Members from the SST Theater presented three live performances of “Synergy from Others” on Nov. 5 in the Knott Auditorium. Sponsored by the Mount’s Inclusive Excellence Committee, each performance demonstrated the role diversity plays in our lives and how our differences can actually make us more alike.
Two of the performances focused on how administrative, faculty and staff members can support diversity while the third focused on diversity among students. At each performance, four actors presented real-life situations in a series of five short vignettes.
The first vignette was a perfect example of how the Chicago-based SST Theater is dedicated to bringing attention to serious topics like diversity while providing entertainment and fun. During the vignette entitled “Coke Adds Life?,” the speaker explained that even though his family always had Coke before, he couldn’t make the distinction between the two sodas during a blind taste-test. This particular vignette carried the important message that our core identities are often ignored because they are used for oppression.
The second vignette “Imposter” focused on assimilation as an actress portrayed a young student who was afraid to admit that she was a Jewish-American. After this vignette was performed, the actors provided a list of five steps to help combat hidden prejudices: 1) accept responsibility for the problem, 2) identity problem behaviors, 3) assess the impact of our behavior on others, 4) modify any negative behaviors and 5) obtain feedback.
To demonstrate the power of language, the third vignette “Ingredients” demonstrated how cross-cultural communication is continuously evolving. The actors also discussed how collusion reinforces stereotypes through three devices: silence, denial and active participation. Although silence is the most common, active participation is considered to be the most destructive.
The fourth vignette “Not Pas-Ghetti” told the story of a young mother struggling to balance both her family and work life. The performers then discussed the various benefits to promoting diversity, such as an increase in innovation, flexibility and productivity. According to writer and performer Jeff Mangrum, “Not Pas-Ghetti’ is one of my favorite ones because of the analogy – fitting through society’s mold is an image we can all relate to.”
The final vignette “Wendall Greene” told an uplifting story of how developing a relationship with someone from a different culture can open our eyes. When compared to our hearing, our sight has a much stronger impact on behavior, and Mangrum even argued that we learn more through our eyes than our ears.
After attending the administrative-focused performance, Career Center director Clare Tauriello said, “The cultural experience was a great event for the Mount. It allowed us to focus on our beliefs and attitudes and how they affect us in the workplace and beyond. We can respect our differences and be a community of unity.”
These performances by the SST Theater were some of the many events sponsored by the Mount’s Inclusive Excellence Committee, and as Mangrum explained, “This is tough work, but it’s most important that we do it.”