Actor, psychologist, and poet Michael Fowlin visited Loomis Chaffee on Tuesday as part of the week-long MLK celebration and, through his moving portrayal of a cast of characters, explored topics such as race, discrimination, violence, prevention, and personal identity at an all-school convocation. His performance drew a standing ovation from the students, faculty, and staff who filled the Olcott Center.
Mr. Fowlin drew his performance characters — a 6-year-old boy with attention deficit disorder; a gay, black football player; a Jewish boy; a high school girl battling anxiety and an eating disorder; a freshman at Brown University whose brother has autism, whose parents are deaf, and who was raised by his grandfather; and a man with cerebral palsy — from many of his own experiences. He explained that he suffered from ADD as a child, never fit in academically, felt severe pressure from his father, was molested by an older boy in his neighborhood, played running back in football not for sport but because he liked being hit, and has battled depression for 25 years.
In this transformative program, Mr. Fowlin forced the audience to hold a mirror to themselves as he traveled through each character and emphasized the title of his program, “You Don’t Know Me Until You Know Me.”
“We aren’t conscious of the things that we do automatically — we broad-stroke people and have an idea of summing them up into categories. Until we are able to admit that we are part of the problem, it’s difficult to become part of the solution,” Mr. Fowlin stated. “I think that Dr. King wasn’t speaking of an equality for certain people, but equality in general, and until we are all equal, we are all oppressed.”
Mr. Fowlin recited the Langston Hughes poem “Still Here” as the opening and closing of his performance, encouraging everyone to stop ignoring pain but to look at their pain, feel it, and transform it into something different than pain itself.
Been scared and battered.
My hopes the wind done scattered.
Snow has friz me,
Sun has baked me,
Looks like between 'em they done
Tried to make me
Stop laughin', stop lovin', stop livin'--
But I don't care,
I'm still here.