The Muhlenberg Theatre Association is dedicated to bringing a diverse and inclusive theatre and arts community to Muhlenberg whether through the Sedehi Diversity Project or more recently, through the Marginalized Voices Theatre Arts Festival (MVTAF). The MVTAF compiles work from students whose voices and communities are marginalized and often silenced. This festival gives them the chance to bring their art front and center to the public.
This year’s festival was coordinated by Shachar Kessler ‘23, and its content was more varied than last year, featuring a more condensed production held in person with more mediums of art than just theatre and dance. This year a physical work, “Why Can’t You Just Wear a Silly Hat: An Exploration of Gender Creativity,” a group piece coordinated by Sydo Baron ‘22, was on display. Featured pieces were sculptures, murals and photos all highlighting gender, race and sexuality in different ways. One of the pieces in “Why Can’t You Just Wear a Silly Hat” was a table, unique for its interactivity as one of the pieces. The table featured kinetic sand, slime, stress ball balloons and more, all of which the viewer was instructed to play with and encouraged to leave the space unlike the way it was found. Along with that piece were sculptures, murals and photos all made highlighting gender, race and sexuality. The photos were a part of a separate piece by Avital Zemel ‘22 documenting finding space in relation to finding one’s identity and place of belonging.
“Being able to create a space for people to explore and create pieces about their identity was more fun than I could have ever expected. It was amazing to be back in person to celebrate all marginalized voices on campus.”-Shachar Kessler ’23
Similar to the physical works, the pieces on stage also expanded beyond theatre and dance. The first performance was “Loving Her,” a piece by Alison Rutyna ‘23, which she performed with Kayla Bassoff ‘25, with piano accompaniment and backup vocals by Sam Jones ‘25. The song used poetry and music to create a love song made by women who love women, fighting against the stereotype of love songs that cater exclusively to straight relationships. The piece utilizes poetry from Sappho and Audre Lorde, as well as songs by Phoebe Bridgers and Dodie, all LGBTQ+ women whose openness and expression have been prominent in their work.
Following up “Loving Her” was a piece by Amira Jackson ‘24 entitled “A song for me & you.” The piece was a short film featuring dances choreographed to poetry and read by the performers. These dance sequences all explore the identities and feelings around them that the performers experience. Following the performances, Jackson also included footage and images of LGBTQ+ culture, clips from the famous documentary “Paris is Burning,” images of the Stonewall Riots and Marsha P. Johnson (to name a few) all dubbed over by poetry.
The last performance of the night was a short speech from Jake Hoffman ‘__ followed by a solo performance of “Defying Gravity” from “Wicked.” Hoffman talked about his experience in the theatre world not being cast in roles that he feels suit him. Whether in the character’s sexuality or gender, Hoffman felt he gets cast in roles that depcit who he is, rather than who he wants to be
“The process was really special for me to be a part of. This was the first time I had ever been in an all-trans creative space and it felt so wonderful to be surrounded by such silly, fun and creative humans. I’m so proud of what we made, but cherish even more all the moments of queer kinship that brought us there,” stated Baron, referencing their piece.
“Being the coordinator of MVTAF was an absolute honor and pleasure,” said Kessler. “Being able to create a space for people to explore and create pieces about their identity was more fun than I could have ever expected. It was amazing to be back in person to celebrate all marginalized voices on campus.”