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Playwrights bring to life elections, race and its role in the future of America

America has elected its first African-American president…now what?

The question was tackled in the play, “Dispatches from (A)mended America,” performed on Oct. 4 by the Center for Ethnic Racial & Religious Understanding, in Colden Auditorium.

The play was a dramatization of 100 interviews conducted in the South, by playwrights Brandt Adams and Godfrey L. Simmons Jr., in an attempt to understand the significance of America’s first black president, right after his election and how it affected the future of the U.S.

Adams and Simmons played themselves, while four other actors represented the 100 interviewees, who kept audience members alert, engaged and emotionally responsive.

Katherine Profeta, a professor for Macaulay Honors College, attended the play and shared what she thought the significance of a black president is.

“It shows racial equality,” said Profeta who brought members of her class to attend. “It’s definitely a very strong and symbolic piece of evidence of racial equality.”

Sophia McGee of the Queens College Michael Harrington Center for Democratic Values and Social Change, helped bring the play to Queens College and gave the audience an introduction explaining why the play was being performed.

“We are in our semester of re-imagining America,” McGee said. “And we are getting deep into the election cycle.”

As a result, this play was presented to students to better understand race and its role in a re-imagined America, she said.

Simmons, a black man, was very open and often humorous: he threw out annoyed remarks to interviewees’ odd concepts of the election and racism. He was also very passionate about his views.

“The election didn’t change anything for me,” Simmons said throughout the act.

The performers spent a great deal of time on the South’s reaction to President Barack Obama’s election. One segment featured a college student who said no one at her school in Alabama mentioned anything the day after Obama was elected. They did, however, say that McCain should have been won. The girl seemed confused when Simmons asked her why she thought this was the case.

“They didn’t say they want McCain because he was white,” she told him. “They gave other reasons.”

Adams, a white man, was composed throughout most of the play until he was asked by Simmons to share “what happened at Bed-Stuy” with the audience.

Adams spoke of two experiences he had — each highly opposite to the other. One was of when he lived in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn. Black men had beaten him up badly while 20 people watched, barely making an effort to help him. The other was of the happiness people were showing. He mentioned a Russian woman promoting Obama.

“When I think of these issues, I always remember that one first,” Adams said teary-eyed, speaking of the Russian woman.

After the play, a talkback facilitated by the actors and playwrights themselves tried to engage the mostly young to middle-aged audience of nearly 40 people.

One section dealt with how the election affected people personally. Francis Madi, a QC graduate and current actress, agreed.

“It affected me in a big way,” Madi said, speaking of Obama’s election. “I am doing what I do because of him.”

The show, presented for the first time with a talk-back, was holding its last off-Broadway dress rehearsal at QC and will hit the bright lights of central New York City later this year.

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