Show about Race, from Slavery to Ferguson, Goes to NYC
Only three months after the shooting death of a black teen by a white police officer in Ferguson, Mo., Moriamo Akibu ’15 helped create a theatrical performance about the power of racism in America.
The Washington Post review said that “Collidescope: Adventures in Pre- and Post-Racial America” “may have set some kind of speed record for turning a news event into a theatrical one.”
“Race is such a sensitive subject, and it’s not an easy topic for people to talk about,” says Akibu, the daughter of Nigerian immigrants. “We want to give them a space to do that.”
On March 14, she’ll be taking “Collidescope” and its message to a wider audience, performing a piece from the play at LaMaMa Theatre in New York City.
It’s a fitting triumph for the theater major, who’s devoted her time at Maryland to all aspects of performance at the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center. Akibu not only takes classes and performs, but also works at the box office, directs and stage-manages shows and serves as artistic director of the Kreativity Diversity Troupe.
“Throughout high school, I did the shows and I realized more and more, this isn’t something I want to do as a hobby,” says Akibu. “This is something I want to do all the time.”
As a high school senior, she auditioned for and was awarded the Creative and Performing Arts Scholarship (which covers tuition) in the School of Theatre, Dance, and Performing Arts.
“She impressed me straight away,” says Associate Professor Leslie Felbain. “It was her focus and her enthusiasm.”
Felbain mentored Akibu throughout college, and one of her favorite memories is of Akibu playing former slave and abolitionist Sojourner Truth at the National Portrait Gallery.
“She was remarkable in terms of her research and the monologue she wrote, speaking Sojourner’s words,” Felbain says. “But more importantly was her interacting with random people walking through and really engaging them in conversations about race and slavery and the history of America.”
Knowing Akibu’s dedication to social justice, Felbain encouraged her to join the “Collidescope” team.
Working with renowned writers and directors Ping Chong and Talvin Wilks was “really, really amazing” says Akibu, and “different from any show we have ever done,” but she admits even she initially hesitated to tackle the topic.
“Talking about race is hard because there’s a need for people to downplay everything… or to find an excuse for the person who is the perpetrator,” says Akibu. Living in a diverse community, “it’s easy for us to put it in the back of our minds.”
“Every day, in the rehearsal room and on paper, I had to deal with what I had been avoiding,” she says.
After she graduates in May, she hopes to travel, possibly teaching English overseas, visiting family in Nigeria or anything to “get out and change it up before I come back and get to work,” acting and directing in D.C. or New York, she says.
“Theater is the only place I can do anything I want and be whoever I want to be,” she says. “There are so many opportunities to create something that speaks to what’s happening at the present.”
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