No. Our Work is Not Done.

I’ve gotten the chance to speak with a number of Muhlenberg community members who saw the show – first years, faculty, and other students – all of whom were really invested in getting involved somehow. To you (and those of you who I haven’t gotten to talk to yet), good! That passion and hunger for equality is what keeps all of us going. I keep saying the same things to these people and I’ll say it here: Keep talking about it. Talk to your friends about these things, tell them to talk to their friends. Talk to your professors and to administrators and to the dining workers and the janitors and the religious leaders.

If you’re looking for a concrete way to get involved, visit the Multicultural Center, email one of us, join an affinity group (even if you don’t necessarily belong to that group! You don’t have to be a minority to support a minority group). The Activities Fair is this Saturday, where a lot of those groups will make themselves known, so check that out!

Just because the play is over doesn’t mean that we’re finished. Keep talking and fighting for freedom.

Why I chose to be a part of SDP

After today’s showing for the RAs and SAs, a gentlemen asked us why each of us members of the cast wanted to be a part of SDP and what we hope the incoming freshmen, and anyone else who watches us, learn from the performance.  And here is my response.

When I first saw information about auditions for this year’s Diversity Project, I wasn’t completely sure if I wanted to go for it or not.  It wasn’t until later on that I realized how much I needed to audition and be a part of this process.  Last semester I was taking three classes in which they all discussed racial issues in education and the dance community.  These conversations mainly focused on racial issues between black and white.  As a half white, half Asian woman I became so frustrated by this.  In all my educational years, there is so little mentioned about Asian Americans in a historical and current context, so why should I be so shocked that this was still the case in college.  I realized in that moment that by not at least auditioning for SDP I was risking the possibility of an Asian American’s voice not being heard.  I became sick and tired of being left out, of being cast aside as not important, not a concern when that is the precise reason why it IS a concern.  By being part of this process I can assure that the issues faced by Asian Americans on campus are brought to light and included.  Now that we’re at the very end of this project, I can gladly say that I think I did my part and I’m very happy that this particular concern was addressed.

As for what I hope students, faculty, administration, etc. learn from this year’s performance.  Well I hope they understand that there is, in fact, a problem concerning diversity on our campus and that they see it as more than just a passing sentiment.  I want them to care and be concerned with the issue just as much as I am.  I don’t want people to be afraid to feel uncomfortable but understand that feeling uncomfortable is okay.  These discussions are hard especially the realizations and truths that come to light as a part of it.  But I think there is a brighter light at the end of the tunnel and what I hope is that people understand how much of a disservice is being done to the Muhlenberg Community by lacking diversity and lacking these sorts of discussions.  I want people to care; I want people to want to care.  I also want our audiences to realize that their general conceptions and supposed knowledge of the issues and concerns are not enough.  Things need to change on this campus, and yes the state of America in relation to this isn’t perfect either, but I think Muhlenberg may just be a bit behind as well.  It’s time for Muhlenberg to “wake up”.

Why SDP?

This afternoon’s showing to RAs (Residential Advisors) and SAs (Student Advisors who lead groups of first years through Orientation Weekend) went beautifully. During the talkback afterward, a wonderful young man asked each member to explain why they wanted to be involved in SDP, and what they hoped each audience member would take away from the project. We ran out of time before all of us could answer, and so I am posting my response here:

Why get involved with this?

For those who don’t know me, I’m a white, straight, upper-middle class male. My only salient minority identity is the fact that I’m Jewish. So I have a enormous amount of privilege. My first year at Muhlenberg, I just sort of coasted by, absent in conversations on diversity, partially because I didn’t know they were there. But a lot of my friends were active in them. So I knew they existed, I just never thought that they had to do with me. I auditioned for the play going into sophomore year, and made it as an alternate that was never called upon. I wish I could pinpoint the moment where I realized how important this all was. I remember my mind exploding when I saw SDP as a first year, and I’d like to think that it had just been incubating since. But some point during sophomore year, I got involved. I started going to SQuAd meetings (Students for Queer Advocacy) and Muhlenberg’s Feminist Collective. I also interviewed and got into a group called Peer 2 Peer, which exists to facilitate conversations around diversity. I took a class on Gender and Sexuality in Judaism. I saw SDP my sophomore year. I saw the Vagina Monologues. I’ve had the fortune to be in a relationship with somebody who also cares about this stuff. I started my own blog (which I don’t think I can solicit here) so that I had a space to put all my ideas on these and other subjects. And somewhere inside this fire burned, this need to be active in these discussions.

