‘Intersect’ Brings Story of Race, Friendship and Diversity to Olin Stage

Created: April 12, 2016
Last Updated: February 7, 2020

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Photo credit: Lauryn Halahurich ’16

WASHINGTON, PA (April 12, 2016) – The Washington & Jefferson College (W&J) Communications Arts Department will close its theatre season with the premiere of an original play written by one of W&J’s own professors.

Intersect, written and directed by W&J Communication Arts Professor William Cameron, explores the lives of characters from diverse backgrounds who find themselves caught up in ongoing struggles to achieve, to get ahead, or to simply belong. The play runs April 14-16 at 7:30 p.m. in Olin Theatre, with a matinee on Saturday at 2 p.m. The play is not suitable for audience members younger than age 14.

Cameron found inspiration for his play on W&J’s campus.

“In preparation for writing Intersect, I interviewed seven W&J students, each a member of a distinct minority—African-American, Latino, Muslim, Hindu, physically disabled. I asked about their childhoods, their families, their education at W&J and elsewhere and encouraged them to tell me stories about ways in which they were both disadvantaged and empowered by their diverse backgrounds.”

Cameron’s goal was to create a theatre piece exploring the issue of “otherness” in contemporary society. To achieve his goal, he needed to ask hard questions of his students about their specific cultures.

“The students were remarkably forthcoming, sharing heartbreaking and, at times, hilarious personal stories. From these stories, I began to develop an idea for the play.”

While Cameron’s play includes subject matter that may be difficult to face, he hopes the audience will walk away with an understanding and an appreciation of those who are different from themselves.

Layla Lenhardt, who portrays Krystal in Intersect, feels Cameron’s characters provide the audience with a look into the psychological effect that bigotry and ignorance can have.

“People want to believe that colleges are safe places with educated and accepting people, but racism still runs rampant throughout institutions,” she said. “I’m hoping the audience will have their eyes opened to that.”

While writing his play, Cameron had to confront some of his own deep-seeded prejudices. In fact, one of the episodes of microaggression racism in the play comes directly from his own experience. He found it necessary to be as honest as possible with himself about the ways in which he could be biased.

“It became clearer to me the many ways in which our society is structured to benefit certain constituencies while disadvantaging others. And, sadly, I became more aware that all forms of prejudice remain prevalent in our society; racism, sexism, and all other forms of bigotry infiltrate our world in ways that are often difficult for us to see,” he said.

Those involved in Intersect have described it as high-intensity with an emotional ending. Cameron acknowledges that he imagines a group of students at a small, liberal arts school not unlike W&J.

“Students of diverse backgrounds will come into conflict with one another and are forced to face their often biased perceptions of others and their honest perceptions of themselves,” he said. “These are the issues I’m trying to address in the play.”

Communication Arts Department productions are free and open to the public. Olin Fine Arts Center and the Box Office are located at 285 East Wheeling Street in Washington, Pa. 15301, and can be reached at 724-223-6546.

About Washington & Jefferson College

Washington & Jefferson College, located in Washington, Pa., is a selective liberal arts college founded in 1781. Committed to providing each of its students with the highest-quality undergraduate education available, W&J offers a traditional arts and sciences curriculum emphasizing interdisciplinary study and independent study work. For more information about W&J, visit www.washjeff.edu, or call 888-W-AND-JAY.

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