Campus News

What We Look Like Returns for Commencement

May 21, 2015
Sky Kalfus
A comedy that presents the life of an African-American family caught between its cultural values and the white suburbs in which its members live, What We Look Like returns for Commencement in Little Theater. Photo credit: B.j. Tindal

This Commencement/Reunion Weekend will showcase the accomplishments of this class of graduating seniors, as well as some of the year’s standout performances in dance, music, and theater. In particular, the next few days will see a reprise of What We Look Like, a much acclaimed play written and directed by B.j. Tindal ’16 and co-directed by Maansi Seth ’16.

Funny and political, What We Look Like centers on an African American family that has recently moved to a white suburban neighborhood. The family’s struggle to preserve its sense of African American heritage is made acute when the family’s youngest child starts talking about an imaginary idealized white family. When a white family that fits the child’s description moves in next door, each member of the family is forced to grapple with issues of racial identity, queerness, and the politics of desire.

Tindal began the script of What We Look Like during his African American Drama class with Professor of Theater and Africana Studies Caroline Jackson Smith, who mentored him through the script-writing process. He showed an early draft to Seth, who had stage managed one of Tindal’s earlier plays, I’ll Go First. Seth became deeply involved with performance during the production of I’ll Go First. “I didn’t like being stage manager,” Seth recalls. “I used to make a lot of comments on set, and it became clear that I had a lot of directorial instincts, or at least ideas. It was really fun to read through the script and talk about it.” She and Tindal worked together on perfecting the script for What We Look Like, and she became his co-director.

The script was further transformed by a team of highly talented and invested student actors, some of whom had declined to audition for mainstage performances as a show of allegiance to Tindal’s vision. The result was a funny, brutally honest performance that packed the seats of Wilder Main in November 2014. “It really spoke to the experiences of black students at Oberlin,” Seth says.

The play returns for Commencement in Little Theater. The change of locations posed a creative challenge to the directors, who had to adjust their set to fit the space. But the reprised play, while not identical to the performance several months ago, will continue to showcase the crackling script and remarkable talent of the cast and crew.

What We Look Like runs May 21, 22, and 23 at 7:30 p.m. with matinee performances May 23 and 24 at 2 p.m. Tickets cost $5 and can be purchased from Central Ticketing Services or at the door.

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