By Seneca Ransom
Malone University presents “Until the Flood,” a play by Dael Orlandersmith. The production is a retelling of the death of Michael Brown Jr., who died as the result of a police shooting in 2014. The theater department’s goal through this selection is to raise awareness about prejudice and open up needed conversations regarding different perspectives.
The cast of the performance is made up mostly of Malone students. Makayla Loomis, sophomore social work major, takes her role seriously and does her best to embody her character.
“My character is the poet or the playwright,” Loomis said. “[The character uses] beat or slam poetry, which has been difficult to find a personality [within] the character since they can be any age or any person. It has been a work in progress to embody who that person is.”
Former student Christian Sanko, communication arts ‘20, offers an overview of how the performance works. Sanko portrays the character Dougray in this production of “Until the Flood.”.
““Until the Flood” is a series of monologues that are composites of people interviewed just after the death of Michael Brown Jr. in 2014,” Sanko said. “It is a play, but is also now being filmed for safety [due to] the pandemic. Each [monologue] is an individual, so they each happen in their episode in their location.
“When [the play] was on stage, it was performed by Dael Orlandersmith all at once, just by herself,” Sanko said. “It says in the beginning [of the script] that each character can be played by any[one of any] race and any age, so the emphasis is on the narrative, not just what [the performers] look like.”
Troy Colbert, senior communication arts major, is using the experience of presenting the character Reuben to help give him a broader perspective on current events. He hopes other Malone students try to understand the complexities of each person’s experience.
“The best thing about this play is the fact that it’s showing the story of racism in America, and more specifically what it looks like for individuals, not the group,” Colbert said. “Someone might be your stereotypical heroine, but [they] still have their flaws.
“This play is showing aspects of our society, and what it was like for Michael Brown Jr.,” Colbert said. “It can reflect over everything that is happening over recent events and over what we need to talk about as a community.”
Jeannine Gaskin, co-director of the show, offers her perspective on the importance of “Until the Flood” and the creator’s vision. A fan of the playwright, Gaskin is both excited to be a part of bringing the play to life while recognizing the societal issues it highlights.
“[Orlandersmith] is my favorite playwright,” Gaskin said. “The thing I like most about Dael is that she brings a humanist viewpoint to all of her characters; she is not afraid to dig in the ugly, to write about it, and speak each individual’s truth. I think what’s important is that people acknowledge the difference in others and be okay with them and acknowledge that everyone has unconscious biases.”
Windy Singo, freshman political science major, looks for insight into the characterization of her role. She takes time to delve into the background of one of the many portraits found in “Until the Flood.”
“I play Hassan, a 17-year-old African American boy who lives on the rough side of Ferguson,” Singo said. “He’s going through the ups and downs of dealing with Michael Brown Jr. being shot and [his own experiences as] he’s once been pulled over before.”
Annie Kadleckek, senior social work major and the student body president of Student Senate, places emphasis on the importance of students involving themselves in these conversations. She is directing the focus of the senate toward educating and raising awareness about racial injustice issues.
“When Xavier Moore and I wrote the anti-racism statement for Malone, one of the action steps we created was having students design infographics across campus that would further education about racial injustice and how racism impacts everyday life for black people in America, [hoping to] spark deeper conversation,” Kadleckek said. “One infographic specifically highlights police brutality and the Michael Brown Jr. case which is what Until the Flood is based on.
“I hope to see an increase in students that are comfortable with this conversation,” Kadleckek said. “A lot of the time there are hesitations because you don’t know what to say or where to find information. I hope that with this play people will have a better understanding of some of the issues and know where to start.
“There are QR codes on the infographics to get to the website where the information on the infographic is coming from,” Kadleckek said. “With the play, we are hoping it starts conversations and helps give professors and students somewhere to jump off of.”
Craig Joseph, the theater director for Malone, addresses that some areas are challenging but helpful in this experience as a way to work as a team to better each of the individual perspectives.
“It’s been challenging because we’ve had to have some difficult conversations, but it’s also been great,” Joseph said. “[In talking with my assistant director] Myriah if, as [she’s] a student female who’s black, I say something as a teacher [and an] adult white male and I missed [the mark], she has lovingly and gracefully [stepped in and said something, which has] just been great.”
Until the Flood will be open through virtual, ticketed showings on April 15-18. For more information about the Michael Brown Jr. shooting or racism be on the lookout for the Student Senate infographics across campus.
Conversations will continue on campus as we embrace and grow to understand different perspectives, which is the first step to Christian understanding and empathy.