual level.

Though classroom implementation is the main goal, McDonald hopes their message of engaging in diverse perspectives reaches the university as a whole.

“I’m hoping to help create this sense of community that says we are more than the history of this university,” McDonald said. “I hope that these events and other things happening on campus help create this diverse culture for people to feel comfortable with.”

The next conversation is Monday, March 1, where they will discuss Fen Kennedy’s “Utter East” and dance and disability. Those interested in Performing Perspectives should contact Misha Hadar to be sent the materials and links to join future conversations.


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