Play Questions the Heart of Diversity
Butterfly puppets await
their cues for the student play Black
seniors Manqing Cang and Shuyao Kong had some questions around
diversity and student culture at Smith based on their observations
here, they decided to illustrate their thoughts by writing
and producing a play. The resultant theater work, Black
raises questions on what diversity is, and why and how we
value diversity, they explain, while not focusing on any
cultural group in particular.
Black Dot has been
selected for performance as part of the WORD! Festival, an
annual theatre event featuring student plays from the Five
College campuses, on Thursday, April 11, at 8 p.m. in Hallie
Flanagan Theatre, Mendenhall Center. Black
Dot will also
be performed in its fully produced form, complete with lighting,
costumes and puppets, on Saturday, April 13, at 8 p.m. in
Hallie Flanagan Theatre.
and Cang recently responded to questions about Black
Dot for the Gate.
prompted you and Manqing to write and produce Black Dot?
Kong: I have been involved in numerous campus events
about spreading Chinese culture. However, our so-called
cultural events seemed to serve primarily Chinese students,
rather than educating the campus about Chinese culture.
Therefore, Manqing and I think that by having an event
that is not distinguishably Chinese, we are able to deliver
the true message to the Smith community.
The play Black Dot is mainly about diversity, though
not intended to build awareness of a particular culture.
I have noticed, too, that though every minority student
group holds some kind of diversity event every semester,
attendees of these events are usually students within
that specific group. It's time to get down to the basics
and bring everybody together. While there are many diversity
events happening on campus, seldom do we question if
diversity is really a good thing.
is a play a good way to address these issues?
Theater is a great way to stimulate
thinking, especially when there's no single answer to the
question. And the dramatic form can serve as an open-ended
question. It's an indirect route to reach a place and to
have fun during the journey.
often find that the best way to raise a question is by
putting yourself aside. With many campus events, people
stereotype themselves into a certain culture. For example,
during Chinese New Year, everybody wears Qi-Pao, the traditional
Chinese costume for women, without knowing why they should
wear it. Art can serve as a form that drives people away
from the tradition, the custom, the routine, to a new
realm of creativity and imagination. It is a better way
to question an issue, which will lead the audience to
reflect upon it once they step out of the theatre.
How is the nature of diversity
illustrated in Black Dot? Explain the play's approach
to and treatment of the diversity theme.
is one of the big topics at Smith. We promote diversity
and have many events related to it every semester. However,
attendees of these events are really limited to people
who belong to those specific diversity groups already.
Rather than mixing things together, we've created small
groups inside a large one. This might not be a bad thing,
if you think of it as a fusion restaurant compared to
a restaurant with food from different places--each will
have its own customer base. But I do think we should
be aware of this phenomenon. I don't think a particular
culture interests the majority, so I deliberately avoided
it in writing Black Dot. To do that, I chose to write
a story about a group of butterflies and some flies,
hoping to illustrate a single case of what would happen
when two distinct groups come together.
do you hope audience members will come away with?
I hope my audience will come away with questions
about what diversity really is, and about whether diversity
is always a good thing, and whether it separates people
more than bring them closer.
hope the audience leaves with questions. They may arrive
wondering how the play plays with a black dot on a butterfly.
Then, after seeing the play, I hope they will come up with
their own interpretation of black-dot. I want them to
broaden the idea of black-dot beyond physical difference,
racial difference, cultural difference, to individual
difference—psychologically or personality-wise.
Most importantly, I want the audience to reflect on how
their daily actions embody their own approach to diversity.
People usually talk about diversity as if it is a thing,
but it is really embedded in our daily functioning.