Play teaches many lessons

“Self-Injurious Behavior” performance at Richland


Staff Photo/Blanca Reyes

Azucena Perez, left, and Jeffrey Tilson play their roles as Summer and Benjamin during the first scene of “Self-Injurious Behavior.”

Tareakubore Ejovwo-Ottoh, Staff Writer

Richland Campus drama professor and director Andy Long and the student cast of “Self-Injurious Behavior” have done an excellent job of portraying somber realism.

The drama department presented this as a participating production at the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival last October. Competing in Region 6, which includes colleges and universities in Texas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Louisiana. Richland is one of only five groups selected to advance to the regional competition. This is the first time Dallas College has been chosen.

There was not enough money in the Richland Campus budget to send the cast to the festival, but fortunately the drama department can go to the festival due to the generous support of Ahava Silkey-Jones, the vice provost of the School of Creative Arts, Entertainment and Design, and Dr. Shawnda N. Floyd, the provost.

“Self-Injurious Behavior” is an autobiographical play about a young woman in her mid-20s, living in Dallas. After getting married to a professional musician, they had a baby who was discovered to be autistic when he turned 8. The child began to hurt himself and, eventually, the parents had to commit him to a 24/7 care facility when he was 11. The couple divorced and the mother went to a renaissance festival in Portland, Oregon to receive love and comfort from her two sisters.

There is plenty of cursing and emotion in this play, which is adult themed. There are also many lessons to be taken from this performance as well. Jillian Villegas, a student cast member said, “I think a large lesson to take from this is forgiving yourself for not being able to take it all on your own. The main character sought shelter in the arms of her sisters. It is something I struggle with, coming to people when I need help. An important lesson from here is that it is OK to rely on others to help you when you can’t handle all of life’s crises.”

As for members of the Drama Department, they are all very excited to be moving forward in this competition. “I am genuinely proud of all of us and what we created together. Everything I learned from Andy and everyone else is truly inspiring. I feel as though I am a different person than who I was on the first day of rehearsals. And I cannot be more grateful for that. I could not be prouder of everyone,” said Ava Stipe, production stage manager.

When it comes to the competition itself, the main focus isn’t on winning. “There’s no real winning in the competition. Various productions will be honored with different awards. It’s less of a competition and more of a festival. It is such a tremendous honor to have advanced this far. And it’s the first time in the history of Dallas College that it had ever happened. We have put on four previous productions before, but we had never advanced. So this is a tremendous honor,” Long said.

I was able to witness a rehearsal of the drama which has been in the works for six months. I was in major awe over the story and performance. While this rehearsal did not include lighting changes and costumes, the actors and actresses were on stage, performing as though it was the real play in front of an audience. It was truly a beautiful tale acted out by very passionate and hardworking students. Long was on top of the student cast as the director, offering corrections when needed but allowing the students to work on their performances and improve the experience.

The student cast considers him a strict but fair presence. Kendra Bailey, one of the performers, said, “I would say his No. 1 goal is to push you to be the best that you can be. The

most important thing he taught us is that process is the most important thing. How much effort you put in and how aware you are of yourself, and your cast members are what really matters. You need to have a higher awareness of how the story will be perceived. For the characters, it is not about how much you suffer or how much success you have. Ultimately, the people who will be watching it and how you want them to understand and feel what the story is trying to convey are key. And concerning the festival, Andy has always been saying that it does not matter what you know or the awards you get, it is about the process and experience. That is what the fundamentals of a show and acting are about.”

Performances in advance of the competition for “Self-Injurious Behavior” were scheduled to run Feb. 15-18.