The Social Justice Project Blends Poetry, Dance, Politics at Mesa Arts Center

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During a recent rehearsal for the performance, held inside an ASU dance studio on the Tempe campus, we watched Stanton emerge from the wings, walking slowly across the stage while unfurling a roll of the yellow caution tape used at crime scenes.

It's one of many powerful elements in the show -- which also includes a haunting vocal and guitar performance by Vaughn Willis harkening back to heinous acts committed during pre-hashtag days. Poetic riffs delivered by Stanton spotlight social media trends that reveal much about America's collective consciousness. From hoodies to hands up, signifiers of social injustice abound.

Performers conjure names that have come to symbolize an ongoing struggle for civil rights: Matthew Shepard, Trayvon Martin, Leelah Alcon, and several more. Some share personal stories rooted in social injustice. The performance also includes recordings of music affiliated with the civil rights era, and a mother's plea that her son's death not be in vain.

The production, which shares the name of the initiative it's a part of, also includes dance solos performed by Liliana Gomez, Ashley Baker, and Jay Bouey -- plus snippets of songs about immigrant struggles performed by a trio of musicians that includes Carlos H. Urtubey, Cassandra Hernandez, and Donna Janowski. Participating artists also include Sydney Jackson, Joy Young, and the DJ Panic.

Stanton conceived the performance as a fusion of spoken word, live music, movement, and personal narratives created in the style of Newspaper Theatre -- which is part of a theatrical form called Theatre of the Oppressed created during the early 1970s by the late director and dramatist Augusto Boal of Brazil.

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Lynn Trimble is an award-winning freelance writer and photographer specializing in arts and culture, including visual and performing arts
Contact: Lynn Trimble