When hearing performing arts and social justice put together in a major, one might wonder what that entails. At the University of San Francisco, students in the performing arts and social justice (PASJ) major use their abilities as artists and performers to celebrate diversity in culture and values. As ‘artist-activists,’ a title they have coined, they reflect on important issues of our times and aim to create a more just and humane society. Using musical pieces and dance as expression, PASJ provides its students with opportunities to express themselves through original songs, dances, monologues, and musical theater hand-picked for this very event.
Last Friday, PASJ hosted “Shortcuts”, a collection of performances by students. Residing in the Lone Mountain Studio Theater, the room was filled with spectators and friends, as well as newcomers like me. The night kicked off with an Ed Sheeran cover by performing arts majors Jack Sehres and Marysa Robinson, and was followed by dance pieces, acoustic covers and original songs alike.
This was sophomore Elvira Risbaeva’s first time attending a PASJ event. “I didn’t know what to expect, but it was honestly nice to experience such a cool, different side to USF,” she said. “I’d never gotten to see firsthand how talented our performing arts program was.”
The standout qualities about “Shortcuts” are the uncharacteristically diverse themes of the performances. Compared to another university held event of similar fashion, Late Nights at Crossroads, there was a different aspect of performance and emotion that is apparent in all the participants. With a staff and crew controlling lights, props, and directing viewers, “Shortcuts” is a more formal opportunity for students to showcase their work in a way that connects the arts to world issues.
Roxanne Duncan previewed her senior project at the event with an original piece featuring several dancers, reciting a monologue in tandem with Duncan’s own choreographed dance. She reveals themes of resistance and yielding to life, in a fevered, direct speech that concluded her performance.
PASJ’s “Shortcuts” was a fun-filled night, where students embodied social justice issues through art performances.