Race-conscious show to come to Krannert

By Lisa Chung

Editor’s note: N*gger Wetb*ck Ch*nk is sponsored by The Daily Illini at the request of its parent company, Illini Media Company.

Speak Theater Arts, a performing arts production company, will make a stop at the University next week as part of its national tour, to perform its newest show, “N*gger Wetb*ck Ch*nk.” The show is scheduled to be performed at Krannert Center for the Performing Arts on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.

This 95-minute performance combines hip-hop, slam poetry, theater, stand-up comedy and true life stories to delve into the issues of racism, according to Krannert Center’s Web site. But, this bold production is raising eyebrows on campus, particularly over its controversial title.

“I just don’t feel it will engender the kind of dialogue that we think is necessary for the campus to have when it comes to race issues,” said Nathaniel Banks, director of the Bruce D. Nesbitt African American Cultural Center. “It’s my belief that the performance actually reinforces stereotypes.”

The production draws from real experiences the writers and performers have had with racial slurs.

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    “There’s some kind of history behind these words,” said Ajay Alexander, senior in LAS. “The impact it makes is something we should talk about rather than saying, ‘it’s a bad word,’ and ignoring it.”

    “N*gger Wetb*ck Ch*nk”, was invited to the University in hopes to “contribute something meaningful to advancing the dialogues around race and discrimination in our society,” said Krannert Director Mike Ross.

    In the days before the show, the co-writers and performers – Rafael Agustin, Allan Axibal and Miles Gregley – will be staying in Allen Hall as guests in residence. This will allow them to organize workshops with individuals who are interested in attending.

    “(Students) will be able to talk to the cast and understand some of the processes that went into creating the show,” said Laura Haber, program coordinator of Unit One, the living-learning community at Allen Hall.

    Haber said that conducting conversations with cast members will motivate students to discuss race issues while on campus and even after the production leaves.

    However, some see this weeklong discussion of race as an insufficient solution to a lifelong ordeal.

    La Casa Cultural Latina will not be promoting the production. It will instead be leaving the decision to attend to students, said Adele Lozano, director of La Casa Cultural Latina.

    The production will only be here for a week, but the doors of the cultural houses are open to all students who would like to continue the discussion, Lozano added.

    Although this production is no “magic solution” to solving racial issues, it is one of the many ways that may be undertaken to achieve a better and more tolerant society, Ross said.

    “Speak Theater Arts presents one perspective and students may or may not share that perspective,” Haber said. “I think they should go see for themselves and form their own opinions.”