NWC’ actors meet upset students

By By Carlos Mayorga

By Carlos Mayorga

Concerned students met with the actors from the play “N*gger, Wetb*ck, Ch*nk: The Race Show” Tuesday night to discuss the content of the show that caused controversy on campus.

More than 20 students crammed into a small classroom in the Union and questioned actors Allan Axibal, Miles Gregley and Rafael Agustin about the show’s intent and the potential harmful effects it could have for racial minorities on the campus.

The hour-and-a-half session was emotional at times–one student tearfully expressed her frustrations about the show and some students even walked out of the meeting halfway through. Exchanges between the actors and students were sometimes tense.

The student government diversity board asked the actors to come back after their Kingsbury Hall performances to talk about students’ objections to the show and its excessive use of racial slurs and portrayals of minority stereotypes.

Dhiraj Chand, diversity director for the Associated Students of the University of Utah, said the actors were invited back after the show had ended so the appearance would not be a promotional event for the show, but a forum where students could voice their concerns and give the actors ideas how to do the show better.

As many as 1,400 people saw the show during its two-day run earlier this month at Kingsbury Hall. After the show, a few diversity board members who attended the performance said they liked the show, but several others left concerned, Chand said.

When Kingsbury Hall announced it would host the show last summer, it prompted critical responses from the Center for Ethnic Student Affairs and the office of diversity. The theater asked ASUU to support the show and help sell tickets, but student leaders refused.

Students and faculty met with a Kingsbury Hall spokeswoman and the dean of the College of Fine Arts in early September to voice their concerns.

Tuesday night, the actors defended their use of comedy to prompt discussion about race and questioned why ASUU wouldn’t support the event.

“We are not spoon-feeding this message,” Gregley said.

He said that the actors purposely mix jokes about racial slurs and stereotypes in their personal stories of dealing with racism to make people realize why they are laughing–which exposes people’s misconceptions about racial minorities.

“It’s exposing the laughter,” Gregley said. “Then when they see these stereotypes on TV, they question them?I honestly believe everyone leaves (the show) with something.”

Nichole Garcia, a junior in gender and ethnic studies, told the actors that many students of color at the U might not be ready to laugh at the hurtful stereotypes.

“When will you be ready?” Gregley calmly responded. “The struggle (with racism) has been going on for hundreds of years. The (politically correct) approach hasn’t been working.”

The actors’ three-week stay in Utah is the longest they’ve stayed in one place to conduct workshops and lectures on the show and race, Gregley said.

“We’re not the kind of people that show up, get a check and bounce,” he said.

The actors also performed in Logan and Ogden this month.

“I came in here angry about the play,” said Garcia, who saw the show and questioned its portrayals of Latina women and gays. “But they answered my questions and I feel relieved.”

Chand, who saw the show and was concerned about negative effects it could have at the U, said although the show has sparked some positive discussion on race, he is concerned that only students of color have to confront the stereotypes and issues of racism.

“Racism is a battle I fight every day, so when these issues come they need to be handled responsibly,” Chand said. “Their intent and their heart is good, but even today I think the show is problematic.”

The actors stayed around after the meeting to talk individually with students.

“I think them coming and them (being) willing to have an open dialogue about the issues that arose on campus was very helpful,” Garcia said. “I think that showed a lot about their character.”

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