Mary Claire Zauel
A group of Michigan State University students virtually came together throughout fall 2020 to create a series of 5 new audio plays, each connected to the themes of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). As a starting point, we all brought in poetry to share. We read and discussed dozens of poems from diverse artists and used those as a jumping off point. The poetry evoked frank and honest conversations about race, gender, and sexuality, and every member of the ensemble shared deeply moving personal experiences about how these impact the way they move through the world today. We then created scenarios and improvised scenes until the basic structure for each play began to take place. Individuals and groups of students took on the challenge of weaving these experiences into cohesive audio dramas. For more information about the process, please watch the documentary short by Kayla Katona below.
Promotional Short by Kayla Katona
So Close, Yet
Written by Cole Dzubak and Sam Carter
Directed by Mary Claire Zauel
Performers: Sam Carter, Kayla Katona, Nate Davis
The journey that led to So Close, Yet began when a student shared a video performance of a slam poem by Sainee Raj called “Sex Ed for Adults.” This started a conversation about how sex education in the United States often fails women and members of the LGBTQIA+ community. We shared our own experiences and the ways in which various communities have been excluded.
For resources and more information about inclusive sex education, we recommend visiting the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network (GLSEN). Members of MSU’s community can also find resources at Michigan State University’s Lesbian Bisexual Gay and Transgender Resource Center.
Written by Mary Claire Zauel
Directed by Sam Carter
Performers: Cole Dzubak, Keturah Heath, Jason Dernay
Jamaal May’s “There are Birds Here” sparked a passionate conversation about Detroit. Multiple ensemble members from Detroit shared dozens of instances in which they were treated unfairly based on uninformed and biased opinions about the city. One student shared, “The people who asked where we were from were afraid of us.” Detroit is a city with a rich history. Today it’s an energetic and vibrant city with diverse communities that offer excellent music, art, food, sports, and architecture. Perceptions of Detroit as bleak and dangerous are tied to race, and this play aims to engage with those prejudices while shattering hurtful perceptions about a city that we love.
Written by Nealmonté
Directed by Ian Klahre
Performers: Nealmonté Alexander, Laura Sansoterra
One of our ensemble members shared two poems that he wrote: “Running, Running, Running” and “Blind.” This led to deep and meaningful conversations about ethnicity, identity, intimacy, community, and mental health. “Where do I belong” is a difficult question to ask. What options are there when a mixed-race person has trouble finding a sense of community or intimacy? What does it mean to be “black enough” or “latino enough”? When many different identity markers intersect in a person that doesn’t look, act, or sound like any one particular group, how do they create personal connections?
For information and resources about mental health, please visit MSU’s Counseling and Psychiatric Services.
She's the Wo(Man)
Written by Laura Sansoterra, Jason Dernay, and Nate Davis
Directed by Nealmonté Alexander
Performers: Mary Claire Zauel, Nate Davis, Laura Sansoterra
While we read many poems that engaged with gender discrimination, Olivia Gatwood’s “The Autocross” sparked the improvisations that led to “She’s the Wo(Man).” The poem dealt with motorsports but our conversations eventually focused on how as a minority in the STEM community and in politics, women are forced to endure microaggressions in the workplace. Ensemble members shared stories of double-standards, being judged by their clothing or speech, while male peers were judged by their work.
Now Say Hello
Written by Ben Barber
Directed by Cole Dzubak
Performers: Ian Klahre, Jason Dernay, Mary Claire Zauel, Kayla Katona, Keturah Heath, Sam Carter, Ben Barber
Reading Richard Siken’s “You Are Jeff | Crush” led to conversations about “coming out,” the challenging process of accepting one’s sexual orientation or gender identity and sharing it with individuals or the world. This connected to broader themes of emotional indifference and the challenge of making human connections in today’s society. In the spirit of the poem, we present an abstract experience that combines various scenarios with an audio landscape, unified by one young man’s journey towards self-love.
For information and resources about coming out, we recommend visiting The Trevor Project and the Human Rights Campaign. Members of MSU’s community can find resources at Michigan State University’s Lesbian Bisexual Gay and Transgender Resource Center.