Here we stand, learning at the dynamic intersection of arts and activism…
In 2017 WAM Theatre received a phone call from a high school adjustment counsellor recommending a student to our Girls Ensemble. She said ‘Dylan identifies as trans and goes by the pronouns he/him, can he still be part of Girls Ensemble?’
We were thrown by this question largely because the whole point of Girls Ensemble was to provide a creative space for girls’ empowerment and activism. WAM Theatre produces theatrical productions for everyone but with a focus on female theatre artists and stories of women and girls. This phone call and this simple question began a series of heart-searching important conversations at WAM about inclusion and the importance of holding space.
A little background: WAM Theatre was founded in 2010 by Kristen van Ginhoven (artistic director and ISTA artist) and Leigh Strimbeck as a theatre company working at the intersection of arts and activism. An important part of our gendered focus comes from the economic and social realities articulated in Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn’s book Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide. The book builds on the research of Nobel award-winning economist Amartya Sen showing, amongst other things, that because of gender-based abuses and discriminations about 107 million females are missing from the world today. Half the Sky invites people to ‘join an incipient movement to emancipate women and fight global poverty by unlocking women’s power as economic catalysts’ and WAM Theatre was Kristen and Leigh’s answer to that call. Part of the proceeds from each production are donated to organisations that benefit the lives of women and girls.