In-Ex-plicably Unified
Issue   |   Wed, 08/31/2011 - 15:31
Photos by Lauren Wimbush ’11
Jorrell Bonner ’11 plays an eight-year-old version of Kyle Ramsay ’11, in addition to providing vocals.

“In-Ex-Clusion,” Kyle Ramsay’s senior Theater & Dance project in Performance, was performed in Kirby Theater on April 7 - 9 along with Sarah Perez’s “Rupture,” her senior project in Choreography. By constructing three unrelated pieces in various areas of stage presentation, Ramsay truly made a show on “Performance,” offering the audience a pleasant medley of acting, dance, film and song.

In the first piece, “In-Ex-Clusion,” Ramsay played the role of Deymonne, a tragically intelligent yet troubled and misunderstood African-American college student. The piece starts out with a film of a college disciplinary committee reviewing Deymonne’s case. The committee recounts the actions of the night in question as flashbacks to the incident are represented through video. From the video and the committee voice-over, we learn that Deymonne was at a party flirting with a white female. A white male, presumably the female’s boyfriend, comes by and motions for Deymonne to leave. Deymonne refuses to do so, even after the male’s tone gets angrier, and the conflict escalates to a physical altercation. From the subsequent dialogue of the committee (which includes Gerald, the college’s only African-American dean, also played by Ramsay), we work out that Deymonne is blamed for the altercation. The dean attempts to “save” Deymonne while failing to account for the factors that led to his disciplinary problems. The piece ends with Ramsay coming up on stage and playing both characters, Deymonne and the dean, simultaneously playing out the battle between assimilation and inclusion by himself.

Deymonne’s tale represents the faults of elite universities’ diversity initiatives; students from lower-class backgrounds are eagerly sought and admitted but aren’t offered substantive transition aid into an environment that is essentially a new world for them. By playing both the African-American dean and the student in the film, and then adding to the confusion by playing both on stage, Ramsay brings attention to such fights that are often internal rather than external. Even the most successful members of oppressed social groups cannot help but identify with the most downtrodden.

The next piece, “Masc,” begins with two athletic men in ballet gear (custom tights and leotards) going through various dance-like motions, appearing to begin a ballet routine. After a few minutes a third man, dressed in a football uniform, runs back in between the pair and begins going through classic football movements (high-knees, lunges, agility drills, etc.) and the three play out a combined choreography routine for the rest of the piece. It is after the third man enters the stage that the audience truly understands what happened. Besides the uniforms, there is little distinction between the types of actions done by both sides.

Thus Ramsay questions the entire distinction between sport and dance. He shows us that, instead of a dance, the first action may be called an “athletic movement” and the second can be called a “dance movement” in place of a sport. Thus the lines between dance and sport are blurred. In fact, it is clear that not only do they resemble one another, but they hold influence over each other. Ramsay toys with the hyper-masculinity that we attribute to sports and the near homophobia that keeps so many of those men away from dance. By deconstructing both types of activities, heteronormative sport is feminized to have more of a clear resemblance to the taboo male dance. Thus, the audience feels silly or, in some cases ashamed, for making judgments based on dress alone.

“Mr. Saccharine,” the third and final piece once again starred Ramsay, this time playing Mr. Saccharine, a southern gentleman who is flamboyant to the point of humor. Beginning with duo of “Jesus Loves Me” by Ramsay and Jorrell Bonner ’12, the piece follows Mr.Saccharine as he recalls his burdens with the Southern Baptist Church, an organization that met his zeal for God but was ignorantly cruel and tactless in approaching his homosexuality. We listen to his story, which soon cuts to an eight-year-old version of himself (played by Bonner) asking God questions about himself, including the ever troublesome “Do You Love Me?”

The piece then cuts to a short dance by Ramsay and Bonner to “Am I Living in Vain” spliced with a homophobic sermon by Bishop Eddy Long. This continues through Mr. Saccharine’s following monologue where he answers the previous questions he posed to God and to himself and finally ends with another duo of the old Negro spiritual “I Fly Away.” Mr. Saccharine has resorted to many methods to best live his life throughout the course of the piece, but eventually learns that the best way is to simply find his own voice, to take care of himself before passing judgment.

Though the overall show was somewhat disjointed, Ramsay does an interesting job incorporating the various elements of theater into a single project. He blurs the boundary lines between the various components of theater and conveys personal, heartfelt messages through each piece.

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