L-R: Mia Ruffin and Thomas Nash perform in “This Other World”.
As he rolled in the grass and strolled through the Art Village garden, Xavier student Thomas Nash portrayed the life and work of
“Though I am of myself persuaded to dwell for swift moments in the breathing
temples of men, I am not man, and with his ways I have, I am not to be compounded,” Nash recited as he stunned the crowd with his compelling performance.
Nash, a junior theology major, performed alongside Mia Ruffin, a senior English major, in a moving—physically and emotionally–rendition of “This
Other World” on March 27- 28 on Xavier’s Art Village campus. The duet portrayed several of the characters mentioned in Wright’s novels and haikus.
“This Other World” was an outdoor production by the Performance Studies Laboratory, a teaching project by a collective of Xavier faculty with a background in performance. The lab, which is based in the Department of Communication Studies, offers students the opportunity to study and practice
the art of performance, said Dr. Ross Louis, department chair and
one of the lab’s creators.
Wright was an African American author famous for his novels “Native Son” and
“Black Boy.” Wright also wrote thousands of haikus before his death, Louis explained. “Native Son” explores race relations, while “Black Boy” is an autobiography about Wright growing up as an African American in the South.“This Other World” is the title of Wright’s collection of haikus that explores themes
on nature and culture. Louis said the performance of “This Other World” not only featured the haikus from the original collection, but incorporated
excerpts from “Native Son” and Nash, Ruffin Prove Compelling in ‘Other World’
The performance consisted of choreography and movement to represent different themes in Wright’s works. Nash and Ruffin used the scenery and their bodies to symbolize emotion of the characters in the haikus and novels. They wore simple, basic costumes and used no props, just wire and haikus plastered on cardboards to symbolize Wright’s hanging of haiku boards in his studio.
“I believe the audience enjoyed the physicality, movement, and choreography
the students created,” Louis said, and the audience becomes part of the performance from the very beginning.
In preparing the students for the performance, Louis said he worked with Nash and Ruffin to help them to understand how their bodies can create metaphors
and images. Through movement, the audience can see how nature, human bodies, and racial identity can come together to create a
performance, Louis added.