YPSILANTI – What is the first thing that comes to your mind when thinking about suicide? Death? Prejudices? These topics are so controversial in our society, and the response of many is to simply remain silent.
But in CloseUp, a student theatre program at Eastern Michigan University, members raise, explore and give voice to many challenging topics such as being black or homosexual.
Members craft such ideas into a show and perform it on stage. The members of CloseUp say they go through an amazing growing experience, in which they learn a lot about the world we live in and, most importantly, about themselves. Members, alumni and fans of the group gathered this fall to recall such powerful experiences and articulate what the troupe meant to them.
"I was not out of the closet when I got into CloseUP and had no idea really how inappropriate it was for a white man to say the N-word," said Josh Smith, a CloseUp member who was unsuccessful in his first audition for CloseUp but was accepted on his second try.
"I became closer to a group of strangers than my own blood family. CloseUp was the first group of people I came out to, I was internally homophobic ... It made me comfortable to be myself and do my best to make my little part of the world as good as I could."
Such are the stories of self-discovery and expression that arise from present and past members of CloseUp. This is what brought members and alumni together this fall to celebrate 21 years of creation, friendship, change, passion and growth in an event entitled, "Coming Of Age."
The artists met at Ypsilanti's downtown Market Place to commemorate the moments they shared, eat good food, laugh and share their love and appreciation for the program and its goal to “Laugh, think, question and feel.”
This event's topic was presented by past and present CloseUp members, who divided themselves into three groups: a new-school, an ol'-school and a middle school. Individuals from each group shared moving testimonies of getting older, wiser and happier in realizing what life is all about.
When Jaz Wright was asked as a kid, "What do you want to be when you grow up?" the EMU alumnus and CloseUp ol' school member answered he wanted to be a comic book writer. Jazz said he struggled for years because his dream was never supported by his immediate family, who wanted him to pick a profession that would offer more money.
"When you grow up you just need to be yourself,” he said.
Kamani Goodwin, a member of the “middle school” group, said, "I've learned—and am still learning—more about myself being in and around CloseUp than I have anyplace else. Somehow, a troupe I didn't even intend to be in changed my life."
Keith Burgess an “ol' school” member, said, “CloseUp opened my eyes to the concept of safe spaces. Until that point, I didn't know that things like race, religion, sexualit and abuse could be shared so openly and honestly without fear of shaming and retaliation."
About Eastern Michigan University
Founded in 1849, Eastern is the second oldest public university in Michigan. It currently serves more than 19,000 students pursuing undergraduate, graduate, specialist, doctoral and certificate degrees in the arts, sciences, and professions. In all, more than 300 majors, minors and concentrations are delivered through the University's Colleges of Arts and Sciences; Business; Education; Health and Human Services; Technology, and its graduate school. EMU is regularly recognized by national publications for its excellence, diversity, and commitment to applied education. For more information about Eastern Michigan University, visit the University's website.