Students

Kenza Ben Hachem Alaoui

Labels are scary. Though the words I’ve recently chosen to define myself have helped me find community, most of my life labels have been othering and limiting. Even now, confident in my biracial and bisexual identities, I am stuck in a place of ambiguity. I can assimilate. I can come into LGBTQ+ spaces and POC spaces and Straight spaces and White spaces. I can relate to privileges and oppressions in the same conversation. But none are ever really my spaces. My invitation can be revoked the second someone decides I’m other. I’m simultaneously too much and not enough for all of these spaces. That’s lonely.

So here was my question coming into my project: “Is my ability to pass as straight and white (or at least straight enough and white enough) a privilege? Or is the erasure of my full identity oppressive? Through exploration, conversation, research and reflection, I’ve found that it’s both. In a lot of ways passing protects me, but In a lot of ways passing makes me invisible. In my project, I explore that in-between-ness, that duality, that second and third and fourth sight. I write about my “grey area” as a person who protects me but who can be toxic as well.

Kenza is a Performing Arts and Social Justice major with a concentration in music. Singing in ensembles has been a passion of hers since she was 11 years old. Her pursuit of music was first inspired by her high school choir teacher Max Stimac, her vocal coach R.L. Rowsey, and her fellow singers in Colla Voce. She says they shaped her as a person as well as a singer, and is thankful for them every day. Kenza plans to continue work using music as a medium for healing and social change.

Evan Constantine Boukidis

What does it truly mean to be an American? What are the requirements to be seen as an American? To be seen as white or white passing? Who makes these requirements? How do we shatter those stigmas? In my piece I try to explore all these ideas while connecting it back to my own family history. My family emigrated from Greece before the Immigration Act of 1917 and after the rescinding of those laws in 1956. Because of this I feel like we share a very interesting history — one that is our past but some people’s present. I believe we as Greeks and other Southern, and Eastern Europeans; have not only an opportunity but an obligation to fight on the side of civil and immigration rights in this country and to not be a part of the stigma our people experienced decades ago.

However, even with how I feel, the rhetoric in the country is one similar to that of 1917 when the immigration act was passed with a literacy test for people to pass in order to be able to emigrate to the United States. This test was made to keep out, “imbeciles, idiots, illiterates, and feeble-minded persons”, which has a direct correlation to the rhetoric used in the Immigration Act of 2015 and the continued issues we are dealing with that have to do with immigration today. So ask yourselves those questions and try to understand what the answers mean to you.

“Remember, remember always, that all of us, and you and I especially, are descended from immigrants and revolutionists.” - F.D.R.

Evan Boukidis is an actor/activist who is in his final year at the University of San Francisco. He has played many different types of roles here including Dr. Stockmann in Public Enemy, JD in Heathers: The Musical, The Shadow in La Mestiza’s Colors, Ensemble in High Anxiety. For more information on Evan Boukidis, the roles he’s played, or if you just want to see him sing, please visit his website

Delia Rose Brekken

when speaking of Our world, one never mentions the black female. Never remembers the intuition of the native woman. Of the indigenous woman. I suppose because both have been forgotten.Abused.Murdered.Raped.missing.Used.MISSING!
Forgotten. yet I remember. Because I am a Black woman. I am an indigenous woman. I have wandered in this Brown Body. I have learned of its powers; How the sway of a hip, Or the deepest bend
signals a call to our ancient past: Recreate, Resurrect. Rise Up!

There is expectation of the black and brown female body, to be a never ending source, to stretch deeper, always presently giving, nurturing. This is a burden which I have carried in knotted pain between my shoulders, in tightened hamstrings and calloused hands: of going on when there is strength no more. This is memory carried within my bones, fueled by the fear resting, omnisciently, behind my grandmother’s eyes, carried from womb to womb, a snake of white terror etched across beautiful brown faces. Historical trauma, abuse and neglect, it beckons the question inside my mind, how can I reclaim ownership and really begin to live freely within my own Body?

