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A View From the Third Floor Announcements

Baltimore Reading to Lead Talk About Campus Racism

Building on the fantastic April 22 community reading of Polar Bears, Black Boys, and Prairie Fringed Orchids, by Vincent Terrell Durham, and the rich conversation that followed, PPL is excited to continue our play reading series, Friday, with Baltimore, by Kirsten Greenidge

Come join us at 6PM, Friday, May 6, in our Main Reading Room, with our community partner, the Associated Colleges of St. Lawrence Valley, as we hold the third reading in our play-reading and discussion series Breaking Barriers: Plays at the Library.

Tickets are free and available on Eventbrite, at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/baltimore-by-kirsten-greenidge-a-staged-reading-tickets-328211558607 and on our Potsdam Public Library Facebook Page. Register today, share with your friends and come out to support arts and conversation in your community!

In selecting Baltimore, Associated Colleges of St. Lawrence Valley Executive Director Peter J. Anderson said, “Greenidge’s play addresses a difficult topic that gets to the heart of the most important thing we need to get right on our campuses.”

“But our campuses don’t have hard borders here in Potsdam, and our students are part of our larger community,” he said. “We have to learn to talk with each other about racism. Theater has always been one of the ways society can explore difficult topics and can be a powerful way for us all to be provoked into new ways of thinking about our power and collective responsibilities.

For the Associated Colleges, as we move into a new strategic plan focused on community building, economic development and diversity, we value these kinds of conversations as fundamental to getting anything done.”

Baltimore focuses on the subject of racism on campus and  when a racially-charged incident divides her first-year students, reluctant resident advisor Shelby finds herself in the middle of a conversation she does not want to have. As pressure to address the controversy mounts from residents, the new dean, and even her best friend, Shelby must decide if she will enter the fray or watch her community come apart at the seams. Sharp, funny, and searing, Baltimore is a timely drama about racism on college campuses.

Breaking Barriers is a four-part series looking at issues that are controversial and central to our community through the lens of theatre arts. To learn more about the project, its creation and its mission, check out our blog, here: https://potsdamlibrary.org/new-ppl-play-series-breaks-barriers/

Rivka Eckert, Breaking Barriers co-creator and SUNY Potsdam Department of Theatre and Dance Assistant Professor, said we had originally looked to partner with SUNY Potsdam’s Center for Diversity, and were encouraged to expand the frame and collaborative opportunity for all the colleges represented by the Associated Colleges of the St Lawrence Valley.

“Because they are already working to bring together scholars, students, staff and community members, working with them in this capacity offers an enriching opportunity to use the arts to share and reflect on common experiences of our colleges,” she said.

In choosing Baltimore, Eckert developed a survey that went out to students, faculty, and staff at Clarkson, SUNY Potsdam, Saint Lawrence University, and SUNY Canton. The survey asked what topics they would like to bring to the community for conversation, and about stereotypes of the college experience.

“Reading through the results illuminated a wide and diverse experience, but one of the throughlines was around a desire to move conversations around justice and racial equity towards action,” Eckert said. “Kristen Greenidge’s play addresses the tension of a college campus in conflict with an earnest desire to move forward. As Peter mentioned, this play reading series offers a unique opportunity to reflect on our collective responsibility towards equity.”

Actors will read the script in the style of a staged or choral reading, reading from music stands with spoken stage directions. Following the readings, there will be a conversation between Breaking Barriers creators, participants, and community organization liaisons meant to engage in the themes, concerns, and impact of the play.

The play’s director Angela Sweigart-Gallagher, a St. Lawrence University Associate Professor of Performance & Communication Arts, said Baltimore speaks directly to one of the major issues facing universities communities, which is how to encourage students to communicate across cultural and racial differences. 

“So, often we see this issue as one that only affects our students of color but it affects the entire community,” Sweigart-Gallagher said. “We need to help our students understand how harm does not hinge on intent and to accept that sometimes how we see ourselves and our actions may not be how others see them.” 

