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Spring 2004 Bruin Walk

Three Student Singers
Photography by Carol Petersen Ph.D. '77

In-Your-Face Stereotypes

by Marina Dundjerski '94

"The only race that matters is the human race." That's the message three UCLA theater students are trying to convey through their explosive comedy, N*gger Wetb*ck Ch*nk.

Allan Axibal '04 (above, left), Rafael Agustin '04 (above, center) and Miles Gregley '04 (above, right) say they use the terms throughout the play a total of 564 times just in the show's opening minutes to "depower" the slurs, along with the racial stereotypes of black, Latino and Asian cultures.

The trio began writing the play when they were community-college classmates. After transferring to UCLA, they decided to collaborate and star in the theater project. While the play uses humor, there are also serious, poignant moments. All of it, they say, is based on their own experiences.

Gregley, for example, recounts how while reading Huckleberry Finn aloud in class one day, his teacher stopped him mid-sentence and assigned another student to finish the section, which contained the n-word. The world around him turned to slow motion, he says, as he realized for the first time that someone was connecting the word to him.

Although many of the trio's publicity posters across campus were defaced or torn down, the show has developed a strong following and booked full houses at UCLA's 500-seat Freud Playhouse.

One individual who saw the play wrote on the group's Web site: "Don't judge until you see it. ... It is so positive but still doesn't ignore how much pain there can be in this world when you are different (or feel different). ... It is such a relief to be able to laugh that hard about something as stressful as racism. It makes me think that we actually will get over it all someday."

The trio has also performed the play for high school students and in the residence halls. Since then, RAs have held floor discussions to talk about the issues raised in the play. Being a catalyst for conversations on race and racism is precisely what the three students say they are trying to accomplish. Says Axibal, "If we want to dispel or eliminate a problem, we should at least be able to have a conversation about it, and it's got to start somewhere."

2005 The Regents of the University of California