Every college student has experienced academic and social turmoil over the past year. Few have had the encouragement, as Tristan Rice has, to put it into song.
Rice and a couple dozen other UNC-Asheville students answered an open call in the fall to write music, poetry and plays, make dances and create digital art inspired by the past year of the pandemic and social justice movements.
Stephanie Hickling-Beckman, the founder of Asheville’s Different Strokes Performing Arts Collective, rehearsed and coached the students, whose work comes together in “Hindsight 2020,” a variety show streaming over video March 5-6 through the university’s theater department.
“I’ve never worked on a show like this,” said Lindsay Wheeler, who filled up notepads with previous writings but, until “Hindsight,” had never written a monologue for performance.
“Having an outlet that people are going to hear, maybe they’ll get a different perspective,” she said. “Being able to get my message out there is really helpful, and then being able to vent, in general. When I started my monologue, Stephanie suggested I just write and I don’t censor myself, so I did that for a couple hours, and it was really therapeutic just to get my feelings on a piece of paper.”
Ray Williams wrote a one-act play calling for four different performers to portray different angles of their personality over the past year.
“It was very good for me to, I don’t want to say experience it again,” Williams said. “But I had a better understanding and was able to process a lot of the things affecting me.”
Julie Neumark created two short solo dances, one she meant to convey her sadness and anger, the second about coping and the feeling of hope ahead. While the foundation of the dances is choreographed, Neumark left plenty of room to improvise.
“Every time I’ve done it, it’s been a little different, which I feel is kind of an analogy for the pandemic,” Neumark said. “Sometimes it was really hard to be isolated from friends and other times I could find peace in being alone. It surprises me every time I go in to do it, and different emotions arise and different movements come out than the last time.”
Zoe Newton’s monologues focus on racial injustice. She wanted to challenge people who, from her vantage, only believe they understand racism and its impacts.
“I get super excited about the fact that I had been writing for a while and I had these feelings, but I didn’t know if someone would be able to understand them,” Newton said. “I was able to do a project like this and I’m around people who seem to get it, and that was a really cool experience.”