Something that I have learned through the experience of living, studying, and becoming in countries around the globe was the necessary human capacity to act and be in community. re_Claiming ancient practices of sustainability is ever-increasingly pertinent, thus I sought collaboration as the first and most essential component of creating my senior project. I have been so honored to work alongside Danielle and the Four Dancers throughout this process. This was a production where process was the most significant contributor to product. Danielle and I aimed at creating art as a means of healing, of becoming visible: of identifying the lies and truths that have been attached to, and are held so ardently, so honestly, within our own bodies. To explore answers to the question, what does it mean to be free?

Delia Brekken is an aspiring artist, scholar, and sailor from the U.S. She enjoys creating sound with the violin, cello, piano, voice, and djembe, alongside some processing equipment. Delia has studied and lived on four continents, the experiences of which deeply motivate her art. A budding universal instrumentalist, and with a diverse music training that includes both classical and indigenous traditions and technique, Delia’s is inspired to create sounds of the diaspora: to story through music a reawakening.

Chuyi Chen (Chloe)

One thing that I want to emphasize is that I value and am eager to celebrate the worth and value of musical works of women composers. I hope people listen to me and realize there are still lots of outstanding women composers, and to think about why women composers are less seriously considered. Feminism is the belief that women should have the same rights and opportunities as men. But in reality, a woman composer needs to spend more time balancing their life, marriage, and career than a man. When all these factors act as a cage, the social context translates to that of less respect for women. Equity is one of the most significant social value that needed to be manifested. My desire is to consider myself as each of those four composers and poets as a woman. Just remember, music is an avenue of expression for them, to let them express how they value the world. It is what they are and were standing for. Please learn more about it - make it heard and known!

Chuyi Chen (Chloe) is a senior Performing Arts and Social Justice major with a concentration in music at University of San Francisco. She is from China. She has acquired music training since elementary school, learning vocal singing, piano and clarinet. She was inspired by her deeply respected professor, Liu, receiving systematic singing techniques. She is the lucky one. Even though she is not an outstanding student, or performer, she is still eager to sing for herself, for women composers, for those who are ever unheard. Music is a lifelong friend for Chloe and she is so proud of herself to be singing to everyone. Currently, she is working on her voice recital on May. Senior project performance would be the miniature practice and a huge step improvement for her.

Vanessa Marie Demelo

I have always felt at home moving in the studio and performing on stage. When the arts came into my life, specifically dance, it was awakening. It was something that all my effort went into and never in my wildest dreams did I think that my art form would lead me here to this stage. As a choreographer, I love to explore the physical limits of the human body; to explore the emotions, feelings, memories, experiences, and even trauma that human body holds. My mind is so sporadic and wild that my curiosities lead me to all kinds of subjects to explore. I usually don’t gear towards exploring dark subjects. This time I found myself compelled to bring something to the stage that society has not urgently addressed.

In our society, mental health is not talked about openly or respectfully. We make jokes about it. Mental health is romanticized and stigmatized in Hollywood and the media, and it is an issue that affects everyone. Too many people have faced this alone and fallen victim to their inner demons. I have seen too many role models, friends, and loved ones fall. I am using the stage to bring this issue to the forefront and address all its important aspects.

Vanessa Demelo is a senior graduating the University of San Francisco in the Fall of 2018, double majoring in Performing Arts and Social Justice and Kinesiology. She has been spent the past couple of years studying her two fields while also teaching, choreographing, and performing with the USF Dance Ensemble and Dance Generators. Vanessa will be the ASM for the Spring Dance Ensemble Show and hopes to continue to use her two academic fields after graduation.

Tyler Drake

I never shied away from dark topics. For a while, I thought that was what made me a good artist/activist. I focused on putting traumas out on stage because that seemed like the only way to have an impact. At the end of 2016, I needed light. Everything was surrounded by darkness and indulging myself was how I got out. I survived because I let myself do what I love. I realized that my activism does not have to be painful. I want to bring pure joy to myself and others as a radical act against the constant barrage of everything else going wrong. Our joy makes the fight worth it.

