by Amber Holder
This past weekend, I had the incredible opportunity of being a part of the Every 28 Hours performance organized by the School of Theatre. The Every 28 Hours Plays is a collection of 75 one-minute plays relating to social justice, police brutality, and the Black Lives Matter movement. Even though I’ve been highly involved in the student theatre scene here at Penn State, this was my first time ever actually being on the stage. It was also my first opportunity to tackle material that felt truly salient and current for our time.
The project, a large-scale collaboration, included students from varied clubs, majors and interests. The casts of these plays included undergraduate and graduate Theatre majors, student leaders of organizations for people of color, No Refund Theatre club members, music majors and more. At first, all the talent and experience around me intimidated me. Most of the others students had acting training much beyond mine, and portraying my material as strongly as they did theirs seemed an impossibility.
As the weekend wore on, we connected the threads through the material, and I started to realize how little my lack of experience mattered. Instead, what mattered was the brave thing we were doing. We had collectively made the decision to portray truth, and to reach people through art. The performance we offered took a giant step towards truth and reconciliation. It was, undoubtedly, the most impacting and decisive step I personally have ever taken towards truth and reconciliation. What we shared on that stage was life-altering, not just for us, but also for the audience.
You might be wondering what any of this has to do with me being an instrumentalist, or serving as the instrumental marshal. But every time I delve into a new art, I realize that theatre and music have everything to do with each other. Dance and writing have everything to do with each other. All of the arts inform each other, and their connection offers us possibilities that remain unimaginable when kept separate. Connecting the threads of your personhood through the art you create makes for meaningful, transformative work for yourself and others. With the Performing Arts Council’s help, I hope all student artists find those life-changing connections.