Racism play debuts at annual MLK Convocation

After the turmoil surrounding last year’s racial incident, this year’s Martin Luther King Jr. Convocation held added significance for the Eastern community.

Along with an address from President David Black and a viewing of part of King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, the new documentary theater production Within the Walls, Between the Lines was given its first full public audience. “Racism?” asked one of the play’s characters. “Here on campus? Huh-uh! We’re all Christians. We don’t hate anyone!”

The students involved with the play, under the direction of alumna Joanna Sweeny, interview Eastern students to get their perspectives on how racism affects their lives and that of the campus community.

Then they act out the interviews, in similar fashion to plays like The Laramie Project. This allows the actors to portray a wide variety of stories and attitudes.

“She had no proof it was because she was black,” another character said after describing an awkward social situation. “But you have to wonder.”

About the production, sophmore Stacy Meldazis said, “I thought it was real, I definitely thought people’s voices were heard.”

Combined with the play, King’s speech had a renewed impact on the students present, like sophomore Shovaughn Chism.

“Ever since [the speech], a lot of walls have been broken down in society, but there’s more work to be done,” Chism said.

Issues of race have received new attention among the campus community last spring after two white students, as a “prank,” posted a photo of a KKK cross burning on their black suitemates’ door and were subsequently expelled.

The play, which was shown previously to faculty members and again last night in the Gough Great Room, will continue to be revised and performed over the coming months.

“We really want this project to start a dialogue,” Sweeny said. “not be something people watch and think, ‘That’s nice.'”

“We want to make sure all of Eastern can see what Eastern thinks,” she said.

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