We can talk about collaborating with people of different races and cultures, or we can actually collaborate with them. Theatre gave me the opportunity do that.
Updated June 9, 2017: Greg will spend one year as a full-time volunteer for the Atlantic Regional Training Institute helping to engage high school and college-age youth in becoming mentors for middle school students through the Junior Youth Spiritual Empowerment Program in Maryland. During Commencement, Greg received the CBS/Sony Prize in Japanese Studies, awarded to a member of the graduating class who gives promise of further contibutions to the understanding between Japan and the United States. Congratulations, Greg!
"There have been a few times since entering Bucknell that my understanding of 'Why theatre? What is the purpose?' has evolved. I took a class called Devising Performance, which is a way of creating theatre collaboratively. In traditional theatre, everything you do is to serve the script. In devising, the actors and the theatre company — the ensemble — create organically.
"I leveraged the course experience when devising a show called Contact, which addressed the way different races interact. We had eleven people of different races, nationalities and cultures who, for the most part, had little or no previous theatre experience. Beyond creating a piece of art, everyone became closer to each other at an intuitive level. You can have a conversation about something like race sitting at a desk and speaking words to each other, and that can be productive. But I think you can skip steps and jump forward when you have to use your body and your imagination and make decisions in the moment. We can talk about collaborating with people of different races and cultures, or we can actually collaborate with them. Theatre gave me the opportunity do that.
"I lived in Japan and learned Japanese for two years when I was 9 and 10. It was a big part of my life for a while and then it was kind of compartmentalized. My first semester at Bucknell, I took Japanese, which eventually led me to major in East Asian studies because you get to learn about the politics, environment, religion, culture, society, language and the location. Theatre has given me the opportunity to connect the smaller details of the culture I'm studying.
"I spent two semesters in Kyoto, Japan, at the Associated Kyoto Program. I took classes with topics that ranged from the environment in Japan to Japanese religion. I also received a grant from the program to study theatre independently. I went to plays, read a lot of books and saw traditional theatre and also modern and experimental pieces. It was amazing watching these shows and realizing that this is different from what I would be getting in the U.S. because of the culture and the art forms that people were drawing on.
"Devising is really the process in theatre that invites liberal arts in as a collaborator. For example, when creating a show about race, unless I had a willingness to take the study of the subject matter just as seriously as the actual process of creating theatre, I could not have put together an informed piece. I think that not taking for granted that you understand the world just because you can make art about it is important. If you want to tell a story, learn what the story is. That requires learning about other subjects. If I want to tell a story about someone in Japan, I've got to know Japan. So I went and learned."
Gregory is from Newark, Del.
Meet more students at Bucknell Student Stories.