PODCAST

Why We Theater

Broadway Podcast Network

Social justice meets theatre in this podcast from Playbill’s former Executive Editor Ruthie Fierberg. Artists and experts unite for curated panels, using plays and musicals (Broadway, Off-Broadway, and works in development) as a jumping-off point to confront societal issues such as racism, colorism, voting rights, fake news, digital technology addiction, the school-to-prison pipeline, anti-Semitism, raising LGBTQIA+ kids, and more. We help listeners grapple with hard questions inside a play or musical in order to create change in our offstage lives. And don’t worry if you haven’t seen an individual episode’s show or if you’re not a theatre buff. Award-winning writers and directors of pieces like SCHOOL GIRLS; OR, THE AFRICAN MEAN GIRLS PLAY and THE PROM break down the message inside their stories and how they created that story. Then, real-world experts in the corresponding field (like NSA Jake Sullivan or THIS AMERICAN LIFE’s Ira Glass) offer advice and action steps (thought patterns to monitor, petitions to sign, organizations to support, etc.) so we can manifest progress. “Theater” is not only a place or a presentation, it is an action. “To theater” is to engage with art presented onstage. Why we theater? We’re about to find out.

Play Trailer
Welcome, to Why We Theater
Jul 15 2020
4 mins
Why We Theater Now: April 2022ADDRESSLESS meets Choose-Your-Own Activity
In this week’s mini-episode, Ruthie recommends books—some novels, some memoirs—and television episodes that tell stories about homelessness. Then, taking a page out of Addressless’ book, Ruthie offers guides listeners through three at-home activities to better emotionally comprehend what it means to be at risk for homelessness and to experience it. Organize a Sleep Out of your own. Try Covenant House's "What Would You Do?" Activity. Instructions for Losing Your Identity courtesy of Covenant House Instructions for Privilege For Sale courtesy of Covenant House Recommended Reads: My Abandonment by Peter Rock The Motel Life by Willy Vlautin Breaking Night: A Memoir of Forgiveness, Survival, and My Journey From Homeless to Harvard by Liz Murray From the Ashes by Jesse Thistle Find your local independent bookstore. Grey's Anatomy, Season 9, Ep 6 Station 19, Season 5, Ep 12 Create the change: Learn more at the National Alliance to End Homelessness (NAEH) View homelessness statistics by state Volunteer with or donate to Covenant House; Organize a Sleep Out in your community Tell Congress to fund Homeless Assistance Grants (Click to sign a letter) Read up on current legislation that would impact homelessness How do we deal with our legislators? Improve conditions in homeless shelters: Hire well-trained staff, and hire enough of them Bring mental health services to the shelters (i.e. have AA meetings on the premises, have mental health counselors on the premises) What 4 experts have to say Find a mentorship opportunity Make cards with contact info to promote nearby shelters to hand out to those who are in need and asking for help Donate clothes, especially socks, to nearby shelters Participate in your city’s point-in-time count (signups are generally in Nov/Dec for the upcoming year - Google to find the PIT in your neighborhood) Try rapid re-housing in your community Learn about permanent supportive housing Increase employment opportunities (adjust job applications so they do not require listing a permanent address) Read the obstacles to solving the homelessness crisis—then counter them Understand why homelessness is rising Directory of Homeless Service Organizations by state Sign up for Advocacy Alerts from the NAEH Ruthie Fierberg, Host Ruthiefierberg.com  IG: @whywetheater / T: @whywetheater IG: @ruthiefierceberg / T: @RuthiesATrain Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
Apr 1 2022
21 mins
ADDRESSLESS and Homelessness
ADDRESSLESS: A Walk in Our Shoes played Off-Broadway at Rattlestick Playwrights Theater in February 2022 as a virtual, interactive production. The play intimately and personally illustrated what it means to live homeless in New York City. Hungarian director Martin Boross and playwright Jonathan Payne explored this plight through three individuals living unhoused, each on a mission to acquire $1,500 while staying as healthy as they could. Experts Shams Da Baron (aka Da Homeless Hero), Covenant House International President Kevin Ryan, and playwright Jonathan Payne join host Ruthie Fierberg to dissect the play and offer answers to the solvable homelessness crisis in the U.S. View the Digital Program for ADDRESSLESS. Create the change: Learn more at the National Alliance to End Homelessness (NAEH) View