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The Knox Student

Student Read, Student Written, Student Led Since 1878

The Knox Student

Student Read, Student Written, Student Led Since 1878

The Knox Student

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Mrs. Harrison brings indirect discussion of race to the Theatre Department

Mrs.+Harrison+brings+indirect+discussion+of+race+to+the+Theatre+Department

From left to right, Meghan Tucker as Holly and Melina Minaya as Aisha in the winter term production of Mrs. Harrison, preformed entirely through Zoom. (Photo Courtesy of Jeff Grace)

From left to right, Meghan Tucker as Holly and Melina Minaya as Aisha in the winter term production of Mrs. Harrison, preformed entirely through Zoom. (Photo Courtesy of Jeff Grace)

Mrs. Harrison was performed virtually through Zoom on February 25th, 26th and 27th with the direction of Jeff Grace. 

After an extensive rehearsal schedule, the Knox Theatre Department with the direction of Associate Professor of Theatre Jeff Grace, put on the production of Mrs. Harrison, an award-winning play written by Eric Thomas.

During the first read-through, sophomore Melina Minaya was shocked by the play that Grace chose for the department’s winter show. As she took the role of Aisha with junior Meghan Tucker in the role of Holly, they began to unpack the questions of ownership and race within a dense play. 

“That play was a big shock reading it the first time. I was like, that just happened,” said Minaya. 

Mrs. Harrison tells the story of two old college friends who reunite at their ten-year reunion. The story follows Aisha, a black woman and successful playwright for her play Mrs. Harrison. The play that Aisha wrote shares a very close resemblance to a real-life event that the other women in the play, Holly (a white woman), lived through as a child. Throughout the play, the audience is considering whose story it was to tell. 

More than anything, Mrs. Harrison talks about race without really talking about race directly. 

“I think the play is very subtle. It’s very subtle all throughout and then it hits you all at once at the end,” Minaya said. “It was just a weird experience for me because we talk about race in an educational setting, and we talk about it from this kind of far away lens. And then in this play, we are so forced to look at it directly in the eye.”

While all the audience members were all watching virtually through Zoom, the Knox community was confronted head-on with the difficult question, “Whose story was it?”

“I feel like a lot of the Knox community might have been a little shocked that we were doing that, because to my understanding, the kind of repertoire that we had in theatre wasn’t kind of pointing at everyone, not singling them out and looking them in the eye as this play has,” Minaya said. 

Minaya said that although she and Tucker performed their roles in completely different spaces through a camera lens, they were still able to get the in script connection that she had hoped for. She believes that online classes may have prepared her for the comfort she felt working virtually. 

“She would change the way she said some lines and I would kind of react to that, and we developed this in play chemistry where I would feel really comfortable with her, and with trying new things with the way I said things,” Minaya said.

While Minaya doesn’t want Zoom performances to substitute live theater forever, she sees this as a new possibility for the continuation of theatre during certain circumstances. 

“I feel like we can do an alternative kind of theater with this, and I think it’s really cool,” Minaya said, “It’s still a new medium because it’s not like film where everything gets perfected before being put on display. This is like you have to rehearse and you have to make sure you are doing it well in person live in front of an audience who you can’t see, but they’re there.”

As for the spring, The New Plays Submission Drive is currently taking place, with the deadline being March 20th. Auditions for the spring studio theatre show, Machinal, directed by senior Marion Frank, will be held on March 25th and 26th.

Poster for the Knox Theatre Department’s production of Mr.s Harrison with photos of Meghan Tucker as Holly and Melina Minaya as Aisha. (Photo Courtesy of Knox Theatre Department)

Poster for the Knox Theatre Department’s production of Mr.s Harrison with photos of Meghan Tucker as Holly and Melina Minaya as Aisha. (Photo Courtesy of Knox Theatre Department)

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