SVSU theatre students hosted a virtual performance of “No. 6” by TJ Young last week. The play touches on various issues surrounding society, such as racial tensions, police brutality and the more recent rise of the Black Lives Matter movement.
“No. 6” was performed for a virtual audience and followed all CDC guidelines and protocols for COVID-19. Actors were able to use transparent masks that allowed their facial expressions to be seen, an important aspect of any theatrical production.
The play itself was not just for people’s entertainment, however, and on Nov. 11, the cast and crew of the production got together for a Facebook Live talkback.
They discussed themes throughout the show, what they got out of their experience portraying their characters and how the show relates to the political and social climate of the United States and the rest of the world in 2020, particularly when it comes to race.
Jahari Essex, a theatre student who played the role of Felix in the production, said that while he is playing a part on stage, he experiences many of the racial tensions off the stage as well, one example being racial profiling as an African American.
“I was at the store and I experienced it,” he said. “I was followed around the store as if I was stealing. I heard chatter over the walkietalkies from the associates, and I called my mom about it and she was livid, and I can understand why … I shouldn’t have had to experience that because I’m a human being on Earth just like any anybody else.”
Essex said that his involvement in the production allowed him to have an outlet of that energy.
“It’s how we choose to utilize that fuel or energy that we get from that,” he said. “Being able to take it, tone it in and listen, and then also speak and be heard as well — that’s how we create change.”
Cherokee Johnson, a criminal justice student who viewed the play last week, said she was especially touched by the production as an African American who has lived through and experienced many of the issues brought to light by the performance.
“This entire play was extremely moving, not just to me as a criminal justice major but to me as a black woman,” she said. “A lot of the work that I do in my day-to-day life centers around police brutality and a lot of the unfair disadvantages that black people are subject to in American society.”