ELAC’s theater program undergoes changes after students demand representation

By Leonardo Cervantes

The ELAC theater department coming together and accepting the criticism that students had about their lack of diversity in a majority of their plays is worth commending. 

It was a much-needed change of course, since the demographic of ELAC students contains a large number of people of color. Instead of only focusing on European-centric plays, the department should continue to branch out. 

Acting and showing diverse plays exposes students to various cultures and social groups they might not be aware of. The increased exposure to cross-cultural groups increases students’, faculty’s and staff’s understanding of said groups.

After faculty were called out by their students, they decided to get more involved with the Black Lives Matter movement and attended anti-racism seminars offered at ELAC. 

Ann C. James is the founder of Intimacy Coordinators and Directors of Color. James had previously worked with the Theater Department on the production of The Most Fabulous Story Ever Told. 

The theater faculty and staff began attending Ann C. James’ workshop about studying anti-racism vocabulary. James and Faculty and staff went over an extensive list of anti-racism definitions.

An Anti-Racism example was given that students will understand and evaluate racism, ethnocentrism, and other aspects of privilege and power in the content of this course. 

Another topic they covered was Anti-Racism Assessment by isolating and discussing micro-aggressions in an existing historical play. 

The assessment also described  the theatrical content that could be viewed as a stereotype. 

The Anti-Racism example that was also covered was how to recognize and articulate culturally based assumptions and unconscious biases. They engaged in critical thinking to challenge dominant frameworks and strategize anti-racist actions.

They also covered other topics like systemic racism, white fragility, microaggressions, micromending, microaffirmations, restorative justice, and transformative justice. 

Black, Indigenous, and people of color plays that will take place are “House on Mango Street,” “Mojada,” “Gospel at Colonus,” “Neva,” “The Juniors,” “In the Blood,” “El Paso Blues,” “The African Company presents Richard III,” “Beauty of the Father,” “Fairview,” “Is God Is,” “Corridos,” “Sonia Flew,” “Someday,” “The America Play,” “Barbecue,” “Zoot Suit,” “An Octoroon,” and “To the Bone.”

When people are more educated and embrace diversity, they learn to make judgments based on a person’s actions and words and not by their appearance. Understanding another person’s culture and background can help better understand them as a person. 

The theater workshop with James will do wonders for the faculty and staff, as now they can have a better understanding of Black, Latin and Indigenous students. 

The goal of theAnti-Racism Assessment is to offer courses, assignments, and productions that value your unique backgrounds, and inclusive of gender identity, ability, age, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, race, nationality, religion, and culture.

The Theater Department was challenged by their students and they responded by better educating themselves on diversity and by helping to reach out to people of color in the community.

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