& A with Chara Riegel, SSW
Riegel, a student in the School for Social Work's master's
program, will perform her one-woman show Cowgirl
Expatriate: A Texas Memoir Thursday, June 12,
at 7 p.m., in the Campus Center Carroll Room. Admission
is free (donations are welcome).
musical explores what it means to be Texan through a bold
look at race, gender, religion, violence, and the current
U.S. president, based on interviews with Texans. A dialogue
with Riegel will follow the performance.
to questions about her inspiration for writing and performing Cowgirl
The Gate: How
does this performance tie in with your requirements in the
School for Social Work?
Riegel: In the first year of the Smith
School for Social Work program, we're required to create
some kind of community practice project. Because I'm a performer,
I decided I wanted to create a one-woman show to explore
diversity issues and I wanted to base the piece on my own
experiences growing up in Texas. For the autobiographical
part of it, I started composing songs and for the characters
in the piece, I interviewed Texans about issues like race,
gender, religion, violence and the president, and transcribed
their words into monologues.
Gate: What inspired you to write Cowgirl
was inspired to create the piece in part because of the response
New Englanders have when I say I'm from Texas. Generally,
they look at me in horror. And frankly, I sympathize. I was
born and raised in Texas, but for the past seven years I've
been living in San Francisco and New York City and I've been
in pretty strong denial of my Texas roots. And I guess, recently
I've been wanting to come to terms with this part of my identity
and reclaim being Texan in my own way.
Gate: How are your studies in
social work reflected in the piece?
I started classes here this past summer, one of the teachers
explained the School for Social Work's anti-racism commitment
and in reference to white people thinking about this issue,
he said, “It's
a privilege to not have to think about race, and this is
a privilege that we need to give up.” I'm still kind
of amazed by the impact these words had on me. For the first
time, I felt invited to really get to know how I've benefited
from privilege in my life and I started wanting to put the
pieces together about the kind of intolerance that was operating
in my childhood in Texas.
does the show's setting in Texas affect its issues of diversity?
Why is Texas an important setting for the piece?
Reigel: Especially in today's political
climate, it's easy to demonize Texas and there are plenty
of Texans who are intolerant. But there are also people standing
up in Texas, fighting for equal rights and tolerance, trying
to do good in the world. And while it's easy to blame and
distance ourselves, a shift can only happen when we can get
to know these dark places in ourselves and in our country.
do you hope audience members will come away with after attending
Riegel: I would like audience members to
leave inspired to keep uncovering the subtle layers of bias
that we all have and to keep talking about these difficult
issues in an intimate and honest way.
Gate: What do you plan to do professionally
after graduating from the SSW? Will
it involve performance?
Riegel: After graduating from the SSW,
I plan to work as a psychotherapist, but my
life will definitely involve performing. And now that I'm
discovering the link between performance and activism, I'm
even more excited to explore my potential impact as an artist.