For my activism project, I wanted to do something that would spread awareness of the UMBC Department of Theatre, and increase attendance at our shows. As a Theatre major and a GWST major, I often see a lot of overlap with the things I learn in class with the work we are producing for the stage. And yet, I have observed a lack of attendance to the shows that the Theatre Department produces, and a lack of participation in the arts in general.
This semester, I had the privilege of being the Assistant Director and Assistant Dramaturg for the Theatre Department’s production of Leah’s Dybbuk. When I started considering what my activism project would be, it dawned on me that spreading awareness about this production would be the perfect way to show members of my GWST 200 class (and hopefully the UMBC community at large) why UMBC theatre is so important. Leah’s Dybbuk was written by UMBC’s own Dr. Susan McCully, who is a professor of both the Theatre and GWST departments. Her play encompasses the themes of identity, Jewish culture, Korean culture, spirituality, and the classic Yiddish drama Der Dybbuk. With a play so rich in academic and artistic creation, I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to start a discussion about UMBC Theatre. So I asked the Leah’s Dybbuk production team if I could be in charge of our show’s talk-back in order to create an event that would serve as activism for UMBC Theatre.
A talk-back is an event that happens post-performance at a show, in order to give the audience insight on the production process and allow them to ask questions. In order to make sure that this event was effective and well-attended, I made meetings with various professors in order to gain support and decide on the content of the event. I was able to spread the word by talking with Dr. Kate, who helped use her connections to inform The Women’s Center, WILL, and the GWST department. Ultimately, our show was very well attended all four performances, and for the talk-back approximately 30 people stayed to engage with our panel. Among the people who stayed was UMBC’s Dean of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences Dr. Scott Casper. He thanked and congratulated me after the event, and I couldn’t have been more humbled to be a part of Leah’s Dybbuk. I count that as a success.
When embarking on your activism project, my advice would be to start as early as possible. I hesitated for a while because i was unsure of what my ability in doing such a project would be. Though I am happy with how my project turned out, there is always a way in which we can improve, and I think I could have spread the word even more if I had started earlier. A good idea I think is to meet with Dr. Kate in her office hours to talk about your project one-on-one.
By organizing this event, I was able to create a hands-on activism project that worked for something I really care about: community engagement in arts and Theatre.