"How many chances do you really have, aside from in college, to learn about somebody else's life?" asks Eliztaicha Marrero '04. Marrero explains that too often, students can graduate from Bowdoin College not having taken the opportunity to learn from the various experiences of their classmates.
Marrero's independent study in theater, Glimpses, which will have its final performance tonight in Wish Theater at 7:00 p.m., hopes to inspire students to look beyond their classmates' appearances. It provides a "glimpse" of the extraordinary lives of some Bowdoin students whose stories are not widely known but, according to Marrero, deserve to be shared.
The idea for Glimpses came to Marrerro "in a dream," she says. The recipient of a Mellon Minority Fellowship, Marrerro had been contemplating her next project under the fellowship since the summer after her sophomore year. She decided to pursue a piece of documentary theater, a form that is based on interviews, in order to redefine what it means to be a Bowdoin student.
"There's plenty of people I know at Bowdoin who've been through tons of shit," Marrerro says, "Still they make it and they don't get any attention. I'm in the limelight more because I'm more open about my story."
This lack of open communication, she believes, promoted a sense of complacency at the school that wasn't welcoming to students who had been born outside of the United States or who face economic hardship.
Marrerro studied the works of documentary theater makers Anna Deveare Smith, Eve Ensler, and Emily Mann in the fall of her junior year. She then took more theater classes the following spring to prepare to write, produce, and direct the play, which, after many incarnations, would become Glimpses.
In the fall of her senior year, Marrerro conducted interviews with 13 students currently enrolled at the college who vary in ethnicity, nationality, gender, and economic status. Some were friends, others she approached having heard their intriguing comments at club meetings. Marrerro asked such questions as, "what's something scary that happened in your neighborhood when you were younger?" or "how do you want to be remembered?" to elicit stories from students. After transcribing the lengthy interviews verbatim, Marrerro organized the students' comments by theme and shaped them into a playable script.
Maxwell Agenor '07, Marie Jo Felix '04, Natalie Handel '04, Damien Poles '07, Jennifer Renter¡a '07 and Khalil Sharif '06, who portray the 13 students, never met the students they embody onstage. The lack of communication, Marrerro says, was intentional. "Instead of playing their words or playing their story," she said, "you'd be playing what you thought of them. You'd be imitating them. I made the focus on telling the story."
Marrerro was hestitant to put her own story in the piece, because she had wanted to place the focus on other students who were not as open about their own hardships. She realized, however, that to be absent from the piece would be unfair to the students she interviewed. "There's no way I cannot put it in there," she says, "because whether I like it or not, I'm in there and you can feel that there's an imposing voice. You can still feel that someone is putting it together."
Counselors will be present at tonight's performance to facilitate a discussion about the stories shared in the piece and about "diversity" at Bowdoin. Marrerro hopes that the discussion will continue outside of the theater, provoking students to puruse a greater respect for those who are different from themselves.
"What's the point of having all this diversity if you don't learn anything from it?" Marrerro asks. "Textbook knowledge isn't all you need."