National Theater Festival Selects “We Are Proud to Present…”

Posted on 12/7/2016 11:01:53 AM

The Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival has selected a play produced by IUP’s Theater-by-the-Grove for KCACTF’s Region 2 festival, January 3–7 in Montclair, New Jersey. Jackie Sibblies Drury’s play, We Are Proud to Present a Presentation About the Herero of Namibia, Formerly Known As Southwest Africa, From the German Sudwestafrika, Between the Years 1884–1915, was produced and performed by IUP students under the direction of April Daras in October 2016. It was entered into the KCACTF competition with approximately 60 others across the region and was selected by a panel of respondents to be one of seven performed in Region 2.

The Department of Theater and Dance produced We Are Proud to Present… in response to a campus initiative of “courageous conversations” to examine racial issues and racism on campus. According to department chairperson Brian Jones, department faculty believed they needed to make a strong contribution to the conversations with what we do best—provide stories and experiences that challenge our audiences to respond with both their emotions and intellect.

The play begins with three white and three black students from a fictional college preparing and delivering a presentation on a little-known genocide of the Herero tribe of Namibia at the turn of the 20th century. 

As the play progresses, struggles erupt over whose story is being told, and by whom. These young and enthusiastic collaborators are forced to confront the limits of their own empathy while trying to make sense of humanity’s ability to commit horrific acts. Their creative efforts to get the story right unleash unexpected impulses rooted in a collective history of racial oppression and violence.

According to the play’s director, Aprll Daras, “the play forces us to confront and consider how a history of oppression influences our lives today. How we see and identify ourselves individually and collectively is influenced by our shared history. The influential forces of history, recognized or hidden, affect us. They have power over how we see and understand others. They also influence our daily interactions and shape our choices about where we live, who we have relationships with, and how we imagine the future of our world.”

College of Fine Arts Dean Michael Hood stated that “the Department of Theater and Dance, and the cast and crew of We are Proud..., extend and enhance our long record of student and faculty achievement in the annual KCACTF competitions, and, with this challenging and topical play, have made a major and vivid contribution to IUP’s commitment to diversity and inclusion on our campus and beyond.”

The cast and crew of the production, led by Daras, will restage and rehearse the production between Christmas and New Years Eve, and then travel to Montclair University to be seen by approximately 1,200 students and faculty at a five-day festival of plays, workshops, and competitions.

This is the second year in a row that IUP and director April Daras have been selected to perform as part of the KCACTF Festival. Last year, IUP’s production of Soldier’s Heart, written by Pittsburgh playwright Tammy Ryan, was selected.

Daras and company also performed We Are Proud to Present… for over 200 attendees of the State System Inclusion and Diversity Summit at IUP on November 3, followed the next day by a session on the production’s creation, themes and ideas, and the student actors’ discoveries from performing their roles.