Program explores cultural differences through performing arts
The Moss Performing Arts Center recently welcomed DeLanna Studi to deliver several performances of her one-woman show, “And So We Walked.” Timed to coincide with the 2021 celebration of Indigenous People’s Day, “And So We Walked” was an intense performance, where Studi chronicled her journey of retracing the Trail of Tears with her father and methodically connected with audience members to bring them along.
As part of the experience, the Office for Inclusion and Diversity partnered with Moss Arts Center to include the performances in a pilot course that engaged participants, consisting of primarily university staff employees, who attended the play as a way of building cultural competence through performing arts.
The program, called Culture and Context Through the Performing Arts, is a professional development course that incorporates attendance at a live, in-person performance and a moderated follow-up discussion to increase openness and sensitivity to a culture different from the participant’s own. The program intends to increase awareness of a participant’s own culture and worldview while offering confidence and flexibility in approaching situations that are culturally unfamiliar.
Studi’s story narrated the challenges of cultural identity, generational trauma, family obligation, guilt, longing, and modern love. She illustrated the fight against extinction for Native people as she walked the same path her great-grandparents walked during the forced relocation of 17,000 Cherokee people from their homelands.
Studi wove together the consciousness of the past with the experience of modern life. She wrestled with her own identity and detailed the lasting cultural loss created when her father was forced into an American Indian Residential School. She shared the burden of balancing family obligation with career ambition, and related the heartbreak and confusion of being digitally ghosted.
“In a world where history is often left out of school curriculum and conversations about the past are often buried deep for fear of offending someone, it’s critical, in our path of being truly inclusive, that we open up these conversations, talk about the history, good and bad, and help each other heal and grow from our past and learn to navigate in the now in a respectful open dialogue where all people are welcome and feel safe,” said Tamarah Smith, business operations specialist with the Office of Summer and Winter Sessions, who is participating in the program.
The Culture and Context Through the Performing Arts program will offer a similar opportunity for learning and engagement in the spring.