homelessness statistics by state Volunteer with or donate to Covenant House; Organize a Sleep Out in your community Tell Congress to fund Homeless Assistance Grants (Click to sign a letter) Read up on current legislation that would impact homelessness Improve conditions in homeless shelters: Hire well-trained staff, and hire enough of them Bring mental health services to the shelters (i.e. have AA meetings on the premises, have mental health counselors on the premises) What 4 experts have to say Find a mentorship opportunity Make cards with contact info to promote nearby shelters to hand out to those who are in need and asking for help Donate clothes, especially socks, & personal hygience items to nearby shelters Participate in your city’s point-in-time count (signups are generally in Nov/Dec for the following year - Google to find the PIT in your neighborhood) Try rapid re-housing in your community Learn about permanent supportive housing Increase employment opportunities for those without housing (don't make a permanent address a requirement on job applications) Read: Obstacles to solving the homelessness crisis—then counter them Understand why homelessness is rising Directory of Homeless Service Organizations by state Sign up for Advocacy Alerts from the NAEH Referred to in this episode: What is StereoAKT? What is Covenant House? 2020 Point-in-Time Count About the foster care system What is a group home? Foster care vs. Group home What is transitional housing? Human trafficking and homelessness Privilege Sleep Out exercise Legislation for Wifi in all shelters Shams fact-check: Shams said, “In Harlem, 40% of the students that are in school here are, are in, are either homeless or housing or facing housing instability.” Reports show 1 in 10 NYC public school students is homeless, up to 1 in 5 depending on the area. Read more on homelessness of NYC public school students & CUNY students Greater risk of Black and brown, LGBTQ+ youth What is Community Access? How real estate development impacts homelessness How redlining impacts homelessness (more on redlining) What is the Lucerne and what was the controversy?  Addressless’ How Can I Help? Worksheet (items incorporated in CTT) The Childcare Tax Credit: How does it reduce child poverty? How does that help alleviate homelessness? What is the Poor People’s Movements? What are Public Assistance Programs? Open Hearts in NYC Does shelter living cost money? Short answer: YES. About Our Guests: Ruthie Fierberg, Host Ruthiefierberg.com  IG: @whywetheater / T: @whywetheater IG: @ruthiefierceberg / T: @RuthiesATrain Jonathan Payne, Playwright @JPayneWrites Shams DaBaron, Performer/Script consultant, Activist @homeless_hero Kevin M. Ryan, President of Covenant House International @CovHousePrez Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
Mar 29 2022
1 hr 16 mins
DAVID BYRNE’S AMERICAN UTOPIA meets The Prophet
Last week, American Utopia performer Tendayi Kuumba and experts Drs. Vinoo Alluri and Alejandro Lleras helped host Ruthie Fierberg take step back and welcome a broader perspective to problem-solving, beyond “What are the next steps to create change?” to “How do we find the next steps to create change?”  The human brain is not a muscle, but it does need exercise—so to speak. To change the way we solve problems, we must change the way we approach problems. Change the very way we think. Actor and producer Salma Hayek had this same idea when she produced the 2014 animated film The Prophet, a movie adaptation of Kahlil Gibran’s 1923 eponymous book. Hayek also believed: “We need a new generation that goes into the unknown and finds solutions that we have not seen or heard.” So this week, Ruthie recommends The Prophet as the companion piece to American Utopia—currently on Broadway through April 3, 2022. Listen to David Byrne’s American Utopia on Spotify, YouTube, Apple Music. Get tickets to David Byrne’s American Utopia on Broadway. Watch David Byrne’s American Utopia on HBOMax. Watch the animated movie The Prophet. Purchase the book The Prophet from your local independent bookstore. Sign up for Ruthie’s monthly newsletter at ruthiefierberg.com. Referred to in this episode Read: Ways to help those in Ukraine Help refugees throughout the world Kahlil Gibran’s book The Prophet Ruthie’s Parents.com interview with Salma Hayek  Connect with your host! Ruthiefierberg.com  IG: @whywetheater / T: @whywetheater IG: @ruthiefierceberg / T: @RuthiesATrain Why We Theater is a product of the Broadway Podcast Network produced by Alan Seales and edited by Derek Gunther.  Our theme music is by Benjamin Velez. Hear more at BenjaminVelez.com. Special thanks to Genesis Johnson, Leigh Silverman, Suzanne Chipkin, Wesley Birdsall, Elena Mayer, Patrick Taylor, and Dori Berinstein.  Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
