Freedom Dreaming: A Theatre Project to Envision an Antiracist Middlebury. (Deferred)
Freedom dreaming is imagining worlds that are just, representing people’s full humanity, centering people left on the edges, thriving in solidarity with folx from different identities who have struggled for justice, and knowing that dreams are just around the corner with the might of people power.
We Want to Do More Than Survive: Abolitionist Teaching and the Pursuit of Educational Freedom (2019). Beacon Press.
Like all on the Middlebury College campus the final week of classes we, the cast and crew of a theatre production called: Freedom Dreaming, watched with dread as our COVID numbers climbed. When the final word came—at 7:55 p.m. on December 9 we were gathered in the MAC Dance Theatre for our final dress rehearsal. We captured that run of the show on video because it seemed important to document the hard work of this particular cast and crew. And though we were saddened that our hard work would not get a viewing right now and that not all in the cast will be able to reprise their roles: we know the struggles and the hope that propel us to Freedom Dream continues.
As we pause the production until fall we invite our community to consider what is and what could be as we journey to the dream of an antiracist Middlebury. One way to celebrate the intention behind this work is to Share your Freedom Dream of an Antiracist Middlebury with us at our go link: go/freedomdreamingform. We look forward to a live version of this work in the Fall of 2022. Until then I want to pause and share what went into the making of this piece–for the process was rich, layered, and part of our own going antiracist work.
This project has its roots and wings in student voice. It began with a conversation with Charice Lawrence ’23 when I asked, “What would an antiracist Middlebury look like, sound like, feel like in an academic setting?” From there, led by Charice and joined by Olivia Dixon ’24, Amanda Rodriguez ’21, Gifty Atanga ’23, Kaila Thomas ’21, and Pim Singhatiraj’ 21.5, we conducted interviews with students across the campus. We were interested in holding space for the struggle while hoping and saving room for possibility. This research team took this challenge in the Spring of ’21— all the while navigating academics, family demands, remote instruction, and a campus transformed by a pandemic. Without their remarkable work, this production and the continued outreach would not be possible. Selections of transcripts from these interviews make up the play.
Though they were portraying the words of other students: many of the actors knew all too well the marginalization and isolation that can be a part of a Middlebury education for BIPOC students. They chose to be a part of this cast because of their own freedom dreams, their hope, and their own drive to push Middlebury on an antiracist path. Their bravery, hard work, willingness to take risks and general fierceness inspire me to be better and to demand more of myself and my colleagues.
Again, though there will be other chances to Freedom Dream I wanted to note here the work of the original cast, crew, creators, and collaborators.
Director: Tara L. Affolter
Stage Managers: Olivia Dixon ‘24 and Bryn Hester ‘22
Research Team Leader: Charice Lawrence ‘23
Spring ‘21 Research Team: Charice Lawrence ‘23, Olivia Dixon ‘24, Amanda Rodriguez ‘21, Gifty Atanga ‘23, Kaila Thomas ‘21, and Pim Singhatiraj ‘21.5
Script Development: Olivia Dixon ‘24, Charice Lawrence ‘23, Malachi Raymond ‘23, and Alyssa Figueroa ’22
Tech Coordinator: Malachi Raymond ‘24
Artistic Consulting and Acting Coaching: Teaching Artists from Beyond the Page: Craig Maravich, Jude Sandy, and Haley Schwartz
Technical Director: Michael Abbatiello
Alyssa Figueroa ‘22 (she/her) is a Psychology major with a minor in Education Studies. Alyssa plays the role of Alex in the theater piece, a character she feels personally connected to. According to Alyssa, freedom dreaming is an escape which helps us imagine a world we dream to create, a world in which every individual is affirmed and respected in all aspects of their life. Freedom dreaming involves visualizing our hopes and aspirations, and taking action to make those dreams a reality.
