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The cast of "We Are Proud to Present..." performs in the Elizabeth Evans Baker Theater.

‘We Are Proud to Present…’ touches performers, audiences

The Elizabeth Evans Baker Theater was silent as the actors left the stage as audience members had just witnessed a portrayal of the genocide of the Herero Tribe. Tears fell from audience members’ faces as they processed the emotional and powerful performance that had taken place before them. 

“We Are Proud to Present a Presentation About the Herero of Namibia, Formerly Known as Southwest Africa, From the German Südwestafrika, Between the Years 1884-1915” was performed by Vibrancy Theater this past weekend. The show created a heavy atmosphere and left audiences thinking deeply about their own words and actions. 

“We A Proud to Present…” tells a story about a group of six actors and actresses who are working to put on a production about the genocide of the Herero Tribe at the Germans’ hands. However, the group faces many challenges along the way as they battle with their view on empathy, their assumptions, their prejudices and racism. 

Caitlin Lopez, a second-year M.F.A. directing student, directed the show, and she said the importance of having these hard conversations to make a change.

“I think I think most of the troubles in today's world comes down to a lack of clear and caring communication,” said Lopez. “That is part of the play. These actors do not have that in the play itself, meaning onstage in the show. In order not to fall into mirroring those, we have to talk with care.”

Davon Johnson, a third-year M.F.A. acting student, played Actor Two/Black Man, and he had portrayed this character once before. Both experiences playing the role were different from each other.

“I was younger,” said Johnson. “It was a lot to experience those things, and I was just in the beginning of my journey of social activism. This time, I came back with what I had experienced before, and it weighed a lot more on me the first time I did it. I came with more of an understanding of exactly what I wanted to do, what I wanted the audience to experience and how I wanted to carry myself through this process.”

At the end of the day, trust is the most important part of putting on this show, according to Johnson. When a show is so heavy, it takes a lot to separate the character from the person. 

“It is easier when I know the people who around me love me and care about me,” said Johnson. “It's easier to decompress and breathe in and know that they care about me even though we are doing work that is really hard.”

Throughout the show, the actors learn a lesson in humility, which is felt by the cast, crew and audience. The show forces people to listen to one another, as the actors often yell over each other during the performance. The audience is left to ponder how they listen to each other when taking part in conversations about race.

One scene in the show discusses how one character does not know her heritage or where she came from, and she explains it is her driving factor for wanting to put on this presentation. This character is referred to as Actor Six/Black Woman, and she is played by Tiara Farquharson, a freshman studying acting. 

“I was trying to understand her train of thought or where she was going with certain things,” said Farquharson. “She got kind of sidetracked when talking about people saying she looks like other black women all the time. She's trying to stay on topic, but at the same time she's trying to get herself to understand what she's saying to them because she's very confused.”

The show has five performances remaining. They take place on April 17 through April 20 at 8 p.m., and there is an additional show on April 20 at 2 p.m. The shows take place in Baker Theater in Kantner Hall during all showtimes. Tickets are $5 for OU students, $7 for non-OU students, $7 for seniors and $10 for general admission.

“I want (the audience) to walk away beginning to have conversations that they may not thought they needed to have,” said Lopez. “It is not so much that I want them to feel one specific way, but it is more that I want them to take a look at themselves and ask if anything feels familiar.”


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