Editor’s note: Out of respect for some students who may be offended by the title of tonight’s performance, Collegian editors opted to not print the derogatory terms. See tomorrow’s Verve for coverage of the performance and student reactions.
Racial slurs and derogatory jabs at any particular ethnic group have transformed over the years from their roots of hatred into intolerable speech. As mainstream America goes, offensive words aimed at any single minority are not only taboo but also downright unforgivable.
But what if the minorities in question turn the finger, and the slur, around and point it at themselves?
A three-person performance group has titled its play three widely unaccepted racial slurs-the N-word, the W-word and the C-word and has spent the previous few years touring the United States, all the while attacking the stereotypes the young actors internalized while growing up.
“N*W*C*: The Race Show,” as the play is commonly called for short, has made its way from its beginnings in California, then around the country to CSU. Association for Student Activity Programming, or ASAP, is bringing the 95-minute show to the Lory Student Center Theater at 8p.m. tonight for free.
“The reason we are bringing them here is to give students a place to feel like they can go for a dialogue,” said ASAP member Tonia Nible.
The trio, Miles Gregley, 28, Rafael Agustin, 26, and Allan Axibal, 25, alongside two co-directors and co-writers, formed the group in 2004. The performance, a variety act of sorts featuring bits of hip-hop, theater, stand-up comedy and autobiographical tales, is motivated by the need for discourse among audience members and the community at large, Gregley said.
“It’s not to point fingers. It’s about identity and self-love,” he said.
“It’s about having an open mind to start a dialogue about how these words have made us who we are,” Axibal added.
In a time of controversial public figures like Carlos Mencia and Don Imus, N*W*C* takes another stab, and a different approach, at racial issues in the United States.
And they don’t tread lightly.
“We have found that people are very hungry for this type of show, this message,” Agustin said.
The name for the play is important for the actors because it bluntly states the words that have represented, or misrepresented, their identities and their communities. It is a way for them to de-power the words, they said.
“We want to show how ridiculous these stereotypes are,” Gregley said.
“At the very core, there is only one race and that is the human race,” Agustin added. “We are all more alike than we are different.”
Although the actors boldly use the words to make a positive, and provocative, statement about the issues revolving racism, the words, and what they represent, may still be offensive to some.
But for others who deal with issues of racism on a regular basis, it’s about time somebody said it.
“We hope it will bring about dialogue,” said Black Student Services Administrative Assistant Theresa Grangruth. “This is an unspoken topic in this community and just because you don’t talk about it doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.”
The play uses humor as a tool to discuss social issues, such as food stamps and illegal immigration, among others, which may be another controversial aspect of the show. Yet, the actors use comedy to get people’s attention, specifically the attention of the younger generations, the actors said.
“This is the answer to the MTV generation in terms of theater,” Axibal said.
But, for older generations with different experiences, the message may be difficult to accept.
“Out of some pains, comes some laughter. it’s hard for me to laugh,” Grangruth said.
Although the complexity of the issues can make this play an event better left ignored, Grangruth still hopes students will attend and said she believes this to be an important event for this particular community.
“We encouraged students to support them and let them (the students) be the judge,” Grangruth said. “We don’t want to force our professional opinion on the students.”
Associate news managing editor Jessi Stafford can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.