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City High students return to Mayberry

BY AUDREY DWYER | OCTOBER 11, 2012 6:30 AM

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This weekend, high-school students will use theater to bring to the surface issues often ignored.

City High students will tell stories about bigotry, hardship, and opinions in the Iowa City community at 7:30 p.m. today, Friday, and Saturday in City High’s Opstad Auditorium, 1900 Morningside Drive. The performance is a collaboration between students’ work and the play Mayberry, which was written by Sean Christopher Lewis and produced last spring in a series of sold-out performances in Riverside Theater, 213 N. Gilbert St.

The script for Mayberry comprises a variety of theatrical devices, including monologues, character composites, conversations, improvisations, sock-puppet performances, songs, and, moving outside the proscenium, online comments. A unique component to the City High performance is the addition of eight monologues that offer unique vantage points about the students’ experiences.
Lewis, who also directed the original production of Mayberry, stressed the importance of continually evolving cities. The residents of Iowa City need to enable all community voices to be heard, he said.

“No matter politics, or race, or any dividing characteristics,” he said. “We all just want a good place to live that we are proud of — everyone needs to be heard for that to happen.”

Doug Lestina, the head of the drama department and director of City High’s Mayberry production, contacted Lewis this past summer to see if the school could perform the play. He wanted to allow minority students to have a voice similar to theirs, as opposed to the popular canon of plays seen at most high schools.

Lestina said the play is not supposed to be merely a reflection of a single student’s experience; it should be a universal for many, if not all, students — covering what many minority kids as well as white kids go through during their teen years.

“We have talked to kids at all the high schools, and the experiences of ignorant racism are universal,” he said.

Twenty-five students are involved in the production, and rehearsals began in September.

City High junior Jaywan Winters said he felt compelled to be part of the play.

“I felt there were a lot of problems in Iowa City that needed to be heard,” he said.

He expects audiences to be shocked by the students’ ability to speak out about issues in the community.

City High junior Dominique Franklin said she was inspired after watching the original play.

“It touched me, and I was emotionally overwhelmed,” she said. “It wasn’t just one view or one person telling his or her story; there were a lot of views seen throughout the play.”

Lewis said a goal of the play is to find the complexity in everyone. He said people are not solely bigoted or violent; they are labeled that way by society.

“We’re so quick to say someone’s a bigot or someone’s a criminal,” he said. “But that does very little. It basically silences a conversation, because you’ve already defined something for yourself. I wanted to open it up. See a little deeper than the surface decision.”

Return to Mayberry

When: 7:30 p.m. today, Friday, Saturday
Where: City High Opstad Auditorium
Admission: $5 for students and senior citizens, $10 for general public


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