Newsletter from Different Strokes!:
Implicit racism. Gender bias. Lesbians. The KKK. And… murder.
It’s either the most twisted mystery novel ever written, or just another day at the office for Different Strokes! Performing Arts Collective.
This little not-for-profit theatre company has been challenging our preconceptions and expectations for six years. And as they prepare for their 2017 season, it seems the rest of the world has finally caught up with the conversation.
Managing artistic director Steph Hickling Beckman seeks out modern stories that directly explore issues of racism, gender discrimination, classism, and the systems and institutions that perpetuate those issues.
She also looks for ways to retell classic stories through a 21st Century lens (like last season’s all-female production of David Mamet’s Glengarry Glen Ross.)
For each production, Different Strokes! donates a portion of their proceeds to a local charity.
Hickling Beckman: “It’s as important to give back to our community and bring awareness to local non profit agencies whose missions support similar causes to those we present in our plays, as it is to tell diverse stories that challenge perspectives, prejudices, and preconceptions.”
The 2017 season features Jeff Talbot’s The Submission, 5 Lesbians Eating a Quiche by Andrew Hobgood and Evan Linder (that’s the fun one), and Mark St. Germain’s Best of Enemies. (Enter the Klan.) The season closes with Othello — I think we all know who wrote that one.
Supporting Different Strokes! isn’t just an endorsement of the arts, or of local non-profits. It’s an educational outlet — a chance for people of different backgrounds, genders, and ethnicities to hear each other out in a safe space. To listen to each other, and learn from one another.
In each show, in different ways and for different reasons, the audience is encouraged to examine our expectations and assumptions — where did those come from? How can we break them down, and how can we learn from each other?
2017 stands to be a pivotal year for Different Strokes!. They’ve wandered into a perfect storm of opportunity, with a new performance space on the horizon, national recognition in American Theatre Magazine, and an extremely volatile political and social climate, the company is poised to have a huge impact on both local and national policies.
When asked about this juxtaposition — the current calls for change and positive action, and Different Strokes!’s core mission — Hickling Beckman just shakes her head and smiles. “That’s what we’ve been saying all along.” – Samantha Pollack