Argus Eyes tackle Hairspray in Hopes of Creating Diversity



Advisor Kevin Cummines leading Hairspray Rehearsals

Some have said that Saint Peter’s drama club is exclusive, leaving some members of the college community out. With the popular musical Hairspray, set to open in April, that view may be on the verge of changing.

“People here would think that, ‘Oh, Argus Eyes is a white people thing’”, said senior Ayonnah Garcia, who is the secretary for the club. “I didn’t want it to be just a white organization since theatre is not just a white system.”

What Garcia is talking about is a perception that has followed the Argus Eyes Drama Society for years. With Black History Month and the themes of equality found in Hairspray, many of the members of Argus Eyes felt it would be fitting of a play to do at Saint Peter’s. They haven’t been able to pull off a play like this in the past though, with often only three or four members in the organization being African American. Attracting a wider range of \students became a goal, as Hairspray is a production that requires people of color to play the African American roles. The decision to produce the musical also fueled the hope of the club overcoming its reputation that many members find unflattering.

“I remember when I was a freshman and there were no black people in Argus Eyes,” Garcia said. “There are so many shows that feature people of color and we couldn’t do them,”

Garcia is both African American and Puerto Rican.  She is one of the main supporters of Argus Eyes putting on a production of Hairspray and she also landed  a singing role as one of The Dynamites. According to Garcia, there was hesitation of starting the production because plays have to be chosen a year in advance and, by choosing Hairspray, there was a risk of roles not being filled.  Now that the play rehearsals are in full swing, the organization is freeing up its schedule, having decided not to do their usual variety show done every semester. This decision was fueled by the fear of a variety show taking time and possible cast away from doing Hairspray, but many members of the cast still feel as though this is the right decision.

“No one’s just a black student or a white student,” said Daryl Xavier Greene, a junior and member of the cast. “As a black man, I feel as though one of the biggest things we want our audience to know is that, even though we’re all different at the same time, that’s what connects us all.”

However, not everything has gone as smoothly as Argus Eyes would have hoped. There were still many roles that went unfilled in the early weeks of production, leading advisor Kevin Cummines to pull from graduate students he knew who would want to participate. Auditions are also long, which has caused some members to miss rehearsals on a consistent basis. Still, members of the cast still stand by the club’s choice and look forward to April 22nd, when the play is schedule to start its set of shows.

“We don’t want this to just be a show about integration or segregation,” Greene said. “We all come from different backgrounds, so we want the audience to know that, when it comes to what we want to accomplish, we need each other.”

With less than two months before the play, the cast seems determined to make sure that their efforts are not in vain, but, more so, that this will just be the first of many plays performed that features a wide-range cast full of diversity.

“One of my mail goals was to make the club more integrated, with more people in general and more people of color,” Garcia said. “I see it happening already, too, so I’m really happy about that and excited for things changing.”


One comment

  1. I am the Musical Theatre Director of Green High School near Akron, Ohio. I have wanted to do Hairspray ever since it first became available. The issue for me was, Green simply does not have the racial diversity to mount this production. My solution is to form a collaboration with Canton Timken High School, an urban school a few miles away. Timken has the diversity needed for the production, but no theatre program of which to speak. The fit seemed perfect, but challenging. We have just concluded callbacks for our production which will be held in November. Teachable moments will be many for all students as we learn to appreciate and celebrate our differences by coming together in the common cause of producing a show. The message of Hairspray, accepting people for who they are, regardless of size, color or gender, is a message many could take to heart in our society today.

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