Mar 18 2022
9 mins
DAVID BYRNE’S AMERICAN UTOPIA and Expanding Our Thinking to Solve Problems
You might think David Byrne’s American Utopia on Broadway is a concert. It’s not. Yet, it’s not exactly a play or a musical. It’s something else outside the box. The Talking Heads frontman— along with choreographer Annie-B Parsons’ and a band of international musicians, vocalists, and dancers—creates a show about exploring the unconventional, especially when it comes to unconventional thought and thought processes.  American Utopia made host Ruthie Fierberg wonder: How many solutions to society’s conflicts might we be overlooking because we think the way we have always thought? American Utopia performer Tendayi Kuumba and experts Dr. Vinoo Alluri and Dr. Alejandro Lleras join us to explore: What problems could we solve if we used more of our minds and used our minds differently? Could we achieve an American Utopia?  Listen to the album of David Byrne’s American Utopia. Watch David Byrne’s American Utopia on HBOMax. Create the Change Volunteer with Headcount to register voters at a performance of American Utopia Volunteer with Headcount in general Cultivate new and varied ways of thinking: Enhance your own synesthesia Try any of these “6 Ways to Rewire Your Brain” If your main way of processing and working is to sit in one spot and concentrate, try talking a walk, dancing, exercising to make your brain work differently by engaging different activity patterns in your brain. Develop your “openness” (one of the Big 5 personality traits) Read about how openness can help you see the world differently Read David Byrne’s How Music Works Listen to music outside of your normal playlist Dig into more research on music and cognition Listen to “happy” music to promote divergent thinking (which leads to increased creativity) Explore social justice through music, a curriculum Improve your allyship Referred to in this episode (in order of mention) Letter from David Byrne about American Utopia Listen to “Here” from American Utopia See American Utopia’s set and costumes Read about and watch Annie-B Parsons’ American Utopia choreography  Your brain on music Your brain listening to different genres of music Grooviness of music What is embodied cognition? What is embodied cognition to music? American Utopia’s partnership with Headcount Watch Janelle Monae’s official music video for “Hell You Talmbout” Your brain choreographed movement vs improvised movement Watch this video debunking the MYTH: “Humans use 10 percent of our brains.” What is pruning in the brain? Babies learning language What is synesthesia? Research by Berit Brogaard to unlock more of brain’s potential The truth about left brain vs. right brain What is dadaism? Listen to “I Zimbra” from American Utopia David Byrne Talks Being a Good Ally and American Utopia How making music can promote brain plasticity About Our Guests: Ruthie Fierberg, Host Ruthiefierberg.com  IG: @whywetheater / T: @whywetheater IG: @ruthiefierceberg / T: @RuthiesATrain Tendayi Kuumba, Performer @whostendayi Dr. Vinoo Alluri PhD, musicologist and neuroscientist Dr. Alejandro Lleras PhD, psychologist Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
Mar 11 2022
1 hr 18 mins
Re-Release: IF I FORGET and American Jews, Anti-Semitism, and Tribalism
With the recent controversy surrounding Whoopi Goldberg and her remarks about the Holocaust, with the recent hostage situation at a Texas synagogue, with generational trauma and anti-Semitism on the brain, Why We Theater re-releases this episode from Season 1 with a new intro and new context. Dig into Tony Award winner Steven Levenson's play IF I FORGET with Steven himself and experts Rabbi Shuli Passow (B'nai Jeshurun in New York City) and scholar Judah Isseroff. Watch IF I FORGET on BroadwayHD. Michael’s monologue, as performed by Tony Award nominee Jeremy Shamos, appears with the permission of Roundabout Theatre Company, which premiered IF I FORGET Off-Broadway in 2017, and Steven Levenson. Referred to in this new intro Watch: Whoopi Goldberg shares thoughts on the Holocaust on The View Debra Messing tweets a helpful response to Goldberg Banning of "Maus" in schools.... and the subsequent nationwide results Hostage situation at Texas synagogue Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, PA What is Zionism? Referred to in this episode “The Rise of Social Orthodoxy: A Personal Account” by Jay P. Lefkowitz “The Problem with ‘Social Orthodoxy’” by Joshua R. Fattal, a critical response to Lefkowitz “What is the Talmud? Definition and Comprehensive Guide”, Yehuda Shurpin Who is Theodore Herzl? Who is David Ben-Gurion? Who is Sheldon Adelson? Who is “Adolf Eichmann”? Who is Hannah Arendt Neveragain.com Anti-Defamation League: Fighting Hate for Good What is Jerusalem Syndrome”?   