Trinity Stages Play on Role of Islam in American Politics | Trinity University
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Trinity Stages Play on Role of Islam in American Politics

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Hanna Niner '17 (left) and Iris Baughman '17 work on a Trinity research project that examined San Antonio's views on the 2016 presidential candidates' views on Islam. The project has been transformed into a play, To Be Honest, that will run at the McNay Art Museum September 7.

To Be Honest partners with TPR’s “Dare to Listen” campaign and the McNay Art Museum to turn spotlight on Islam in presidential politics

SAN ANTONIO – Trinity University will present a performance of To Be Honest, a campus production composed entirely from interviews with 172 San Antonians during the 2016 presidential campaign regarding the candidate’s statements about Islam. The performance will be held at 6:30 p.m., Thursday, Sept. 7 at the McNay Art Museum’s Leeper Auditorium.

The 70-minute production presents an emotional, intimate, and–at times–difficult look at San Antonians’ opinions of Islam and its place in American politics.

“This is a subject that is all over the media, but audiences don’t often see actual, person-to-person conversations about, because it can be sensitive,” said Sarah Beth Kaufman, Trinity sociology professor and one of the authors of the play. “This performance brings together diverse voices all talking about an issue that can be very polarizing.” To Be Honest is partnering with the McNay Art Museum and Texas Public Radio’s “Dare to Listen” campaign.  

The performance grew out of a 2016 summer research project led by Kaufman, Habiba Noor, interdisciplinary scholar, and William Christ, communication professor, along with undergraduate students Hanna Niner ‘17, Savannah Wagner ‘17, Iris Baughman ‘17, and Matthew Long ‘19. This team, funded by a Mellon Foundation  Initiative, interviewed people across the political, religious, and social spectrum in San Antonio about Islam-related rhetoric during the recent presidential campaign. From over 200 hours of intimate conversations, Noor, Kaufman and Christ created a performance that shares surprising revelations and passionate debates. Trinity theatre professor Stacey Connelly directs the play and has advised the team about working in theatre, which is new to them.

The team has workshopped the play three times, with the most recent performance drawing a standing-room-only crowd in Trinity University's Attic Theater. The response has been overwhelmingly positive with people encouraging the group to present the play locally, statewide, and even nationally. This program is made possible in part with a grant from Humanities Texas, the state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

The event is first-come, first-seated, and free of charge. The evening includes a 6 p.m. reception and 6:30 opening remarks from Trinity President Danny Anderson, TPR’s Nathan Cone, and McNay Museum Head of Education Katherine Carey, with the play’s performance to follow. The night will conclude with roundtable discussions about the performance.

“This isn’t just a performance,” Kaufman said. “We want people to stick around after the play and talk about some viewpoints they found that might be different from their own.”