HERE: Representation in Arts and Comedy Festival is the manifestation of senior Shea Stanley’s Honors thesis statement on representation in media. Stanley is the co-founder and president of UNC's comedy group I Just Said That for women and non-binary people. Beyond this group, Stanley wants to see the realm of performance and comedy grow to encompass diversity by means of race, gender and ability.
The comedy and arts festival will consist of movie screenings, performance writing workshops, a comedy show and other platforms for artists of all kinds to share their work and stories. The festival will be held Thursday through Sunday, and each part of the festival is set in its own location, which are mostly on campus and free of charge.
Stanley and Ellie Rodriguez, co-founder of I Just Said That, used to perform comedy with another UNC comedy group, False Profits, before directing their attention to comedy that is accessible for people other than cisgendered straight white men, according to Rodriguez
“Comedy has specifically targeted white men because white men naturally think they are funny even when they are not, so they have the confidence to go out and do it. Women and non-binary folk are plenty confident but may need an extra space, opportunity or push to try comedy by being willing to fail and get better at it. But usually they don’t fail at it because women are funnier than men,” Stanley said.
Stanley said she hopes that people will start to hear not just the comedic sets, but also stories of all kinds from others, because it's important to think about other groups the audience might not be a part of.
Creatives of Color, a performance group at UNC for people of color, will be participating in the HERE Festival with an art market and variety show. Kevyn Robinson, vice president of Creatives of Color, will be leading a workshop on representation in screenwriting on Feb 24.
“The purpose of the organization is to make sure that students of color know that there is a space on campus where they can participate in these activities and not feel as if they are shunned away,” Robinson said.
Robinson said that the high cost of film training is often especially burdensome for students of color. Creatives of Color aims to create an inclusive and accessible space for people to be involved with experience-based learning.
Robinson said she hopes this festival will foster a creative alliance between non-students of color and marginalized communities.
“Marginalized communities deal with lots of hard, even traumatic experiences, and comedy is a vehicle to process these social ills, community level grievances and interpersonal dramas,” Rodriguez said.
Rodriguez has performed and worked with Stanley throughout their time at UNC and said she admires her work ethic.
“Shea is bringing together a lot of groups to create a really bomb conglomerate of creative folks who all want to create something fantastic,” Rodriguez said.
Representation in the arts is a shared interest with Creatives of Color founder and President Noni Shemenski. She will be running the Out Loud show as part of Stanley’s festival.
“Growing up I never really saw others who looked like me on stage, in books or film or on TV,” Shemenski said. “It’s been an invested issue of mine to not have the next generation of kids feel that way.”
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