“The tickets sold out before the box office even opened on Tuesday,” Abigail W.T.A. Mariam ’15 says. Mariam, who is the publicity liaison for the “I, Too, Am Harvard,” is excited that so much press has been generated around the production’s publicity campaign. BuzzFeed picked up the media campaign—pictures of African-American Harvard students holding signs that call out racial prejudice—only a day or so after the production’s own Tumblr campaign was launched, according to Mariam.
With all the fanfare that has been generated around the production’s media push, the topic and format of the show that will run only once—March 7 at 7pm in Lowell Lecture Hall—has been kept a secret.
Haven M. Jones ’15, who was interviewed for the project, says she was initially not even sure who is in the cast. These interviews were collected over the past year and turned into a narrative about what it means to be black at Harvard. “As someone on Kuumba board, you’d think that we’d have some sort of inside scoop on the play,” Jones says. “But we didn’t even know who was in the cast until the Facebook picture for the show came out.”
Despite the anonymity, students have been working on this production for many months. Assistant director and script editor Paige R. Woods ’16 says it was events last year that inspired Kimiko M. Matsuda-Lawrence ’16, the play’s writer and director, to put this show together. The conversations that began after last year’s Crimson editorial questioning affirmative action (http://www.thecrimson.com/column/the-snollygoster/article/2012/11/2/Siskind-affirmative-action/) along with other discussions of race on campus that made her Matsuda-Lawrence think more deeply about blackness on campus.
“Kuumba was really the space for [Matsuda-Lawrence] to develop her ideas,” Mariam says. Though “I, Too, Am Harvard” seems to have taken on a life of its own—Matsuda-Lawrence even made the creation of the script an independent project for her fall semester, according to Woods—it is only one part of Kuumba’s 16th Annual Black Arts Festival. Other events include Kuumba’s Artist-of-the-Year Showcase with Joshua Bennett, an open mic, and a Soulful Sounds jazz performance right after the production.
The only mystery left is what the performance will look like on stage. The only thing Mariam reveals is that that cast members will play multiple characters and that the presentation is in the form of dramatic monologues. “It’s anything but a standard structure,” Mariam says.
“I have no idea what it’s going to look like,” Jones says. “But somehow my story is in it.”