Dates: Sept 30- Oct 2 & Oct 7-9
Time: 8:00 pm
Place: Spectrum Theatre, 160 Fountain St. NE
Tickets: $24 general admission ($20 for students and seniors). Purchase tickets at the box office or on the Actors' Theatre website.
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The cast reenacts an Institute for Healing Racism simulation that illustrates dividing lines between races.
“The American Dream is not for everyone,” chanted cast members at the Wednesday night dry run of Lines: The Lived Experience of Race.
“This is not a country that people can pull themselves up by their bootstraps,” the cast continued.
Over the past two years, Stephanie Sandberg and Company conducted 162 interviews focused on racism with Grand Rapids community members like Mayor George Heartwell, activist Jeff Smith known for his work with the Grand Rapids Institute for Information Democracy, entrepreneur Tami VandenBerg who co-owns The Meanwhile, and Dr. Randal Jelks, a former history professor at Calvin College. Their goal was to come up with a model for the type of community they wanted to create and to get to the root of the lines of racism drawn in Grand Rapids.
“It was a personal challenge for me too,” Sandberg admitted. “I realized I had a lot of bias and privilege, and I needed to confront that.”
Cast member, Michael Travis, whose family has suffered racism in silence, felt that the entire process of interviewing and acting out others’ words has been cathartic.
The multi-racial cast consists of director & devising team leader, Stephanie Sandberg; ensemble members, Rena Dam, David Ellens, Edye Evans Hyde, Julianne Howe-Bowens, Jean Reed-Bahle, Lewis Richards, Calin Skidmore, Lorna Torres, Michael Travis; and original percussion composer, Hugo Claudin.
As the lights dimmed, the slanted stage glowed with projections of criss-crossed lines, city boundaries, and quotations. The backdrop flashed astounding statistics like: "Grand Rapids ranks 44 out of 331 metro areas for racial segregation."
Lines asks audience members to consider their personal roles in Grand Rapids’ race struggles, from the gentrification of Wealthy Street, to systemic racism apparent in schools, churches, and workplaces. However, the performance is more than just numbers, it's passion. One woman interviewee couldn’t help but feel frustrated that white people never wanted to come down to Wealthy Street until all of the businesses recently started popping up:
“When I drive down Wealthy Street, I get so angry.”
She noticed that residents of the neighborhoods surrounding Wealthy Street rarely patronize the new businesses, much less work at or own them.
“People want diversity, but they’re not willing to do the work,” said a frustrated interviewee about the lack of cultural competency in the Grand Rapids Public Schools.
Audience members leave feeling personally convicted, but are given the tools to participate in the reconciliation and reparation of racism in Grand Rapids.
“You gotta keep movin’ on,” chanted the cast members at the end of the performance.
The most important thing, they said, was to let anti-racism become a passion. Audience members left the theatre inspired to be intentional about forming relationships, working on cultural sensitivity, listening to others, and acting against racism.
Lines: the lived experience of Race makes its world premiere at Spectrum Theatre (160 Fountain St. NE) on Thursday, Sept. 30 and will run until Oct. 9. Tickets are on sale at the box office or online.
Community Literacy Initiative Director at the Literacy Center of West Michigan, world traveler, Spanish speaker, MA student, and high school English teacher at heart.
Reports on: Arts-Entertainment, Dining, Social & Cultural Issues