If art really does imitate life, then a peek into the interracial dynamics of high school life in Madison can be found every morning inside Room 272 at West High School. There, the students, hand-picked because of their ethnicity, respond to bullying, gang-related activities, body awareness issues and racial stereotyping by creating skits that mimic common situations students experience in school.
Lounging on pillows and passing around a bag of suckers at 9 a.m., the students, from varying backgrounds including Hmong, Chinese, African-American, Albanian and Laotian, are at ease with one another. This is not a dynamic reflected by every student in every school.
Sometimes an inspiration for a skit can be found right outside the classroom door, as junior Louisa Kornblatt found out on a recent morning when a student yelled, “Watch where your tall white ass is going, bitch,” during a break between classes. Although Kornblatt returned to the classroom with a flushed face, asking if anyone else had heard the comment, most of the students reacted to it nonchalantly.
“That’s just part of a day,” said senior John Reynolds, one of the students in the Multico theater group, which performs in schools all over the district. “You learn to ignore it. West is a culturally diverse place, and you’ll hear those kinds of statements in the hallways. You just need to learn to focus on the good, not the bad.”