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Saint Mary’s combats intolerance through theatre

| Friday, February 15, 2019

Since theatre was first conceived, it has been a way to express historical narratives. Plays share stories across generational, cultural and racial lines to communicate multiple perspectives. Saint Mary’s is following in this centuries-old tradition by hosting Mad River Theater Works’ production of “Freedom Bound” in the Moreau Center for the Arts on Saturday.

According to the company’s website, the one-act play tells the historical story of Addison White, an escaped slave traveling through Ohio by means of the Underground Railroad.

“‘Freedom Bound’ brings history to life through original songs and an array of characters that pop right out of the past to relive the turbulence and hope of the Underground Railroad right before your eyes,” the website says.

The company has started to visit the College’s campus annually, thanks to Richard Baxter, director of campus and community events. Baxter pointed out the value of bringing a play such as this specifically to the South Bend area.

“It highlights one person’s path to freedom from the South to the North,” Baxter said, “We thought it would be especially meaningful for people in the community, because the Underground Railroad ran into Michigan kind of along this region. It’s an important part of our history and a wonderful way to bring the company back and have them present this for students.”

Baxter commented on the specific outcomes of presenting a play that is rooted in history, also commenting on why learning and experiencing historical stories is valuable.

“[It’s important] to highlight our history and our connection to all community members,” Baxter said. “Without a perspective on history, you’re doomed to make the same mistakes over and over again, so that’s why I think it’s important.”

He also recognizes the value of this particular moment in history and its legacy, including the courage of some of the characters in the play.

“I think slavery in particular is one of the darkest spots on this nation’s history,” Baxter said. “Our emergence out of that was very important. The people who [started] the Underground Railroad definitely had to do this with incredible courage and great risk to themselves. They kind of highlight that in the play.”

The play not only educates viewers on history and its importance, but also aims to create a current cultural change.

“Through theatre, we strive to challenge racism, xenophobia, sexism and intolerance,” the company said on its website.

This pursuit is one reason Baxter decided to bring the play to Saint Mary’s. He also said he notices how the play highlights Christian values, which the College also promotes.

“That’s why I think it’s important for us to include this in our performing arts series,” Baxter said. “It’s a wonderful and original composition about a vital topic. It just reminds us that the mission of the College is to value the dignity and individuality of every person. We hold them as the presence of Christ in our community.”

Baxter said he hopes that the student body can connect with the stories and the problems of the characters not only in history, but also in their day-to-day lives. He encourages the students to confront all forms of hatred.

“I hope they realize that even though this was long ago, some of these issues still face us, of people who don’t value every individual for whatever reason based on — in this case — ethnicity,” Baxter said. “That’s a story that continues over and over and over again.

We need to identify hatred in all of its forms. We need to meet it head on. I would hope that students could look at this and be able to identify what forces of hatred they can see in today’s world and what they can do to combat that.”

Tickets for Saturday’s performance are available at the Saint Mary’s Box Office. If cost affordability is an issue, Baxter said to let him know and he will ensure everyone who wants to see the show will be able to do so.

“If anyone would like to attend who can’t afford a ticket, have them get ahold of me and I’ll make it possible,” he said.

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