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