Students share experience seeing ‘Citizen’: “I learned a valuable life lesson from this production”

FIDM studentsI’m not sure that another play will be able to give me the feeling that this one did. 

College students from Fashion Institute for Design and Merchandising attended a recent performance of Citizen: An American Lyric . The students are in their first or second year of college and are mostly 18 to 22 years old. Their teacher is Alan Goodson, who is also an actor who has appeared on our Fountain stage.

Alan Goodson

Alan Goodson

“The class is called Seminar in the Arts,” explains Goodson.  “The students are generally visual artists of one kind or another, but have had little or no exposure to other artistic media – so I try to broaden their artistic horizons by taking them to theatre. ”

Providing students with access to live theatre is at the core of the Fountain Theatre’s educational outreach program, Theatre as a Learning Tool. 

After seeing Citizen at the Fountain, the students engaged in a Q&A discussion with the actors. “It was really a moving and eye-opening experience for them, ” says Goodson. ” Proof of the power of theatre in general, and of this material in particular. The cast discussion with the students deepened the experience a great deal.”

CITIZEN cast talk with students

CITIZEN cast talk with students in post-show Q&A 

Back in the classroom, students were instructed to write papers on their play-going experience seeing Citizen. A few samples: 

“This play gave me such an insight on life and it had many powerful moments that got me really emotional. One of the most emotional moments of the play was when they gave recognition to the people who were lost due to racism. In that moment I felt as though everyone in the audience was one and we all felt the same way in that exact moment. That is one thing that we all as a human race have in common. We can all feel pain and happiness.  I myself am still trying to find who I am as a person and all I know is that I want to be a positive person that loves life indefinitely. It hurts to know that there are still so many harsh and cruel things going on in the world and that there may never be an end to it….I’m not sure that another play will be able to give me the feeling that this one did. I will continue to try and live a positive and judgment-free life because of this experience.”

“Citizen: An American Lyric involved a variety of different situations in which POC, people of color, experience different versions of racism, either blatantly or discreetly, on a daily basis. Each unique example of racism conveyed throughout the play is yet another reminder of the fact that no matter how far America has progressed, its roots have been set; in other words, no matter how much America has grown as a nation, no matter how far we have come as a whole, the previous views and beliefs that once bounded all people of color in chains remains buried underneath the blood-soaked ground we walk upon every day.” 

“All of the visual details of the performance help to create the environment that influenced Citizen. The costuming for this performance is different from most plays; the outfits are styled in a way that you don’t notice that the actors are wearing costumes. That adds to the notion that racism in the real world doesn’t occur with costumes and fancy lighting, but it comes from regular people in their everyday habitats in their everyday clothing. The production itself is a visual representation of the casual occurrences of racism.”

“There have been countless moments in my life when I was deeply offended by a person of a different race because of my skin color. Within those moments of hurt, pain, and confusion, it is sometimes difficult to take the high road and not react negatively. However, as a Black woman, I know that I must be beyond reproach. That is what keeps me level-headed when dealing with such ignorance….Overall, I was moved by Citizen: An American Lyric. The play was well-written and easy to follow. The message was clear, concise and properly backed up with examples and scenarios. Anyone who viewed this play definitely left with a heightened sense of what Black people go through on a daily basis in this country. Hopefully, the message in Citizen will transcend generations and contribute to the extinction of racism in the near future. This is capable of such power and influence.”

Bernard K. Addison, Simone Missick, Leith Burke.

Bernard K. Addison, Simone Missick, Leith Burke.

“This play is worth seeing and worth putting on because it opens eyes. It opens the eyes to the blind who cannot see what America has become. Every day there is something new, Eric Garner, Trayvon Martin, the South Carolina Methodist Church, the Texas pool party, and Sandra Bland. It continues to go on every day. There is something new on the news, and we all acknowledge it, but what are we going to do about it? This play is a perfect step to helping our country go towards the right direction. It captures emotions and minds of the young and the old. It’s a universal, theatrical experience that is enticing, sensitive but powerful, and easily understandable. An overall learning experience that must be seen.”

