The UW likes to talk about our diversity. We like our programs, enjoy our committees, and love our anti-discriminatory policies throughout campus. But what does it mean to really embody social justice? How can we embody our ideals of growth, understanding, and fairness beyond the lawbook?
Theresa Crumpton and Simon Tran know. Students in the UW drama department, the two decided over spring break to start Racy Sketchy Sexy, “a sketch comedy group with the lens of social justice, minority empowerment, and making conversations intentional.” Leading a group of 16 students under the bustling eye of Associate Professor of Drama, L. Zane Jones, these two know what makes change happen: comedy.
Crumpton and Tran understand the problems in America.
“I grew up in Olympia, which is 86 percent white,” Tran said. “I identify as Asian-American, and there are times you don’t notice privilege.”
He wrote and costars in the second of the show’s four skits, “Black to the Basics,” which deals with the potential strife between people of color and the model minority.
Crumpton agreed, and emphasized the critical problem she faces as a biracial person.
“For me it’s important here now, this year, if we don’t make changes then our future isn’t going to change,” she said when asked about the need for Racy Sketchy Sexy in today’s culture. “We need to stand up and give voice to these issues, and part of the reason I was so excited to start this project. It’s important to be heard.”
Holly Griffith, who plays a humorous bystander, a confused hairstylist, and a socially progressive caveperson in the show, agrees.
“Social justice is really important to me, especially representation,” Griffith said about the social justice and evocative aspects of the play. “It’s been a fun time.”
The two are thankful for the help and support from friends in the theater world who helped produce and create costumes and design. Working with a $150 budget, the two had to reach out to a wide array of talented and altruistic students.
“I definitely think art is very ingrained into social justice and acts as a way to express ideas in an abstract form,” said Varsha Govindaraju, ASUW director of diversity affairs. “It’s more visceral, [and] easier to attach to than ideas.”
Jones, the group’s proponent and professional guide, was unfortunately unable to speak with The Daily.
The duo intend to continue Racy Sketchy Sexy as a Registered Student Organization next year. They took donations before the show to help fund their plans for next year. During a short interruption, Tran and Crumpton called for volunteers to join them by emailing email@example.com.
During the show, Crumpton and Tran had excellent chemistry, clearly playing off each other in a powerful way. Both are incredibly eloquent and socially conscious, and proved their commitment to the themes of the show by the power of their acting and writing. The comedy focuses strongly on the ideas underlying the social justice movement, such as mocking racist stereotypes about hair, unhelp allies and the foibles of the uneducated supporters, and gender roles. The last is expertly mocked using a sketch with cavepeople learning about traditional gender roles for the first time, and finding them rather arbitrary. There’s something to be said for period jokes using the phrase “moon sickness,” with plenty of exaggerated hand movements.
The comedy is obviously intended for an aware audience, but the ludicrosity of the faux racism means that anyone can partake, even without a background in, for example, critical race theory.
The actors, playing to a consistently full house, seem to really love their roles, occasionally laughing along with the audience out of sheer joy and excitement.
“It’s always about meeting where people are,” Tran said, speaking of the future goals of Racy Sketchy Sexy. “And going from there. In order for social justice to emerge it must be really mindful of how people think differently and have preconceived views of things in the world. It’s also about thinking about the way we think and creating stories that aren’t surfaced or given [their] true honesty.”
Reach reporter Thomas Crowe at firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @thomasacrowe