One of Jason Bruffy’s core beliefs is “representation matters.” It’s also why he has made it his mission to bring diverse voices to Montgomery College’s Cultural Arts Center since he started as arts center manager earlier this year.
“The arts and entertainment sector has been as guilty as any sector of historic and systematic misrepresentation,” Bruffy says. “When we first get introduced to actual diversity onstage it’s mostly through stereotypes, through a very single-focused lens.”
From a young comedian on The Daily Show with Trevor Noah, to a hip-hop play about the experience of being undocumented, the voices Bruffy has brought to the stage represent Montgomery College students.
Under his managing philosophy, the Cultural Arts Center should be a “national model” of community college cultural and performing arts centers, creating radically inclusive communities, and empowering MC students to enrich their community.
“It must be an active, intentional, and ongoing effort to correct the balance for the future. I think we are starting to wake up, but I don’t think it’s changed enough, and I want to be vocal about it, at least from the platform that we have here,” he says. “Our community at MC is very diverse in many different ways, and I think what we present on our stage should represent that.”
That diversity has come in the form of comedy and political satire, such as the stand-up events with Jaboukie-Young White, correspondent of The Daily Show with Trevor Noah, back in the spring, and the upcoming show with comedian Irene Tu. Both performers are queer and millennial.
Our community at MC is very diverse in many different ways, and I think what we present on our stage should represent that
“They are as much political satirists as they are comedians,” Bruffy says. “They use the current atmosphere to launch their comedy, but they also say things that are really true to them—and to a lot of us—in terms of how we are thinking and how are feeling.”
Another performer, Alex Alpharoah, brought his powerful story to an MC audience during an emotional one-man hip-hop theater performance titled, WET: A DACAmented Journey, in September. It examines the mental, physical, and psychological hardships of being undocumented. The performance takes the audience on his journey to the United States from Guatemala as a baby while highlighting the fears and uncertainty that many MC students confront each day: living with a DACA status in this volatile political climate.
As center manager, Bruffy’s intention is to sew educational components into these performances. Both Alpharoah, and musician Bhi Bhiman, who will take the stage in November, offer workshops for students ahead of their performances.
“It’s less a lecture series and more about helping students find their voices and understand that they don’t have to be famous to find creative pursuits,” Bruffy says. “Everyone has a story to tell.”
Radical inclusion to Bruffy also means creating access points for students to different art forms and performing arts, as well as making it financially accessible. Tickets are only $5 for students.
His ultimate hope is for MC students to see themselves represented on the stage. “Our world is plural, and its intersectionality is beautiful,” he says “We have all these cross cultures, and all types of people coming together. It defines our differences and we are stronger because of them.”
Banner photo: Alex Alpharoah performing WET: A DACAmented Journey at the Cultural Arts Center in September