Act Like You Know Hip-Hop Class Takes the Stage for Final Performance

by Nicole Schor

Act Like You Know is a hip hop theatre class, and their final performance will be a part of Interplay Hip Hop Symposium this weekend. Spoken word, old school rap and dance are just are just a few of the performances to expect at the Act Like You Know 7.0 production.

The show is a culmination of the hip-hop theater class Act Like You Know, taught by professor Kashi Johnson, who refers to each class over the years as “a generation.”

Johnson said the audience can expect to hear a lot of hip-hop music and see their friends performing in a way that they may have never imagined.

In preparation for the production, the last few weeks of the semester have been devoted to external coaching sessions outside of class, followed by nightly rehearsals in the Diamond Theater the week before the show.

For Johnson, who has been teaching and creating the original coursework since 2006, Act Like You Know is a combination of her passion for hip-hop and theater, where students use the expressive elements of the music and explore culture with thoughts of being on stage. The class is more than just talking about hip-hop, Johnson said. The students perform it, and Johnson hopes it empowers the students to find their own voice.

While Johnson says that rap is the most prominent aspect of hip-hop, dance, visual art and graffiti are other elements of the culture that the class explores in its curriculum. She refers to Act Like You Know as the “Trojan horse,” because when people see it during registration, they often do not realize how much the class covers. Consequently, around the fourth generation, Johnson began holding auditions and interviews before granting requests to register.

“It wasn’t enough for people to have an interest,” Johnson said. “They are coming into a class where we become an ensemble. It’s a good weed out process. The reputation and mystique help keep numbers where they are. On the first day of class everyone knows we hit the ground running.”

Currently, 13 students are enrolled in the generation-seven class while six are taking an independent study of the course.

Among them is Oma Anidi, ’15, who says that the class has been a very introspective time for her. According to Anidi, she was initially just looking to take another theater class to fulfill a credit requirement with no idea what she was going into.

“I’ve learned more about myself than about hip-hop or the world,” Anidi said. “I get socially awkward in some situations, but I’ve also learned how to interact with different types of people that I haven’t at Lehigh before. We are all so different, but my favorite part is our Groupme, where we will randomly text each other to hangout.”

Similarly, Rebecca Youssef, ’15, said she enjoys the close sense of community the class provides.

“We are like a family, and before class starts we always hug each other,” Youssef said.

Youssef had heard of the class through friends who have taken it in previous years, and was finally able to incorporate it into her schedule for her last semester.

As a business major, Youssef says that Act Like You Know doesn’t directly relate to her other studies at Lehigh, but that the communication skills that are needed apply to all classes in general.

“One of the most important things I’ve learned in the class was being able to ‘die with your secret,’ as Kashi calls it, or continuing a performance even after messing up,” Youssef said. “You don’t let the audience know.”

Although Youssef, who will be performing a spoken word at the final show, admits to struggling at first to write her piece, she said that the help of her classmates has given her the necessary guidance.

For Johnson, the way the students treat each other is testament to the trust and bonding that exists in the class.

“This generation has been interesting because it’s felt like church,” Johnson said. “I never mandated them to greet each other with hugs. I just try to create a safe space where people feel they could be themselves.”

Kashi Johnson