Student-run theater group brings power and impact to the stage

As a student-run production company, Vibrancy Theater’s mission is to “create a space for Black and indigenous students of color where they can begin to develop artistic leadership skills and to create a playground for student-theater artists.” The organization is made up of seven executive members and 40 active members. The group also collaborates with local and national BIPOC artists. 

The group’s production of “We Are Proud to Present a Presentation About the Herero of Namibia, Formerly Known as Southwest Africa, From the German Südwestafrika, Between the Years 1884-1915” will run April 11-20 in Baker Theater.

“We Are Proud to Present…” was written by Jackie Sibblies Drury and tells the story of the first genocide of the 20th century. It takes place largely in a rehearsal room that descends from collaborative to absurd as a group of idealistic actors attempt to recreate the extinction of the Herero tribe at the hands of their German colonizers. Eventually the full force of a horrific past crashes into the good intentions of the present, and what seemed a faraway place and time comes all too close to home.

Clarissa Rai, Vibrancy’s co-executive producer, answered some questions about the organization, its history and the upcoming production. Rai is a third-year MFA acting student.

Q&A: Vibrancy Theater's Clarissa Rai

Q: How has being a member of Vibrancy personally benefited you or enhanced your OHIO experience?

A: Being a member of Vibrancy Theater has empowered me and so many of its members to pursue projects that are meaningful to us. Due to the generosity of those who donate and support us, its students can produce, direct, act, and design artistic endeavors of impact. While we have advisors, we do not have to report to them to follow our passions. Rather, this organization is a collective, and if one member has an idea they wish to pursue, we as a collective strive to make such ideas a reality in the most bountiful manner possible. 

For instance, last year, we created a series called Mini-Vibes supported by SAC funding, which helped to produce a solo show (“Men Are Trash, and I’m a Raccoon”) for MFA actor and our current co-artistic director, Felipe Luz. The show was sold out and was not only well received, but also highly impactful to its audiences as it addressed issues faced by the LGBTQIA+ community and mental health.

Q: What is one of your favorite memories from your time spent with Vibrancy Theater?

A: Bringing our current production [to the stage]…has been a treat. As co-executive producer, I had the opportunity to pitch the show to the collective. It was selected by our organization after several submissions. From there, I pitched the show to our brilliant director, Caitlin Lopez. She is highly skilled in the art of comedy and has so much nuance in her direction, which is necessary in a piece as divisive as “We Are Proud to Present…” Working together with a brilliant team of designers, such as Madeleine Hebert, who came on to the project after an amazing concept and lighting design pitch, it has been a privilege to see this play turn from a suggestion to a fully formed production.

Q: What can students and community members learn from the art of theater?

A: Theater is about humanity and exploring our humanity. Its gift is empathy and understanding. In the theater, we have the opportunity to witness and be part of stories told from different perspectives. As theater artists, we develop our imagination and creative skills. Theater creates the opportunity for humans to work together as ensemble. Theater makers and theater goers think critically and problem solve and express themselves in myriad ways to be understood by myriad audiences. Theater is a place for human connection and the way that it impacts us really can only be felt in that exchange of energy that takes place live in a room between artist and audience.

Q: Which Vibrancy production has been your personal favorite?

A: …Our current production, “We Are Proud to Present…”  This play is my favorite because it does not only serve to entertain its audience. Rather, the audience becomes part of the narrative. By the end, this piece activates its audience to consider themselves as being complicit in the action that occurs on stage.

Q: Besides theater productions, do you plan any other events or activities?

A: Our Community Outreach Program focuses on engagement within Ohio University, and in the future, we wish to extend that further. For student-based events and activities, we have done game nights, movie nights, improv workshops, developing artist workshops, and collaborations with ABCD dance workshops, to name a few. We have also led local workshops within the community such as a clown workshop at the Athens Middle School Drama Club.

Past Viobrancy Theater productions have included:

  • "Yerma," by Federico Lorca and adapted by Ursula Rami Sarma, which featured a brilliant lighting design from Ohio University lighting design alumnus and Tony Award-winning lighting designer Bentley Heydt.
  • "Abesentia," by Ohio University playwrighting alumnus Olivia Matthews, which was Vibrancy Theater’s first production.
  • Next year, we are thrilled to be producing "Booty Candy" by Robert O’Hara, which will be directed by current MFA director Devin Franklin, so stay tuned for news on this production!

Vibrancy Theater is active on Instagram. "We Are Proud to Present..." will appear at Baker Theater at 8:00 p.m. on the following dates: 

  • April 11 (Preview)
  • April 12, 13 (Talkback)
  • April 17, 18, 19 (Talkback)
  • April 20 at 2:00 and 8:00 p.m.
April 11, 2024
Acadia Hansen, '26