From Every Nation (FEN) symposium turns to theatre

Photo courtesy calvin.edu.
Photo courtesy calvin.edu.

Calvin’s annual From Every Nation symposium seeks to explore the issue of racial diversity through two autobiographical plays.

While the response to the symposium in previous years has been largely positive, there are those who feel that racism is no longer much of an issue in the U.S., and that events promoting cultural awareness have no real purpose.

Michelle Loyd-Paige, dean for multicultural affairs and head coordinator of the symposium, disagrees with this strongly.

“I am African-American. I will not truly understand what it means to be black in America unless I understand what it means to be white, native American, Asian, biracial or Hispanic in America.”

Loyd-Paige claims that true cultural awareness should extend far beyond anti-racism to a desire and ability to cooperate with people of different ethnicities.  She encourages people from every ethnicity to attend this event.

The FEN symposium hopes to explore the implications of this racialization, particularly where people are unaware of it, and to reconcile the damage that racism causes.

In previous years the symposium has found guest lecturers to speak on the subject of cultural diversity, but this year two plays will be performed instead.

“Visual stories, especially autobiographies, have a way of capturing people’s attention that other forms of presentations about race relations do not,” Loyd-Paige said.

She is excited about the presentations, and to see students’ reactions to them.

The first of these plays, “Incognito,” will be performed on March 5 at 3:30 p.m. in the Covenant Fine Arts Center’s Recital Hall.  Michael Fosberg, the playwright and single actor in this piece, portrays over ten characters to tell the story of his encounters with culture through his search for his biological father.  The play winds through the streets of Chicago as Fosberg looks at racial identity through his experiences with adoption.

“Loose Women” continues the symposium on May 6 at 3:30 p.m. in the Recital Hall. Playwright Liza Ann Acosta writes a story of her discovery of Puerto Rican identity, performed by Paula Ramirez, Alyssa Vera Ramos, Melissa DuPrey, Amanda de la Guardia, Sindy Castro and Alexandra Meda.  The play spans four generations of a family, multiple countries and settings that range from nunneries to brothels.

Both plays, while focusing on cultures with which not all of us are familiar, bring up issues such as stereotyping, identity and family history with which we can identify. Loyd-Paige urges all Calvin students to attend the symposium, not only for its global importance, but also to learn more about their own identities.

“Celebrate who you are,” she said.

About the Author

Audrey Enters

Audrey Enters is a Chimes guest writer for the 2012-13 school year.

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