The Red Wristband Fashion

By James Lex

“Lets have a conversation,” stated Sarah Mitchel, a representative from Broadway Cares/Equity fight AIDS, to a group of more than sixty people that attended her workshop at KCACTF this year. Her reaction to the number of people, the selection of shows at the festival, and the late-night chats I had with my peers, makes me believe that Theatre for Social Change is going to be more prominent in the near future.

What I expected to be a workshop to act as a fundraiser for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS turned out to be a personal conversation of people’s own dreams and stories relating to Theatre for Social Change. It was asked what people experienced in their own communities and there was a diverse response in the conference room. One man told his story of his experience in the AIDS epidemic of the 1980s. Another told her idea of performing theatre in prisons in the attempt to teach empathy. In an interview I had with Mitchel after the workshop, I asked why it was important for this workshop to be at KCACTF and she responded with “to inspire advocacy to the next generation and encourage people to make theatre for social change their own.”

In addition to stories, many interesting questions were brought up without any clear answer to them: Raising money through theatre vs. advocacy, theatre to inspire vs. theatre to convince, the importance of intention vs. the final outcome. One woman responded with “It’s about the energy. It’s about the change. Not the money,” while another man brought up the fact that it is more utilitarian to get a corporate job and then make a change with that money. The conversation continued with ideas of connecting an art piece to an outside organization and also using theatre to make a direct impact on children’s development. I conclude that the definition of Theatre for Social Change is flexible.

I walked out of the workshop with a red wristband with “make a difference,” engraved. I wanted to know more so I decided to go to the workshop led by Aaron Rosini, a representative from Artist Striving to End Poverty (ASTEP). What I thought would be another conversation turned out to be a brainstorming session for our own artistic project for positive change. It was simple. But profound. I walked out of the room with an idea that I felt suddenly propelled to do (and still can’t get off my mind.) While I’m here, I’ll pitch it: A kid-inspired professional art museum where underprivileged kids could make art, professional artist would recreate them, and that art would be displayed for the world to see. The idea being that kids stories are being told on an equal playing field, making a statement that the lives of children are just as important as a working citizen’s. Whether or not you’re sold on the idea, I left that workshop with a new confidence as an individual artist. KCACTF gave me that opportunity to test my skills in areas that I didn’t even know existed before.

Theatre for Social Change is an area that I find could possibly be my calling (and in whatever definition I desire of it.) KCACTF exposed this type of theatre this year, setting me up with lots of support from my theatre community. The theatre world is now standing up and exclaiming, “We are more than just fools on a stage. We are artists fighting to make this world a better place.”


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