tiffany johnson perform the protest

Tiffany Johnson, facilitator for Iowa State's theater production of "Perform the Protest: A Theatre Action For Our Time." The production played outdoor showings Sept. 23 to 26.

Back on its feet, Iowa State’s theatre department aims to make waves while keeping it casual through its newest production “Perform the Protest: A Theatre Action for Our Time.”

After a hiatus from performing, members of the department both new and old voiced their opinions on various topics they felt deserved more of a platform. Ranging from issues on campus such as the controversial Catt Hall and racism on campus to inadequate representation for Puerto Rico by the U.S. government, the ensemble brought to light important topics for all to ponder further.

With seven performers in all, six from the theatre department, and an outdoor venue sporting an audience of around 40 people, the production was carried out to produce a moderately organic seeming protest. Spanning a bit under an hour each of its four days, the ensemble was able to pour their hearts out for the crowd each and every time.

“Speak Up! Not Down! Speak Loud! Speak Proud!” the crowd yelled as the next performer made their way on stage. 

The mantra encouraged by Tiffany Johnson, the facilitator for the production, aimed to inspire both the crowd and the coming performers as they geared up to educate the audience about their prepared topic. 

The need for discussion is ever present on the topics covered by the ensemble that are both modern and pressing issues. All that was missing to make this production full was the lack of topical soigné costumes.

“Demonstrations are so organic and that’s kind of what I wanted to catch you here with the students,” Johnson said. “It wasn’t as important for them to realize a production as it was for them to realize their voices as an artist and that’s one of the things you need to be able to do.”

Ever encouraging as all of the performers have attested, Johnson’s lead in the production helped the students stand their ground in their topics with confidence in their words.

With an opening performance of J. Rosamond Johnson and James Weldon Johnson’s song “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” guest performer Rebecca Davis set the tone for the production.

Immediately following Davis and a few words from Johnson followed by the crowd mantra, Sam Huhn, a sophomore in performing arts, took the stage to raise awareness for the lack of due process via monologue exclaiming how more often than not, minorities are treated as guilty until proven innocent as opposed to the actual adage of innocent until proven guilty. Citing the case of Kalief Browder, Huhn pleaded with the audience to fight for their rights.

Monica Toro, a freshman in performing arts, proceeded Huhn with her own monologue by stating the number “4645.” This number represents the amount of people who died in Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico back in 2017. 

Toro, a Puerto Rican native, brings to light issues with the lack of equal treatment and representation in the U.S. due to Puerto Rico being a colony. Citing the differences in Hurricane Katrina and Maria, Toro highlighted the incompetence and the unwillingness to support Puerto Rico when the devastation was more than three times that of Katrina, which is commonly cited as the worst hurricane to hit the U.S.

Matthew Millard, senior in performing arts, switched it up from monologue to a fusion of rhyme and verse. Millard’s performance, while as serious as the others, seemed lighter due to the delivery.

He cited the need to beat racism despite not fitting into various marginalized groups. Exclaiming that as a straight white male, he often feels excluded from trying to help conquer racism and wants to help. 

The fifth performer of the production, Alexis Murdock, a freshman in interior design, started off with a brief history lesson on the women’s suffrage movement.

After a dramatic ring from the belltower on the Campanile, Murdock kept the topic going by diving further into voting rights and the history of such as it relates to the coming election in November.

Murdock plead for people to "get out there and vote," exclaiming that every vote matters if we are to overcome the current political issues at hand.

The second to last performer of the night, Marilyn Gonzalez, senior in kinesiology and health, tackled a more local issue, speaking on the ineffectiveness and unwillingness to tackle racism on campus.

Citing Catt Hall as a recurring reminder of Iowa State’s unwillingness to do anything, Gonzalez came to tears as she described how Iowa State does not attempt to see how racism affects minority students on campus. Gonzalez came up with the acronym D.I.E. meaning diversity, inclusion and equity.

The final performer of the show, Heaven Booker, sophomore in performing arts, enthralled the crowd with her voice and smooth transitions to monologue and then back and forth between the two in a unique performance. Starting off singing Delta Rae’s “All Good People,” Booker transitioned into a monologue from Ntozake Shange’s choreopoem “For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/ When the Rainbow is Enuf.”

After the monologue, Booker went into the next verse of “All Good People” and then transitioned back into a monologue from the aforementioned choreopoem.

Johnson ended the production with a round of applause and praised the ensemble for their work.

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