I Am We Are Organization Focus

IAWA Troupe October 2007

The lights go out. Suddenly you are surrounded by voices, hoarsely whispering racial epithets, derogatory slang, hate speech of every kind: all the anger-laden, hurtful words we use in our lives and never think about. These, your own words, are unexpectedly slung back at you from the faceless, screaming people in the dark.

While it is possible you've just died, the more likely (and hopeful) explanation of your current situation is this: you are experiencing the powerful ending of one of I Am We Are's performances intended to make you think about the way your life affects others.

I Am We Are, a student group presenting issues of social justice through theatre, has been performing shows and holding workshops on campus for more than a decade. The company was formed in 1995 by professor-in­-residence Vanita Vactor to address issues of racial inequality and stereotypes. Through the years, I Am We Are has taken on a greater range of issues, including gender issues, assault/abuse, sexuality, depression, and hate speech among many others.

I Am We Are's performances are created from the personal experiences and shared stories of the group's members. Each performance is a unique, student-written exploration. The group is co-sponsored by the Department of Theatre and Dance and the Diversity Center. As such, it is concerned with questioning the problems that affect our community and posing those issues to the campus without providing specific, one-sided solutions. Each year, the group performs a number of times. The most frequent shows include E Pluribus Gustavus, E Pluribus 2.0 (NOV. 17), and Building Bridges, as well as other workshops and small performances throughout the year.

The Thambo Project, a student-founded, non­profit organization, works in conjunction with I Am We Are to bring the power of social justice theater and workshops to schools and colleges outside Gustavus. For further informa­tion on Thambo, I Am We Are encourages you to visit the website at www.thambo.org.

Building on the effectiveness and power of I Am We Are the Department of Theatre and Dance is launching a new curricular focus in social justice. With new scholarships, courses, and mainstage productions dealing with issues of justice, the department is founding a training ground for artists and activists to train.

Students interested in joining I Am We Are are welcomed and encouraged to do so. New member workshops are held once a semester and will be advertised around campus.

Student Performance Group Addresses Diversity Issues (February 2005)