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UW-Eau Claire Students to Perform
Readers' Theater at Borders May 14

RELEASED: May 4, 2007

EAU CLAIRE — A group of honor students at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire will present a Readers' Theater performance at 4 p.m. May 14 at Border's Bookstore in Eau Claire. The Readers' Theater will consist of students reading from memoirs that address the issues of power, privilege and inequality.

Readers' Theater is a technique for presenting literary works in dramatic form. The presentations emphasize text over dramatic action, so typically sets and costumes are not used or are minimal and participants read rather than memorize the parts.

"Readers' Theater is described as theater of the imagination and thinking theater because the burden of interpretation and meaning resides primarily with the members of the audience," said Katherine Rhoades, dean of the College of Education and Human Sciences, who is teaching "Power, Privilege and Inequality: Race, Class and Gender in the U.S." this semester.

Students from Rhoades' class will present excerpts from five memoirs they've read and studied. These memoirs include "Always Running: La Vida Loca: Gang Days in L.A." by Luis J. Rodriquez; "Colored People" by Henry Louis Gates Jr.; "The Dream of Water: A Memoir" by Kyoko Mori; "Honky" by Dalton Conley and Aaron Anderson; and "Waist High in the World: Life Among the Nondisabled" by Nancy Mairs.

Putting on the Readers' Theater encourages students to grow as they deeply, extensively and critically work with the text of a memoir written by someone from an underrepresented group, Rhoades said. They then take this small, personal story and connect it to the broader social and cultural concerns in U.S. society.

Junior Alex Cobian, River Falls, said he learned about the issue of white privilege in American society through this assignment. Cobian said the memoir "Honky" opened his eyes to the invisibility and impact of white privilege.

Sophomore Hannah Cole, Eau Claire, said the assignment has taught her about herself as she has uncovered her own stereotypes.

"The issues of race, class and gender surround us every day," Cole said. "How we respond to simple thoughts and actions affects not only ourselves but everyone we come in contact with."

Rhoades said the goal of the Readers' Theater is to have students and audience members think about gender, race, social class and other differences and to urge them to discuss and question the issues related to them.

When Rhoades approached the class with the Readers' Theater assignment, sophomore Jessica Tischendorf, Dorchester, said she was apprehensive about the project. Tischendorf's thoughts changed as she realized how much of an impact Readers' Theater can have on an audience.

"Listening to the scripts is powerful," Tischendorf said. "In the memoirs, the authors are very candid about their struggles, and this is what some people need to be able to recognize inequalities in our social system."

For Cole, sharing the project with community members is the most rewarding part of the assignment.

"The assignment has an impact on not only us, but on so many others," Cole said. "I am hoping to change the audience members' ideas about how they perceive different people."

The performance will last approximately one hour and will include time for discussion and for audience members to ask questions. For more information about the upcoming performance, contact Rhoades at 715-863-3671.

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RK/NW

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