Unity in difference: international students’ devised play

A group of Vassar students come together to create art based on their international backgrounds. Their discussions of personal experience are translated into their devised theater piece, “Aftertaste.” Photo By: Sheng Hui Lim
A group of Vassar students come together to create art based on their international backgrounds. Their discussions of personal experience are translated into their devised theater piece, “Aftertaste.” Photo By: Sheng Hui Lim
A group of Vassar students come together to create art based on their international backgrounds. Their discussions of personal experience are translated into their devised theater piece, “Aftertaste.” Photo By: Sheng Hui Lim

Something powerful happens when people use art to highlight unity as well as difference, an attribute which ten international Vassar students have been able to achieve through theater.

“Aftertaste,” a devised play, will be hitting the Kenyon Club Room from April 9-12.

Drama major and member of the ensemble, Ariana Sacristan-Benjet ’18 gave a description of the show and her motive to join the production. “Aftertaste is a devised theatre piece inspired by the experiences of the international students of Vassar College… I joined this project to have an opportunity to show the Vassar Community another perspective on life in this campus and to express my own experiences in an artistic form,” she said.

A co-creator of the idea for this production, Sofia Gutierrez ’18 gave her input to why she and other creators Sheng Hui Lim ’17 and Lily Wang ’18 decided to bring their idea to Unbound for support. “We felt like making theatre of our own and our common identities as international students gave us ground to start from as three facilitators and then as an ensemble of ten…We all did a bit of everything, really in general we are all externalizing parts of ourselves into theatre.”

Each member of the “Aftertaste” ensemble participated in writing, directing, and acting. One such member Andrea Orejarena ’17 didn’t want to give too much away about the content of the final product, but spoke to some of the overall themes which spurred the idea for this play.

She wrote in an emailed statement, “As we came together with the idea to convey multiculturalism, we were well aware that the topic itself is ineffable. However, this is also what made it a very exciting topic to explore.”

Orejarena continued, “Our experience creating the piece–and what we hope will be the experience of the audience–might be comparable to the experience of encountering a foreign taste: one that you can’t describe because you can’t distinguish a point of reference, therefore, you’re left only with the ‘aftertaste’.”

In terms of the execution of “Aftertaste,” each member of the ensemble worked with every aspect of the process to bring the devised piece to fruition. Sacristan-Benjet noted the pluralism not only of theatrical effort, but also of experience, “Aftertaste is a hierarchal ensemble, which means that we all participated in all the aspects of creation of the piece. Aftertaste is a potpourri of everybody’s ideas, talents and experiences.”

Orejarena echoed her sentiment with a nod to the wide range of experiences each member held, despite all being international students at Vassar. “The best part about working on this piece has been getting to know each others’ experiences as internationals. Certain stories and opinions excite us all as a group because these are shared moments where we couldn’t relate more. Other moments are exciting in a more intriguing way as we explore our differences,” said Orejarena.

Within the ensemble, there was also a range of experience in theater and performing arts, with students having come to the production with just a little experience to a great deal of background in drama. Gutierrez, a student with the latter background, commented on her involvement in the performing arts, “In high school I did overall casual projects, I had mostly seen theatre rather than made it until now, or at least it feels like the first time I have been involved in a piece that is important to me.”

Sacristan-Benjet, who has had much more prior theatrical experience than others in the cast, was able to connect to the piece in her own way as well. She said, “I am a drama major and also have done theatre all my life. I have a lot of experience in experimental theatre and creating devised pieces which has made Aftertaste perfect for me.”

The deeply personal themes of the play compelled the cast to not only self-reflect, but also look outside themselves to the greater community. Gutierrez commented on this dichotomy in her experience with “Aftertaste,” “[We’ve experienced] lots of collaborating and exploring. Also a lot of self-reflection in terms of finding balance between efficiency and fun freedom. [My favorite part has been] the unlikely ensemble, the weirdness, making theatre with minimal boundaries and being in it too deep…It is grounded on subjectivity, we speak no truths just our thoughts, or at least I do.”

Finally, both Sacristan-Benjet and Lim noted the easy as well as the difficult moments of creating a piece of theater as such and considered the experience as a whole. She wrote, “It’s been a fun process and we have really built a close relationship in the ensemble. Because the play is about our experiences, we have really shared intimate and personal moments with each other.”

Sacristan-Benjet continued, “However, it has also been very arduous to build an entire one hour and a half piece from scratch, in which we include everybody’s voice and also make it translatable for the non-international community in Vassar.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *