Fifth annual performance of 'Voices' tonight

The show is free and unticketed

by Elizabeth Garrison | 3/6/18 12:05am

“Voices,” an annual original production performed, written and directed by self-identified Dartmouth women, will conclude this year’s lineup of V-February events tonight at 7 p.m. in Spaulding Auditorium. Students who participate in “Voices” can choose to submit a story anonymously or not, perform an original piece or perform one of the submitted stories in a showcase designed to empower women and non-binary students to celebrate the diversity of their experiences at Dartmouth and beyond.

Alexis Wyatt ’18, a women’s, gender and sexuality studies major and a psychology minor, is performing her own poetry in the show. Wyatt said that she hopes “Voices” will encourage others to live their individual truths.

“I think that telling such specific stories and really calling attention to how people experience this campus instead of generalizing the Dartmouth experience liberates people,” Wyatt said. “I think it can liberate this whole campus to live in their individual truth and not the group truth of ‘I’m a Dartmouth student.’”

Wyatt said that she found the strength to overcome her fear of being vulnerable and sharing her personal experience after reading a popular quote that said, “Courage is not the absence of fear but rather the judgment that something else is more important than fear.”

“The idea of healing or restoration or coming to terms with an experience for myself or even just getting to know some other people was more important than my fear of something that I already dealt with,” Wyatt said. “Fear is valid. But you need to ask yourself, ‘Is that fear keeping you from something that can be valuable to you?’ And if the answer is ‘yes,’ then do it.”

Catherine Zhao ’20, a computer science major, elected to perform a piece by an anonymous writer that she personally connected with. Because Zhao often writes out her own thoughts and feelings rather than expressing them aloud, she related to the desire to submit a story anonymously. The piece, Zhao said, has an important story to tell.

“I really want to tell someone else’s story who can’t be there to tell it for themselves,” Zhao said. “I really hope that whoever wrote this story, when they come to the show and hear me present it, they feel free from hearing their words spoken aloud.”

Zhao believes that a production like “Voices” is important to increase empathy and understanding within Dartmouth’s community because it is difficult to dismiss a person’s experience when they are in one’s presence.

“In a performance like ‘Voices’ ... when you hear someone’s story like that, you can’t just say their story is invalidated or their story isn’t true because there is someone right there speaking in front of you saying these words,” Zhao said. “And you can’t help but just accept them and listen to them.”

Wyatt said that she finds it empowering to share her piece regardless of how it may be received.

“I found some power in looking at myself and being like, ‘You can do this,” she said. “You can speak your piece to people who might not believe you, but that’s not the point. The point is not to convince people of your truth, it’s to speak it and therefore stand upon it and speak a platform for you to stand upon into existence.”

Zhao said that she has especially enjoyed spending time with the Voices cast, which has been a supportive and encouraging community for her.

“Sometimes, I feel like I don’t want to go to certain meetings because I feel uncomfortable with the people there, but I never feel uncomfortable going to ‘Voices,’” Zhao said. “I feel really comfortable, even when I’m stepping out of my comfort zone.”

In an email statement, “Voices” co-director Lydia Freehafer ’18 wrote that ever since she first got involved with “Voices” her freshman year, she found it empowering to create space where marginalized voices can be heard publicly on campus.

“I have loved directing because being able to get other people to love ‘Voices’ and love the community radical space it creates is incredibly rewarding,” she wrote.

Admission to “Voices” is free, and the event is unticketed.