I wrote my play because comedy featuring trans people–real trans people, is virtually non-existent. I’m sick of my existence being a punchline, a throw away visual gag that portrays us as deceiving monsters who deserve whatever violence is brought upon them. Being trans is a beautiful, complicated existence that has been erased for far too long. I wrote it as a letter to my younger self, who didn’t think they had a future, but does. My play tries to make sense of that as much as it can in ten minutes.

Tyler Drake is a Performing Arts and Social Justice major with a concentration in theater, and is also in the Dual Degree Teacher Preparation program. Tyler is currently the Business Manager of ASUSF College Players, the Costume Designer for Heathers: The Musical, will be playing Damis in Tartuffe, and will write and direct the gay space opera we all deserve.

Maddy Lawder

Maddy Lawder is a graduating Performing Arts and Social Justice major with a concentration in dance. She has worked alongside Randee Paufve, Eli Nelson, Deborah Slater, Lauren Simpson, and Jenny Stulberg.

 

 

 

Kuan-Hsuan, Lee

Kuan-Hsuan started dancing even before she fully developed the ability to go to bathroom independently, and since then, she has been trained in and experienced various dance styles and techniques and performed them on stage. She carries her various identities and influences in her, and all the wonderful chaos and confusion shaped her as an artist. With all the past and current lovely struggles, she’s in a place where she would proudly consider herself as a dancer, a choreographer, a performer and an artist. Making art has always been a turn-on for her, hopefully watching it will be one for you, too.

Kevineh Joiee Emmanuele McFarland

I started making art because I had to. I am being honest. I never saw myself as a maker or a contributor to art I just did it because it was required of me. I never really took the time to notice what kind of spaces I was in until I was really in them. When I was introduced to dance I realized, “Oh this is nothing like from home. How would I even being to create in this new mindset?”. It was difficult and a lot of the times I resisted this change because I did not want to be in a place that I felt was not built for. And it was in one moment in my sophomore year of college I looked at myself and my people around me and I said, “enough is enough.”

Nothing ever gets done if you stay in resistance mode. You can pout and whine and say the world sucks, but are you going to do anything about it? So I became more comfortable with myself in these spaces and realized I didn’t have to adapt to the dance, music, or theatre culture I just had to be willing to take what I needed from all of them and create for myself so that my people could be seen. I got to be seen, so my people got to be seen and they became more comfortable in these spaces. I look back on my growth and I see the continuous fruition of love and peace through artistry. I see growth amongst the small yet mighty black community here at the University. I believe that our art has transformed the way we look at ourselves within our own space as well as outside and we have truly told ourselves that we are present and trans-formative in all spaces. So that’s what I want to do in my life - transform and be present in all spaces so those around me can do the same!

I am originally from NYC, but God brought me here to expand my ways of thinking and start my true living for other people. I always wanted to be a lawyer, but I also always wanted to be on Broadway. Performing Arts and Social Justice was my happy medium. I saw that I could still advocate for causes and people through my art and that is what I hope to do the rest of my life. I want to show people they voice, like how I have found mine! Now I am off to become a teacher, teaching kids English with a Social Justice Twist!

Maya Nixon

There is a perceived boundary between the two stages of life and death within Western societies; most of us go about our daily lives without ever consciously considering the implications of being infinite beings within a finite space. Meanwhile our many fears regarding death is left to be stored in our minds and bodies. How do we allow the inevitable occurrence of death to affect our personalities and everyday subconscious decision-making? The social, political, economic, and philosophical issues humanity have been faced with over the past millennia all have to do with fear of survival and lack of abundance. People compete, take, and overpower others so that they may have enough money to last another day. If I live as a poor farmer do I get the same death as someone of royalty? If I have a bad life, do I get another chance to live a good life or do I cease to exist after I pass away? We fight for our right to be individuals with unique opinions and experiences, but does any of that matter at the end of one’s life? What is the purpose of living individual lives if we all end up experiencing the same final result?

Truth says this to me: energy cannot be created nor destroyed only recycled over and over again. Conscious energy will always transform itself to experience more of itself (life). Once you are, it is impossible to not be. All things in reality possess a common thread of existing and they exist. We are all one infinite timeless being - we have individual experiences because that is the only way infinity can know itself. The purpose to life is to know more of who you are through other versions of you.

