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Diverse Drama: ENMU diversity festival offers entertainment and ideas

Eastern New Mexico University senior Chris Chavez (Right),plays the main character in the play “Straightening Out” and senior Ryan Cook , playis Dr. J. Belanski, the author of the book in this scene.”Straightening Out” is one of four plays in the t

Some Eastern New Mexico University students have been working hard the past two weeks — and not just on their school work.

They’re preparing for the seventh annual Diversity Festival — a series of one-act plays that address the differences among people in choice, birth and beliefs, that often seperate them from one another.

Three of the four plays that will be presented are written by ENMU students. The fourth is a musical by associate professor of theater Janeice Scarbrough. All of the plays are student directed, and all of the actors are students.

Though the students had the summer to write the plays, they have only been rehearsing for two weeks.

Each play addresses an issue of diversity, which Scarbrough said is “the condition of being different.”

She said the student who designed the set chose a large DNA helix as a backdrop for all of the plays to represent the differences with which people are born.

There are four issues addressed in this year’s festival. Scarbrough said.

Her play, “Dooley,” is about diversity of faith

“This play shows odd and quirky people coming together to find spirituality,” she said.

Jennae Pinnell wrote “The Woman Inside,” a play that explores gender diversity.

“This comedy is the exploration of gender roles and stereotypes that society places upon people,” Pinnell said.

Joshua Aguirre’s play, “Straightening Out,” explores sexual diversity.

“Came Tumbling After,” is a play about class diversity written by student Solomon Romney.

Addressing diversity issues isn’t always easy.

Molly McFarling, a 22-year- old from Portales, directed the play “Straightening Out,” and is musical director and acting in the play “Dooley.”

“The hardest part for me was to deal with the issue,” she said. “I always grew up believing (homosexuality) was wrong.”

McFarling said she tried to address the issue fairly as a director. She said she hopes people understand the humanity of diversity from these plays.

“Even though people are diverse, they are still people and diversity is never something to base hate or jealousy on,” she said.

Aguirre, who grew up in Littlefield, Texas, thinks it’s great to talk about these issues.

“Nobody talks about things around here — I grew up in this part of the country,” he said. “I don’t think that (the festival) is life changing or that we’re setting out to be life changing, but we want it to be a jumping-off point for ideas.”

Scarbrough said after each performance there will be a short discussion panel to deal with the ideas spawned from the plays.

But no one thinks the festival is just about the issues.

“It’s not only great because it broadens people’s views on issues,” Aguirre said. “It’s great because it gives students an opportunity to direct and write. It’s great because it gives students a training ground.”

Romney said students put a lot of work into the production.

“We tend to be working all the time,” said Romney, who estimated the students who participate independent of their course work probably spend more time working on the plays than they spend in class.

“That’s what brings it together — everyone’s willing to work hard,” he said. “At the end we come up with some really wonderful stuff.”

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