History can be hard to grapple with. The tragic decisions of ancestors and cultures laid out in precise moments of flawed reasoning, especially at the expense of others, can be difficult to confront.
California Repertory addresses present-day issues and confronts the way history is portrayed in its play premiering 8 p.m. Friday in the University Theater.
The verbosely titled play “We are Proud to Present a Presentation About the Herero of Namibia, Formerly Known as South West Africa, From the German Sudwestafrika, Between the Years 1884-1915,” written by Jackie Sibblies Drury, offers a personal look at the issues of racism and skewed historical views.
The story follows six student-actors struggling to perform a piece detailing the genocide of the Herero people in Namibia, Africa. The genocide occurred from 1904 to 1907 and began when Germans confiscated tribal lands in Southwest Africa.
The theater and stage double as a classroom, as this “play within a play” brings to life modern-day issues such as racism, ignorance and prejudice that some Americans fail to acknowledge.
Long Beach director Chris Anthony expressed his enthusiasm in bringing this multilayered performance to life.
“The story we land on is really pressing and relevant for us now, even though they’re looking back to history,” Anthony said. “This play is about issues that affect everybody.”
This performance takes a look at problems that exist in this era, forcing the student-actors within the play to come to terms with their own stereotypes and ignorance toward people of different backgrounds.
“While they start out telling this story about this genocide that happened in a place they don’t know and don’t understand, they end up telling a very American story,” Anthony said.
Part of that American story, as often seen in American History books and classes, is denying the realities of the country, which is exactly what the play aims to challenge.
“It shows us what we hide from and what we bury,” theater department chair Jeff Janisheski said. “It’s really a moving and provocative piece.”
Picked for its relatable content, “Proud to Present” offers a window for the audience to see themselves portrayed in the actors.
The play not only forces the student-actors to examine life from another point of view, but the piece also takes a look at its own historical background, peeking through denial and contradiction.
“The play is making the point that we are connected,” Anthony said. “Until we face our past and admit things about ourselves, we won’t be able to move forward.”
Although this presentation isn’t a part of CalRep’s Devising Democracy Series, it stays consistent with the theme of confronting issues that are very much ongoing in present day.
Starting March 9, the performance will be available through March 17 at the University Theater. Tickets are $15 for students and faculty and $20 for general public and can be purchased at http://web.csulb.edu/colleges/cota/theatre/on-stage-now/index.html.