With this perspective, one looks out into the world and becomes confused from all the fear and lack.

A Wake is tale about the cycle of life and death. The performance piece attempts to dismantle the illusion that the two aren’t apart of the same cycle. To live is to die and to die is to live. There is no true separation in anything, only that which we construe in our minds.

Maya Nixon is a senior Performing Arts and Social Justice major with a concentration in theater. She loves to uncover beauty and or truth in everything she perceives. Her experiences, both inside and outside the classroom, have led her to develop an intuitive understanding of universal and spiritual knowledge. Maya spends her free time amongst nature because it reminds her of an infinite force within us all. She feels the most of herself whenever she is creating anything, she possesses skills in acting, dancing, directing and writing. Maya is proud to be an interdisciplinary performance artist and hopes to use her experiences to tell beautiful stories to uplift humanity and conscious thought.

Allison Proctor

Music has been a part of my life since I was a child. My family has always made art not only a priority, but ultimately a passion. I began piano lessons when I was 6, but soon realized I did not conform easily to the traditional ways of teaching. I then began to teach myself how to play piano by finding tutorials online, or by simply listening to the song and picking out the notes. As I began learning how to play more complex piano pieces, I really started to realize my love for the instrument.

Aside from this, I found my singing voice when I was as young as two years old. I would sing anything that I could learn, and also began to take vocal lessons from a teacher. Once again, these lessons did not last very long.

From high school on to USF, I have participated in bands, choirs, and my own personal composing journey. Having extended experience in writing music for multiple settings, I have found my ultimate passion in piano instrumentals.

When I play the piano, it is an incredibly personal and intimate experience for me. I feel as though the room has cleared, and it is only me and my instrument. As I rock back and forth on my stool, I can feel the notes run all the way from my fingers on the keys, to my toes on the pedals, and up through my closed eyes. I believe that every individual in this world feels this kind of freedom when doing something they’re passionate about, and I feel grateful to know that I can share my freedom with those that I love.

Allison Proctor is a singer, multi-instrument musician, and composer. Her main focus is a concentration in piano, and is also a vocal performer. She has worked and performed in multiple San Jose bands, and is currently working on a personal project consisting of originally composed piano pieces accompanied by spoken word.

Lila Aurelia Rogers

My body is made of light
Mi Cuerpo esta hecha de luz

Scars and memories
heridas y memorias

joys and pains
alegrías y dolores

Terrors and triumphs
terrores y triunfos

Lila Aurelia Rogers is a creator currently working in San Francisco. Her love of music was apparent at a young age, and she had the privilege of being exposed to a wide array of musical practices throughout her youth. This exposure, as well as her upbringing in a multicultural family has led her to embrace the healing and community building aspects of music.

Danielle Smith

 

when speaking of Our world, one never mentions the black female. Never remembers the intuition of the native woman. Of the indigenous woman. I suppose because both have been forgotten. Murdered. Raped. Missing. Used. Abused. MISSING!
Forgotten. Yet I remember. Because I am a Black woman. I am an indigenous woman. I have wandered in this Brown Body. I have learned of its powers; How the sway of a hip, Or the deepest bend signals a call to our ancient past: Procreate, Recreate, Resurrect. Live again.

As a Black woman, my body/my hair—which is an extension of my identity—was ordained to be oppressed. So how do I decolonize and rebuke my oppressed body? What does it mean for me to be free, and instead embrace the truth within me? I call on the internal guidance of my God and ancestors to help me re_member and re_claim what is mind.

As a dancer, it’s hard to be Black in a predominately White program. No amount of conversations and classes can negate the fact that majority of the time I feel like I am visibly invisible, heard but not understood. I was angry at the institution and disappointed in the movement, until I realized that the pain of my invisibility is a pain that Black/Brown women have bore for generations. So I began to let truth fuel healing through movement.

As an artist, Delia and I spent a lot of time reflecting, and supporting our dancers and in this journey. Their stories and identities as Black/Brown women have influenced the meat of this piece. All our dancers have different complexions and hair textures, but were fed similar lies about their bodies. Our project gave us the opportunity to talk frankly about that, and hopefully open the conversation to you.

