Spectrum Theatre Company hosts teach-in on activism

Adrian Wan, Reporter

Members of Spectrum Theatre Company shed light on how to engage in activism campaigns and tackle identity-based discrimination at a Sunday event.

About 15 students gathered in Harris Hall to attend “Not Your Mother’s Activism,” which consisted of a presentation, facilitated dialogue and role-playing game. Each 30-minute session focused on different themes related to activism in hope of “activating changes in dialogue” on underrepresented identities, said Alex Milinazzo, Spectrum’s co-director of special events.

The Communication senior said the event’s name was meant to not only attract attention, but also to express its mission of encouraging students to become “active advocates” instead of only voicing their support for other activists.

Spectrum’s artistic director Andrea Cañizares-Fernandez told attendees activism encompasses a wide range of practices with the aim of creating social change. In addition to traditional means like marches and protests, people can “express their collective feelings“ through tweeting and even drawing graffiti, she said.

The Communication senior added that in organizing activism campaigns, one should consider how privilege comes to play. Some people’s identities mean that they may feel unsafe standing as a “highly visible group” at the front of the march, she said, while others with more privilege may be more comfortable at the front because they won’t be as negatively affected if they say something controversial.

After completing a march or protest, participants may also undergo a “debrief” process, Cañizares-Fernandez said. Individuals can reflect on issues like whether they feel “safe” when voicing their concerns or whether they have abused their privileges without addressing the needs from the marginalized groups.

Milinazzo said while the Sunday event and the group’s “sociopolitical” shows share the common goal of motivating dialogue and action, the event is not merely a “supplement” to the regular shows.

“Accessibility … is definitely something we are thinking of (in) this event versus the shows,” Milinazzo said. “Theater doesn’t always reach a wider audience than the theater community, so we organized events outside theater to attract people … and we realize that engaging the broader community requires different avenues.”

Communication sophomore Mia Lennon, Spectrum’s technical manager, said she appreciated Spectrum’s efforts to “bring activism from big cities like Chicago to campus.” Allowing students to interject expressions that create discomfort, such as discrimination against one’s ethnicity and sexual orientation, is important for the Northwestern community, she said.

“I came from a place where everyone has this similar background and similar upbringing, so it was kind of overwhelming to meet so many different people with so many different preconceived notions they brought to the table,” Lennon said. “Something that is important to do when having a conversation with someone is to embrace what they are … and we should challenge the idea but not the person.”

This story was updated to clarify ideas expressed by Andrea Cañizares-Fernandez regarding the placement of groups at protests and the suggestion of a “debrief” process.

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