Sweigart-Gallagher said she was “thrilled to be asked” to participate in Breaking Barriers as St. Lawrence University is always looking for opportunities to collaborate with other artists in the community and to give their students opportunities to work on different kinds of projects. 

“I loved the concept of community partnerships. I am always stressing with my students how theatre (at its best) represents and speaks to the issues of the day. Even theatre that might be considered escapist reflects something back about the need for escapism,” she said. “So, this kind of collaboration mirrors my belief that theatre can be a conduit for conversations, a way to think deeply about issues that matter to us, and to be in community with others who also care about those issues.”

This project is made possible with funds from the Statewide Community Regrants Program, a regrant program of the New York State Council on the Arts, with the support of the Office of the Governor and the New York State Legislature, and administered by the St. Lawrence County Arts Council.

Actor/Director Bios:

Director Angela Sweigart-Gallagher is an Associate Professor of Performance and Communication Arts at St. Lawrence University. Her research interests and performance projects focus on the intersection of politics and performance. Her scholarly writing and performance reviews have appeared in the Journal of American Drama and Theatre, New England Theatre Journal, parTake, Performance Matters, Performance Research, Theatre Symposium, Theory in Action, and Youth Theatre Journal. Dr. Sweigart-Gallagher earned her PhD in Theatre Research from the University of Wisconsin—Madison.

Angela Sweigart-Gallagher

Kaleb Davis is a senior Performance and Communication Arts major and film studies minor. He is a former student athlete as a member of the football team and he is very excited to be apart of this production. He has a passion for the arts and storytelling. He is the co-director of the How Did We Get Here?, a documentary about gentrification in several cities on the east coast.

Kaleb Davis

JD Larabie is a Junior and currently working on an English and PCA double major with a focus on Theatre and Performance and creative writing at St. Lawrence Unviersity. He has performed in The Bakkhai (Fall ’19) as a member of the chorus and in She Kills Monsters (Fall ’21) as Chuck. He also performed in University Theatre’s Zoom Production of Sweat (Fall ’20) as Jason.  

JD Larabie

Emily Mose is a senior studying Performance and Communication Arts with a focus on Theatre and Performance at St. Lawrence University. Her previous productions include being the stage manager for In The Next Room, the servant in The Bakkhai, in the company of Me Too and SLU, assistant stage manager for Sweat, and Agnes in She Kills Monsters.  

Aja Samuel is a sophomore at St. Lawrence University and is a PCA major and Spanish minor. Her most recent roles were in Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind and She Kills Monsters at St. Lawerence University.  

Aja Samuel

Penda Sarr is a sophomore at St Lawrence University majoring in Anthropology and minoring in PCA.  She recently appeared in St. Lawrence’s production of Too Much Light Makes The Baby Go Blind 

Penda Sarr

Carmiña Goya is a first year student at St. Lawrence University from Argentina who plans to major in Performance and Communication Arts with a focus on Theatre and Performance and a minor in Studio Art. 

Carmiña Goya

Aysha Benjamin attends The State University Of New York at Potsdam and studies in theatre. Her most recent performance was SUNY Potsdam’s production of Our Town as Mrs. Gibbs. Aysha was also cast in SUNY Potsdam’s production of Ready. Steady. Yeti. Go. as Carly. At Brooklyn Children’s Theater, Aysha appeared as Rafiki in the Lion King Jr, Winfred in Mary Poppins, Witch in Into The Woods Jr., and Fiona in Shrek Jr. This program also allowed her to perform with Broadway star Jelani Aladdin. Aysha has also been in five other Broadway Junior shows in which she got to perform on Broadway at the Shubert Theatre. Aysha is a recipient of the Robert and Kristen Anderson Lopez/Katherine L. Lopez scholarship for excellence in musical theatre.

Aysha Benjamin

Katelin Guerin is also a SLU students reading in the play. A bio and photo were not immediately available.