Danielle Smith is a dancer, costume designer, and choreographer. She spent the past 4 years studying dance—including Hip Hop, West African (Guinean, Ghanaian), Contemporary and Contact Improvisation—at the University of San Francisco. Currently, Danielle works at the African American Shakespeare Company with the Board of Directors as Secretary Administrative. After graduating this Spring, Danielle hopes to continue her work in integrating her passion for art with social change.

Elise Tanyag

Music has always been a deep passion of mine. Like many other forms of art, it has the power to touch people’s lives in a miraculous way. Whenever I perform, I feel a rush like no other. It’s difficult to describe this feeling in words. It’s more like an out of body experience rather than a performance to me. There’s something transcendental about singing for others and letting the voice carry in a melodic way. I know that not everyone will like my voice or enjoy my music, but if I can impact at least one person in some way, it’s all worth it.

When I first started writing music, I was timid and unconfident in the work I produced; but when I realized that there were people who could relate to my songs and find themselves fitting into the same shoes, I knew that this was worth investing myself into. Like every artist, I have to work at my craft everyday and some days are better than others, but if I can write music for hours on end without taking a break or feeling weary, I know that this is my calling and this is what I’m meant to do.

My pieces are my love letters to my audience. Every performance I strive to illustrate the emotions I feel and the absolute love I have for my art. I want to use my own personal experiences to help others who are going through a similar situation and I feel the best way I can do that is through music.

Elise Tanyag is a singer, songwriter, and arranger. She is a Performing Arts and Social Justice major with a concentration in music at the University of San Francisco. She has written multiple original songs and a cappella arrangements. Currently, she is vocal coaching at Songbird Studios in Inner Sunset and is planning on releasing an EP this year.

Ellen Thompson

Ten years ago, after my wife and I had bought a cabin on the Trinity River, I learned that in the 1940s, my great-grandmother Jessie had lived and died within a few miles of our place. Jessie, a rugged fisherwoman who’d survived a violent rip current that tore her from the mouth of the Klamath and then tossed her back onto the shore, fell out of tree saving cherries from the unexpected spring rain. She succumbed to a blood clot while her leg was being set. This story stuck with me, weaving its way into the song about the Trinity River I was writing for Judith May’s songwriting class. Many themes—some of which I was not yet conscious—had to converge before I could know what I was writing about. The term “Holy Trinity”— the alienating father, son, and holy ghost triad from childhood bible study—kept appearing. While the Trinity River derives its name from its three forks, “holy” still seemed applicable—but how?

As the various elements came together, I began to see my song as an alternative to biblical “truths” that sanction human domination of the earth and its non- human species. I saw the river as the unguided movement toward mortality. The lyrics deemphasize the anthropocentric hierarchy—the grandmother’s attempt to gather cherries leads to a simple death, whereas the bears’ orchard-excursion allows them to enjoy fresh peaches and then sleep peacefully on the hillside, for example. My first person speaker is small in relationship to nature—a stance all of us should seriously consider if we truly want to live ethical and socially-just lives to help our planet survive. My song encourages us to acquiesce, to take a smaller, more humble role—and to find the beauty in that.

Soon to graduate summa cum laude in Performing Arts and Social Justice with a concentration in music, Ellen Thompson pursues many creative endeavors, including fiction- writing, landscape architecture and design, and now music composition. Having worked and accumulated degrees since she was a teenager, she looks forward to purchasing a lifetime national parks pass when she turns 62 in May, at which time she will begin road-tripping in her Sprinter van.

Karenna Rae Versalovic

“Mental health is achieved if man develops into full maturity according to the characteristics and laws of human nature. Mental illness consists in the failure of such development. From this premise, the criterion of mental health is not one of individual adjustment to a given social order but a universal one, valid for all men, of giving a satisfactory answer to the problem of human existence.” - Eric Fromm

This text led to a craving for an inner rebellion against the societal labeling of bodies as “abled” or “disabled.” I was curious about the role dance played in this rebellion and was hungry to explore it.

