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Interactive Play Presents Stories of Burdens African-Americans Face

by Web on February 27, 2018

Millsaps College student Alyssa Olive wants to make sure stories of injustices against African-Americans are remembered and receive thought.

She is leading Burdens, an hour-long, interactive theater performance that will present stories of burdens faced by African-Americans from the start of the country to the present time.

Composed of vignettes featuring 60 Millsaps students, faculty, and staff, Burdens will be presented on Feb. 28 starting at 5 p.m. in the Leggett Living Room, and then moving to the Bowl and other locations on campus.

Audience members will be divided into 15-person groups and cast members will walk groups through the show. A new group will be assembled every five minutes as needed until 7 p.m.

Olive, a junior from Kosciusko who is majoring in business administration with a minor in nonprofit management, said Burdens explores topics that she thinks about every day such as the Black Lives Matter Activist Movement, professional athletes who take a knee during the national anthem, and the mistrust of law enforcement by black men.

She decided to write an interactive play because it is a way for people to understand the issues and let themselves be part of them.

"This is a way to express it for the public so they can understand," said Olive, who is president of the Pan African Student Alliance, event coordinator for the Millsaps Pathways to Success Program, and captain of the Millsaps Cheerleading Team.

Burdens follows Negro Necropolis, an interactive theater performance organized in 2015 by Millsaps student Ericka Wheeler that spotlighted black history and the civil rights movement.

Olive said that judges from the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival plan to attend the performance. KCACTF is the largest theatre adjudicating organization in the country.

Peter Friedrich, assistant professor of theatre at Millsaps, was asked by Olive to direct Burdens.

"The sheer number of performers and their dedication to each other is a story in itself," said Friedrich. "There's also a wonderful story here of legacy between past and current Millsaps students. What Alyssa and her extraordinary classmates have done connects our past with our future in ways that both address race and transcend it."

Because the performance is expected to provoke thought, company members will be waiting to answer questions for interested audience members. Dr. Stephanie Rolph, associate professor of history, and Demi Brown, associate dean of intercultural affairs and community life, will be also be on hand to help facilitate discussion.