The lone dancer wore only red and black. However, the simplicity of her wardrobe accentuated the intensity of her movements. When she gracefully touched her skin, she sought identity. When she reached for the sky, she sought guidance. Her simple movements instantly revealed complex ideas.
Lina Calin ’12 opened for “The Color Complex” in the Commonwealth Auditorium this Wednesday as the lone dancer to “We,” an original composition by Alex McBath ’13. She incorporated the themes from subsequent pieces into the opening performance to express the complexity of color and the issues that affect African Americans and other ethnic groups.
“The Color Complex” hosted by the International Performing Arts Exchange, entailed a performance composed of vignettes from major works and student pieces. McBath and Jamar Jones ’13, the directors, are both members of the International Performing Arts Exchange and hoped to use their production of “The Color Complex” to showcase the diversity that IPAX emphasizes.
“The purpose of IPAX is to reach out to multicultural productions,” Jones said. “It’s all the arts that aren’t represented sometimes. It’s to unite people across cultures.”
McBath and Jones first generated the idea of “The Color Complex” in December and the final production featured monologues, poetry and dance. The variety of pieces allowed the performance to express different messages.
“Each one is touching on a different complexity associated with the African American culture,” Jones said. “Individually, each piece tackles a different issue, whether it’s something about the physical outer layer or something about the inner being.”
Christina Tillery ’12, co-producer of the show, emphasized that each seemingly separate theme in the show was connected.
“There are simple things like growing up and going through the rites of passage,” Tillery said. “Universal themes are throughout the plays. Our goal was that each scene would help you reflect on yourself. It’s something that everyone can relate to.”
Jones and McBath arranged weekly practices throughout the spring semester for a varied cast. Even though many cast members were new to IPAX, they quickly became familiar with each other through the practices.
“At first, people didn’t know each other,” Tillery said. “Now you see that everyone has become a family. It’s very cohesive.”
During the weekly practices, the cast grew as a unit and developed their individual pieces. Practices found the cast striving to embody their characters through personal connections to the messages that each piece reflected.
Kim Green ’13 made the auditorium echo with her poem, with a reading that expressed the strength of her personal connection to Marvin Tate’s “My Life (1959 to the Present).”
“It describes me a lot,” Green said. “They told us to take a piece that we could put ourselves in. I’m so complicated myself. I fit in the poem. It combined the craziness and it combined the thoughts. It was more than just a surface; it was deep emotions with turns and awkwardness.”
Identity was a major theme of the event. Whether it was the talking mannequins trying to influence the girl’s hair choice or Big Mama relating the history of the African American woman to her granddaughter, the search for identity shaped many of the characters.
The piece “Still a Nigger” particularly showcased the character’s search for identity within the constraints of society. Shannon Davis ’13, who acted in “Still a Nigger,” acknowledged the focus on privilege and the intensity of her character. However, she expressed the desire for the audience to connect to the piece.
“I wanted them to get the big picture of the piece,” Davis said. “It’s more accept[ing] of diversity.”
The crowd encouraged all of the actors with its reactions to each individual piece. Jyness Williams ’14 noted the effects of the audience support during her performance as Mary in “Shakin’ the Mess Outta Misery.”
“I felt such a positive rush of adrenaline and energy,” Williams said. “It was so supportive and so encouraging. This is me, this is it, and I’m going to show you what I’ve been working so hard on.”
When the weeks of practice culminated on Wednesday night, McBath and Jones, along with co-producers Tillery and Caroline Kim ’11, witnessed the final product of “The Color Complex.” The performance ended with another rendition of McBath’s personal composition “We” and emphasized the overall theme of the struggle to overcome the differences of color.
“We can come together, every color,” Green said. “It’s hard sometimes, but it works out. It’s the complexity of color.”