TheaterCorps (TC) is predicated on the notion that art, specifically theatrical art, has enormous transformational power. What audiences experience in a theater has the ability to change their ideas and, given an opportunity, their actions.
This idea is not unique to TC, as many theater companies offer powerful issue-based performances, and even community dialogue, to effect social change. However, TC takes it to the next step. TC connects the audience’s desire to “do something” about an issue they see presented on stage with a chance actually to do it. TC’s genesis, as part of CLEARCorps, is to provide the opportunity. In many cases, it collaborates with these same theater companies to offer this missing link to direct service and meaningful social change. Following a production of one of its two offerings, there is an opportunity for the audience immediately to get involved.
TheaterCorps has productions available about two environmental issues and their impact on family and community. Jimmy’s Getting Better focuses on the impacts of lead poisoning, and Breath of Life on asthma.
Jimmy’s Getting Better
First produced in 2002, Jimmy has reached over a million viewers. Over ten local theaters groups have presented live productions. The play has aired on countless cable and public television shows. It is available for viewing or download from CLEARCorps’ website (http://www.clearcorps.org/video) and YouTube (http://www.youtube.com/); and it is also available on a professional quality DVD. In addition, any group interested in producing live presentations of “Jimmy” can request a copy of the script. The script comes with educational materials for the audience and ideas for how to take action after viewing the production. “Jimmy” works effectively with a wide variety of audiences from students, to housing workers, to health and education providers, policy makers and families.
Breath of Life
CLEARCorps successfully launched its newest play, Breath of Life in Seattle in November 2007, in cooperation with the local CLEARCorps/Seattle Site, the Northwest Pacific American Lung Association and the Langston Hughes Performing Arts Center. The first performance at an inner city high school had an audience of nearly 300. After the play, the school nurse identified 17 new cases of asthma when because of seeing the play, students came forward to see if they had asthma. There were six performances of the play in November and December of 2007 – one for the community at large and five for local middle and high schools in areas with known elevated asthma rates.
A review of questionnaires completed after the play showed a nearly unanimous response from students indicating they had learned something about asthma. The teens that performed in the play were also impressed by what they learned because of acting in the play. They now have a deeper respect for anyone who suffers from asthma and they are much more aware of asthmatic triggers.
CLEARCorps is currently seeking funding to do a professional quality recording of Breath of Life in order to make it as widely available as Jimmy’s Getting Better. For further information about Breath of Life or Jimmy’s Getting Better please contact us at CLEARCorps.