For Christopher Williams ’19 and his classmates in Mosaic NY, taking the stage at the First Presbyterian Church of Cooperstown before a group of older town residents was powerful. Led by Associate Professor of Theatre Heather May, the HWS social justice theatre troupe performed “Your Silence Says Otherwise,” an original take on complicity in racism, making the show another test of their impact beyond campus.
“We were performing for people who wanted to learn how to educate their peers and advocate for people of color who face racism on a day-to-day basis,” says Williams, a political science and theatre double major. “It is easy to talk about change and a revolution, but that needs to be followed with action, organizing and reaching people whose views were instilled in them by previous generations.”
“Your Silence Says Otherwise,” a 20-minute show first performed during Orientation last fall, was followed by discussion groups led by members of gRace Matters, a group of clergy committed to community education on systematic racism and the promotion of racial justice.
Mosaic NY has performed throughout local communities since its launch in 2014, with the troupe creating visibility and dialogue for issues ranging from mental health to domestic violence.
“I had never been in a situation where I was expected to teach someone older than me about something as serious as racism,” explains Phoebe MacCurrach ’18, an English and Media Society double major and Mosaic’s stage manager. “I am grateful for this opportunity because it gave me practice in stepping up to defend what’s just. Mosaic has changed the way I look at everything.”
Williams, who researched and collaborated on social justice theatre as a Sills Fellow last summer, agrees. “Mosaic has brought out a unique leadership in me that is correlated with my love for advocacy and helping others find their own voice,” he says. “Listening to stories and interacting with others inspires me to create a piece that can help shed light on hardships people face in their everyday life.”