Hobart and William Smith Colleges’ social justice theatre company, Mosaic NY, performed earlier this month in nearby Verona, N.Y., at the New York State Higher Education Opportunity Program (HEOP) Professional Organization Conference.
Heather May, associate professor of theatre and Mosaic NY founder and artistic director, says the performance dramatized “the ways that the HEOP program provides students with the support they need to succeed in college, as well as some of the challenges that students in the program continue to face while in college.” HEOP provides a broad range of services to New York State residents who, because of academic and economic circumstances, would otherwise be unable to attend college.
Members of the company developed the 15-minute script based on the experiences of HEOP students Eros Cabrera ’19, Chris Williams ’19 and Ashley De Los Santos ’17. Six Mosaic NY members — including Cabrera, Luis Figueroa ’18, Venice Lin ’20, Phoebe MacCurrach ’18, Carlos Robles ’18 and Williams — performed at the annual HEOP conference on Thursday, Nov. 2, under May’s direction.
“HEOP serves as means to assist students in obtaining a college degree. However, this can be a difficult transition from high school to college,” says Edith Wormley, assistant director of HEOP at HWS. Wormley, who helped organize Mosaic’s performance at the conference, says the theatre company’s “history of displaying issues of social justice in education by the difference in economic and social backgrounds of college students” aligned perfectly with the themes of the event.
On Thursday, Nov. 16, Mosaic NY held a workshop for the Justice Organization of Youth (JOY) at the Rural and Migrant Ministry’s site in Lyons, N.Y. Part of the ministry’s youth empowerment initiative, JOY is a group of high school students from diverse backgrounds who share an interest in theatre and a desire to make positive change in their communities. JOY creates plays, hosts film screenings and fundraisers, and organizes campus visits to regional institutions of higher education, like HWS, to learn about the college application process.
The Thursday workshop provided space for Mosaic NY and JOY to share their work and processes with each other. After a group warm up with both companies, Mosaic NY performed both their HEOP script and “Your Silence Says Otherwise,” a script about race that the company wrote for HWS Orientation 2017. In return, members of JOY performed the piece they created for the Rural and Migrant Ministry’s 2017 Symposium. All performances were followed by dialogue and both companies voiced a desire for ongoing collaboration.
Founded in 2014, Mosaic NY seeks to “to create and perform works of theatre that promote dialogue, develop community, celebrate diversity, and encourage the active pursuit of social justice. Mosaic NY believes that theatre provides an ideal forum for exploring diversity and social justice by engaging audiences and performers in an empathetic and imaginative exploration of shared narrative.”