Senior project “Other” strives to express Mixed-race experiences

Theatre arts and English double major Katy McDonald empowers various stories of being Mixed with the help of a full multiethnic cast.

Katy+McDonald+is+preparing+to+release+her+senior+project+%E2%80%9COther%E2%80%9D+later+this+month.

Ethan Vaughan

Katy McDonald is preparing to release her senior project “Other” later this month.

Kat Marquez, Staff Writer

Katy McDonald is a fourth-year theatre arts and English double major who has decided to do her senior production in a way that integrates her Mixed-race identity. After coming to terms with this part of herself during her four years at Westmont, McDonald prepares to release her senior project “Other” later this month.

Events such as the Purity Prize, a project from three years ago that told the stories of Westmont women, and the conversations from last semester centering on race/ethnicity encouraged McDonald to work on this project. “I want ‘Other’ to make people think. It’s for the Westmont community to see the experiences that most people don’t understand,” she said in an interview.

As all of her writers and performers have different mixed heritages, McDonald shared that a large part of her project shows that Mixed people can be isolated but have a lot of similar experiences to one another.

Hannah Goodloe, a performer for McDonald’s project and first-year liberal studies major, stated that she is very excited about the opportunity to work amongst other Mixed people: “I’ve really been able to identify with the poetry … on this topic, and it’s been very fun participating in this project.” As someone who identifies as half-Black, half-white, McDonald’s project helps Goodloe understand what it means to be labeled as “other” and to not fit into one racial category. 

Similarly, Jackie Takarabe, a second-year kinesiology major, is one of the writers for McDonald’s senior project. “I am biracial and multiethnic. I identify as Japanese-white European American,” Takarabe expressed. “I feel very proud … that all the writers and performers are Mixed because it only makes sense that these struggles be documented by the very people who experience them. It makes the project more emotional and close to home than if they weren’t Mixed.”

“[McDonald’s project] is a brilliant idea and I thank Katy for going through the pain and heartache that she encountered while taking on such an emotionally draining feat. Others will only learn if certain individuals take the time and energy to educate them,” Takarabe pointed out. “I’m simply privileged to be working on something like this … the fact that Katy sought me out because she could see herself in my piece somewhat was so rewarding. It’s just such an honor to work with her.”

As a performer and writer for the production, third-year studio arts major Tirzah Dove agrees with Takarabe and Goodloe’s sentiments. As someone who identifies as racially ambiguous and ethnically Chinese and white European, she hopes that “[the production] can begin or further the conversation around what it means to be Mixed in general and at Westmont specifically. I hope fellow students will … deepen their understanding of their friends who are Mixed, and encourage them to hear from those around them. This is an excellent way to start a conversation, learn more about a different life experience, and work towards a more authentic friendship.” 

Dove added that the idea of “Other” encourages her to share her experiences and the voices of her peers: “It presents a collection of different stories, thoughts and emotions that are relatable to many of similar heritages … though it does not speak to everyone’s experiences.”

Rachel Herriges, second-year theatre arts and religious studies double major, is McDonald’s Assistant Director. During this process, she has worked with Katy McDonald to ensure the filming process goes as smoothly as possible. Unlike the other writers and performers, Herriges identifies as white. She expressed that there was much that encouraged her this last semester and past summer to keep learning about racial injustices: “[‘Other’] is crafted in a way to make the audience really engage and listen to what has to be said. It demonstrates not only reality, but the daily life of people of color, specifically those who are Mixed … Working on this project hasn’t been easy, as I know there is a barrier between my experience and those in the production. I’m glad it isn’t easy for me though, it’s really made me think and change the way I view my daily life.”

With filming underway, McDonald and her participants are working to complete her project through unique means of social distancing, something very different from working on the stage. McDonald admits that having to create something during the pandemic is difficult, but she’s been forced to learn. When asked when the senior project will come out, she replied: “I’m really hoping it’ll be out Friday, Dec. 11, but some of the filming had to be pushed back due to COVID-19.”

Takarabe concluded with this: “People would come see [‘Other’] because it highlights a way of life that we, as Mixed people, experience. Not only will it enhance one’s world view, but it will likely increase one’s empathy and passion for people in Mixed communities. It’s also simply a reality that individuals know at least one Mixed person, so it’s thoughtful to step into their shoes briefly, simply to see them more as a person.”

As a graduating senior, McDonald hopes that people come to her production of “Other.” “I believe the whole reason for theatre is to put yourself in the shoes of someone else … [There] is something for everyone to learn about someone else.”

More updates on Katy McDonald’s senior production “Other” can be found on the Theatre Art Department’s Instagram page, @westmontcollegetheatre. Once the film is available, it can be found at the Theatre Department Vimeo.

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