‘New Faces of America’ shows future of diversity in America

After the show Hal Mooney and Lee Sherman, right, field questions from the audience about the play's controversial subject matter.

Robert Burkett

A brave new world was presented to Washburn students at the Bradbury Thompson Alumni Building on Thursday evening.

Those who attended the world premiere of “The New Faces of America” were offered food for thought about the current status of diversity in America and what its future will hold. This was demonstrated through a series of small vignettes that pulled no punches and granted no reprieve from the reality of the changing makeup of the United States – both ethnically and socially.

“We put on this performance to help grant access to the conversation about new diversity in America around the country on college campuses,” said Hal Mooney, Director of national tours for Will and Company, a non profit performance troupe based out of the Ricardo Montalban Theatre in Hollywood, Calif.

The play began with a short slideshow of different images related to the subject matter that was about to be tackled in the vignette. Most of the slide show pieces were accompanied by popular songs from such artists as Alicia Keyes, Beyonce Knowles and other well known singers. In addition, several sound bites from President Obama’s campaign and inauguration were played during the slideshow.

Among the subject matters covered, one hits home with Kansans and in particular those who live in Topeka. The second act opened with a small multimedia display that featured the supporters of Fred Phelps holding their ubiquitous signs calling for the deaths of homosexuals.

In the second vignette, a pastor spoke with a boy who is thinking of committing suicide because he can’t stand the shame of being gay. The pastor speaks to the boy telling him the that he is living in sin. The boy runs away in shame and the audience is left to hear the unending struggle of thought within the mind of what turns out to be a gay pastor. The pastor character debates the hypocrisy of the Christian church and the movement to “cure the damned souls of those afflicted with the burden of homosexuality.”

In the end the piece leaves out a real decision and lets the audience decide for themselves where they stand when presented with the broad strokes of what the issues are all about. The topics covered range anywhere from the plight of Native-Americans and the extraordinarily high suicide rate within the communities on reservations around the country to the degradation of Mexican-American citizens as they face the onslaught of racial prejudice and persecution at the hands of groups like the Minuteman Defense Project, a group of vigilantes that patrol the border of the United States with Mexico to capture illegal immigrants and deport them.

No matter which side of the subject you subscribe to, the play itself will have you thinking about the choices you make and the direction the country is going.