As the lights shone on the small, intimate stage of the Black Box Theatre, audience members chatted excitedly. The bright stage in the theater was empty, but the room was loud as more than 120 people sat waiting for the show to begin. Faced by a shortage of chairs, an enthusiastic group of audience members were content standing to the side. As John Legend’s “If You’re Out There” slowly came to an end, the stage was plunged into darkness. The show had begun.

Performing For Change consists of 12 students who performed their spring show “Generation whY” on Friday, March 7. The group was founded by Jasmine Fernandez ’12 to create a safe environment for the discussion of current societal issues.  Since it was founded, PFC shows have covered a variety of subjects such as alcoholism, infidelity and sexuality. The group performs one show each semester, during which they engage the audience with honest stories.

This semester’s show was divided into three acts, each focusing on a different topic, and the performances showcased the students’ original pieces.

The students began the evening with “Put Down the Phone, Pick Up The Mic,” which focused on society’s obsession with social media. Junior Ariel Miranda and Fredy Taveras ’14 demonstrated how media can be distracting when a friend needs advice.

Sandanie Ambalangodage ‘16 performed an insightful piece highlighting the role of social media in our daily lives. She commented on the euphoria our generation feels when we have 11 or more “likes” on an Instagram photo.

“Why is it that I would rather put a ‘Valencia’ filter on an inspirational quote than actually live it?” said Ambalangodage.

The second act, “La Lucha, The Fight,” was about the heart-wrenching struggles and obstacles that immigrants often face. Impassioned chants of “la lucha, the fight” filled the theater, occasionally stopped by performers who courageously stepped forward to share their pieces.

Taveras performed his piece “A Free Country,” which commented on occupation difficulties immigrants face after entering America.

“The government makes us look like nobodies. Nobodies are the ones who do the dirty work … Surviving based on minimum wage. They come home late to help their [families] and kids, to put a hot meal on a plate. But freedom is just a myth,” shouted Taveras.

Senior Lizbel Escamilla showcased her piece, “La Lucha, The Struggle,” and received praise from the audience during the question and answer portion of the night. Her piece was a passionate mix of English and Spanish and was based on her parents’ personal experiences. After the performance, Escamilla said she even shed a tear.

Escamilla described how the American dream can seem so far away, but it strengthens her to continue chasing that dream.

“That dream of that house, yes the one with the white picket fence … una casita to call mine … Mía, mía … Where I owe money to no one. Nadie,” Escamilla said.

Throughout the evening, the audience showed their appreciation for the students’ words by snapping.

The third and final act, “You’ll Never Fade Away,” focused on the harsh reality of gun violence. The group entered the stage solemnly, holding candles as the only source of light. The candles shed light on the students’ somber faces as each stepped forward. Senior Astrid Quiñones’s voice rang out in the silent theater as she performed a verse of Beyoncé’s “I Was Here.”

Quiñones also shared a story about sexual assault, and described how survivors can often blame themselves and be plagued with nightmares long after the assault occurs. Her heartfelt piece left many audience members in awe.

Senior Adavia Thornton also took to the stage, discussing gun violence in the case of Trayvon Martin’s death. Thornton spoke vehemently to the audience, saying that Martin could have been one of her loved ones.

“He could have been you,” said Thornton.

The audience appreciated Thornton’s words, and several audience members murmured words of agreement both during and after her piece.

At the end of the performance, the audience gave a standing ovation and asked questions. One audience member commented on Escamilla’s piece about immigration, saying that she personally understood that particular struggle and Escamilla’s piece brought her to tears.

Other audience members echoed the sentiment and commented on the performances.

“As a peer and friend to a lot of people in the group, I was personally touched and I feel like they made a difference,” said Brendhan Kolf ’14.

Performing For Change faculty adviser Meredith Tornabene said that PFC shows have always impressed her, but “Generation whY” was particularly incredible.

“[I’m] blown away,” said Tornabene, “I was super proud and this is their crowning achievement as an organization.”

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