WORD! Festival Tackles Issues of Race

Tziona Breitbart '16Assistant News Editor

Last Thursday, April 11, the Five College Multicultural Theater hosted the WORD! Festival. The festival consisted of original staged student readings from all of the five colleges, with 10-minute productions focusing on issues of race and diversity. WORD! Festival was based off of playwright August Wilson’s idea that theater should raise awareness and politicize communities of color.

According to the Multicultural Theater website, “The scripts were chosen by the Multicultural Theater Committee, which then offered artistic and dramaturgical support for students to prepare their work for the stage.” The scripts included: ISTIKHARA: Not a Partition Play, Sara Amjad, Mount Holyoke College; Black Dot, Manqing Cang, Smith College; Minority Status, Madison Cortez, Amherst College; and Fat. Black. And Ugly, Eshe Shukura, Hampshire College. Only 10 students were chosen to present their original work. The students who presented their scripts participated in a workshop given by activist, performer and award-winning playwright Vicki Grise. Grise has performed worldwide. She has won many awards for pieces she has written. She has taught how to write performances for many years and is an activist promoting organizing efforts of minority groups.

While the WORD! Festival has been held by the Five College Multicultural Theater since 1986, the idea originated in the University’s New World Theater. The main purpose of the festival is to find and help student writers who are trying to confront multicultural themes through theater.

“For nearly two decades, the Five College Multicultural Theater Committee, supported by the Five College theater chairs and Five Colleges, Inc, has worked to creatively foreground the experiences of people of color,” according to their website. Every year a different campus hosts the Festival.

Students whose writing is chosen are given an award of $100. The awards are funded by the Five College James Baldwin Memorial Fund, and over 100 students have received this award.

The WORD! Festival is only a number of one of the Five College Multicultural Theater events. The committee has held Five College productions, workshops that discuss the experiences of people of color and has also hosted guest artists.