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'We Are Proud to Present' Selected as Invited Production at Festival

Published Thursday, December 17, 2015

Photo from the production "We Are Proud To Present..."
Photo from the production "We Are Proud To Present..."

Marshall, Minn. — The SMSU Theatre production of “We Are Proud to Present …” has been selected as an invited production at the upcoming Region 5 Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival.

It marks the first time since 1976 that an SMSU production has been chosen to perform at the festival.

“It’s an incredible honor,” said Associate Professor of Theatre Nadine Schmidt, the play’s director.

The festival runs from Jan. 17 through Jan. 23 at Normandale Community College. It is the second year that Normandale has hosted the Region 5 event. SMSU is an associate host.  

The Region 5 Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival encompasses Minnesota, the Dakotas, Iowa, Nebraska and Kansas. It is the largest region in the nation.

The play’s official title is “We Are Proud to Present a Presentation About the Herero of Namibia, Formerly Known as South West Africa, From the German Sudwestafrika, Between the Years 1884-1915.”

The play is about a rehearsal and performance as a group of young actors — three black and three white — strive to tell the story of the first documented genocide of the 20th century, the German genocide of the Herero people in what is now known as Namibia. As the actors work together to create their presentation, their own biases and preconceptions come to light.

“I’m excited that we are being invited and are taking a show that really has a social statement,” said Schmidt. “We are hoping that people will see the show, that it will have a personal impact on them and that other schools in the region will consider doing it at their universities.”

She said she wanted to do a show that included race and racism. “It’s timely now,” she said. “Last spring I began researching shows. I have a friend who does theatre, a tech person in Seattle, and he’d just done the show with a company there and posted how powerful it was on Facebook, so I put it on my list and read it.”

The play will be performed six times over a two-day period, said Schmidt — “and on the first day, January 20, we’ll do it five times,” she said.

It will be performed in a small theatre, much like the Black Box at SMSU.  “It holds about 65, and there will be 1,500 attending the festival, so we’ll do it numerous times,” she said.

The play features a cast of six. Interestingly, none of the six are theatre majors. “It just worked out that way,” said Schmidt. “When people audition, I am looking for actors who fit. In a show like this they have to draw on themselves a lot as there’s not a lot of details about the characters out there. The cast is like a puzzle, the pieces have to fit together.”

The play premiered in 2012, and its performance at SMSU in October was the first time it had been performed in Minnesota.

SMSU will take a total of 24 students to the festival, said Schmidt.

To be considered for selection a request is made, and two respondents — theatre faculty at other institutions — attend the production and give feedback to Region 5. Approximately 80 shows request consideration, and from that number, it is pared down to 20 for consideration before the final six are picked. SMSU has entered shows four times per year over the last six years, said Schmidt. “Three were held for consideration, and this is the first one to make it.”


The cast includes:

Ben Broze, a freshman Agricultural Education-Communications and Political Science double major from Mankato, Minn., as Actor 3/Another White Man.
Seth Lewis, a senior Psychology major from Sioux Falls, S.D., as Actor 4/Another Black Man.
Datrice Mulsumo, a freshman Exercise Science major from Champlin, Minn., as Actor 2/Black Man.
Illana Peter, a freshman Music Education major from Tyler, Minn., as Actor 5/Sarah.
Cole Scheller, a Junior Communication Studies major from Eagan, Minn., as Actor 1/White Man.
Danisha Williams, a junior Early Childhood Education major from Chicago, Ill., as Actor 6/Black Woman.

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