Categorized | Arts & Entertainment

“If You Look to the Right” is a collaborative I.S. performance

Katie Harvey
Contributing Writer

On Feb. 2 and 3, Vinny Meredith ’18 brought society’s conceptions of Hawai’ian culture to the Shoolroy Theatre stage for the performance component of his Senior Independent Study (I.S).

Meredith, a theatre and dance major from Chicago, Ill., explained that the show, titled “If You Look to the Right,” brought together the work of “student performers, student designers and student crew members” to take a closer look at the consequences of the colonization and exploitation of the Hawai’ian islands.

Four stage platforms, littered with brightly colored postcards, leis, floral-print shirts, an inflatable palm tree and a bowl of fruit punch served as the setting for the introduction of two flamboyant tour guides. The guides, who represented the general society of ignorance regarding Hawai’ian culture, led the audience members on the “Aloha Tour,” a satirical display of the continuous exploitation of a commercialized and fabricated Hawai’i.

“The production sprouted simply from my personal frustration and exhaustion of seeing the Hawaiian culture displayed as a theme,” Meredith said. While “Hawai’i continues to be romanticized,” he explained, “the islands are being devoured by its vivacious touristic culture which has caused devastating social, economic and environmental problems for its natives.”

The tour guides’ initial perception of Hawai’ians as dangerous and barbaric is soon challenged by the introduction of tenacious yet gentle native people who utilize personal narrative, as well as statistical and historical commentary, to expose the pain of watching their culture be torn away.

While Meredith’s script provided gripping stories of colonization, disease and rebellion, the passionate acting brought life to the characters’ stories. “Much of what you saw on stage were the creative choices by the actors themselves during the rehearsal process. They had such amazing instincts and made the entire process run smoothly,” Meredith said.

The passionate dialogue was often accompanied by the use of harsh mechanical sound effects, sudden light changes, staggered stage positioning and intense movements. The set decor was gradually knocked over and torn down, leaving the stage in shambles by the end of the show. These directing choices created general feelings of uneasiness for the audience, as they observed the pain and frustration of the Hawai’ian people.

Despite the initial use of discomfort to challenge our society’s historical and contemporary treatment of the Hawai’ian people, the production ended with a Hawai’ian prayer for the healing of the earth and an original song by Brandi Clarke ’18. Sung by Lizbeth Acevedo ’21, the song brought a feeling of tranquility over the otherwise unsettling production, assuring the audience that change is not out of reach.

Speaking of the feeling of watching her original work come to life, Clarke said, “I got chills as soon as she sang on stage. I was really proud, not just of myself, but I was proud of everyone involved in this.”

In reflection of his experience leading the charge behind this play, Meredith concluded, “We are the breathing proof that the creative works of students, in this department and beyond, are valid, important and unequivocal forces to be reckoned with.”

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