UMass Students for Reproductive Justice Present 'Nostras Voces'
By Mary Margaret Hogan '18 | Monday, February 20, 2017
Mary Margaret Hogan '18
Monday, February 20, 2017
UMass Students for Reproductive Justice (USRJ) will perform their annual showcase Nostras Voces, featuring a special performance from the dancers of The Body Project. USRJ is a registered student organization that focuses on education and advocacy for reproductive justice and sexual education for people of all identities. Latin for "Our Voices,” Nostras Voces is a student-written and student-run production that utilizes performance and art to send out their message. Directed by Helen Woods ‘18 (Early Childhood Education and Theater) and an e-board member of USRJ, this show is composed of monologues, spoken word, poetry, and other narrative performances surrounding themes of race, gender, sexuality, and ability.
In the spring of 2015, USRJ (then VOX) was gearing up for its annual production of The Vagina Monologues by Eve Ensler when they received some valuable and important feedback from the UMass community. “After receiving this feedback, and discussion within USRJ, we came to the conclusion that The Vagina Monologues, while a groundbreaking piece of theater for its time, was outdated and lacking the intersectionality that USRJ strives to achieve within our activism,” Woods explained. “The Vagina Monologues focuses mainly on the experience of white, heterosexual, cis women, and USRJ does not stand for that lack of representation.”
“This is the second year USRJ is performing Nostras Voces,” she added, “and we are excited to bring student-created, intersectional theater to the UMass campus and plan to continue this movement for years to come!”
Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies major Amber-Nicole Rodriguez ‘18 encourages all to check out the work of USRJ and their upcoming performance. “Everyone has a voice, and everyone’s story deserves to be heard,” she said. “That's why this show, and shows like it, are important. This world is Black, Muslim, trans, disabled, Latina, straight, old, queer, Christian, young, atheist, et cetera. There is no identity that is more important than another, and this show allows various identities to stand in the spotlight.”
The show features a wide range of majors, including Theater and Women, Gender, Sexuality Studies, as well as a few STEM departments. Woods spoke proudly on the diversity of her cast’s education and background. “I love having performers come from a wide range of backgrounds because they all bring something new to the table,” she said. English major Symone Green ‘19 cites her experience in creative writing courses as preparation for writing and performing her original poems, saying “the creative writing courses I've taken in the English Department so far have given me a space to actively write and edit my work, while the instructors and advisors I've met along the way have influenced me to see my passion for writing as a career.” Green’s work is identity-based, surrounding an intimate moment held between two women of similar identities. “Taking a WGSS class my freshman year got me thinking about identity and the intersections that make us all so complex in what we experience as students,” she said. “I think the voices in Nostras Voces are very unique and strong because of our intersecting identities.”
As an electrical engineering major, Ajey Pandey ‘19 shares the same feelings toward the integrity of this performance piece. “The show is important because it's personal,” he said. “You can read papers and articles about intersectionality or trauma or oppression, but it isn't visceral. Those papers exist to explain how things work, but they don't show how things feel. You can cite a statistic about, say, how many queer people get proper sex ed, but you can also make an art piece about people in a non-heteronormative relationship trying to figure out sex despite having no frame of reference. Different ways of looking at the same topics—you need both.” As for his participation in USRJ, he says that performing in this year’s Nostra Voces spurred his involvement. “[Being a member of USRJ] is pretty great,” he said. “Action inspires art. Art inspires action. It's the circle of doing great things.”
When asked about the production’s overall goal, Woods was not hesitant with her response. “Nostras Voces is here so students of marginalized identities can make their voices heard in a creative way,” she explained. “Our show exists to tell our experiences and our histories. Art is a powerful, important form of activism and advocacy, and Nostras Voces wants to bring that kind of advocacy to the UMass campus. I am incredibly proud to be the director of Nostras Voces this year, and I am so excited to see where the production will go in future years. Combining my passion for social justice and my love for theater in this way has been nothing less of a privilege.”
USRJ’s Nostras Voces will provide the audience with relatable, groundbreaking, and thought-provoking pieces throughout each performance. Nostras Voces show dates include Thursday, February 23rd through Saturday, February 25th at 7:30pm in Bowker Auditorium. Ticket sales begin at 6:30 each night and doors open at 7 p.m. Tickets are $5 for students and seniors and $10 for the general public.
Content Warning: Please be aware that the content of this show can be triggering for some. There is graphic language and recounts of assault and abuse in this show.