The Goshen College theater department began its spring season on Feb. 16 with two plays written and presented by seniors majoring in the field: “An Ode to Blackness” by Gloria Bontrager-Thomas and “Behind the Curtain” by Tobias Garcia. 

These shows started off as projects that theater majors are required to present by the end of their senior year. 

“They can be originally written stories or an adaptation of a stage play,” said Fatima Rhana, an actor in Bontrager-Thomas’s play. “You can choose whether to direct or act in it, just as long as you put your idea onto the stage for people to see.”

According to Bontrager-Thomas: “Students need to have a proposal due a year and a half before the performance, before your junior year’s winter break.” In the end, Bontrager-Thomas chose to write her own play speaking on the experiences Black people have had throughout different parts of history and today, spanning from a young boy’s story during the Jim Crow era to the microaggressions that continue to divide people today.

Dontaye Albert, another actor in Bontrager-Thomas’s play, was glad to be a part of the production. Albert said: “This is a show that I can definitely relate to, a little closer to home. Gloria asked me a while ago to be a part of this and I was really excited because I got to be a part of a black production, which is something I had never done before. It was very nice to perform something like this.”

Garcia’s stage play dealt with the struggles of neurodivergent people and how regular tasks and responsibilities of the world can pile up and become someone’s biggest source of stress. As the world continues to expect the same from everyone, not being able to live up to expectations causes insurmountable levels of stress, depression, and anxiety. Ultimately, Garcia’s play shows how difficult it is to crawl out of the hole that is the mind. 

The show used the stage in interesting and unconventional ways, including shadow puppetry and flashing lights. 

When asked about the style choices and inspiration, Garcia said: “I was a part of a devised process led by Phil Weaver-Stoesz titled ‘Ten Things Breaking,’ [which] included a shadow puppet piece by another performer titled ‘Tomte’ about a small elf. I also felt that by putting things in shadowed silhouette it would allow the audience to still see what was going on, while keeping with the theme of things not discussed beyond closed doors.”

The shows had taken years for both of them to prepare and present, and it truly paid off. Many audience members were taken aback by the performances and the way they related to those discriminated against and generalized by different groups of people. These projects showed the power of theater and how the most personal and powerful stories can be told on the stage, and served as an impressive culmination of both students’ work in their major.