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Wednesday October 4, 2000

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Performance group brings message of diversity to McKale

Headline Photo

By Aaron Cowman

Arizona Daily Wildcat

Up with People returns to its original Tucson home with

Up With People, the effervescent performance group that travels the globe teaching tolerance and racial awareness, has returned to Tucson after a seven-year absence.

The group will perform its newest show, "A Common Beat," Sunday in UA's McKale Center. The performance is a collage of different cultures that will represent the group members' native backgrounds through song and dance.

"We have reached a new level in our production," said event coordinator Kimberly Forehand. "It's a little bit more in-depth. We use more lights, we use more sound, we have brand-new costumes. It's a musical."

Up With People has put on presentations in countries all over the world since its conception in 1965.

"We have a tour here in North America, and we also go to Europe and Japan," Forehand said. "We've gone to Australia before. We have a cast right now in Mexico. There are four different casts that will be traveling around the world at all times."

Now, the group has finally made its way back to its first home.

"We celebrated our 35th anniversary in Orlando this year, and it's a no more appropriate time to come back home to Tucson," Forehand said.

The group became an independent, non-profit educational organization in 1968 in Tucson, where it was based for 28 years - the group once made its headquarters on Campbell Avenue, but is now based out of Colorado.

Forehand said that the organization hopes to gather recruits from the University of Arizona student population following Sunday's production.

"After every show we do admissions presentations, and we invite whoever is interested in the program, whether they want to travel or just find out more about what we do," Forehand said. "They have the opportunity to talk to an actual cast member and find out what life on the road is like."

A lack of musical talent does not inhibit a candidate's chances of joining, Forehand said. She explained that the students learn to sing and act as they travel.

"There is an amazing amount of potential in these students," Forehand said. "They go to learn about other cultures and to do community service."

A cast of about 150 people from 22 countries will perform in "A Common Beat."

"Basically, our mission statement is to represent people all over the world," Forehand said.

Lee Ann Hamilton, a health educator for UA Campus Health, was a member of Up With People for the 1977-78 season. She said her year with the troupe was beneficial as a growing experience that helped direct her future.

"I learned more about life and about myself that year than I did getting my degree," Hamilton said. "I found myself more into my studies when I came back."

Forehand said that in order to fully understand what the group is, a person needs to see them perform.

"I saw the show, and that's why I'm here," she said. "You can't help it, it's contagious."

The show starts at 3 p.m., and tickets range from $8-$12 for adults and $5-$6 for children.