I tried out again and made it. And it was one of the greatest experiences of my life.

What do you hope people take away from it?

As a white, straight, upper-middle class male, I came into these talks not knowing what to do with my privilege. The hope is that this project shows some ways to do that. But what I most want people to take away from this is that you can be active in these discussions.  Yes, you reading this right now! All of you.You have power, the ability to change someone’s mind for the better. You won’t always be right, and you’ll make mistakes often. But that’s okay! Mistakes are fine as long as you learn from them. Go out there and engage with people! Challenge yourself! Fight for freedom for all people.

Slut Shaming

Hi all! So we’ve started doing performances, and it’s been really exciting! Two performances down, eight to go! And I’m starting to get packed for my jetsetting off to India (right after our last performance.) This whole week is a little crazy.

But I want to go back to those first two performances. One of the things we mention in the play is slut shaming, and there’s been a lot of confusion over just what, exactly, slut shaming is. I figured this blog was the perfect place to put a slightly more comprehensive definition.

Slut shaming is a method by which society discourages people from having sex. Slut shaming is generally a tactic aimed at women, as women are typically held to a more rigid standard of sexual conduct, but a person of any gender can be slut shamed. It is when other community members make comments about the person’s behavior or presentation that admonish them for being more sexual than society deems acceptable.

A person does not actually have to be engaging in any amount of sexual encounters to be called a slut. It is not about behavior, it is about perceived behavior.

The reason slut shaming is bad is that it shapes our perception of rape. If a person experiences slut shaming, it can damage their self perception in the future. But it also devalues their worth as a person. If other people view them as a slut, they are viewing that person as “easy.” That person then becomes the target for rape or sexual harassment because they lack the agency to say no. If they are a slut they are expected to comply with an sexual advance at any time, regardless of if that advance is wanted and reciprocated, or not. Rape allegations from women who are deemed sluts by broader society are taken less seriously, although the event may be just as traumatic for the survivor.

Slut shaming goes hand-in-hand with victim blaming as part of the rape culture that we live in. But you’ll hear more about victim blaming in the show! And maybe I’ll come back and write more about that soon.

Hopefully this clears things up for those of you who were unsure what slut shaming was. The reference may make more sense now. Enjoy the show!

Intersectionality: What it is and Why it’s Important

Hey all! I thought it was about time we starting defining things. You’ll hear some of these terms in the play, so consider these additional or alternate definitions:

Intersectionality is the idea that all of our identities inform our life experience, and that the way they interact is unique for every person. As an example, I’m a white Jewish male. So my experience would be different than a white Christian male’s even though we are both white men. The same goes for any aspect of identity: sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, you name it.

Another really important thing to take away is the fact that these multiple identities might mean that you have power in some facets of your life, but don’t in others. Continuing with me as an example, I have a lot of social power because I’m white, but the fact that I’m Jewish means that I’m also part of a historically oppressed minority group, and I lack power because of that.

However, do not take this to mean that a black male’s experience is equal to a white female’s experience. It isn’t as easy and mathematical as that (trust me, I’m a math major).

We’ll continue to talk about it throughout the year, so this is merely a heads-up. See y’all soon!

Our First Two Performances This Week…

This past Tuesday was our first time performing in front of an audience.  The audience consisted of current Muhlenberg students who will be facilitating the discussions that will be held after each show for the Freshmen this weekend.  Yesterday, Wednesday, however, was our first performance in front of freshmen.  It was a very specific freshmen group – the athletes – and overall I think it went very well!

Personally, I found there to be a noticeable difference between the two performances.  The first one found the audience responding with laughter to some of the lines in our script, much more so than the second performance.  This isn’t necessarily a good or bad thing but there was definitely a difference and I think this difference is important in the ensemble’s understanding of who exactly our audience this weekend will be.

