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The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

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The Daily Utah Chronicle

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Colorblind society not possible, actor says

By Carlos Mayorga

Last week, signs advertising “N*gger, Wetb*ck, Ch*nk: The Race Show” appeared alongside several walkways on campus, reminding students and faculty about the show that has sparked controversy at the U.

The show, which seeks to confront three derogatory slurs head-on to disarm the power behind them, blends comedy with the actors’ personal experiences with racism. In the months leading up to the performances this week, representatives from the Center for Ethnic Student Affairs, Associated Students of the University of Utah and the Office for Diversity expressed concern over the use of racial slurs in the show and the impact it could have on campus.

The Chronicle sat down with the Los Angeles-based actors Miles Gregley, Rafael Agustin and Allan Axibal at Kingsbury Hall on Monday to discuss the show. The actors will perform at the theater Friday and Saturday night at 7:30 p.m.

The Chronicle: How long did it take from the time you all met to come up with the idea for the show?

Gregley: We were on the speech and debate team (at Mt. San Antonio College in Walnut, Calif.) back in 2000, and we were traveling around the nation and we became good friends on the road. Three years later, when we had transferred (to UCLA), Rafael and I both studied theatre, film and television, and Allan was a communications major.

Agustin: We wrote together way before we even wrote the show. Miles was writing why there should be a black president and why there isn’t one. Allan’s performances were based on the model minority myth, and I was talking about immigration and how INS should be reformed. We were touching on these topics way before we wrote the show.

The Chronicle: Were you all surprised with the demand for the show?

Gregley: It’s been great and phenomenal. Of course there’s going to be some concern when we first came out with the show with that title. But we understood what we were doing, and in order to start that dialogue, we had to put those words out there.

The Chronicle: A lot of times when we talk about race, we try not to offend anyone. How does the content of the show open up dialogue about race?

Axibal: A dialogue starts with the title of the show way before we even start performing. You start this discussion about who can say it, who can’t say it, why and why not…That process starts long before we even hit the stage. Then we talk about how these words have affected our lives. We talk about the history of the words, and it furthers the dialogue about the differences and the similarities we share.

The Chronicle: I don’t know your experiences on other college campuses, but some students on this campus have expressed concerns with the content of the show. They are concerned the show will come here and people will watch these stereotypes and words played out onstage, then students of color will have to deal with the aftermath of this…

Axibal: …as in we come in, do our thing, leave a big mess and go?

The Chronicle: Right.

Axibal: I see. We put the stereotypes out there, we laugh at them, but the show and the comedy is specifically designed to undercut them, because you’re not just laughing at them, but you’re also realizing the ridiculousness behind them and also just how stupid the biases are in our heads. We designed it to be a comedy, because we wanted it to be inclusive of not just an audience that was black, Latino and Asian.

Gregley: I think if people would come in with an open mind, I think that they would understand what it is that we are doing. There is a reason why the title is what it is — there’s a reason why it’s not called “Three Friends” or “Three Ethnic Guys,” because these are words that need to be addressed. Everyone is really scared to bring up these words and don’t know why. They just know they’re not supposed to say them and don’t really understand the history behind them.

Agustin: At the end of the show when we discuss there is only one race, the human race, we are pointing out that, for a long time, the race debate has only been by people of color, and I think white people should be in this dialogue, because it’s all about us as human beings and how we treat one another. We’re only the stepping stone to what the race dialogue should be. Some people have said that this might be asking for a colorblind society, which is absolutely absurd, because that’s not possible at all. But we do believe that color-conscious public policy is possible and attainable, and that we should demand it.

Axibal: …And the last thing I wanted to say about your other question — does the show just come in, make a mess and go? The answer to that is no — we’ve been to 35 different states, and I can’t even count how many cities. We’ve been asked back to those cities and states because they see the amount of good that it’s done in their community. The show doesn’t just validate people’s use of those words, and it doesn’t validate people’s use of those stereotypes. It is about breaking down the stereotypes and realizing the power of those words — that is the effect the show has.

[email protected]

Liz Rohde

Actors, Allan Axibal, Miles Gregley, Rafael Agustin, sit down to talk about their experiences with racism in the past. This Friday and Saturday they will be performing in “NWC” at Kingsbury Hall.

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