UVA Arts, University of Virginia

Vol 11 Winter 19 Library
UVA Alum and current faculty member Priyanka Shetty created #Charlottesville, a play about the events of August 11-12, 2017 constructed verbatim from interviews with close to a hundred Charlottesville residents, with this cast of students and community members. (Photo: Jen Laredo)
UVA Drama

#Charlottesville and The Elephant in the Room

The events of August 2017 in Charlottesville have been referenced in various forms of art over the past two years, including songs, films, visual art and now, on stage. Priyanka Shetty, who last spring received her MFA from UVA Drama, chose to build her work, #Charlottesville, on words taken verbatim from Charlottesville residents whom she interviewed about the events and about the context of those events in the city. Last April, the play received its premiere when a multi-ethnic and cross-generational ensemble of actors brought it to life at the John Gibson Theatre at Live Arts as part of a double feature that also included her one-woman show The Elephant in the Room. The plays were performed the next day at the Jefferson School African American Heritage Center. “I started this project because I really wanted to understand why the events of August 11th and 12th, 2017 panned out the way they did,” Shetty said. “Why did this happen in the first place? Why did this happen here? The residents of Charlottesville have been very supportive of my quest to find the answers. They have come forward to share their experiences despite the fact that the subject matter is painful and traumatic.” The Elephant in the Room, which made up the second half of the program, looks at the author's transition from her deeply-embedded roots in India to finding context and common ground in America. It had its world premiere last March in Columbus, Ohio kicking off a multi-city tour that also included Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut; Richmond, Virginia, and Washington, D.C. The plays are part of a three-play triptych that explore America using different lenses. The third is The Wall, which will be focused on immigration issues. These performances of #Charlottesville and The Elephant in the Room were supported by UVA Arts, the Vice Provost for the Arts, and the University of Virginia Department of Drama.

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