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MSU's 'Shattering the Silences' Series to Present Searing, Powerful Drama

(Photo courtesy Poetry Foundation)

"One of these days, I'm going to do this." That's what Missouri State University Assistant Professor of Theatre and Dance Darryl Clark told himself as a young man when he first encountered poet/playwright Amiri Baraka's powerful drama of race and gender relations, Dutchman.  Clark's dream has finally come true, as a one-time-only production of the 50-minute play will be presented Tuesday Feb. 9 at 6:00pm in Plaster Student Union Theater, as part of the MSU Division for Diversity and Inclusion's "Shattering the Silences" series.

Set on a New York subway train, the play is a scorching two-character confrontation between a young, intellectual, well-dressed African American man and a beautiful (and slightly older) white woman.  The woman provokes and challenges the man's middle-class self-image, rather cruelly at times.  The interaction between them begins quite playfully, evolves toward "very sexually charged, very racially charged, and at the end (turns) violent in an emotional way, in a physical way. It is going to rivet people to their seats when they see it," says Darryl Clark.  "Many Theatre and Dance students got very excited about the possibility of being involved. And so casting it was very easy, and producing it has been nothing but a dream.  We're exposing race issues, we're exposing gender issues.  It really is an amazing piece of theater."

Jamaine Abidogan, MSU History Professor and a Fellow in the Division for Diversity and Inclusion, calls the play "very timely" -- even though it's more than 50 years old, having debuted off-Broadway in 1964. "So we thought it was a really good fit for 'Sharing the Silences,' because our whole goal is to have uncomfortable but necessary conversations in safe places. And so when you sit and watch this play -- and the actors are marvelous -- they put you in that emotional situation and carry you through it. But after that we do have a full Q & A discussion, and we feel like this is a way to bring people together to talk about things that often are difficult to discuss."

MSU Senior Churena White was in studio with Darryl and Jamaine to publicize the MSU African American Heritage Month calendar.  "I think all of the events encompass great discussions, great art, great plenary sessions, to get peoples' minds aroused and get them involved in the different things that are going on."  You can find a full calendar of these events at http://blogs.missouristate.edu/diversity/category/upcoming-events/shattering-the-silences-series/.

The production of Dutchman contains mature themes.  It, and the reception and talkback session after the performance, are free and open to the public.  For information, call 836-3736 or visit http://diversity.missouristate.edu/265625.htm.

Randy Stewart joined the full-time KSMU staff in June 1978 after working part-time as a student announcer/producer for two years. His job has evolved from Music Director in the early days to encompassing production of a wide range of arts-related programming and features for KSMU, including the online and Friday morning Arts News. Stewart assists volunteer producers John Darkhorse (Route 66 Blues Express), Lee Worman (The Gold Ring), and Emily Higgins (The Mulberry Tree) with the production of their programs. He's also become the de facto "Voice of KSMU" in recent years due to the many hours per day he’s heard doing local station breaks. Stewart’s record of service on behalf of the Springfield arts community earned him the Springfield Regional Arts Council's Ozzie Award in 2006.