‘Permanent Collections’ addresses racism

Madison College Performing Arts is putting on the play, Permanent Collections.

Josh Zytkiewicz

Madison College Performing Arts is putting on the play, “Permanent Collections.”

Marisa Comeau-Kerege, Arts Editor

Madison College’s Performing Arts presents their fall production of “Permanent Collections.”  This play, by Thomas Gibbons, deals with the issue of racism in American society.

In an interview in 2005, Gibbons explained his choosing of this topic by saying, “Race is the central dilemma in American history, which we still have not succeeded in untangling.”

In the play, Sterling North, an African-American businessman, gets hired as the new director for the Morris Foundation.  This world famous art collection contains many prominent pieces including several African sculptures, although they have been tucked away in storage.  Upon proposing to bring them back to the public display, he finds himself in the middle of an argument that no longer pertained to art but to racial biases.

Reggie Kellum, a student and actor who plays Sterling, explains his character from a new perspective and his experience with the cast.

“Sterling is basically going through the struggles of being a successful African American in America,” said Kellum.  “I think all the characters want the right thing but we have internal issues that limits us to come together.  The cast as a whole are united after going through the ups and downs and the uncomfortable moments as well.  Now, since we are comfortable together as a cast, we can have fun as characters.”

Michael Lussenden, the director and instructor here at Madison College, has dealt with this show for many years.  He first saw it back when it was performed by the Madison Repertory and then five years ago began adding it into his acting class curriculum.

So when it came time to pick this year’s line up for shows, he decided that with all that’s going on in our world today, and with the talent of the current student actors, they could pull it off.

“Permanent Collections is a play that, if it’s done right and its doing its work, causes each of us who engages in the play to question ourselves, to question our behaviors, to question the concept of how does our culture handle race,” said Lussenden.   “And it makes me uncomfortable and I like to say wonderfully uncomfortable because just when I think I understand and know the problem, I think that there are levels of complexity to the problem that I had yet to process.”

Michaela Johnson, a student who plays Gillian Crane, describes how she still struggles with the content of the show.

“Even though I have worked with the play so much at this point, it’s still difficult for me to say someone is right and someone is wrong,” said Johnson.

Patrick Barlow, the director of CETL, also stars in the show as Dr. Morris.  Barlow is retiring this year after 37 years of working at Madison College.

The show runs through Nov. 23 with shows Friday, Saturday and Sunday.  For tickets go to mitbytheater.org, and tickets are free for students with a One Card.