Inner Voices provides forum for discussion of social issues

By Phil Collins

Countless social issues face students throughout the University and every college campus. Inner Voices social issues theater seeks to present and discuss some of these issues with students. In four performances between March 4 and 9, the group showcased three productions in an event called “Apathy, Armor and Accusations.” ÿ

The one-act plays were performed by the social issues theater student ensemble and were followed by a discussion of the issues presented. The shows took place at the Armory Free Theater, Allen Hall and the Illini Orange.

The plays featured were entitled Slogan for our Generation, Stegosaurus and Little Explosions.

The first dealt with the issue of apathy; whether or not being active in the community makes a difference.ÿIt also addressed what level of activity constitutes being active.ÿIn the play, students argued about whether protesting makes a difference in anything and what degree of difference makes it worthwhile.ÿ

The second play discussed the feeling of protection; wanting to protect everyone from all the hurtful things in the world. The play featured a man wondering whether he would be better suited as a stegosaurus, so that he could shield people from harm. ÿ

The last play presented an issue of racial prejudice, in which a student becomes the prime suspect of a called-in bomb threat because of his race. ÿ

All the plays presented and discussed issues objectively, being careful not to take one side over another.

“I intended the play as an exploration of a conflict I see … students feeling apathetic,” said Emily Elarde, writer of Slogan for our Generation and senior in FAA and LAS.ÿShe went on to say that the play explores issues of protesting and being active versus sitting back and doing nothing, without taking one side over another. Elarde’s adaptation of Macbeth will be performed in April at the Armory Free Theater.

Inner Voices tackles three issues a semester, in about 30 performances. These performances take place in the Armory Free Theater, residence halls, fraternities and sororities and classrooms.ÿThe group stresses that they are not about promoting one viewpoint or political stance but instead take an in-depth look at social issues and provide an arena for discussion of these issues.

“I think the biggest thing is making sure there’s a forum for students to discuss issues that are important to them,” said Lisa Fay, director and program coordinator.

Discussion after the performances last week showed that these issues are in fact important to students.

“Based on discussion the facilitators led after the shows, I think it was incredibly engaging; people were really passionate about it,” said J.W. Morrissette, assistant program coordinator.

Inner Voices social theater ensemble consists of 17 students – some are actors and some are facilitators. To become part of the ensemble, students can take either Theater 417 or 418. Theater 417 instructs students in leading a discussion after performances. Theater 418 trains students in acting, script writing and performing. ÿÿ

After completing one of these courses, students can join Theater 400M, the ensemble. All of these courses can be taken for credit and are not restricted to theater majors. In fact, only one out of the 17 students currently in the ensemble is in the theater department.

“One of the things that we try to do with Inner Voices is to also let the students have input in what we write,” Morrissette said.

According to Elarde, each student in the Theater 418 class writes a play, which becomes available to the Inner Voices ensemble.

In April, sexual assault awareness month, the group will perform Breaking the Silence, which takes a look at sexual assault in society, specifically in college.

For more information on Inner Voices, visit their Web site at www.innervoices.uiuc.edu. ÿÿÿ