Create the change Learn more about Judaism — knowledge facilitates compassion with “Introduction to Judaism” OR “The Basics of Judaism” Name anti-Semitic incidents as such, report them, and speak out against them Use Ten Ways to Fight Hate: A Community Response Guide Learn about The New Israel Fund, which envisions a Jewish and democratic state Fight for justice guided by Jewish values with Jews for Racial and Economic Justice (JFREJ) Be aware of your own bias — it’s evolutionarily built in us to be tribal and we need to self-examine our thoughts and introduce dissenting viewpoints If you are Jewish and looking for ways to become involved: Choose a small tradition and incorporate that into your home, like lighting candles on Friday night for Shabat or saying the “Shema” before bed each night Take inspiration from B’nai Jeshurun’s The Jewish Home Project In COVID, many synagogues have moved services online; explore to find a place that feels right to you   Why We Theater is a product of part of the Broadway Podcast Network, edited by Derek Gunther, and produced by Alan Seales. Follow us @whywetheater on Instagram & Twitter. Our theme music is by Benjamin Velez. Hear more at BenjaminVelez.com. Our logo is by Christina Minopoli. See more at MinopoliDesign.com. Special thanks to Genesis Johnson, Dori Berinstein, Leigh Silverman, Patrick Taylor, Tony Montenieri, Elena Mayer, Wesley Birdsall, and Suzanne Chipkin.   Connect with Ruthie! RuthieFierberg.com Instagram: @ruthiefierceberg / @whywetheater Twitter: @RuthiesATrain / @whywetheater Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
Feb 17 2022
1 hr 34 mins
THE COLOR PURPLE meets Prayer for the French Republic
Continuing our discussion about the musical The Color Purple (which is also about to become a movie musical starring Fantasia Barrino, Danielle Brooks, Colman Domingo, and Corey Hakwins), this week Ruthie recommends Joshua Harmon’s new Off-Broadway play Prayer for the French Republic.  The Color Purple—originally a novel by Alice Walker—was adapted into a musical and first opened on Broadway in 2005 and revived in 2015 and depicts the abusive relationship between Celie and Mister (among many other things). But is it as simple as “Mister is a bad guy?” Last week in “THE COLOR PURPLE and Generational Trauma,” we spoke about what it was like for actor Isaiah Johnson to play Mister—why he wanted to, how it was healing, and how it was challenging. Isaiah also pointed out that generational trauma is not unique to Black Americans and Prayer for the French Republic reminded me of that.   Prayer takes place in 2015-2016 Paris and 1945-1946 Paris, depicting multiple generations of French Jews in the same family. Rising anti-Semitism in Paris confronts the present-day Benhamou family, stoking fear and worry, and forcing them to wonder “When do you leave? When are the signs enough to tell you to leave? And where do you go? Where is safe?” Listen to this full episode for the connections between these two theatrical pieces, the communities they portray, and why you should run to see both. Buy tickets to Prayer for the French Republic at Manhattan Theatre Club. Visit the website of International Center for Multigenerational Legacies of Trauma Read the International Handbook of Multigenerational Legacies of Trauma Explore the work of Dr. Maria Yellow Horse Braveheart Read On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong Connect with your host! Ruthiefierberg.com  IG: @whywetheater / T: @whywetheater IG: @ruthiefierceberg / T: @RuthiesATrain Why We Theater is a product of the Broadway Podcast Network produced by Alan Seales and edited by Derek Gunther.  Our theme music is by Benjamin Velez. Hear more at BenjaminVelez.com. Special thanks to Genesis Johnson, Leigh Silverman, Suzanne Chipkin, Wesley Birdsall, Elena Mayer, Patrick Taylor, and Dori Berinstein.  Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
Feb 10 2022
13 mins
THE COLOR PURPLE and Generational Trauma
