Opening hearts and minds: ‘Out & Allied’ project uses performance as activism

Performance isn't just about entertainment—it can be a seriously eye-opening experience.

Performance isn’t just about entertainment—it can be a seriously eye-opening experience.

Most people are familiar with artists who create stuff for entertainment value or emotional reasons. From Shakespeare to Lady Gaga, there’s an endless amount of art that exists to make you laugh or cry or dance. But there’s also the type of art that tries to do a little bit more, art that tries to create real change in the world.

Cathy Plourde is one of the many people who create this type of art.

“I love using arts in general, and theatre in particular, to evoke change,” Plourde wrote in a piece for Creative Portland. “Often I’m using the work to subvert and shift a social norm … I like to think through what’s going to help an audience hear, engage, ignite.”

It was that desire to create social change through performance that prompted Plourde to create Add Verb Productions, an organization that aims to promote health and wellness education through theatre productions. Through her work with Add Verb Productions, Plourde tackles a variety of important issues, like eating disorders and dating violence, but there’s a large focus on LGBT issues. The “Out & Allied” project, an Add Verb Productions initiative, was created specifically to help LGBT* youth and allies share their diverse experiences.

“The goal of ‘Out & Allied’ … [is] to create a youth-centric set of performance pieces and provide support to youth in presenting theatre for civic engagement,” Plourde told LGBTeen. “To distinguish this project, we focused on pieces that were not only dynamic performance material, but were also digging into activist territory.”

Two books in the “Out & Allied” series have been created, both featuring a diverse array of art from young LGBTQIA voices. The books are filled to the brim with royalty-free plays, monologues spoken-word pieces and even music about the queer experience, making them wonderful resources for young queer activists.

“We wanted to create performances that would open dialogue,” said Plourde. “Youth are the ones who will open hearts and minds, and run the world someday.”

As part of Plourde’s outreach to the LGBT community, she will be presenting an exclusive webinar, hosted by CenterLink (the community of LGBT centers), from 1-2 p.m. CDT, on Tuesday, October 28. The presentation will include an overview of the Out & Allied project as well as ideas for student leadership. So if you want to get involved but don’t know how, this is a great place to start!

And if you’re wondering why you should get involved with performance, Plourde had this to say, “Performance is one of the most interesting and potentially effective ways of doing activism. If you get it right, you reach the audience through their heart as well as their mind.”

Click here to register for Cathy Plourde’s webinar. For more information about the “Out & Allied” books, or to purchase a copy, visit the Add Verb Productions website.

Cathy Plourde is a playwright, director, activist and the founder of Add Verb, a program that has used theatre for social change since 1999. She has presented on Add Verb and theatre for change in the US and internationally and currently lives with her wife in Birmingham, England.

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  1. Kris Hall

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