Performance Tackles Racism, Language of HateOGDEN, Utah – Weber State University’s Student Association, in conjunction with Kingsbury Hall, has arranged for two local performances of a production that candidly explores the language of hate in an effort to provide greater understanding and enlightenment.
The play “N*GGER WETB*CK CH*NK”—Three Hateful Words: A Dialogue on Language and Respect (N*W*C) will be performed by Speak Theater Arts Nov. 7-8 at 7:30 p.m. at Peery’s Egyptian Theater (2415 Washington Blvd., Ogden). Honored as the “Best Play” by the American Readers Theater Association when it debuted in 2003, the production has been seen on more than 70 university and college campuses nationwide and was a featured performance at the National Conference of Race and Ethnicity in American Higher Education in San Francisco this spring.
N*W*C charges into the prickly territory of race, but without the predictable anger and angst. Hailed as “jaw-dropping … infectious … inspiring,” by the Los Angeles Times, this provocative play, written and performed by three UCLA graduates, is a hilarious, at times emotional, look at the impact these words have had on their lives and American culture today. The show blends theater, hip-hop, stand-up comedy, slam poetry and true-life stories to tackle racial slurs, stereotypes and the concept of race itself.
The cast and co-writers of the show, Miles Gregley, Rafael Agustin and Allan Axibal, drew upon their personal experiences with discrimination, both while growing up with different ethnic backgrounds in southern California and while studying acting at UCLA.
In press materials about the show, the creators state: “The show traces the origins and evolution of three derogatory terms that shaped our lives and took the place of a genuine understanding of our distinct cultures. In doing this show we hope to de-power these words for ourselves and for our audiences.”
As the play’s title suggests, N*W*C does contain language that may be offensive to some audiences, but the intent extends far beyond shock value.
“We get that the title is tough for some people, but it’s real,” said Gregley. “We all got called those words and just think there is nothing wrong about confronting them head-on. Our philosophy is that there shouldn’t be words out there floating around that can bring someone to their knees by just saying them out loud, you know? So we take ’em on and try to help people get over them a bit.”
Following each performance, audiences will be invited to take part in a discussion. The local discussion forums will be led by teacher education professor Forrest Crawford and Adrienne Gillespie, WSU counselor to special student populations. A third discussion forum, led by Crawford, will be held Nov. 13 at noon in the Shepherd Union Building room 316, to continue the dialogue after audiences have had time to reflect on the show’s messages and themes.
“These are polarizing words in our language that carry loaded connotations—whether you live in L.A., New York City or Ogden, Utah,” said Crawford. “Because these words don’t have geographic restrictions, it’s important that we engage in dialogue and educate people about how negative and harmful these words can be.”
In addition to the two performances in Ogden, the show’s cast will take part in a Convocations lecture at WSU Nov. 7 at 12:30 p.m. in the Shepherd Union Building foyer. N*W*C also will be performed in Salt Lake City (Nov. 2-3), Logan (Nov. 9) and Park City (Nov. 12-17).
Tickets for the performances are $5 for WSU students, $8 for the general public and may be purchased at the Shepherd Union Information Booth or online at wildcard.weber.edu under the Wildcard Marketplace section. The convocation lecture is free to the public.
Visit nwclive.com for more information about the artists and the production, including testimonials from audiences across the country.
Visit weber.edu/wsutoday for more news about Weber State University.