Race is no easy subject to openly talk about and can often make people uncomfortable. But the HopKins Black Box Theatre’s new production — “Racy: A Show About Looking and Seeing in Black and White” — is forcing people to have honest conversations about race whether they want to or not.
The HopKins Black Box will present “Racy” from April 22 to April 26. The show consists of performers having an open dialogue about race, mostly through body movement. It uses a technique called image theatre, in which thoughts and ideas are expressed through physical movements.
Bonny McDonald, performance studies instructor and director of “Racy,” is performing in the show and said the technique can be used to talk about political and social issues without actually having to speak.
“It assumes that our bodies are expressive of social oppressions, relationships and realities,” McDonald said. “We used our bodies as a medium for thinking about race relations.”
Though the show does offer some poetry and theory, it’s mostly composed of creative movement and dance. Each performer developed different body masks, which are poses that communicate and describe different interpretations of race relations.
“We want to assert that there’s no such thing as color blindness, and the show really forces us to consider what it means to see race,” McDonald said.
McDonald said acknowledging difference and acknowledging each other is a productive way to enter into the much needed conversation about race.
English senior Akeem Muhammad, a performer in the show, said the topic of race is especially important to him as a black person, and he decided to participate in the show because it was so open about the subject.
“I think there hasn’t been enough effective discussion, and this is an attempt to start an effective discussion about race with people of all colors,” Muhammad said.
For Muhammad, the show is not just about breaking down barriers, it’s about understanding the barriers and why they exist in the first place. He said the show provides a mirror to society, so it can take a look at itself and the barriers that need to be broken.
As for the physical aspect of the show, Muhammad said he found his body movement through analyzing other people’s thoughts and relating them to his own, trying to find a connection.
“Body movement is primal and communication in its purest form,” Muhammad said. “Before language as we know it developed, humans communicated with body language, so that elicits the idea of using so much body movement in the show.”
Race is the umbrella theme that makes up the show, but there are many themes within it. Topics such as violence, relationships and hope are also central to the story “Racy” attempts to create.
The aspect of hope is what drew communication studies senior and performer Kayla Carter to “Racy.” Carter said as a black student at a predominantly white university, “Racy” intrigued her because she wanted to be a part of something with the message that there is hope for communication among the races.
In her mind, the goal of the show is to show audience members that multicultural individuals are able to work together in a society to make it productive.
“We do live in the South, and there is racism, even though we don’t want to admit it,” Carter said. “But this show is throwing that racism out there and showing we can still coexist and make something greater than what history told us.”
To find her body movement, Carter said she and the rest of the crew did workshops in which they asked each other how their race related to their body. So she, as a black female, would do a body movement or pose she thought expressed her and how she felt in the moment.
“Racy” tackles controversial subjects, and may make the audience uncomfortable at times. However, the show never tries to push for one opinion or another, it simply lets the audience make those decisions.
“Racy” will be presented at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, April 22 through Saturday, April 25 and at 2:30 p.m. Sunday, April 26 in the HopKins Black Box Theatre. Donations will be accepted at the door for all performances. Donations typically range from $5 to $7.
You can reach Kayla Randall on Twitter @kay_ran21.