New Day Ensemble, a student organization that performs plays and skits to showcase the experiences of people of color, will perform Douglas Turner Ward’s satirical play “A Day of Absence” for Black Solidarity Day on Monday, Nov. 5.
The play centers around a day when all African-American residents of a town disappear for one day. The residents do not inform anyone of their plan and the town descends into chaos. The white members of the community are forced to operate daily tasks on their own which becomes difficult when they realize how reliant they are upon the African-American community for economic and social prosperity.
President of New Day Ensemble DaShawn Wilson said the play is a reverse-minstrel show made for performance by an all- black cast. The performers will paint their faces white to depict the residents who are left to carry the burden of doing daily tasks when a large part of their community disappears.
“Those who are left are forced to reflect on the meaning and consequences of life without an integral part of their community,” Wilson said.
According to Vice President Jordan Taylor, this play inspired Black Solidarity Day and therefore mirrors the day’s events.
“The whole idea of [Black Solidarity Day] is for black people to leave and discuss issues within our community to empower us, while trying not to participate in the mainstream social structure to the best of our ability, and this idea initially came from this very play back in 1965,” Taylor said.
Professor of Black Studies Karanja Keita Carroll said he is impressed with the organization and last year’s performance. He said that last year’s performance of the play was the best he has seen since his arrival in 2006.
“Over the past few years they have rekindled a spirit of critical consciousness mixed with, and through, dramatic productions,” Carroll said. “I’m very impressed with this student organization and it is great to see them reaching back into the great tradition of Africana creative production.”
Both Wilson and Taylor hope the play will not only entertain, but also force people to think about the role of people of color in society.
“I hope in watching this play people will realize how crucial the black community is to the American public,” Taylor said. “This country would not be as great as it is today if it was not for those of African descent in America contributing more than their share while simultaneously tolerating racism and injustice against our people socially and institutionally.”
According to Wilson, the organization was founded in 1974 by Rodney Douglas, a former adjunct professor of Black Studies. Douglas believed that theatrical performances would help students of color represent themselves in the school community.
This semester, the organization will primarily focus on the performance for Black Solidarity Day, but next semester they hope to host events for Martin Luther King Day, Women’s History Month, Black Week and Carribash.
Wilson said New Day Ensemble has several goals that extend beyond performances.
“Our current goals are to express our cultural experiences through theater,” Wilson said. “New Day hopes to not only represent students of color, but also to be a place where we can reflect on our experiences and speak on them in a theatrically political way.”