Continuing a five-year partnership, Belmont University’s Troutt Theater will host a production from The Salama Institute this weekend as students from the Christian-based nonprofit organization perform The Wiz.
Last summer Salama celebrated its 25th anniversary with Dimensions, a Cavalcade of Music from Opera to Broadway that included performances of Porgy and Bess, The Wiz, West Side Story, Dreamgirls, Grease, Cinderella and Carousel. This year, students return to The Wiz, a soulful rendition of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.
“We do Broadway for a couple of reasons: it demands artistic excellence, is a great training ground for our kids and exposes them to more classic work,” said Development Director George Crook. “We have been doing Broadway shows for 11 years and use it as character development for our kids. Peer pressure, sex, drugs, broken relationships, the struggles with fame – we try to take these things and find the life lessons our kids can learn from it. The Wiz is a historical African-American production, and it has a lot of life lessons on why you have to value home. With the tornado we talk about the trials of life, courage and hope.”
On Monday, student leaders from throughout the Belmont community participated in a poverty simulation event co-hosted by the Honors Program’s Leadership Studies program and Catholic Charities. The highly interactive simulation was intended to give students a small taste of what life is like on an extremely limited income. For one hour, participants were asked to join the nearly 40 million U.S. citizens who live with incomes below the poverty line, and through role-playing they faced some of the many challenges that confront real low-income families.
The simulation opened with representatives from Metro Social Services and Catholic Charities sharing statistics on poverty throughout the world as well as locally. Students were then assigned “roles” and “families” and spent the next hour—broken into four 15-minute weeks—attempting to go to work, pay bills, send children to school and deal with unexpected hardships.
Metro Social Services Dinah Gregory explained, “This simulation is intended to help students identify with the poor. Poverty can happen to any of us at any time.”
Junior nursing major Jennifer Thompson took part in the event, which was titled “Knowing Our Neighbors: Coming to Understand Poverty in Our Community.” During the simulation she played the role of a married grandmother who took care of two grandchildren; the grandfather in the family had mobility issues so Jennifer worked full-time while the grandchildren attended school.
“I’ve done evaluations like that before but not one so personal where you are physically carrying out those roles,” Thompson said. “I knew it was hard and stressful, but being put in that situation made a world of difference… [It was challenging] trying to balance all the errands necessary to accomplish in one day, with work, getting food, paying bills, etc. It was extremely difficult to pay all the bills, and by the fourth week we were evicted and the granddaughter was in jail.”