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Northeastern Students Kaitlyn Fiery (left) and Shira Weiss (right).

Three Northeastern students, Kaitlyn Fiery, Shira Weiss, and Meryl Prendergast, all studying in the Department of Theatre, were recently awarded university PEAK Summit Awards.

Kaitlyn and Shira were recognized for their project with the working title Holding A Mirror Up to Nature. Through the creation and presentation of an ethnographic dramatic narrative, the project aims to prompt reflection and processing of college students’ experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The content will focus on the challenges central to the past six months: unemployment, hazardous work conditions, transitioning to online learning, being on co-op as a frontline medical worker, protesting for Black Lives Matter, getting sick, and everything in between.

To gather these reflections, Kaitlyn, who is enrolled in the Bachelor of Arts (BA) in Theatre and the Master of Science (MS) in Media Advocacy programs; and Shira, who is earning her Bachelor of Arts (BA) in Theatre with a minor in Theatre, Performance, and Social Change, plan to conduct interviews and story circles with their Northeastern peers. With participants’ consent, they will structure an approximately 30-minute dramatic narrative that pulls from these experiences that will then be performed digitally with a team of actors. Kaitlyn and Shira hope to make the project collaborative and interactive, facilitating breakout discussions, which may occur during the performance, affinity groups, and healing spaces.

The project – theatre for and by college students – works to respond to the current moment while also helping a diverse body of students see that they do belong in theatre. In traditional theatre spaces, the experiences of college students are often excluded from the stage, which means this audience often does not see representation of their race, age, gender, and/or ability. Holding A Mirror Up to Nature (a title that will likely change as the project evolves) helps to give a diverse group of students their voices, while sharing and processing their emotions, finding resilience in one another other, and connecting with their peers. We look forward to seeing how the project unfolds.

Meryl Prendergast, earning a Bachelor of Arts (BA) in Theatre, was recognized for her project with the working title Chaos Creators: A Portrait of Youth Environmental Advocates Sparking Change.

Fashion has been utilized as a form of protest throughout time, giving mass movements greater visibility and cultural presence, and while many high fashion brands make political statements during shows, there is no market accessible to America’s youth for politically influenced clothing. For her project, Meryl will travel across the country interviewing youth activists, collecting their stories. Along the way, she will photograph her interviewees and America’s diverse landscape, showcasing both the beauty of the country and the ways in which mankind has devastated it. Using insights from her interviews and narrative photography, she will design a socially driven clothing line catered towards youth, empowering them to voice the climate change movement without saying a word.

Meryl’s faculty mentor for the project is Frances Nelson McSherry, Head of the Global Fashion Studies Program and Costume Designer for the Department of Theatre.

Northeastern’s Project-Based Exploration for the Advancement of Knowledge (PEAK) Experiences Awards are a sequence of opportunities designed to support students as they continue climbing to new heights of achievement in undergraduate research and creative endeavor throughout their academic journeys. The Summit Award is for those who are heading for the project pinnacle. You have the skills and sophistication to work independently, while still in conversation with a mentor, and you are able to develop your own research questions and creative problems – as well as pathways to working through them. Projects funded by this award are likely to emerge from a significant previous engagement with the mentor and the methods and questions in the field. This might include independent engagement, prior research or creative endeavors, or experiences gained through employment or co-op.