As part of Guillermo Gomez-Peña’s final performance art piece we were asked to act as though we were dead while “paparazzi” uploaded pictures of us to Facebook and other social media sites. He used this to represent a citizenry uninterested in what was going on around them.

There are moments when I look back with amazement at the many performances and lectures I have been to in my short time at Conn. Recently, I saw three powerful performances on campus all in one week: on Monday the Ammerman Center sponsored a visit by famed performance artist Guillermo Gomez-Peña. On Friday, I saw the theater department’s production of Mark Blitzstein’s “The Cradle Will Rock,” and on Saturday I went to the Women’s Empowerment Initiative performance of their 2017 show “She is a Tempest.” These three performances dealt with difficult themes, such as dividedness, inequality and oppression, and inspiring ones, such as effecting change, empowerment and living life to the fullest.

Starting my week with Gomez-Peña’s performance was exciting given how well-known he is. A week before, the Ammerman Center held a session about his work where I learned how the San Francisco-based Chicano artist also known as El Mad Mex plays with borders, the most obvious being the U.S.-Mexico one. I was warned that Gomez-Peña would intentionally do things that would make me uncomfortable, and one moment where I certainly experienced discomfort was when he delivered a highly misogynistic fantasy-rant about a controversial figure in U.S. politics that made clear he had no limits on what he was willing to say.

Blitzstein’s “The Cradle Will Rock” tells the story of how the people of Steeltown, USA, gradually allow the greedy businessman Mr. Mister to take control of their town and align its institutions toward his interest in making maximum profits. It made me think about issues of inequality in this country, and challenged me to speak out and not let others’ views speak for mine.

“She is a Tempest,” the third annual staging by the Women’s Empowerment Initiative of student-written monologues, focused on issues faced by women and nonconforming individuals, and confronted me with its raw honesty. One in four monologues in the show were about sexual assault, reflecting the national average of women who experience it, which reminded me that I can’t see a lot of the pain that’s hidden in the world. Just before the show started, I was surprised to learn that one of my close friends had written one of the monologues. While I wondered which one it was, watching the show, listening to voices I’d never heard in public before, made me think that any one of the monologues could have been hers. There were just so many monologues about good and bad things, sadness and happiness.

Whether I laugh or cry, I always love attending performances and lectures at Conn. At Harkness Chapel for a recital, Unity House for a Residential Education Fellow event, or really anywhere on campus, I always learn something new about people at this College who I think I know so well.

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