Civic Engagement takes center stage.
By Bill Giduz
The Department of Theatre organized a unique two-part experience in civic engagement this spring. a gripping production of the play In the Blood by Suzan-Lori Parks was enhanced by a two-day visit from the Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright herself.
A half-dozen students presented five performances of Parks’ bleak tale of a homeless woman’s attempts to make a better life for herself and her five children. Their hopes are continually foiled by false friends, government bureaucrats, an old lover, and a lecherous doctor. The pressure pushes the mother toward a tragic concluding act.
A few days after the play closed, Parks came to campus and hosted two public events—a lively performance about “the art of making art” and a thought-provoking discussion about In the Blood and the role of the artist in the social justice movement.
Rather than just an artistic exercise, the Department of Theatre offered the play’s six student actors an experience in civic engagement. Through Charlotte’s Room in the inn shelter program, cast members spent a night with a group of homeless people and also conducted a poverty simulation.
Lori Pitts ’12 has graced the Davidson stage many times, but said she will remember In the Blood as a life-changing experience. “I’ve never lived on the street, and the experience helped me realize that, even though we may have the best intentions, society can be oppressive for some people,” she said.
Her role in the play and a class in community- based theatre helped fortify Pitts’ interest in social justice, and helped her find a place in the field. The class included a residency by Norma Bowles, founder and artistic director of Fringe Benefits educational theatre troupe. During Bowles’ stay, Pitts arranged an internship with her, and is spending her first months beyond Davidson conducting outreach and teaching programs for Fringe Benefits in schools in and around Louisville, Ky.