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Mosaic Society ups the standard for representation in theatre

By Jayleen Rolon
Staff Writer

TCNJ Musical Theatre (TMT) and All College Theatre (ACT) collaborated for the first time on Friday, April 30 in their production of Mosaic Society, a collection of monologues from students in a support group setting about topics ranging from compulsory heterosexuality to being a person of color struggling with mental health.

(Photo credit to Melanie Cohen/ All College Theatre’s publicist)

In the introduction, senior English major Ambar Grullón and senior communications major Alexis “Lexi” Marta revealed that the idea for Mosaic Society was sparked after their co-direction of The Vagina Monologues last year, realizing they had a craving for more intersectionality while preserving the monologue medium. 

“People who are usually the ‘other’ in theatre take center stage,” Marta said. Marta is also the publicist for ACT, director of Mosaic Society and performer of the chronic illness monologue in the production.

The “other” refers to the exclusion of people in marginalized groups from theatrical productions and other media. The positive representation that does exist is presented by actors that aren’t personally connected to the identity — something Marta wanted to challenge with Mosaic Society.

“[The show is] dedicated to the others. It’s meant to give them a voice and a sense of community,” Marta said.

The hour-and-a-half-long Zoom performance had nearly 100 participants as 12 students displayed their talents virtually. While the monologues were the focal point of the event, the musical element resonated with the audience as well.

The mix of original and pre-existing music complimented the vulnerability of the monologues, enhancing the experience by diversifying the media through which the message of inclusion was presented. The music was personalized to the vocalists and coordinated with specific topics.

The production captivates viewers despite the remote element (Photo courtesy of Melanie Cohen).

The production didn’t shy away from humorous pop culture references and profanity, catering to the audience of college students without diminishing the serious conversation. 

“I’m every beautiful and terrible thing that has happened to my people before me,” said sophomore music education major Melanie Diaz as Amora in her monologue discussing the experiences of a person of color studying at a predominantly white institution.

Despite the unique virtual format, the entire performance unfolded with minimal technical difficulties. In fact, it even came with positives. 

“Because the audience was virtual with all their cameras off, the cast, at least for me, didn’t have to focus on maintaining eye contact or anything,” said sophomore anthropology major Natasha Ishaq, who performed the opening monologue about codependency. “I could focus on delivery and I could give the performance 150%. I could really focus [on performing] without distraction.”

The post-show discussion was mainly led by the cast and crew as they opened up about how meaningful this production is to them. The audience used the chat function to express their gratitude, but it seemed that the majority of the audience was processing what they had just seen.

“Clearly we did our job,” said Ishaq when talking about the heartfelt audience engagement after the show. 

This production came in the middle of a massive conversation about representation in media and about the necessity for diversity and inclusion so marginalized groups feel more heard. It addressed those concerns without sacrificing the integrity, creativity or entertainment factor of the show, and that is what separated it from any other production.

Senior elementary education and music dual major Mary DiRienzo, the moderator of the support group, summarized the theme of Mosaic Society, rhetorically asking “What is support if not the joy of being seen?”

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