“I learned a valuable life lesson from this production. During our discussion afterwards I could never un-hear those words of Tina Lifford and Simone Missick, who played Citizen One and Two, ‘Get your foot off your throat,’ a memorable saying that I will carry into my day-to-day life for evermore. Make it clear that if you don’t speak up there will be no ‘justice’ within yourself. To acquire change is not always an easy battle.”

“The final outcome of the play is an emotional reflection of our society, and it is well executed through the actors’ performance and incorporated mixed media. The proximity of actors to audience truly heightens the struggle, and the tears are real from the actors as well as the audience. After leaving the theatre, you can’t help but meditate on the current social issues, and how you have helped or hindered them….As citizens we have a duty to defend and protect ourselves, more importantly, our identity in society. Social norms, customs and morals are created by society itself, change starts with one person, and Rankine is the voice that brings attention to the current underlying problem. It is now our job to stand up and speak up against racial ignorance, against unjust authorities’ actions, and our neighbors’ prejudices. Staying silent against wrongdoing causes deeper pain, bringing awareness is only the beginning of the healing process.”

CITIZEN Fountain Theatre in Memory 2

“I feel Citizen: An American Lyric brought to light a very heavy topic and made it easier to listen to and talk about. I feel that turning the book into a theater production was a very good idea because it gave that much more of a voice to a topic that needs to be more widely discussed. I feel that the intimacy of the theatre and the minimalism of the production are both factors that really contributed to the success of the play. Watching the production myself, I left feeling very touched and somewhat awakened to a topic I am not normally exposed to.”

“Though people think that America is the ‘melting pot’ of the world, there are still many conflicts that are created from racial issues. Rankine’s book and play bring to light the daily struggles that black Americans face. Sometimes, when we aren’t personally effected by a problem, we forget that the problem is happening still. Many people feel safe being in their own bubble, but this play pops that bubble and leaves audiences with the truth.”

“It was a small room with only three rows of seats extremely close to the stage. This allowed the audience to feel not only close to the actors/actresses, but to feel the rawness of the play. One was able to feel their voices echo and resonate throughout one’s body. The intimacy of the room allowed one to feel a connection to every word and every scene that played out. This theatre was perfect because such an intimacy had an impact on each member in the audience to truly understand the sorrow and grief of the sufferings racial injustice has caused….Many have no idea when they have said something wrong, and from what one has learned in this play, it is up to each one of us to use our voice and call out each person on it….It was such a moving performance because one was taken with awe at each example that was brought to reality. Many of the examples provided, one has heard or been in the middle of, but seeing it happen as an actual example brings shock to an audience. This is when one realizes that it isn’t just a one-time occurrence; these racial actions and comments happen daily. It depends on every one of us to put a stop to it.”

Tony Maggio and Leith Burke

Tony Maggio and Leith Burke

“There was one vignette in particular that struck me. It was when Bernard K. Addison was playing an innocent man bombarded and put in jail as a victim of being another black man who was in the wrong place at the wrong time, with pigs hiding behind their badges eager to fill their quota. Addison stands there in the middle of the chaos, with a red light enclosing him. He stands there and we witness some of the heaviest tears I have ever seen on stage. These tears cut through the soul of each audience member and leave one’s heart aching. I couldn’t help but to feel cold, harsh guilt ooze inside of me due to what some of the people with my skin color have been doing to those of another…. Citizen: An American Lyric takes us on a journey that we may not be sure we really want to go on. It addresses the elephant in the room that no one wants to talk about. Every time the news comes on it’s the same story with new faces. This play has the audience walking away with a renewed knowledge of the responsibility we all carry. Really, the answer is very simple: be kind to one another. Yet, as they state in the play, ‘Just getting along shouldn’t be an ambition.’ It hurts that there is such a long lineage of hate, and what’s worse is that there’s no immediate answer. But if we each do our part, perhaps, slowly we can make the world a better place to live in. This is everyone’s home and no one should feel they are not a part of it because of the color of their skin, sexual orientation, gender, or anything else innate, for that matter.”

Citizen: An American Lyric has been extended to Oct 11th. More Info/Get Tickets

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