Student director makes debut with “Pipeline”

Production explores effects of structural racism, promotes inclusiveness in theater with all-Black cast

Students for Cultural Inclusion in Theater (SCIT) is presenting “Pipeline,” a short student directed play, in the black box theater on March 17. This is Ruby Guzman ’25’s passion project and directorial debut. 

The play’s protagonist Omari, played by Jonathan Newsome ’23, is a Black boy who has had an altercation with a white teacher and as a result is facing an uncertain future. The play follows his subsequent struggle to figure out which path to take, where he belongs and his relationship with his mother, played by Sanaa Green ’23, as the two of them try to navigate a school system that is not structured for him to succeed.

Guzman, a co-leader for SCIT, was encouraged by the President Negasi Brown ’23 to direct a play in the theatre department’s student produced slot this Spring. 

When Guzman’s professor had given her a scene from Pipeline to perform in her acting 2 class, she felt an immediate connection to the work and recognized the power and importance of its narrative. 

“I was like, ‘Oh, my God, this is the first time I’ve read a play that has my voice in it. Like wow, I didn’t know I needed that,’” Guzman said.

Through this production, Guzman wants to empower Black students to get involved in theater. 

“The goal is just for Black students that are either in the play or outside of it to know this space is here for you, and we have a place where you can make art,” she said.

Guzman spoke about the lack of POC in theater, which has historically been a white, often exclusionary space. She described the experience of feeling intimidated and out-of-place. 

“The theater is a very white space,” Guzman said. “… It doesn’t feel like an accessible place to students of color … You walk into this all white space and it’s terrifying. It’s like, ‘I don’t have this fancy vocabulary that you have from taking lessons your whole life.’”

This is a barrier to inclusion, discouraging POC from getting involved. Because of this, Guzman said that inclusion has to be an active effort. Through her production, she aims to model how this effort is not only possible, but essential, to bring Black students into theater.

In addition to Green and Newsome, the cast will feature Kenzie Zubar-Williams ’25, TJ Muhammad ’26 and DJ Smith ’23. Guzman enthused about working with this group.

“Our rehearsals have been such a wonderful, collaborative experience. The cast jumped head-first into the project,” Guzman said.

In addition to empowering students of color, she wants to send a message to the greater community about the importance of Black voices and narratives in art.

“I want to say to the theater department … ‘look what you’re missing, look at all this talent that you are forgetting about,’”  Guzman said. “… We have closed ourselves off so much and made our space so exclusive that now it’s our job to go into the community … We need to go out and get people.” 

Brown, Guzman said, has been an essential support, providing resources and mentorship as she navigates her first time directing. Guzman is then able to pass on this support to the actors.

“You have Negasi who’s like, ‘Ruby let me create a space for you,’ and then it’s me like ‘okay, let me create a space for someone else,’” Guzman said.

“There’s just like, a lot of joy and excitement,” Guzman said. “And I think my main job as a director is to make everyone in the cast feel that they can do it.”

Guzman is excited to shed the spotlight on often-neglected voices. 

“This story means a lot to me and the cast so we are holding it tenderly and hope that the audience will too,” Guzman said.

Not only has she learned to direct, but she has also witnessed the power of community and theater.

“There’s just something about Black joy that brings so much to your space,” Guzman said.

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