Divorce. Alcoholism. Cheating. Death. Assault. Sexuality.
Fairfield University’s student group Performing for Change (PFC) has never been one to shy away from the big issues. Instead, they choose to attack these issues head-on through their inspiring and often heart-wrenching performances, creating an on-campus dialogue about problems most are afraid to bring up.
This past weekend, PFC once again tackled important issues in their original production “Painting the Blackout.”
Before the performance began, PCF played a previously prepared video discussing the history of the club and its core mission.
When Jasmine Fernandez ‘12 first arrived at Fairfield in 2009, she wanted to get the campus talking about hot topics that are mostly ignored. She worked to create a production called “Colored Girls,” which talked about controversial issues such as rape and assault.
Following the success of the show, Fernandez decided to turn the temporary group into a permanent club. She joined with Cicily Collazo ’12, and their name became Performing for Change, an extremely unique group at Fairfield that has continued to put on successful, meaningful performances since its formation.
The group proudly claims to be the voice for those who are unable to speak for themselves. In their words, they create “art for a purpose.”
PFC has also created something other than performances, though. The members have created strong bonds with each other, calling themselves more of a family than a club.
Their dedication to each other and to their art definitely shines through in each of their performances, and particularly in their most recent show, “Painting the Blackout.”
“Painting the Blackout” followed the story of three different families. The action took place over the course of a few days. Each family had their own individual struggles, dynamics and plots, which were sometimes solved but more commonly (and realistically) left unresolved at the end of the performance.
The first family struggled mainly with issues of loss, grief and sibling rivalry. A single mother, with the help of her sister, struggles to provide for her family following the death of her husband. Her polar-opposite daughters are unable to get along, each believing their respective talents in ballet and basketball to be more important.
The sisters argue with increasing intensity, until their clashing comes to a head in the penultimate act. The sisters realize that their arguing is only hurting each other and tearing apart their family. They come to understand that their rift results from their grief over the loss of their father, and each of the sisters promise to try and see the other’s point of view more often.
The second family also deals with sibling rivalry, but also focuses on alcoholism and arguing parents. Phillip works hard for his family, but money is tight and stress from his job causes him to turn to alcohol. His addiction eventually gets him fired from his job and also significantly disrupts his home life.
The end of the performance sees this family splitting up. Phillip leaves the stage in anger, refusing to attend Alcoholics Anonymous meetings with his niece Alice, who also struggles with alcoholism. One of Phillip’s daughters runs away from home to work as a bartender, and his other daughter refuses to speak to him, choosing instead to side with her mother in her hatred of Phillip.
The third family encompasses the issues of infidelity, isolation and sexuality. When it is revealed that the family patriarch James is cheating on his wife, a whole slew of family secrets come to light.
Adopted son Riley feels isolated from the rest of his family because of his skin color, even pushing away Grace, his friend of many years, as a result. It turns out that the “perfect daughter” Amelia also has her own private struggles. She comes out as a lesbian to her parents, who refuse to accept her sexuality and her girlfriend.
By the end of this family’s story, the parents have filed for divorce, Riley has reconciled with Grace, and neither Riley nor Amelia is speaking to their parents.
The three families’ stories were beautifully interwoven, with one scene being performed from each storyline in an alternating pattern. Tensions within the families rose in unison until reaching the climactic fourth act, when issues were either resolved or left the family permanently damaged.
By the end of the performance, the audience was emotionally exhausted after fighting in the highly-charged battles along with the individuals of each family. Performing for Change’s goal was to throw controversial topics in the audience’s face in order to force these issues into the limelight; they certainly succeeded.
“Painting the Blackout” was a completely original production written in collaboration with all of the actors.
“We all worked together to create the scenes,” said Astrid Quinones ’14, who played the role of Amelia. “Each family scene group created their storyline while focusing on their particular theme …We all worked together to give each group feedback and were able to challenge each other’s characters.”
This collaboration shown throughout the production, especially through the inclusion of various other performance styles. The cast incorporated both poetry and dance into several of their scenes, adding creativity and depth to an already meaningful production.
And proving that they are a group dedicated to helping all good causes, Performing for Change announced that some of the proceeds from “Painting the Blackout” are being donated to the upcoming event Relay for Life, which helps raise money and awareness for the American Cancer Society.
As group advisor Meredith Marquez said of Performing for Change at the end of the production, “This is what we [Fairfield] are proud of, this is what we brag about …You make the university proud.”
Family 1: Jasmine Fernandez ’12, Cicily Collazo ’12, Jessica Mendes ’14, Emily Sawyer ’14
Family 2: Danielle Martin ’12, Nathan Abraham ’13, Jhomalys Moran ’14, Gabriella Tozzi ’13, Adavia Thornton ’14
Family 3: Mark Elibert ’13, Paige Thompson ’15, Tebben Lopez ’14, Astrid Quinones ’14, Lizbel Escamilla ’14, Chris Gutmann ’15