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A Performance Worth Pondering

A Performance Worth PonderingPerformance groups around campus joined with International Relations Director's Leadership Council to take a unique approach to social change.

Medford/Somerville, Mass. [04.08.08] Mime troops and percussion may not immediately come to mind when thinking of social change, but the International Relations Director's Leadership Council (DLC) has decided that should change.

In February, the DLC, a group which serves as a liaison between the IR student body and the IR faculty and administration, organized "Issue as Muse: A Night of Artistic Inspiration," the first of what they hope will become an annual event to raise campus awareness of global issues through artistic expression.

View videos from the 2008 Issue as Muse performance on YouTube

"I thought it would be really amazing if we were able to somehow challenge some of the most passionate and talented groups on campus to design performances inspired by global issues," says senior DLC member Matthew Plitch, who was in charge of organizing the event. "How amazing a night it would be to see a mime troop next to an a cappella group next to break dancers, modern dancers, actors and what would come out of that.

"The challenge was entirely wide open, so I went to the groups and they could do whatever they wanted and so issues covered included anything from global warming to human trafficking to AIDS to racial barriers, domestic violence-really, anything."

With 12 of Tufts' performing groups on board, including B.E.A.T.S., BlackOut, Essence, HYPE!, S Factor, Sarabande, Spirit of Color and Turbo, the DLC began advertising and planning for a huge turnout. Responding to their ambitious goal, the Tufts community came out in droves, filling every seat in the house. The turnout surprised some of the performers who were used to taking the stage on their own, or with fewer fellow performers.

"This was a large event with a lot of publicity. It was a bigger event than what we usually participate in," says Cassandra Valentin, captain of the Essence a cappella group.

"[The event] is unique in that each group chooses their own issue," says Lucy McKeon, president of the percussive performance group B.E.A.T.S. "I think that's probably the coolest thing about it, it's not just focused on one issue, so you get to see a very broad representation of different issues that are important."

This was Plitch's model from the start, and it was central to the event that the performers use issues that motivate them. B.E.A.T.S., for example, chose to discuss the problem of global warming, kicking over trash cans with the word 'oil' painted on them and chanting "No usa la gasolina." Essence used a more traditional method, singing songs with empowering themes for women, to raise awareness about domestic violence. The variety of performances played a big part in attracting audience members.

"I actually went because I know some of the people in HYPE!, but I stayed through the whole thing because I don't usually go see a lot of the other groups perform, and they were really entertaining," says senior Jonah Peppiatt.

The sentiment was a common one, even among performers.

"It was really fun to watch the other groups, we stayed for the whole thing," says McKeon.

The event was a huge success according to Plitch, and both the organizers and the performers are looking forward to next year's "Issue as Muse" event.

"Maybe the next step would be to go into the community," says Valentin. "I know there have been some social justice and art collaborative projects that work with some of the schools around here, but a community-wide event could be a cool thing."

While Plitch is certainly looking forward to seeing where the DLC will take "Issue as Muse" in the future, he insists that the success of this year's event was thanks to the enthusiasm of the Tufts community.

"It's a true testament to the community, the fact that they were so interested and came out on a Saturday night in such huge numbers to see their fellow students perform for a very politically charged event. It's just tremendous."

Profile by Hayden Reich (A'09)

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