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CSU’s ‘Fairview’ brings comedy, reflection to stage

Matthew+Bush+playing+Mack%2C+Nicolet+Endean+playing+Suze%2C+Bolt+Saliu+playing+Keisha%2C+Faith+Buckley+playing+Jasmine+and+Nylah+Walker+playing+Beverly+perform+in+the+production+of+Fairview+put+on+by+Colorado+State+University+School+of+Music%2C+Theatre%2C+and+Dance%2C+directed+by+Dr.+Ray+Black+Feb+28.
Collegian | Julia Percy
Matthew Bush, Nicolet Endean, Bolu Saliu, Faith Buckley and Nylah Walker play their characters Mack, Suze, Keisha, Jasmine and Beverly, respectively, in Colorado State University’s production of “Fairview” Feb. 28.

With outstanding performances and brilliant wit, Colorado State University’s production of “Fairview” by Jackie Sibblies Drury is a must-see, with shows up until March 8. The Pulitzer Prize-winning sitcom examines race in a way that is equally humorous and thought-provoking. It premiered March 1. 

The show follows a sitcom setup with a Black family preparing for their grandmother’s birthday dinner. Things take a slight turn into absurdity, however, when white characters come into Act Two and begin a conversation on race and observations of the family. Things progress from there, and to avoid spoiling anything, it is an absurdly fun and socially relevant show.

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“Freedom encompasses being seen as a human without expectations, without being put into a stereotype, without it being negative.” –Ray Black, “Fairview” director and ethnic studies professor

Ray Black, professor of ethnic studies at CSU, was approached to be director. 

“(Director of Theatre Megan Lewis) knows my theater background, so (when) she went and did a search for somebody to hire directors, she asked me, and I said yes,” Black said. 

While there are many connecting themes throughout the show, it mostly centers on surveillance and expectations placed on Black people throughout Western society. 

“There is the different assertion of wanting to be able to live and function as a Black person without expectations,” Black said.

Some issues discussed are freedom, stereotypes and commentary. 

“Freedom encompasses being seen as a human without expectations, without being put into a stereotype, without it being negative,” Black said. 

Numerous reflective questions are posed throughout the show as it progresses. 

“How do we do this in actuality?” Black said. “How do the white people see Black people, and then what does that come with — that expectation?”

While there are white characters, the focus is still kept on the Black family and their story. 

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“The theater department has been really good about recruiting African American actors,” Black said. “The balance with African American theater, with Black theater, has always been to entertain and enlighten.”

“Fairview” combines that entertainment and enlightenment to produce a funny, witty, captivating and reflective show. Audiences will take something insightful away from it while still having fun. It blends a real issue, expectations and humor in a meaningful way.

“These expectations sometimes are really challenging and humorous,” Black said. 

First-year theater performance student Bolu Saliu plays Keisha, a character who stands out from the rest of her family.

“She is described as the hope and the light,” Saliu said. “She doesn’t dim her light for anyone. She’s just who she is, unapologetically.” 

Another aspect of the play is listening to how narratives have been changed throughout history.

“It’s a whole lot of the white gaze and how Black people live in a society that has been manufactured mostly for white people and how we’re trying to find our place,” Saliu said. 

Saliu’s character Keisha quite literally speaks to the audience when she breaks the fourth wall in the third act. She tells the story honestly and beautifully, both on the part of the words spoken and Saliu’s performance. 

“(Keisha is) very essential in telling the story of how to break free,” Saliu said. 

By the end, Keisha is simply asking for someone to listen, including the characters in the show and the audience. 

“She wants people to listen to her — and not just her, but she’s kind of the representation of the Black community,” Saliu said. 

The significance of “Fairview” is poignant and tangible in numerous ways. 

“It’s important because it’s reality,” Saliu said. “(It is) telling our story the way we see it and not how the world has tried to tell and change our stories for years. Whatever you get from the play is whatever you go in and reflect on and how you can be a better ally and a better listener.”

Reach Aubree Miller at entertainment@collegian.com or on Twitter @CSUCollegian.

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