Ben Knudsen ‘23 (he/him) is an Education Studies and English double major who is playing Lucas in the show. His freedom dream is one in which all students have access to a just and equitable education that accurately teaches history and urges students to analyze the world around them. He would like to thank Tara Affolter, Beyond the Page, and the incredible cast and crew that have made this experience and show so meaningful and powerful.
Cassia Park ’24 is currently exploring majors, thinking a lot about food, storytelling, beauty, and human connection. Cassia is honored to take on the role of Alice. Cassia’s definition of freedom dreaming? A world where one doesn’t have to explain their existence nor doubt their narrative. Where difference isn’t for ridicule or ostracization or exotification. A shift in values towards sustained effort and tangible change. An enlarged vocabulary. Conversations built from words like Equity. Acknowledgment. Reparations. Accessibility. Comfortability. Community healing.
Caitlin Comez ‘24 (she/her) is a Political Science major. She is playing the role of Samia. Caitlin’s freedom dream is a Middlebury campus where all students of color can feel welcomed, appreciated, and included.
Charice Lawrence ‘23 (she/her) is a French and Education Studies double major. She has the role of Helen. Charice’s freedom dreaming is a world in which all students feel comfortable showing up to the classroom, knowing they’ll be met wherever they’re at. A shout out to my co-researchers on the original team for making this possible! 🙂
Hawa Adam ‘22 is a Black Studies major and Global Health minor. Hawa will be playing the character Bea. Her freedom dreaming is a world that views and interacts with Black people as real people, as human beings who do not have to fight for anything. Where Black people are naturally given what they deserve simply for surviving and being themselves. She wants the world to know Black is beautiful.
Hien Bui ‘25 (she/her) is currently undeclared. Her character is Ariel. Hien’s freedom dreaming is of a world that is not simply colorblind, but where color is acknowledged and treated with justice, love, and respect.
Kai Velazquez ‘23 (they/them) is studying English & American Literature. Their character is Anu. Kai’s freedom dreaming is a future where people can feel well-rested and at peace. Where conflict can be approached through transformative justice frameworks. They dream of a future where grind culture isn’t necessary and where people can pursue what they love.
Laura Rivera ‘23 (she/her) is majoring in Political Science and Chinese. She is playing the character of Olaya in this production. Freedom dreaming for her is individual and community unlearning of racist ideas and actions, for a future that empowers us all.
Liza Obel-Omia ‘23 is an Education Studies and Gender Sexuality and Feminist studies major. She is playing Geneva. Her freedom dream is to have Middlebury be a space where all feel welcomed, and people are actively working together to create a better world.
Masha Makutonina ‘21.5 (she/her) is studying Film and Media. She plays the role of Rayna. For Masha, freedom dreaming means to rebel because all our lives we are taught not to.
Bryn Hester ’22 is a Biology major with an Education Studies minor, working Tech Support and Assistant Stage Manager. For Bryn, freedom dreaming is starting from where she is and beginning the work of building the future: listening, envisioning, and action.
Malachi Raymond ‘24 is double majoring in Economics and Education Studies. Malachi has worked to amplify student voices for years now, serving on the board of education as an elected official for Saint Paul Public Schools in Minnesota. Though you won’t see Malachi on stage tonight, he has been a huge help with script development and technology for the play. Outside of academics, you can almost always find Malachi with a frisbee in hand, either playing with the Middlebury Pranksters or other club teams back home.
Olivia Dixon ’24 studying International and Global Studies with a concentration on Global Migration and Diaspora Studies. She is part of the Spring ‘21 research team conducting the initial interviews and is currently one of the Stage managers. Olivia’s freedom dreaming is a Middlebury that holds itself accountable and offers greater financial opportunities and compensation for students of color. She wanted to thank the research team for getting the wheels on this project turning!
Special Thanks to: The Faculty Committee on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, Beyond the Page, and The Theatre and Dance Department for supporting this production.
(on behalf of the Freedom Dreaming company)