Apr 25, 2019

Michael Fosberg is ‘Incognito’

Katie Eleneke / The Collegian. Actor Michael Fosberg leads a discussion of finding one's racial identity before performing his play 'Incognito' about self-discovery on Thursday.

Katie Eleneke / The Collegian
Actor Michael Fosberg leads a discussion of finding one’s racial identity before performing his play ‘Incognito’ about self-discovery on Thursday.

With themes of diversity in mind, actor Michael Fosberg engaged audiences in events across campus Thursday, telling his unusual story of racial identity and emphasizing the idea that one’s being is never stagnant.

Part of African Peoples’ History Month, Fosberg held two workshops before performing his one-man play “Incognito” Thursday night, a production that portrays Fosberg’s realization that he is part black after discovering his long-lost biological father.

“I was raised in a working-class white family, thinking I was a white guy my whole life when, in fact, I’m not,” Fosberg said.

After his mother and stepfather divorced, Fosberg set out to find his birth father at age 34, completely unaware his ethnicity would change overnight. The experience changed Fosberg’s outlook about his family, history and heritage.

In reflection, he said, “The quest to find a family member is really a quest to find yourself.”

Across the course of an hour, Fosberg depicted his journey in “Incognito” by playing more than a dozen characters from his life.

Having toured around the country for 12 years performing the play, his hope is to convey that one’s identity is fluid and flexible, able to “change a great deal over time.”

In conjunction with the play were two workshops led by Fosberg, offering a more extensive opportunity for discussion about identity being influenced by bias.

“The workshop is a series of interactive activities that get people to look at how we come to see one another and how we see ourselves,” Fosberg said.

In discussions with students, professors and members of the public, Fosberg talked about how a variety of experiences can shape a individual’s mindset, sometimes for both better and worse.

Through visual, listening and association exercises, Fosberg showcased the power of prejudice in how we view identities.

His work in developing identity for personal growth was a key attraction for the organizers to bring Fosberg to Fresno State.

Dorothy Kolen, a student coordinator of African Peoples’ History Month, said Fosberg’s “struggles” presented a unique racial story.

His journey of entering black culture as an adult, rather than a child, was the main point of interest.

“With us being so deeply rooted in our own culture and then learning of someone who just came about it at the age of 34, identifying with it was kind of astonishing to us,” Kolen said.

Kolen voiced that the idea of finding one’s heritage so late in life “was a critical topic for African-Americans to hear and discuss.”

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