Herrera’s piece, ‘I Was the Voice of Democracy,’ is an autobiographical account of his experience winning the national Voice of Democracy speech contest as a teenager.
Through the piece, which he has performed across the country, Herrera said he hopes audiences will learn to look at their past selves more kindly.
“All of us have been different people,” he said. “And we sometimes judge our old selves in unhelpful ways.”
Herrera said he had been thinking about writing the play for 20 years, and had experimented with telling it in a couple of different ways.
“When I first wrote it, I didn’t know it was funny,” Herrera said. “[The audience] has trained me in what works and what doesn’t.”
Lerner said connecting with the audience was also important to her piece, ‘No One Hurts You More Than S/Mother,’ co-written with Monifa Harris and composed by Kristina Warren.
She said she hopes her play, by involving a woman and man’s body transforming through the performance process, will open up conversations among viewers about their own self-understanding.
“These are issues that people in the humanities are afraid to deal with,” Lerner said.
‘Sketches of a Man’ is an adaption of Ralph Ellison’s ‘Invisible Man’ that explores what it is like to live in a world where you do not exist. It was adapted and performed by Powell, who recently appeared in PlayMakers’ ‘The Parchman Hour.’
Peterson’s show, ‘F to M to Octopus,’ was inspired by his experiences with hormonal transition from female to male, and how that opened him up to communication with other species, he said.
“I would like us to reimagine the way we imagine gender,” Peterson said. “This was an opportunity to make fun of myself, femininity and masculinity.”
Megel, who directed ‘F to M to Octopus,’ said that the piece will take the audience to places they have never been.
“[The play] is working from a central place in Sam’s heart,” Megel said. “It’s a phenomenal thing to put onstage.”
Even though each show in the festival has a unique theme, Peterson said there is an important bond among them.
“We’re doing our own passions, like race or gender,” he said. “[But] we’re talking about this singular experience of being human and wanting our stories to be heard.”
Peterson said conceiving the show was an incredible collaboration process.
“My performance couldn’t have been produced without the support of the UNC community,” he said.
“I’m incredibly lucky to be in a place where people are interested in this.”
See the plays Feb. 3 through the 13 in Swain Hall Studio 6. Visit the Communications Department website more information.