As Seen on TV - Theatre for Social Justice Racism in Local Area High Schools
Leia Crawford and Lindsey Smith
Faculty Sponsor: Dr. Kathleen Juhl
This semester, As Seen on TV has gotten on its feet. In the theatre world, putting a play on its feet means giving the actors places to move and the play bodies and voices to go with the written words. For As Seen on TV not only are we on our feet but we are two weeks away from our first performance at Stony Point High School. Stony Point joins the list of other high schools that include Crockett and McNeil.
Last September a group of approximately 50 people worked together to create a play regarding racism in local area high schools with Fringe Benefits, an educational theater company from Los Angeles that solely deals with social justice issues. Fringe Benefits has been doing work in the area of Theatre for Social Justice for 15 years and have been touring the country the last two years setting up workshops and creating plays. The workshop was made possible in part by grants from the New Generations Program, funded by The Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and administered by Theatre Communications Group, the national organization for the American Theatre. Our play was developed from stories and experiences of the people, from both Southwestern and McNeil High School, who attended the workshop. All choices about the play were made by group voting, such as format, content, and scene organization. Most of the scenes were improvised first, so that we would have an idea of how we wanted the scene to end and what we wanted to address.
This semester we began in February with a cast of Southwestern University students. These students memorized the show and performed it for the Round Rock School District teachers during one of their in-service days in late February. The performance was rewarded with a standing ovation. Since then, we have integrated a cast of McNeil High School students with our Southwestern cast to make a show that is truly unique with every rehearsal. The emerging result of having two casts mixed with students from both schools is a play that makes us laugh and also think about the issue of racism.
We knew that our play was going to be meaningful when co-director Aaron Johnson, Southwestern alum and theatre teacher at McNeil, told us a story about how he had to break up a racially charged fight at the high school. Now with the email war on racism at Southwestern, it has become increasingly evident that this issue needs addressing.
Everyone seems to have a story about racism to tell or an example of racism in the media. As Seen on TV draws from many of these stories to create a half hour show that will be followed with an hour of dialogue on racism. How will the show be received? What difference will we make in the Southwestern community as well as the community surrounding us? Hopefully over the next month and a half students and teachers alike will have their minds opened to new ways of thinking about and addressing racism.