Performer to present free, public program on diversity

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KALAMAZOO—A sociologist and performance artist who uses entertainment to illuminate potentially contentious cultural themes will present Kalamazoo County's 16th annual Respecting Differences program this month.

Kimberly Dark will perform "Complicated Courtesies" at 1:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 25, and again at 9 a.m. Wednesday, March 26, in the Kalamazoo Public Schools' Chenery Auditorium, 714 S. Westnedge Ave. in Kalamazoo. Both presentations will include an on-stage American Sign Language translator, and all seating is general admission.

The annual Respecting Differences program began in 1999 as a collaboration between the City of Kalamazoo and Western Michigan University to heighten awareness of diversity issues in the workplace. The free program is open to the public but tailored for employees of the organizations sponsoring the event.

This year's program

"Complicated Courtesies" has been described as entertainment—and then some. It helps people discover that they are creating the world, even as the world creates them, and it inspires people to laugh, think and engage with their lives and others more boldly and creatively.

Dark believes that all people positively affect society by being their "big, beautiful complicated selves" and should accept themselves and others, while understanding that acceptance as well as rejection perpetuates trends and stereotypes within society.

During her Kalamazoo appearance, she will employ characters and narratives to explore themes such as gender and body type. Her characters will have a personal story—a lived experience—and her narratives will be connected to a larger social reality, reminding audience members of their personal and social responsibility regarding the issues her performance raises.

Through storytelling, articulation and poetic style, she will educate and stimulate audience members as well as allow them to experience how to live fully with integrity and respect for differences. In addition, she will use humor and intimacy to prompt audience members to discover their influences and reclaim their power as social creators.

Kimberly Dark

Dark is the author of five award-winning performance scripts and numerous educational programs regarding the body in culture: how appearances and identities influence people's experiences in the world relative to gender, race, body type and size, beauty, ability, and similar factors.

A writer, storyteller and speaker, Dark lectures in the sociological practice graduate program at California State University San Marcos. She also blogs regularly for the Huffington Post and Ms. magazine, in addition to contributing essays, stories and articles to a wide range of books and publications.

Dark travels the English-speaking world giving performances and keynote presentations at colleges and universities, conferences, theatres and festivals. During the past 20 years, she has been invited to present her unique blend of performance and presentation, writing, and workshops at hundreds of venues in the United States, Canada, Australia, the United Kingdom, Ireland and other nations.

Additional information

This year's Respecting Differences program is being sponsored by six area employers. In addition to Kalamazoo and WMU, they are the City of Portage, Kalamazoo County, Kalamazoo College, and Kalamazoo Community Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services. The program also is being supported by the Kalamazoo Human Resources Management Association.

For more information, visit wmich.edu/hr/respectingdifferences about the 2014 program. Direct questions to Portage's Rob Boulis at boulisr@portagemi.gov or (269) 324-9228.