This weekend, an all-student cast will perform in a powerful theatrical production, This is! We Are!: Acts of Resistance directed by Bloomfield College faculty.
This is! We Are!: Acts of Resistance premieres April 7 and 8 at 7:00 p.m. at the Black Box Studio (room 117) in the Center for Technology + Creativity. Admission is free.
Dr. Freddie Harris Ramsby, Assistant Professor in the Humanities Division, has been involved with theatre education programs for 20 years, including a youth theatre project in Sun Valley Idaho for the last 10 years. Trained as an actor at Drama Studio London, her acting and directing credits include, Rapture Blister Burn (Summer 2016, Catherine); the first professional production of Angels in America: Millennium Approaches in the state of Idaho (2016, dramaturg/direction); and the Tempest with Sun Valley Shakespeare (2013, Director). She will direct part two of Angels in America: Perestroika in January of 2018.
Given her experience in arts education, Dr. Harris Ramsby recognized right away the performing talent at Bloomfield College. However, without a theater program, she has tried other ways to get the students involved in the performing.
“About a year and a half ago, I went to an evening of songs and rap at the Westminster Arts Center that was put on by CAT (Creative Arts & Technology) students,” recalled Dr. Harris Ramsby. “I was amazed at the talent I saw.”
When the new Center for Technology + Creativity opened its doors on campus, debuting two black box theatres, Dr. Harris Ramsby, along with Music Production Manager, Toriono Gandy, and CAT members Yuichiro Nishizawa, M.F.A., Chair of the Division and Assistant Professor Abraham Gomez-Delgado, M.F.A., decided to put on a show. Gomez-Delgado thought up the title for the show.
Each spring, within the Division of Humanities, Dr. Harris Ramsby teaches a course titled, “Sticking it to the Man: Contemporary Social Drama 1960-1999.” In the course, the class reads and watches plays by an array of civil rights dramatists.
Rather than do a whole show, Dr. Harris Ramsby devised a way to feature as many Bloomfield College students as possible.
“We decided on a showcase that featured some of the playwrights, and more, that my students and I were studying in my course,” explained Dr. Harris Ramsby.
These include Ntozake Shange, Susan Lori-Parks, August Wilson, Anna Deveare Smith, Tony Kushner, and the creator of the musical Rent, Johnathon Larson. The show also includes an original piece, written by Will and Kip Higgins, about discrimination against transgender people.
Dr. Harris Ramsby has included two short one-acts, by Luis Valdez and Marco Ramirez, as well as scenes and monologues from longer plays by the playwrights noted above. Dr. Harris Ramsby also worked with Gandy and Gomez-Delgado to select songs they felt would be appropriate for a show with Acts of Resistance in the title.
Fifteen students auditioned in February, with word of a showcase quickly spreading around campus.
“I even had a student audition for me in one of my writing classes,” said Dr. Harris Ramsby. “People were coming in from the hallways to listen.”
The cast has grown to over 30 students. These students include Dr. Jeanne Nutter’s entire Oral Interpretations of Literature class, who are performing, as a group, a selection of poems by Langston Hughes.
Rehearsals have been going on for about two weeks, and Dr.Harris Ramsby is amazed by the students’ excitement and dedication to their performances.
“Our students just don't hold back. Honestly, this whole thing would have been worth it just for the rehearsal process alone,” stated Dr. Harris Ramsby.
The students are doing more than just performing; they are designing the production materials. Student Nate Grant created the program cover and his classmate Steven Acosta created the poster. Students Destiny Levy and Farzana Amin designed the original audition poster. All the other students have worked together to compile the playwright biographies for the program.
“This event is important because we need to showcase the extraordinary talent of our students, and have them proud to be a part of the College community while addressing material that contributes to issues of social justice and social awareness,” said Dr. Harris Ramsby, noting that some participants are freshmen who are eager to establish a theatre tradition on campus. “One English major said he wished he wasn't graduating this May so that he could continue to help build a theatre tradition at Bloomfield College.”
Martha LaBare, Associate Professor of English, and Barbara Appel, a longtime donor to the Humanities Division, provided funding for this event.