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Diversity takes center stage at Zoellner

Speaking Freely: Diverse Lehigh Voices, an original production by Kashi Johnson, assistant professor of theatre, and students in her Theatre 185 Production Seminar, premieres at 8 p.m. tonight in Diamond Theater at Zoellner Arts Center.

The production also runs at 8 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday, and again at 8 p.m. Nov. 19 through 22. Tickets are $10, and senior, student, LVAIC and group discounts are available.

Building on the work of Untold Truths, last year’s original theatre piece that explored the personal experiences of African Americans in predominantly white schools, Speaking Freelywill confront, express, and dramatize issues relevant to the status of minority students at Lehigh. The audience is invited to engage in a free exchange of ideas and reactions with the performers following each performance.

Students selected for the project in early September interviewed fellow students, creating dramatic dialogue, and refined their work over the 16-week period leading up to tonight’s debut. All of the interviews, Johnson says, relayed similar personal experiences that unearthed a reservoir of emotional pain and feelings of isolation that Johnson calls “affirming, in the sense that there is validation and comfort in knowing that you are not alone in your experiences.”

Johnson, who received her bachelor’s degree in theatre from Lehigh and her master’s degree in acting from the University of Pittsburgh, teaches performance courses and directs plays for the main stage. A member of Actor's Equity Association, her favorite roles include performances in Late Bus to Mecca and The Colored Museum Hamlet (Pitt Theatre), King Lear and Phaedra (Unseam'd Shakespeare Co.), Denial (City Theatre) and One Woman—Many Voices and Abazingelli (Petermaritzberg Arts and Culture Council, South Africa).

She recently conceived, created and starred in Untold Truths (Touchstone Theatre). Her past directing credits include Joe Turner’s Come and Gone, Talk Radio, Flyin' West and I'm Not Rappaport.

The cast for Speaking Freely includes seven Lehigh students: Judy Chow (California), Malik Francois (New York City), Marie Koskelin (Colorado), Steve Munoz (New York), Aalok Shah (New Jersey), Chibuzor Ugokwe (Brooklyn, New York City), and Faye Strothers (Philadelphia).

Says Strothers: “This play is definitely going to hit home for some people. It will definitely widen some eyeballs and offend a few people. But people will have learned something through the process and they’ll have new respect for the word `diversity.’”

For tickets, call (610) 758-2787 (7LU-ARTS) or visit Zoellner Ticket Services Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., Saturday 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., or two hours before curtain.

Posted on Friday, November 14, 2003

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