NWC representing onstage. Courtesy of Carol Peterson

N*gger Wetb*ck Ch*nk: The Other Wh*te Meat

By: Karen K. Sakai

"N*W*C" Gets up against the wall for this years show. courtesy of speaktheaterarts.com

A Caucasian female approached the UCLA Central tickets office and timidly asked, "May I have a ticket for 'the show' on Friday?" "The show? What show?" asked the woman behind the counter confused. But the girl still couldn't utter the words, and was forced to point to the title displayed on a nearby poster. "The play" she was referring to was "N*gger Wetb*ck Ch*nk" a comedy created by and starring three UCLA students, Allan Axibal, Rafael Agustin and Miles Gregley.

UCLA graduate student of theater, Rafael Agustin first began writing his own autobiographical play, and later joined forces with friends he made while on the Mt. Sac Community College Speech and Debate Team, Axibal and Gregley, as well as former speech coaches, Steven T. Seagle and Liesel Reinhart to create this award winning show. The creators say "The show traces the origins and evolution of three derogatory terms that shaped our lives and took the place of a genuine understanding of our distinct cultures. In doing this show we hope to reclaim the power of these words for ourselves and for our audiences."

Reactions differed among the UCLA students who saw "N*gger Ch*nk Wetb*ck" written on promo boards all over campus. Some were immediately shocked while others seemed confused at first, unsure of what the signs were even about.

Quick! The N*W*C lists some commonly made stereotypes about their cultures. Courtesy of Carol Peterson

"N*W*C" actor, Allan Axibal, expressed his disheartenment, "the worst feedback we've gotten from the title of the show has been people tearing up our signs and writing "Racist F*ck!!!" all over them, or when organizations don't want to support us because they're afraid of our title and aren't interested in getting to know more about the actual show."

On one of their largest signs displayed visibly on a mid-campus sidewalk, someone wrote "This makes me mad," and underneath "N*W*C" scribbled, "Yeah, it makes us mad too!"

"People may be agitated by the words we use in the title of the show, but the truth is that we are just as aggravated because we've lived with these words all our lives. They are very important words that bring up some very important issues" says Axibal.

Allan Axibal tells his side of the story. Courtesy of Carol Peterson

Despite the hateful graffiti and the removal of over 300 "N*gger Wetb*ck Ch*nk" flyers posted in on-campus dining halls, NWC filled a 586-seat theater last Saturday, November 15th. A line of over 100 UCLA students stood outside in the rain for rush seating given out minutes before the show.

When the house lights dimmed, the asterisks were removed, and great comedy followed. The boys came out in stereotypical garb and mixed sketch comedy with dramatic monologues as they shared their dreams and their problems of being in a place that recognized them as a minority. Perhaps one of the audience's favorites was the "list game" sketch, where "N*W*C" performed a roll-call of commonly made stereotypes of their culture, including a joke about how they memorized the play. "Wrote this play on a laptop," said Axibal. "Wrote this play on a notepad," told Agustin. "Learned this play phonetically," chimed in Gregley.

In the midst of the laughter, when "N*W*C" posed serious questions to the audience, it seemed to invoke a deeper, self-reflection. What were we laughing about? Did laughing at those jokes mean we were racist? Is racism still a problem?

While some find it offensive and unacceptable to use those three words in any circumstance, perhaps those people are the ones continuing the separation of the human race. "N*W*C" uses those words to make a demonstration of using the comedy, the similarities, the hardships, the oppression and the pain, to join together three very different characters on stage, and in retrospect, the laughter that the audience has shared was uniting us in the understanding of what "racism" has become.

The actors of "N*W*C" have dreams of reaching more people with the show whether it be through college tours, or television and film. However, despite the huge success of the show, Axibal remains humble, "I'm so thankful to everyone who came to see us and to everyone who waited in those ridiculous lines outside and in the cold. Without their support, we couldn't get anywhere. We always appreciate it immensely."

When asking Axibal what he hoped the audience took away from the show, he remarked, "I hope that audiences walk away with a greater love and respect for themselves and for others. The show isn't about pointing fingers or casting blame on anyone, it's about setting the angst and anger aside and working together to solve problems and create a better situation for ourselves."

For more information on "N*W*C" visit speaktheatrearts.com.

For "N*W*C" merchandise visit cafeshops.com/nwcshop.

November 21, 2003



© APMN, Tom Plate.