In all its forms, The Color Purple is a powerful account of generational trauma in the Black community. The novel by Alice Walker was published in 1982 and won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1983 before being adapted into a movie by Steven Spielberg starring Whoopi Goldberg and Oprah Winfrey. In 2005, the musical version opened on Broadway starring LaChanze with a book by Marsha Norman and a score by Brenda Russell, Allee Willis and Stephen Bray. Ten years later, the musical came back to Broadway in a 2015 revival and won the Tony for Best Revival of a Musical.  Actor Isaiah Johnson, who played the role of Mister in the original Broadway cast of the 2015 revival production, opposite Cynthia Erivo, joins us to discuss the musical as we look at the character of Mister and generational trauma. What does it mean to carry the trauma of your ancestors? How does this type of trauma affect people, specifically Black Americans? What tools are there to heal this trauma for those experiencing it? And how can non Black people support Black healing? Experts Curtis Smith, Cymone Fuller, and Dr. Schekeva Hall weigh in, as well. Create the Change Begin or deepen your mindfulness practice (resources from Moment of Mindfulness here) Seek out a therapist with cultural competency training Search Therapy for Black Girls, Psychology Today, Alma, etc. Consider a restorative justice process to heal pain and trauma in lieu of punitive justice For members of the Black community: Build relationships and unify Black people  Check out the youth organization Jack and Jill of America or any of the 10 on this list Discover the Black Feminist Project Tell your truths, your stories, express yourself For members of non-Black communities: LISTEN.  Read Dr. Yael Danieli’s book International Handbook of Multigenerational Legacies of Trauma Find more research on generational trauma via the International Center for Multigenerational Legacies of Trauma Read “Breaking the Chains of Generational Trauma” Learn more about generational trauma Explore the work of Dr. Joy DeGruy Referred to in this episode Michaela Angela Davis Clips from the Schomburg Center Color Purple panel “Lynching Memorial” aka The National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery, Alabama What is generational trauma? What is mindfulness? Moment of Mindfulness LLC What is restorative justice? Impact Justice Statistic: Children of Holocaust survivors over-represented 300 percent Generational Trauma in Indigenous communities and its impact Ruthie Fierberg, Host Ruthiefierberg.com  IG: @whywetheater / T: @whywetheater IG: @ruthiefierceberg / T: @RuthiesATrain Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
Feb 3 2022
1 hr 26 mins
SANCTUARY CITY Meets The Sun Is Also A StarSANCTUARY CITY and U.S. Immigration Reform
Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Martyna Majok debuted her new play, Sanctuary City, Off-Broadway at New York Theatre Workshop in the fall of 2021. The drama follows B and G, two best friends, both undocumented immigrants. After 9/11, B’s mom decides to return to her country of origin, but the U.S. is the only home B has ever known. As he decides whether to stay or leave, G might be able to offer him a solution. How much are they each willing to sacrifice?  Sanctuary City puts U.S. immigration policy and the people it affects under a microscope and humanizes the stories behind the legalese. Host Ruthie Fierberg, along with Majok and experts Katherine Benton-Cohen (Author Inventing the Immigration Problem: The Dillingham Commission & Its Legacy), Carolina Canizales (Immigration Legal Resource Center), and Christian Pinochet-Paul (Presidents’ Alliance) discuss the evolution of immigration policy in the United States to present day, potential reforms to make policies more humane, where immigrants can find support, and more.  Create the change Support your local immigrant communities Create a warm and safe space at community centers Welcome them in the PTA and at school functions Become a patron of immigrant-owned businesses Assist in supporting refugees Dispel myths about immigrants (Read “The 14 Most Common Arguments Against Immigrants and Why They’re Wrong”) Donate to/partner with TheDream.US Donate to the International Rescue Committee Volunteer with/Join a campaign at United We Dream, the largest immigrant youth-led network Visit the State Policies map to see the policies of colleges & universities in every state Advocate for in-state tuition for all students with your state representatives If you work at a college or university, visit Presidents’ Alliance for resources, research, and tips to support international, immigrant, & undocumented students If you or someone you know is an immigrant, undocumented or otherwise, who needs support: Check your eligibility for DACA and apply (DACA toolbox) Apply for a National Scholarship or Opportunity Scholarship for higher education Seek support from United We Dream Reach out to Texas Organizing Project Contact the Workers Defense Project Find a Dream Center near you Referred to in this episode Timeline of U.S. immigration laws  What is DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals)? What is DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act)? The Dillingham Commission Katie’s book Inventing the Immigration Problem: The Dillingham Commission & Its Legacy Chinese Exclusion Act 1907 Gentlemen's Agreement 1965 Hart-Celler Act What is the DREAM Act? Who are Dreamers? Paul Kramer TED Talk: “Our Immigration Conversation Is Broken” Section 1325 (Unlawful Entry….) and Section 1326 (Re-entry After Deportation) Business Insider article on inflation and immigration Presidents’ Alliance, Best Practices Gaby Pacheco scholarship (via TheDream.us) Julian Castro’s proposed immigration policies Libby Garland’s book After They Closed the Gates: Jewish Illegal Immigration to the United States, 1921-1965 The number of immigrants and undocumented immigrants in the U.S. About Our Guests: Ruthie Fierberg, Host Ruthiefierberg.com  IG: @whywetheater / T: @whywetheater IG: @ruthiefierceberg / T: @RuthiesATrain Martyna Majok, playwright Twitter: @martynamajok Katherine Benton-Cohen, PhD, professor of history and author Twitter: @guprofbc  Carolina Canizales, Immigrant Legal Resource Center Twitter: @the_ILRC Christian Penichet-Paul, Presidents’ Alliance Twitter: @donchristian92 Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
Jan 20 2022
1 hr 26 mins
Why We Theater NOW: January 2022THE KILLING OF KINGS meets The Prison WithinBONUS: THE KILLING OF KINGS continued with Esther Matthews
Building upon last week’s episode “THE KILLING OF KINGS and the Transition of Incarcerated Persons From Prison,” host Ruthie Fierberg speaks one-on-one with expert Esther Matthews, PhD, about the practical steps to take to achieve the prison and transition reforms we spoke about in our main episode. As a professor of sociology and criminology with research expertise in re-entry solutions for formerly incarcerated people, Esther answers questions in four key areas: 1. Physical safety inside prisons, 2. Shifting prisons towards transformation and away from retribution, 3. Holding your Department of Corrections (DOC) accountable, and 4. Anti-Discrimination for transitioned citizens.  Create the Change: Physical safety inside prisons  Examine and lessen frequency of strip searches Make strip searches more private  Expand training for personnel who perform strip searches to require humane treatment Counseling and education—not punishment Shift your ideology to see inmates as people Amend training of correctional staff so that safety of the people inside (not the institution) is their protective priority Minimize force  Reach out to head of Department of Corrections—usually called the Secretary—or reach out to the Governor (who appoints the Secretary) Reach out to state legislators Find your federal and local representatives Hold the Department of Corrections and Bureau of Prisons accountable Through Secretary of DOC, who oversees DOC policies Reach out to superintendent or warden of local prison for implementation of those policies Know your Governor/gubernatorial candidates’ position as they appoint the head of the DOC Department of Justice appoints head of BOP policy in federal facilities Reach out to your U.S. Senator for federal facility concerns and state legislators for state facility concerns Anti-Discrimination Work Tighten policies: Reach out to state and local legislators because they implement laws like Ban-the-Box and state and federal agencies who enforce those laws Enforce laws that are already on the books (i.e. Ban-the-box) Contact the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission if you have been the victim of discrimination Move burden of proof to employer and landlord when trying to deny a job or housing (rather than burdening the person with the record to prove worthy)  Referred to in this episode Norway correctional staff training as mentors rather than custodians or officers (original study) How this can work in the U.S. North Dakota reforms corrections officer training Other U.S. states follow Norway’s model About Our Guests: Ruthie Fierberg, Host Ruthiefierberg.com  IG: @whywetheater / T: @whywetheater Esther Matthews, PhD, Assistant Professor of Sociology & Criminology, Gonzaga University Esther earned her PhD in the Justice, Law and Criminology program from American University. She holds a Master of Science in Justice, Law and Criminology from American University, and a Bachelor of Science in Political Science from Oregon State University. Her research focuses on identifying and investigating successful re-entry solutions for returning citizens. She has a particular interest in how race, gender, poverty and mental health intersect, are criminalized and affect reentry efforts. Her research projects include: 1) a field experiment testing outcomes of ban-the-box policies, 2) detection of implicit bias against justice-involved individuals and determining if, and how, it can be altered, 3) ethnographic inquiry of restricted housing units and reentry programs in two Northeastern prisons and 4) qualitative examination of employment programs for returning citizens in the DC area. Esther has been published in the Journal of Offender Rehabilitation and has two book chapters scheduled for publication in the Routledge Handbook on American Prisons and Prisons and Community Corrections: Critical Issues and Emerging Controversies. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
