Musical Memphis by Mavra Zehra

The Visiting Student Program organizes a special program to the Walton Arts Center per semester to explore a part of the U.S. culture. This time, we picked the musical Memphis and many students joined us. Thank you those who joined the program! We also would like to say Thank You to Ms. Lauren Mahony, Group Concierge at the Walton Arts Center, to arrange tickets for us all the time. Thank You, Lauren!

Here’s Mavra’s story:

Before arriving in Fayetteville, I set up three mottoes for myself; Educate, Experience and Explore. One of my goals is to educate people in the U.S. about my country, Pakistan. Narrate the rich and vibrant culture and introduce practices and beliefs prevalent in my land and remove any misconceptions that people may have. Of course, I’d like to experience the new land, its values, culture, and heritage. To achieve those goals, I’ve decided to explore the country as much as I can.

Musical Memphis

It was on one Sunday evening when I came across the advertisement of the musical, Memphis, just outside the Walton Arts Center (WAC) as I was strolling through Dickson Street with my new international friends. “The Musical, Winner of the 2010 Tony Award” These buzz words were enough to spark my excitement. I knew I had to watch this musical to “experience” Broadway.

At the perfect timing, the Visiting Student Program announced that they would invite visiting students to enjoy this delightful musical. But there was more: Not only were we going to see the the musical but were also given the privilege to meet some of the cast and crew members. Things could not have been better.

Special breakfast program by WAC

In the morning on Wednesday, February 6th, we went to WAC for breakfast – a special program with some of cast members who were going to be on the stage in this musical that evening and the producer of this Tony Award winning musical. It was an exhilarating affair. The first hand account from those people of their journey in making this dream come true and the story of constant perseverance that helped them survive through was truly inspirational.

After this morning program, I felt prepared to enjoy the show. That evening, visiting students gathered together again and walked over to WAC. The performance began. I was simply excited.

The story starts with a white man arriving in an underground African-American rock and roll bar in 1950’s Memphis. There the story develops on the twists in his career, explores the various dimension of his relationship and how his perspective influences the views of those around him.

Group of visiting students at WAC after the show

Although I had a vague idea about the historical background of the Southern part of the U.S. mostly via literary works, I was clueless when it came to the culture in the 50s. Yet, watching the play did more than just giving me an inside look into the 50’s era. The soulful music, the theatrical performances and the glorious singing left me awestruck. The constant shift in the mood of the musical from being funny, sexy to emotional just added more colors to the evening.

For a few moments I was not just watching the performance, I was experiencing it, the whole atmosphere of being in Memphis during the 50’s. I believe my feelings for the performances were equally shared by other members of the audience, as suggested by the overwhelming response that the cast got at the end of the final act. It was a wonderful night to experience a part of the U.S. culture and history.

In Pakistan, I had never witnessed such perfection of different forms of arts and talents – music, dance and acting. The form of plays could be of course different since it needs to cater to an audience with a taste for local values and art and I truly enjoyed every single aspect of the performance at the musical, Memphis.

Mavra and the producer of Memphis, Mr. Dickinson

Being a Cultural Ambassador in the U.S. for this semester, I have a lot of responsibilities, especially towards my own country. I have the arduous task of breaking the stereotypes that may have formed in the minds of the people over time regarding Pakistan. I have to utilize this exchange program to explore the U.S cultural iceberg from its tip and understand fully the various beliefs and practices that fuel the culture here. And most importantly I have  to discover a wide array of culture and learn how to respect each of them just the way they are. I hope to achieve  goals I set for myself within the short span of one semester and take away with me beautiful memories to last for a lifetime.

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