“We used words like retard, fag, slut and nigger,” said Blake Navarre, a member of Eastern Michigan University’s CloseUP, when explaining the group’s latest performance.
CloseUP is a traveling theater troupe that tackles social justice issues such as sexual orientation, racial tensions and religion. The group performed in the Student Center Auditorium on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day and tried to integrate the works of King into modern day culture.
The performance was titled “One Step,” and featured 15 scenes of controversial issues that mainly dealt with stereotypes and fighting the status quo.
Navarre was referring to the scene “Just Words.” This scene featured CloseUP members in a classroom, where these words were thrown out to each other simultaneously without any hesitation or concern for that person.
“We used these words because they are talked about, and people use them still every day,” said Navarre. “But nobody really understands the meaning behind them and what kind of value they hold, especially when you say them to another person.”
Audience members were eager to see the show and even more surprised at the scenes.
“The show was an eye-opener,” sophomore Keyera Zackery said. “It was very realistic and it made me realize that we shouldn’t be talking to people like that. I thought it was a good show. It touched on everything, and not just racism.”
The performance included scenes regarding homosexuality, religious views, “white guilt” and pre-judging people based off their names.
“Although the show didn’t focus too much on Martin Luther King, the fact that the stereotypes were more displayed made the show worth it,” said EMU student Gerald Purify Jr. “It was well thought out and there were even some scenes where I was shocked.”
Performing in a CloseUP show can be very intimidating, but to Navarre it is all worthwhile. “I am used to speaking in front of people, but I’m not used to performing,” he said. “This is an area where I had room to grow in, which is why I proactively searched for a group like CloseUP.”
This Navarre’s his first semester as a member of the theater troupe.
The troupe holds auditions depending on whether or not new members are needed. These auditions are typically held in September, but they plan on holding more auditions for this semester at the end of April.
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