Not to be confused with the Bellingham Naked Bike Ride, the Naked Truth on Stereotypes will take the stage in the MPR at 7 p.m. on June 1. The event, cosponsored by the AS Ethnic Students Center and Social Issues Resource Center, is an innovative theater production featuring an ensemble of students telling their own stories of isolation an identity.
ESC Coordinator Polly Woodbury has worked alongside SIRC Coordinator River Reier find funding for the event. Woodbury said that they have received funding from five different academic departments along with the AS management council, and other AS Funds.
The students performing as a part of the event were chosen through an open casting call and audition April 18. Last weekend, those individuals went through an intensive group program with Western Alum Stephanie Hazelrigg, the event's creator, and other facilitators, completing identity exploration activities and writing activities.
“There’s such a huge variety of what will be talked about, and the stereotypes that will be presented and then debunked, just broken apart," Woodbury said. "As for me, it fluctuates… I’m racially ambiguous, people think I’m all types of things, and it is hard for me to affirm my identity. I think that’s also why this is important: It’s about affirming who you are, not just saying ‘people think I’m this.’ It’s about asking, who am I, really?”
Woodbury says the process has helped her come to terms with that question.
“I’ve just been a lot more mindful of who I am and where that comes from. For me, who I am comes from who came before me, like my parents and my community. That’s really important. So I’m constantly thinking about my interactions, how I talk, what I’m talking about, [asking] does that really reflect who I am and what I stand for. I’ve just been a lot more mindful,” she said.
Reier is not planning on being in the production, but helped during writing circles and other activities during the group program with Hazelrigg and the other facilitators.
“We do a lot of activities that involve movement in the process of helping us talk about our stereotypes and work through that… Stereotypes are usually words, but we want to get at how that has a physical effect on people… I think it just gives people more freedom to express themselves in ways that maybe they aren’t able to in classrooms,” Reier said.
Both Woodbury and Reier hope that attendees leave the show aware of their own tendency to buy into stereotypes, and the ability to stop themselves from doing so.
“We want people to come away trying to be more aware of how we do stereotype other people, because it is a really subconscious thing that we do,” said Reier, “but also to recognize the way that stereotypes do impact people and shape the construction of our identities. Our goal is to get people thinking more consciously and critically about it, and trying to actively disrupt stereotypes.”