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Stephanie Sandberg

Submitted by on September 24, 2010 – 10:20 am

In Grand Rapids, Michigan, Calvin College professor Stephanie Sandberg is challenging minds and hearts through theater, and her newest play Lines: The Lived Experience of Race is timely and bound to stir up conversation about race in the United States.

Sandberg’s previous work includes Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility and Disciples at Calvin College and Elizabeth Rex and Seven Passage: The Stories of Gay Christians at Actors’ Theatre Grand Rapids. She co-wrote Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility and Seven Passages, the latter of which was fairly controversial when it first premiered in Grand Rapids.

Lines and Seven Passages were written in similar manners. Seven Passages was taken from interviews with over 100 people in the West Michigan area on the subjects of homosexuality and Christianity, and Lines is based on interviews with 150 Grand Rapids residents on the subject of race.

According to their production blog, the title Lines refers to blood lines, geography, gated communities, and communication barriers. In an interview with GRIID (Grand Rapids Institute for Information Democracy), Sandberg focused her attention on the racial divide seen in the streets and neighborhoods of Grand Rapids. She quotes a woman who observed, “It’s so different between my street and one street, two streets over.”

With such a broad subject like race, Sandberg had to sort through the interviews and make tough decisions about what the play would cover. “What I ended up focusing on in the play is issues about housing and the city’s divide, education, white privilege, and class economics, a little bit on religion, although there’s so much to talk about there, and then the justice system,” Sandberg told GRIID TV.

When asked about America after the election of President Obama, Sandberg rejected the notion that America is in an era of post-racial politics saying, “I realized very quickly that post-racial politics, the illusion of a post-racial society is just a fundamental lie, and I get a little bit angry with the Obama administration for ignoring color and just saying…if you raise the tide, all boats will rise. I’m like, well, what if your boat has a hole in it?”

Lines: The Lived Experience of Race opens September 30 at Actors’ Theatre in Grand Rapids, Michigan. To read more about Lines, go to http://actorstheatregrandrapids.org/onstage/2010-11/lines-the-lived-experience-of-race and read their production blog at http://racelines.wordpress.com/. Also be sure to check out the trailer for Seven Passages: The Stories of Gay Christians on DVD.

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