Notice of Online Archive

  • This page is no longer being updated and remains online for informational and historical purposes only. The information is accurate as of the last page update.

    For questions about page contents, contact the Communications Division.

English majors Nana Addo Opoku ’05 (Easton, Pa.) and Jennifer Carty ’04 (Egg Harbor Township, N.J.) have written Undesirable Elements Lafayette: Community in Marginalization, a play that will be performed 8 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at the Farinon Center Snack Bar.

Eight Lafayette students are cast as themselves in the production, which examines the feeling of “otherness” and attempts to “create a space for commonality.” It is free and open to the campus community.

Carty spearheaded the project to write a theater show in the style of experimental artist Ping Chong as an independent research project based on research last summer with Suzanne Westfall, professor of English, for her book on Chong.

“Chong does a show called Undesirable Elements which is a theater piece based on people’s real life stories,” says Carty. “Through the help of Professor Westfall, I was granted permission by Ping Chong & Co. to write an Undesirable Elements — Lafayette.”

She started with a pool of about 10 to 15 people, asking them questions about their lives before narrowing down the field and starting the writing process with Opoku.

Carty was inspired to tackle the project after encouragement from Westfall and her mentor’s contacts with the artist as well as the EXCEL work. In Lafayette’s distinctive EXCEL Scholars Program, students assist faculty in research while earning a stipend. The program has helped make Lafayette a national leader in undergraduate research. Many of the more than 160 students who participate in EXCEL each year go on to publish papers in scholarly journals and/or present their research at conferences.

“Chong was going to do a show for Lafayette, but the project fell through. Professor Westfall was still interested in doing the show and suggested that I take it on as my own project,” Carty explains.

She seeks to offer insight into the creative process and have a positive impact on students outside the mainstream. She is considering graduate work in communications, particularly the relationship between culture and communication, and is hoping to, as she says, “use my creativity to make a positive impact.”

“I am very excited to be doing this project because it is first attempt at writing a theater show,” she says. “Not only is it performance, which I love, but also something that will hopefully have a positive and educational effect. It will examine our ideas of ‘us’ versus ‘other’ and hopefully create a place to bring the two together. There are so many interesting and touching stories out there of people who struggle every day with ideas of identity, and now this will give them a chance to be heard and recognized.

“I think it is going to be very rewarding for the participants,” she adds. “I’ve already had comments from people about how excited they are and how they are learning so much about themselves, their family, and their heritage by doing this.”

Carty describes Westfall as “very funny, very smart, and very inspiring,” and credits her with encouraging the kind of original thinking that prompts a project of this scope.

“I am thrilled to be working with such an intelligent and passionate individual,” she says. “Professor Westfall knows so much about all kinds of theater, not just traditional narrative theater. She is extremely knowledgeable about the politics, the culture, the style, and the people surrounding theater. I have taken her Performance Art and Shakespeare classes and both times she has proved to be an interesting and stimulating source of knowledge.”

Says Westfall, “Jen is a fabulous, hard-working student, and as a veteran of my Performance Art class, uniquely trained in this field, not to mention a courageous and talented poet/artist.”

“I think Lafayette has some key faculty who allow for this type of project to happen,” Carty adds. “There are professors out there who really want to get the students involved and make them think and create for themselves. In that respect, Lafayette has done a great job.”

Carty revels in the “controversy and ambiguity of literature” and all that it comprises. She credits Lafayette faculty with fostering that passion for literature.

“Literature contains the passions, emotions, and history of the ‘human spirit,’ a complex, indefinable, and beautiful mess,” she says. “I think the faculty of the English department love what they do, so the program works. We have extremely intelligent faculty who seem to really love their jobs. When you see them happy, it’s usually because of their students.”

Carty served an externship with Missy Labov Dweck ’93 at a New York talent agency in January.

She was named to the Dean’s List last semester and is a member of the Tri Delta sorority, serving as new member educator. She is also a member of Questioning Established Sexual Taboos and Association of Lafayette Feminists.

She participated in the College Theater production of The Nativity and directed a student production of The Vagina Monologues and We Were Pioneers, a play produced by the library’s special collections department. Carty also performed in the production of Chess by the Marquis Players, a student-run group that produces and performs an annual musical to raise money for hunger and homelessness causes.

She is a graduate of Holy Spirit High School.

Independent study courses are among several major opportunities at Lafayette that make the College a national leader in undergraduate research. Lafayette sends one of the largest contingents to the National Conference on Undergraduate Research each year. Forty-two students were accepted to present their research at the conference this month.


Jennifer Carty ’04 wrote a theater production based on Ping Chong’s Undesirable Elements with the guidance of Suzanne Westfall, professor of English.

Categorized in: Academic News