Blue lights lit up the backdrop of Severance Hall in Cleveland as the performers took the stage on Monday, May 2.
The audience sat in three collective rows – either on the floor or in the two sections of the balcony above – as they waited patiently for the show to begin.
From 7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m., the concert hall hosted a plethora of performances, including various Kent State singers, dancers and poetry performers.
After the first two performances of the evening, titled “With a Heart and a Voice” and “A Mother of Revolution!”, Kent State President Todd Diacon took the stage and stood on the podium.
“Poetry and music help us heal, and they certainly help us reflect and learn,” Diacon said.
He wore a gray suit paired with a purple and white striped tie, and as he stood on stage, Diacon told the story of Glenn Frank, a college professor who witnessed the historic shooting on the 4 May 1970.
In a short but powerful speech, Diacon praised Frank, who
became the university’s Peace Marshall after helping rescue students the day of the attack.
“So the [Frank] stands in the photo, frozen in time, glasses and a trendy haircut, wearing a suit and tie,” Diacon said. “A US Marine Corp veteran, scout leader, father, and one of Kent State’s most popular teachers.”
Diacon ended his speech the same way he started it: with passion and sadness looking back at the past.
“Sunlight. Trees, sidewalk. Bodies. The sound of air leaking from car tires punctured by gargoyles,” he said. “Tears. Shouts. Hollow expressions. Looks of indignation and defiance. Fear.”
After Diacon’s five-minute speech, there were performances by the Kent State Drumming Ensemble, a jazz band, an opera house, a Thai ensemble, student dancers and an African ensemble.
During the orchestra’s performance, guest speaker Orlando Watson read the lyrics to Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream,” while the musicians played in the background.
Watson was born in the Cleveland area, and he is also a published poet.
After her performance, the audience rose from their blue upholstered seats, applauding and giving a standing ovation.
Later in the show, student dancers performed while pianist Alena Miskinis played the side accompaniment.
The play, titled Winnisboro Cotton Mill Blues, was created to raise awareness of unfair labor practice issues in other countries.
Moreover, it was intended to shed light on the overconsumption of goods by American individuals.
A PowerPoint slide appeared above the stage during the dance, and it read, in part, that choreographer Jeffrey Richard “reminds us of the true costs of obsessive consumerism.”
The intermission was around 8:30 p.m. and Kent State shooting survivor Roseann “Chic” Canfora spoke and read a piece of poetry titled “[the wind/ has never cared]by Darren Demaree.
“When I read ‘[the wind/ has never cared]… ‘I wondered how someone so young could express so well the thoughts and emotions of those of us who, at the age of 52, witnessed and survived 13 seconds of violence army on that fateful day, May 4, 1970,” Canfora said.
The audience applauded accordingly after Canfora’s speech and reading, and the evening ended with a concerto, accompanied by choral and orchestral performances.
Each performance – while unique in its own way – has stood the test of time as a way to commemorate Kent State’s May 4 tragedies.
Morgan McGrath is a senior journalist. Contact her at [email protected]