The facilitators in the first performance were all upperclassmen and also students who have either been in the Diversity Project in previous years or are already involved in these sorts of conversations on diversity in some way.  Basically they are “on the inside”, they already know and understand, to some extent, the issues of diversity that are happening on our campus currently.   The freshmen athletes were “on the outside”, meaning that this was, for the most part, the first time they were introduced to this subject matter and the accompanying issues.  This explains why some of the “hilarity” wasn’t as easily visible for them because they don’t quite understand as they had yet a chance to participate in such discussions .  Although some of us in the Diversity Project first thought this lack of responsiveness to be synonymous to iciness and not being receptive, we later discovered from the facilitators that they all actually had a lot to say in their discussions.  It goes to show the fact that when you’re introduced to these issues surrounding diversity, it takes some time to process – and that’s okay!  As an ensemble I think we learned to not take the audience’s reaction so personally.

I think this past performance really set us up for how this weekend will be and allowed us to learn and understand that this performance isn’t about freshmen “getting it”.  It’s meant to work as a starting point for people to be introduced to and invited into the conversation.  And I think we’ve accomplished just that.

WANTED: Audience members

Sorry for the silence! We’ve been hard at work trying to make the best work of art possible for you guys (and girls (and gender-non-conforming individuals)). In fact, tonight is our final rehearsal before we start performing in front of audiences! We’ve gotten basically everything down; it’s just a matter of polishing and fine tuning some things.

However! Though this show is created primarily for you first-years, that doesn’t mean that other people can’t see it. We will be having a community showing a week from today, Sunday the 25th, at 10 PM. I highly encourage every Muhlenberg community member to try and come see it. It’s really important.

Well, back to work for me. See y’all soon!

Giving Birth: A How-To Guide to Losing Your Mind in 14 Hours

These last 24 hours are, I think, the most intense 24 hours of the project. Yesterday morning the ensemble slept in, and then, even once we got up, we really didn’t speak to each other. A sense of angst permeated the entire space.

 

I think we were all dreading rehearsal too much.

 

Last night was script building night. For more information on our process, you can check out Ben’s awesome post. But let it be said that last night was final trimmings and ordering the lines, as well as preffing which lines we want. We finished Thursday night’s rehearsal with 35 pages of script and we absolutely LOVED every word in it. Unfortunately, the script had to be capped at 18 pages. And we needed to finish the evening’s rehearsal with a finished product

 

We were all less concerned than we could’ve been – last year’s ensemble began their final script building night with 100 pages of material, and they were there for 12 hours. Starting at 35 we all kind of figured we’d be out by 1am, or maybe 2am at the latest. That’s late, and 7 or 8 hours of rehearsal late respectively, but still offers a decent night’s sleep. Early in the week we’d worked till 3 anyways, so we figured we were set.

 

So why the pervasive angst?

 

All nine of us have very different identities. We all believe in the incredible importance of these conversations, but because our lived experiences are different, there was a high chance that the particular topics we’d want addressed would differ. For instance, a lesbian member of the ensemble would want to make sure certain lesbian issues on campus are addressed (for instance the objectification of girl-girl couples or the fact that there are so few out lesbians on campus) while a male gay member of the ensemble would want to make sure certain gay male issues on campus are addressed (for instance the commoditization of the flamboyant gay man in terms of GBF or how performances of masculinity intersect with sexual identity.) These kinds of conflicts exist in multitude for each of our 9 areas we intended to address.

 

The angst in our apartment, I think, was tension building up among all of us, ready to fight for the importance of our individual identities. We all love each other incredible amounts and would never want to hurt each other, so the looming decisions between what stories we need told and what stories those we love need told was scary. And stressing everybody out a bit.

 

We tried to make rehearsal as painless as possible from the beginning. We all ordered take out and it sort of had that party atmosphere. We knew it would be painful, but we were still intending a 1 or 2 am bed time.

 

We started sorting lines and were doing great! We had a whole 2 pages of the script before we came to a halt. We just couldn’t find anything to fit and were really struggling to continue. At that point Mel, with all her directorial powers, told us that we needed to start cutting lines. We got 20 lines on each subject – it was time to make some choices.

