Linn-Benton Community College Performing Arts presents a new, informative production about the people of the Islamic faith. “Peace Be Upon You” aims to educate viewers about Islam and break stereotypes that American culture may associate with the religion.
The play “Peace Be Upon You,” is the latest form of community-engaged theater, written by LBCC performing arts instructor Dan Stone, through collaborations with students of the Islamic faith. Presented in a “black box” format with seating on stage, the play runs May 18 and 19 at 7:30 p.m. and May 20 at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. in the Russell Tripp Performance Center. Tickets are $10 for general admission or $7 for students and seniors.
“I have a lot of international students, a lot of them from the Middle East. I just felt with all that is happening in the news now, and even before, with all the misrepresentations about people from the Middle East, that this was a great topic,” said Stone.
“Peace Be Upon You” centers around Sumaiya, a Muslim women from Iraq, and Chelsea, an American woman who has a lot of misconceptions about Islam. It focuses on the two character’s interactions as they room together in a college dorm and tells the story of how they work through their cultural and political differences.
Community-engaged theater, or theater of place, is a type of play that looks to educate an audience about a micro-community that is either misrepresented or has an important story to tell. Past plays recalled stories about veterans who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, the latino community in Independence, Oregon, loggers and their families in the Pacific Northwest, the elderly, and more.
Stone writes the plays with the help of members of the micro-communities in a year long process that features multiple interviews in gatherings known as story circles. The goal is to have members of the story circles pitch ideas so that Stone can get insight into what specific subject the play should explore. Stone wrote “Peace Be Upon You” with the help of several students at LBCC from the Middle East who practice Islam.
“Often times when I write these kinds of plays I look for a common denominator within the community to write about,” said Stone. “When I interviewed people from the Middle East that live here, the common denominator amongst that group of people is: they are just like anyone else, they’re human beings just like everybody else. Other than their religion they are no different than everybody else. So the idea of the play is to humanize these people that Americans typically see as completely foreign and different from them.”
Community-engaged theater is cutting-edge and LBCC’s Performing Arts program is on the forefront, one of the only programs in Oregon creating these types of plays. They were recently invited to the University of Oregon to do a presentation on this innovative play writing concept. Already looking ahead to their next project, the LBCC Performing Arts program has partnered up with the Oregon Coast Aquarium to create a series of children’s plays that focus on several ecosystems of Oregon.
Stone, who has written these types of plays for just over ten years, explained why he finds community-engaged theater to be important.
“Theater isn’t just a form of entertainment, it’s learning about who we are and who the people that live around us are.”
For more information about “Peace Be Upon You” contact the LBCC box office at 541-917-4531 or email them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Story by Joshua Stickrod
Photos by Angela Scott