As I was preparing for my doomed Theatre of the Oppressed workshop last week, I was remembering my work with Fringe Benefits.I began working with this fabulous company a few months after I moved to Los Angeles in 1999. I responded to a notice in BackStageWest, and was called in to audition. It was the beginning of a long relationship. I was cast in the show, Cootie Shots: Theatrical Inoculations Against Bigotry, which went from public performances to several school tours and Cootie Shots was made into a beautiful and fabulous book in 2001. (I appear on the cover. I have bragged about this before, but it bears repeating. And the book is a wonderful collection of plays and songs and poems and there is NO excuse for you not to own it and OH! now I know what I will be giving away to the fabulous winner of my blogiversary post! Winner to be announced SOON! Yippee!!).
Then we went on tour to promote the book, performing at bookstores in Los Angeles, and touring in New York (where I got to perform at the New York Theatre Workshop. How cool is that? Cool, if you care about these things. Which I do.). It was while we were in NYC promoting the book that I learned I was pregnant with The May Queen. We kept promoting the book and I performed while 8 months pregnant. I even stood on a box, making the whole audience nervous, I'm sure.
Our school shows and our promotional tour included a time after the show to talk with the audience. It was a wonderful chance to help them apply what we had just done, and to hear their stories.
I had read Theatre of the Oppressed when I was in college, but it was this company that taught me about it. I went on to lead workshops in middle schools, and from there we developed a similar show for middle school students, Clothes Minded?, which I also performed (I seem to be lacking pictures from that show, for some reason). Then I went into schools and helped lead Theatre for Social Justice workshops, where we worked with groups of students to get them started creating their OWN theatre pieces about discrimination they were experiencing in their schools.
The artistic director is a fabulous and creative person, who was invaluable to me last week as I planned my very own workshop. It was her words of encouragement that saw me through that day.
It was an amazing and inspiring time, an artistic alliance that is still bearing fruit today. It stands as one of the things I've done that I'm most proud of.