Few things can compel a group of students to walk the sidewalks of Maine Street on a Thursday night in February. However “Facing Our Truth,” a show brought to campus by Bowdoin’s faculty, students and administration, proved to be an exception. 

“Facing Our Truth” is a series of plays written in response to Trayvon Martin’s death and the acquittal of his shooter, George Zimmerman. Assistant Professor of Theater Abigail Killeen brought the show to campus.

“After the series of tragic events in late 2014, I, like many others, felt compelled to help make a space where people could talk and listen to each other,” wrote Killeen in an email to the Orient.

Under her direction, and with help from Associate Dean of Multicultural Student Programs Leana Amaez and Associate Professor of Education Doris Santoro, around two dozen students acted in and directed the six short plays that comprised the show.

Quinby House, Chase Barn, and the John Brown Russwurm African American Center hosted two plays each. The walk between locations provided a silent intermission for actors and audience members to reflect.

“Each short play offers such a different, and sometimes unusual, perspective,” wrote Killeen. “The audience will need time to digest what they’ve seen and heard.”

“The idea is to be silent walking from place to place as a sign of commemoration, respect, all of the above. In that silence, you just have to keep confronting the emotions,” said Amanda Spiller ’17, who directed and acted in two different parts.

These moments of introspection and contemplation were what Killeen felt was needed following the racially charged events of the past year. The format of short plays was particularly effective in conveying these ideas, she wrote.

“I believe in the theater’s power to offer alternative perspectives in a visceral way,” wrote Killeen. “The theater’s structured storytelling can aid us in considering the life experience of others and lead to important conversations.”

Spiller acted in “Color,” a play in which each cast member was given a color and had to work with the stereotypes associated with it. She played the color pink.

“It makes you look inside [yourself],” said Spiller. “You have to confront these really ugly feelings that are telling you that you make implicit stereotypes about people you see in everyday life because of the color of their skin.”

For now, Killeen does not have plans for more projects like “Facing Our Truth.” However, she is open to the possibility in the future.

“A theatrical voice isn’t always appropriate,” she said. “But when circumstances arise where it is, then yes, I want to generate theater that can serve as an agent of change in a positive way.”

The project was funded by The Bowdoin Student Government’s Good Ideas Fund, which supports student ideas that will benefit the Bowdoin community.

“It’s a pool of funding for students to make whatever visions they have about making and improving campus culture a reality,” said Justin Pearson ’17, BSG vice president for student affairs.
According to Pearson, “Facing Our Truth” had many appealing aspects that fit with the fund’s goal of broadening the scope of campus culture.
“It’s a show that improves discussion on our campus,” said Pearson. “It’s something new; it’s something different.”

“Even at Bowdoin, whether it’s in our classes or outside of [them], there’s an aspect of not facing our truths,” said Spiller. “I care about these issues, I care about starting dialogue, and there’s no better way to facilitate an epiphany than performing something.”