fml: How Carson McCullers Saved My Life

Great Power, Great Responsibility

Exposure to theatrical worlds created by my peers is something I came to appreciate at my community college in Maryland. My love for college theater has continued to develop at Arcadia. The third production I saw here, fml: how Carson McCullers saved my life, was my favorite so far.

Projections were an integral part of a set design. Images influenced by the style of a graphic novel accompanied different stories and scenes in the play. Beyond that, Jo’s account of being a high school junior struggling against glaring homophobia stirred the audience, as we added our own emotions to the experience. Not only was I wholly wrapped in the moment—I felt this would follow me out of the MainStage Theater.

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When Ms. Delaney, the English teacher, visited Jo in the hospital after she was attacked by bigoted students, she explained, through tears, the role adults play in a vicious society and the responsibility they have to the youth. Her monologue connected with me. I’ve long believed that our childhoods are handed to us, but as adults we have become care givers, the hands. We can help shape a more compassionate, healthy world and hand that to a child the way Ms. Delaney did for Jo. She talked with her, supported her, and made her feel safe when she was surrounded by so much danger.

How we offer our energies impacts people in a way that could stick with them forever. Why not make that the warmth some of us were desperate for in our own childhoods? As I’ve watched students interact on campus in various contexts, my faith in our ability to foster bright childhoods has strengthened. Simple actions, such as writing notes in hope of reuniting a lost item to its owner, form the kind atmosphere that requires, and so do actions affecting more complex circumstances.

For The Women, a student organization that amplifies women’s voices and brings awareness of social issues that affect women, hosted a Speak Out that I attended with classmates. While we sat in the Stein Fireplace Lounge in the Commons, our peers talked us through their encounters with abuse, as well as mental health, body image, and social pressures. The speakers were willing to reveal their pain (and their happiness), not only for their own healing but for the healing of those in the audience who could relate to their stories. When the floor was opened for questions and discussion, the panelists showed even more courage and kindled a force of support for everyone in the room.

Moments like this, that create an atmosphere both of vulnerability and strength, have convinced me that while we’re at Arcadia, we’re becoming more capable of shaping the world through warmth, health, and compassion. We want to do better for people who relate to characters like Jo and people with dissimilar but equally striking struggles. It isn’t and hasn’t been easy, but we’re up for the challenge.

Photos of Arcadia University Theater’s production of fml: how Carson McCullers saved my life by Fig Tree Photography

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