Financial Slavery grew out of ongoing discussions with the young artists in our community who are struggling with college loans and their “American Dream”. They worked hard through high school to get good grades, high SAT scores and acceptance into the college of their dreams, only to find that the cost of the higher education was drowning them. Although they received some financial aid through scholarships and aid, many were forced to accept student loans to continue pursuing the American Dream. With interest rates hovering around 5-8% and the requirement to start paying them off as soon as you are out of college and working, the mountain of debt young Americans are facing is huge. College costs are sitting between $30,000 - $70,000 a year. After four years of student loans, young Americans are leaving college hundred of thousands of dollars in debt (the national average is $30,000 of debt). And the student loan rate is rising at a cost of $3,000 per second.
Financial Slavery is a piece examining the different sides of the issue. The costs of education, from hiring qualified professors to text books. The loan system itself and what Congress’ role is in the interest rates. To humanizing the story by looking at different young people in college who are paying these tuition rates. Who pays for the American Dream? Mom and Dad? Student Loans? Scholarships? All sides of the story will be explored through theatre, spoken word, dance and music. The author is a recent college graduate and a member of SOS for over seven years. Alyea Pierce was a finalist in the New York Poetry Slam Competition at Madison Square Garden. A gifted artist and published poet, she has been working throughout the tri-state area helping others find their voice and gain their “Write to Speak”.
We want to inspire, change and create discourse. It is our mission.We are still seeking funding to bring the piece to university venues around the tri-State area. SOS’ mission has always included bringing the art to communities who need it but can’t necessarily pay for it.
Thank you so much for considering supporting our mission. Financial Slavery is a piece that will impact everyone in this country, as education of our young people is an issue that is impacting both our present and our future. Thank you for investing in it!
Just finished a successful run in NYC FRINGE FESTIVAL
in New York City!
Click HERE for the review!
"WOW! Can we let the nation see this?"
"This production is incredibly powerful and timely."
"As a college graduate, with a masters, still paying loans 13 years later, this performance was spot on!"
"I really liked the mixing of stage and camera work, using news reporters, etc."
"This was beautifully orchestrated...wonderful. The cast was amazing!"
BOTTOM LINE: The steadfast heartbeat of Financial Slavery is perhaps the only force stronger than the capitalist greed driving the student debt business.
Performed by a dozen talented college-aged performers, the true accounts of Americans burdened by student debt are evocatively expressed with a tapestry of spoken word, dance, and compelling video images. Millennials have a bad rep for being lazy, whiny, entitled, and over-complaining about their student loans when “no one forced them to take the loans out in the first place.” Sound familiar? In response, Alyea Pierce’s impressive script is shutting down those accusations with a tight fist, but is yet gentle enough to invite the audience into the conversation.
Pierce’s characters are anything but slothful and passive. They are energetic, ambitious, humble, and hard-working—modeling the majority of 20 and 30-somethings out there today, who often juggle 3-4 jobs to keep up with their student loan payments. I especially appreciated how the characters represent a diverse population of college students: there’s Deric (Frederick Philp), who is harassed by Sallie Mae after dropping out due to financial strain; Sandra (Ashley Krushinski), a committed young woman following her dreams of being a video game designer despite her parents’ expectations; and Emelia (Allison Mitchell), an immigrant who is struggling to transfer her community college credits and continue her education at an affordable cost. Their unique stories are illuminated by interspersed dances, devised ensemble work, and poetry—notably Pierce’s metaphor of the 21st-century slave ship. Her passionate delivery and chilling lyrics— “those aren’t cotton-pickin’ fields, now they’re dollar-pickin’ fields”—make a bold statement comparing plantation slaves to indebted college students—“the more loans we take, the more money he (the slave master) makes.”
Borrowing traditional techniques from the Theatre of the Oppressed, there’s an interesting blend of personal narrative, media representation, and statistics that come together to create a story that resonates long after leaving the theater. The antagonistic Student Master and Financial Adviser (Akash Jilla) are both live-streamed on a projection, causing them to appear phony and manipulative—which is often the case in real life. Through clown-like physicality and vocal choices, Jilla reveals that both characters are sleazy salesmen preying on the vulnerability and ambitions of America’s young people. This creative device firmly empowers the voices of the students on stage as their honesty and innocence stand in stark contrast.
The origin of social change is conversation and the organization of communities—reminding each other that we are not alone. This practice of coming together is precisely what this remarkable production accomplishes. It is informative, relatable, and digestible. Whether you are personally affected by the crushing weight of student debt or not, you can’t help but leave the theater asking yourself: if knowledge is power and education is a human right, then why does our country treat it more like a debt sentence? What is our education worth and are we really the land of the free?
(Financial Slavery: The College Debt Sentence plays at VENUE #2: Flamboyan Theater at the Clemente, 107 Suffolk Street, through August 27, 2016. The running time is 1 hour 45 minutes. Performances are Sun 8/21 at 6; Tue 8/23 at 9:45; Wed 8/24 at 7:15; Fri 8/26 at 2; and Sat 8/27 at 9:45. There is no late seating at FringeNYC. Tickets are $18 and are available at fringenyc.org. For more information visit strengthoutofshadows.org.)
Financial Slavery: The College Debt Sentence is by Alyea Pierce. Directed by Jennifer Little. Choreography by Allie Harris and Brandi Pinnix. Co-direction and Video Direction by Michael Pinnix. Original Music is by Osaze Akejerah. Workshop Design is by Irene Kapustina. Lighting Design is by John Latona.
The cast is Alyea Pierce, Akash Jilla, Rafael Lozada, Frederick Philp, Ashley Krushinski, Allie Harris, Allison Mitchell, Toni Kwadzogah, Brandi Pinnix, Charles Jones III, Osie Ohiwerei, Imani Cole, Taliah Gresham (Swing), and Wesley Gonzalez (Swing).
by Sydney Arndt on 8.24.16 Theatre is Easy