Amazing Grace explores issues of race and
friendship on April 10
KINGSTON, R.I.-March 26, 1999 -- A two-woman show, Amazing Grace: Stories
of Personal Transformation from Slavery to the Present Day, will be performed
at the University of Rhode Island Multicultural Center on April 10 at 7
p.m. The performance is free and open to the public.
Amazing Grace addresses the historical and human context of race and
racism in America. It is produced and performed by Sharon Dixon Peay and
Mary K. Makoski. URI's Higher Calling Multicultural Gospel Choir, directed
by Ivory Roberts Clarke, is also participating.
Using poetry, sacred writings, stories, journal entries, and characterizations,
Dixon Peay and Makoski have created a two-part presentation that often evokes
strong emotions in the audience. In the first half, Dixon Peay and Makoski
provide an historical context for the current status of race relations and
demonstrate how the current situation evolved. Following an intermission,
the two women share stories of transformation of prominent and less-well-known
individuals who made dramatic changes in their own and others' lives.
Amazing Grace has been performed for the past four years throughout the
U.S. and Canada, and was developed as a means of working towards the elimination
of prejudice and racism. "The arts are a powerful tool for addressing
issues of social conscience," says Makoski, who has directed or written
more than 50 dramatic productions. She lives in West Suffield, Connecticut,
and has a master's degree in Dramatic Art from Case Western Reserve University.
Since high school, Dixon Peay has been involved with a variety of performances,
especially musicals and dramas that showcase cultural diversity. She is
a co-founder of the Connecticut Baha'i Chorale and a member of the Northeast
Regional Baha'i Gospel Choir. She lives in Windsor, Conn., and earned a
bachelor of arts degree in Economics from Yale University, and a master
of public administration degree from the University of Hartford.
"We hope that people will leave the performance awakened and opened
to the possibility of change in their own lives," Dixon Peay says.
"We hope that they feel empowered to do something concrete, because
real change and race unity will occur in the kitchens and living rooms of
ordinary people, not in the halls of justice."
Past audience members have remarked that one of the most significant
aspects of Amazing Grace is that Dixon Peay, who is African-American, and
Makoski, who is Caucasian, are friends-and the audience can sense this from
their performance on stage.
"Believing in race unity is like reading a chapter in a science
book, while making a friend is the lab experiment," Dixon Peay says.
"Friendship is the laboratory where all the book learning and wishes
and hopes and mistakes and cultural biases are played out. Friendship is
the only true place where prejudice can disappear."
Although the performers both regard racism as the most challenging issue
facing America today, the message of Amazing Grace is one of hope. Although
racism is often regarded as a problem that cannot be solved, audiences have
left performances of Amazing Grace feeling optimistic that true unity, within
diversity, is possible and that everyone can help make it happen.
Amazing Grace is sponsored by the URI Multicultural Center, the Rhode
Island Baha'i Race Unity Committee, the South County Coalition Against Racism,
and the South County Interfaith Council.
For Further Information: Ann MacDonald, 874-2116