Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

Facing Our Truths

Play series pushes audiences to discuss race and privilege

Two people talking on stage.
A silhouette of a person in front of the USA flag.
A woman acting.
Three people on stage.
A group of people on stage.

School of Music, Theatre and Dance

icon of a calendarJune 22, 2020

icon of a pencilBy Adam DePollo

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The School of Music, Theatre and Dance (SMTD) presented the production “Facing Our Truth: Ten Minute Plays on Trayvon, Race, and Privilege,” to invite thoughtful discussion on implicit bias.

The play series — originally produced for the New Black Fest, a festival showcasing work by theater artists from throughout the Black diaspora — consists of six works by different playwrights. The plays reflect on race, implicit bias, police brutality, and other themes that rose to prominence in national discourse following the 2012 killing of an unarmed teenager, Trayvon Martin, by a neighborhood watch volunteer, George Zimmerman, and Zimmerman’s subsequent acquittal on murder charges.

The performance was delivered by students enrolled in “Company Class,” a unique course taught by guest lecturer, Kelli Crump. Unlike traditional theater productions where sets, costumes, music, and other aspects of production are handled by separate crews, the students in Crump’s class did all of that work themselves.

“The actors decide the costumes, they pull together ideas on music and transitions, put together the set,” Crump says. “They did the research and dramaturgy for the piece, which I think pushed them to be really engaged with the material and the audience at a different level they wouldn’t have experienced any other way.”

While Crumps’ course structure pushed her actors to interact more closely with the material, the plays’ subject matter also invited a greater degree of participation from the audience. As Crump explains, each performance was followed by a community discussion in which the actors asked the audience to share their thoughts on the plays and the themes they evoked. She hopes those conversations pushed audience members to think about their own lives and those of the other members of their communities.

“My goal was that people who came to see the show would leave thinking a bit differently, or at least having a different understanding of what reality is like for those of us who have to live these experiences every day,” Crump says. “I wanted them to leave reflecting on themselves, or their own implicit bias and accountability.”

Of course, given the seriousness of the topics evoked in “Facing Our Truth,” successful performances required mature, thoughtful audiences and a university atmosphere that invited open, productive discourse. Crump was pleased to have found both at OU.

“I’m happy to get to work on a campus that’s open to doing a series of plays like these,” Crump says.

Explore more SMTD student performances.

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