Robert Gutierrez-Perez, assistant professor for the Department of Communication Studies in the College of Liberal Arts, is directing his communication research methods students’ oral history performance on “otherness.” The University of Nevada, Reno students will perform and host a free event in Reno at 7:30 p.m., Monday, Dec. 10, at The Holland Project. They will be collecting donations for The Sylvia Rivera Center for Social Justice, which is a local non-profit that provides advocacy, education, as well as legal and mental health services to marginalized and oppressed communities in northern Nevada.
“It’s so exciting for my students because they’re not just writing a paper for a very exclusive amount of people to see, but instead their performance is very inclusive and allows them to have their work transform the community,” Gutierrez-Perez said. “For instance, if we could fill the capacity of the venue, which is 200 people, then we could help foster the Sylvia Rivera Center’s dream of offering sliding scale mental health services by next semester.”
The performance is the presentation of the research of Gutierrez-Perez’ students and will satisfy core objective 12 of the University’s silver core curriculum, which demonstrates an understanding of ethical principles or the application of specialized knowledge.
The 32 students of Gutierrez-Perez began by researching peer-reviewed journals to understand “otherness,” and then took to the community to cultivate their own bodies of research, which aim to define what it means to be “other” in Reno. They interviewed locals who self-identified as an “other” or who claimed to have experienced “otherness.” The students also analyzed local fiction, prose and poetry, and interpreted non-fiction work such as historical accounts, government archives and newspapers. Their findings weave together through theme, location and identity into a performance approximately an hour long.
“Their project satisfies the application of ethics in research, I mean, you cannot tell somebody’s story in such a way without having to grapple with some of the realities of what it means to tell someone’s story for them,” Gutierrez-Perez said. “The students are doing really great community work, fundraising and making a difference here in Reno with their research.”
The art of Guillermo Gómez-Peña, a Chicano performance artist and activist, and Tim Miller, a performance artist and writer, inspired the performance. The group will utilize the stage available, different installations and participation from the audience to evoke a deep feeling of the definition of “otherness.”
“Some students have space to adlib so they can question, probe and play with the audience, not to the point where the audience becomes a part of the scene, but rather encouraging the audience to understand that they’ve always already been part of the scene,” Gutierrez-Perez said. ”I hope that this approach gives the audience members more empathy and responsibility for their community, as well as help them realize that while they are engaging in the community, they are also giving back to the community with time and money.”
The performance will answer the question of what otherness is like in Reno. Guttierrez-Perez says the performance will be very special because the layering of stories, research and the poetic prose will leave attendees with a deep understanding of what it means to be an “other.”
“It was important to me to make this work transformative, and work we’d want to put our names on,” Guttierez-Perez said. “This is the first semester I’m taking this project outside of the classroom; I’ve seen the hard, creative work from students in the college, and I’m ready to put this out into the community. I’m really excited about the work my students have done, and I’m so proud of my students for doing something that matters, I hope this event will inspire beyond the space.
Tickets for (An)Other Reno Perspective are free, with a $5 suggested donation at the door. The Holland Project is located on 140 Vesta St., Reno. Doors open at 7 p.m. and the performance begins at 7:30 p.m.