Throughout my life, I have surrounded myself with the community of people with disabilities. Separately, I have been immersed in the world of dance for years. I have always engaged in these two parts of my life separately. However, this has not gone without noticing the inevitable points where these two passions intersect: a group of children and adults with disabilities performs a dance at a talent show and their body comes to life as the music creates a world in their head that unfolds in front them in the form of movement. I improvise with strangers and immediately feel a deep connection with the humans that share the room with me: no matter their ways of being.

Dance unlocks a form of creativity that empowers, heals, and connects. It was my dream that every Saturday for the past five months, the dance studio became a birthplace for the acknowledgment, appreciation and celebration of all forms of humanity and ways of being. And that it did. Gentle spirits met together in an open space. With each moment that passed, willingness and open minded energy was transformed into play and laughter which fermented into the strongest levels of compassion and humanity that I have ever witnessed. The result of this concoction was one of discovering the essence of being together in its truest, rawest, form. With this, came infinite amounts of beauty.

Karenna Versalovic has been both dancing and surrounded by people with disabilities for much of her life. Through these experiences, she has realized her dream of being a dance therapist. Her time at the University of San Francisco has been shaped by her exploration of what piece of beauty she wants to bring to this Earth, her quest for understanding the values that shape her, her confusion about what we are all doing here on this spinning sphere, and her deep love for connecting with humans. She enjoys asymmetry, standing outside in a brilliant rainstorm, a good game of mancala, and conversation that makes her mind wander.

Stanley Whitaker

I grew up on the southside of Chicago. One of the most violent cities in the United States. I also come from a lot of hurt and pain yet under all of it comes resilience and creativity. I am first generation college student who defied the odds therefore it is pivotal for me as a Black Gay Man to represent my communities to the best of my abilities. I was heavily inspired by the late great James Baldwin in his book “Native Son’. A recollection of what it means to be poor, black, and a gay. I wanted to bring narratives of a black gay man currently in America from how I see it to life on stage. I am channeling real life experiences from personal experience and experience of loved ones with my love of music, spoken word, and movement to simply be on stage. This is one way I find art to be transformative.

Stanley Whitaker is a senior Performing Arts and Social Justice major with a concentration in theater. Throughout his time in the PASJ program he has realized that art is in fact an imitation of life. He believes that throughout his college years the intersectionalities of his identities have become pivotal to his art making and the way that he sees the world. Stanley plans to use his artwork in the pursuits of Broadway and community development as a theater instructor. Recent productions Stanley has been involved in: College Players’: Rocky Horror, The Wedding Singer, Love’s Labour’s Lost, PASJ Mainstage: Origins of Love.

Isa Crescini Williams

I grew up never seeing a mixed person of colour with my ethnic, gender, socio-economic, or mental backgrounds. For most of my life, I thought I could use musical theatre as an outlet, but I believed that there was little to no chance that I could make a career in theatre. By this point, my frustrations at seeing minuscule representation for both my background and other minority backgrounds has humorously led me to charge toward the future I thought was unattainable for a person like me.

Although I am still climbing over the mental and emotional fences set up to censor my work on mental health, sexual orientation, and non-binary genders in our society; I am proudly using this stage as an opportunity to continue my first wave of mental health focused creations. In our society, mental illnesses are stigmatized, romanticized, and ignored all at the same time. In my life I have regularly experienced and witnessed the periodically deadly outcomes of how our society treats mental health. I’ve created a space for regularly silenced voices like those of my brother, cousin, and grandmother, for whom I dedicate this show and my life. I love and miss you.

Isa is a Performing Arts and Social Justice major with a concentration in theater and a minor in music. Minnesota born, Isa has grown hyper aware of how the intersectionality of one’s races, ethnicities, gender(s), sexuality, and mental state influence community and art. Isa plans to utilize artist-activist tools to pursue acting, playwriting, and directing. Recent productions Isa has been involved in: La Mestiza’s Colors (Ria), Rocky Horror Picture Show (co- director), and High Anxiety (Iris, student deviser).