 

Cutting out entire dialogues was really hard. There were so many topics that were so important to so many of us. We poured over all the tiny slips of paper for hours. And hours. And hours. But everyone was more civil than I ever could have imagined possible. If our stories had to be cut, it was always in service of the project, because we understood that other stories needed to be told and it was only that our stories should be told. And nothing stops us from telling our stories here or to others elsewhere.

 

Flow was maybe more important to all of us than it should’ve been. Deciding which lines fit with each other and which experiences were similar in tone despite differences in topic was difficult and grueling but thought provoking in a lot of ways, too. It passed 1am and we definitely weren’t done. It passed 2am and there was no end in sight.

 

Around 3:45am we had a finished script. In the form of hundreds of tiny slips of paper laid out across a long table. Precisely in order based on our previous 9.75 hours of discussion. Mel typed each slip of paper into an open document on her computer while we watch music videos of ridiculous songs (some of which may be featured in our pre-show! So get excited for that.)

 

By 4:30am the script was finish, typed, printed, and in our hands. It was 18 pages long, but we couldn’t go to bed without a read-through – we had to make sure the script came in under time as well as under length.

At 5am we finished the read through – the script was the perfect length. But also so totally wrong. Things were lost that were absolutely necessary to the conversation. Things were present that were maybe not so important. It felt absolutely horrible for our finished product to feel so wrong after 11 hours of work. So, in we dove again.

 

Ripping apart a script that’s taken months of research and transcribing and discussion and decision honestly feels like killing your child. From 6am-7am ensemble members were maybe the most hopeless we’d been. We needed to go through each and every line again, decide how necessary it is, whether or not it flows from the previous line and into the following line, and how we can trim it for length. It just suddenly seemed like such an endless task.

 

But then, all of a sudden, around 7:15, everything fit again. We’d cut enough and added enough that maybe we could try another read through.

 

This one was largely successful. Maybe that’s because we were so tired that any script would feel like success, but I do truly think this is an amazing project. Considering the time limitations, I think this says everything we want to say, and is still engaging and beautiful and funny and entertaining and everything the Sedehi Diversity Project should be.  Everyone else agreed.

 

At 8am we were finally finally finally done building our script. We were all so giddy and happy that no one was holding it together. Well, with the exception of Ben Sam and Will R who still sort of were. Someone has our celebratory video (composed of lots of screams of success) so get excited for that!

 

When we left our windowless prison and saw the sun I’m pretty sure Mel melted. She’s probably actually a vampire. Or just hadn’t really realized how late in the day 8am is to still be awake. But probably the former.

 

After we got back to our apartment I was so wide awake. We’d created something wonderful and put an entire new set of energy into the world! And remained as close, if not closer because of it! How was I supposed to sleep! So I’ve tried to be productive this morning – going on a run, doing my laundry, writing blog posts. But the crash has got to come soon! After being awake for 24 hours, and 14 straight hours of rehearsal, I don’t know how much longer I can function. My condolences go out to Mel, Will R, and Vernon who can’t go to sleep for quite some time. Mel and Will are busy divvying up the script to the performers and giving everybody lines, and Vernon has tour guide duties. I’m sure those prospectives are going to be absolutely overwhelmed with his enthusiasm!

 

And on that note, I am off to bed. The past 24 hours have cemented our bond as an ensemble, I think. In addition to creating something I think is really wonderful and I hope we can all feel really proud of. So, at 10:30am, I say to you, good night!

The Script Is Done!!!

Hallelujah! The script is finished!

Rehearsal started at 6pm Friday August 9th and we did not rest until it was finished…..at 8am Saturday August 10th.  Is this considered dedication or insanity?

Although it was a somewhat grueling process, we were fortunate to not come across any truly difficult arguments amongst us.  That being said I think I can speak for the entire cast when I say that cutting some of the various sections and conversations was somewhat heart-breaking and disappointing.  Overall, however, I think we were successful and I’m looking forward to getting started memorizing our lines and really getting into rehearsing and preparing for the performances!

"Sedehi Diversity Project 2013: Wake Up!" drawn on a chalk board.