Provocative play prompts discourse
Talking about attitudes proves to be a part of the process.
By L. CROW
"Spinning into Butter" a play by Rebecca Gilman, is not for everyone. It is not meant to be entertaining. But for those who wish to explore the issues of diversity and racism, this intense play is recommended.
It does not provide answers, but provokes further questions, such as "What is racism?" and "Are we all guilty of racist beliefs?" It is a play in process. "I still don't completely understand this play," says Rachel Rossi, who plays Sarah Daniels, dean of students. "But each time I say the words, I come to a greater understanding."
It takes place on the campus of fictional Belmont College, a prestigious, mostly white, probably church affiliated school in Vermont. There are two incidents of racism.
One involves a Nuyorican student, and the other an African-American student. Most of the dialogue revolves around these two incidents. Liberal-minded Dean Daniels tries to do the right thing but the harder she tries, the more she realizes that her attempts to be open to diversity are actually a form of racism. And she begins uncover her own disturbing racist attitudes.
Each character reacts to the issue differently. They become more phony in their attempts to deal with the situation correctly, or appear to deal with it correctly. As they try to open up dialogue on campus, they find that only the white students attend, and the open forum is boycotted by the African-American students. The situation is never resolved, but each character begins to look at diversity and attitudes of racism in a new light.
The play is followed by a symposium. Each night, different local experts on diversity and racism begin the dialogue by making a statement, followed by reactions from the audience. "In this play, somebody is always looking at another as an alien," says Dr. Michael Theall, director of the Center for Advancement of Teaching and Learning. "Difference causes disturbance."
Some of the questions raised were: "Are some races more subjected to racist attitudes than others, such as African-Americans compared to Asians?" and "Why was the president of the college so obviously absent in the play?" The issue of our ability to make eye contact with those who are different was also brought up.
"Staying for the symposium brings the play full circle," says Richard Bell, stage manager. "Without talking about these issues, there is an incompleteness. Talking helps the play make sense."
X"Spinning into Butter" continues at Spotlight Arena Theater in Bliss Hall, YSU, at 3 p.m. today and April 10 and 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday. For tickets, call the box office at (330)- 941-3105.