Raritan Valley Community College’s Visual and Performing Arts Department will present "And Justice for All," an evening of art and conversation focused on social justice and equality on March 30 in the Edward Nash Theatre at the Branchburg campus.
The program will feature professional music, theater and dance works by RVCC faculty and guest artists that highlight issues of social justice and equality. A lobby display will present similarly themed works of visual art and literature by RVCC professors and students.
The multi-faceted production is being produced by Professor Loretta Fois, director of RVCC’s Dance program. The event will benefit New Jersey Institute for Social Justice, which aims "at toppling load-bearing walls of structural inequality to create just, vibrant, and healthy urban communities.”
Fois said, "I believe art is a powerful tool for transformation of society and individuals. This concert is a wonderful occasion for creativity, collaboration and communication amidst a world that seems greatly divided. I strongly believe art can bridge divides that separate because it allows us an opportunity to try to understand others while we seek to be understood. As an artist, I ask myself, 'What can I do to offer a perspective that makes us think and perhaps even act in a more just and compassionate way?' It is my hope this concert serves as an accessible tool for communication, helping raise awareness about social issues and affecting positive change."
Stephanie Nerbak will open the program with "Caught in the Loop," a celebration of the value of art and the artist. Through movement, projection and an abundance of fabric, the piece explores historical connectivity, linking present to past at the intersection of art and politics. Nerbak is artistic director of Nroot Danceart, a contemporary and experimental company that fosters holistic creativity. In 2017, she was a New Jersey State Council of the Arts fellow and a recipient of the Jersey New Moves Emerging Choreographer Fellowship from New Jersey Performing Arts Center in Newark.
"Dismantling the Racism Machine," a collaborative performance between the Meta Theatre Co. and RVCC English Professor Karen Gaffney, author of "Dismantling the Racism Machine: A Manual and Toolbox," is based on concepts from Gaffney’s book. Meta Theatre is a New Jersey-based social justice company composed of women inside and outside prison walls.
In "With only the Clothes on Our Backs," Fois will explore anti-immigration rhetoric and policies in the United States throughout history, juxtaposing it with the work of Hildegard von Bingen, a medieval composer whose work focused on mercy and acceptance. She plays an uber-American speaker at a national convention who slowly unravels as the inevitability of immigration comes to the forefront and believes the country’s “Americanism” is at risk. A 2017 and 2011 State Council of the Arts fellow, Fois is vice president of Dance NJ and artistic director of The Espressione Corporea Project.
Composer John Sichel, an RVCC music professor, will look at issues of economic and environmental justice in “Earth Song,” set to a Ralph Waldo Emerson poem, and "Ubi Sunt Qui Ante Nos Fuerunt," which deals with the arrogance of aristocrats. Sichel is a 2014 recipient of a State Council on the Arts fellowship. Recent recordings include "Piano Sonatas and The Chamber Music of John Sichel." He will be accompanied by award-winning musical theater star Joy Hermalyn.
Kyle Marshall, a 2018 Bessie recipient and State Council of the Arts fellow, will present "King," a dance set to Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” speech. The piece was commissioned by Harlem Stage to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the civil right leader's assassination. Marshall is a performer with Trisha Brown Dance Co.
Universal Rebel, a hip hop-reggae collective whose mission focuses on “progressing humanity through the arts,” will conclude the program with the original song, “Justice.” The septet features Brandyn Heppard, the event’s emcee and an RVCC philosophy professor.