The Social Work Association (SWA) at Ferris hosted Dr. Michael Fowlin at Williams Auditorium, as he performed “You Don’t Know Me Until You Know Me” on Friday evening.
Fowlin wrote the one-man drama, a series of character sketches examining the masks and personas he believes people hide behind. The sketches ranged from a black college football player hiding his homosexuality to a young man with cerebral palsy learning to love himself despite a severe disability.
Fowlin captivated the audience with the humorous manner in which he portrayed his characters while using simple props. He threw a leopard print scarf around his neck as he spoke in the high pitch voice of a teenage girl, and he laid back in a chair and contorted his arms to deliver a palsy slurred monologue.
Though he pulled chuckles from the crowd with ironic quips about race and gender throughout, his humor only provided a means to convey a poignant message: Love yourself and love others.
The characters he created came from his own struggles with racial discrimination, sexual abuse and depression. He shared his own story at the very end of his performance in a moment of deep vulnerability.
“It was my own life path of feeling depression, and some of the heavy sadness I wasn’t sure how to let go. Once I got through some of that, I promised that I would give back,” he said afterward.
The performance hit home for Ferris freshman in pre-pharmacy Alex Gullickson.
“I actually know someone who has cerebral palsy that bad, and I’ve never really thought about what he goes through. It made you think about what you’re doing in your life and who you’re impacting,” Gullickson said.
Fowlin has visited Ferris before, and SWA President Chelsea Martin expressed excitement at his return visit.
“He’s really entertaining, and he was here a couple years ago. He really touched the crowd then, and we thought it would be a good time to bring him back,” she said
SWA invites speakers every year to raise awareness about social justice, hosting personalities like Reverend Jessie Jackson and Maya Angelou.
“It’s really important for us to connect with Ferris and get the word out there that not just the SWA but Ferris promotes tolerance and wants our school and our community to be connected,” SWA Vice President Stacie Zagurney said.
Fowlin tours the nation performing at colleges and high schools. More information can be found at his website, michaelfowlin.com.