Dec 30 2021
17 mins
THE KILLING OF KINGS and the Transition of Incarcerated Persons From Prison
Today we welcome artist Nadira Simone, who wrote the breath-stealing new play The Killing of Kings. The drama weaves a tapestry of Black families in America dealing with mass incarceration and police brutality, grappling with Black Lives Matter, and surviving racism. Simone achieves this by homing in on the King family, as patriarch Patrick King returns home from a second stint in prison. But what kind of life awaits Patrick King now that he is out?  We dig into the struggles of transitioning out of incarceration. Experts Anthony Dixon of the Parole Preparation Project and Esther Matthews of Gonzaga University rewind to the conditions that lead to imprisonment and recidivism—the tendency of a formerly incarcerated person to become reincarcerated. We learn why words like “re-entry,” “rehabilitation,” and “reintegration” are inaccurate and counter-productive and reset terminology to use the word “transition.” Simone, Dixon, Matthews, and host Ruthie Fierberg discuss possible reforms inside prisons to transform residents and how we as the receiving communities can facilitate the transition for people who get out to become integrated members of society. Create the change Watch The Prison Within Question your own biases about incarcerated and formerly incarcerated persons Approach all people with compassion and humanity Advocate for prisons that help people change; not just lockup Support the use of Cognitive Behavior Therapy and peer support in prisons Find short-term, medium-term, and long-term proposals from Brookings Institute If you are an employer, consider “banning the box” - raise the bar for disqualification of employment If you are a landlord, raise the bar for disqualification of rentals Read The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander and Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson Go to Brennan Center’s “End Mass Incarceration” > Click on an “Issue” > Click “Work & Resources” > Read “Policy Solutions” > Advocate for these, Vote for representatives who include these in their platforms Support and amplify the “Reverse Mass Incarceration Act” Read “A Federal Agenda to Reduce Mass Incarceration” What to look for in activists and candidates Improve physical conditions in prisons (the jurisdiction of each state’s Department of Corrections) Support Last Prisoner Project, reach out to them if you are in need Learn about HOPE for Prisoners Donate to Legal Services for Prisoners with Children Learn more about the War on Drugs and the number of people imprisoned for non-violent crimes (ACLU, AP, Brennan Center) Referred to in this episode Children’s Village in Dobbs Ferry, where Anthony spent time in his childhood Goshen Annex The War on Drugs and its effect on the Black community The Prison Within documentary Washington Post article by Esther Matthews 2.2 million people are incarcerated in the U.S., 40 % no public safety reason (Brennan Center stats) DOC: Department of Corrections Data on obstacles to transition (housing, employment, etc.) Reuben Miller’s book Halfway Home Megan Kurlycheck research (specifically Comparing the Distributional Properties of Arrest Risk Across Populations of Provisional Employees With and Without a Criminal Record) What is “Ban the Box”? Ruthie Fierberg, Host Ruthiefierberg.com  IG: @whywetheater / T: @whywetheater IG: @ruthiefierceberg / T: @RuthiesATrain Learn more about our guests at bpn.fm/whywetheater. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
Dec 23 2021
1 hr 15 mins
INTERSTATE Meets Multiple Recommendations
Authenticity was the heart of our last episode “INTERSTATE and Authentic Trans, Queer, and Asian-American Representation.” Our discussion included artists Kit Yan and Melissa Lee and experts AC Dumlao of the Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund and Sheena Brevig of the Center for Scholars and Storytellers. The quintet (including host Ruthie Fierberg) deliberated about how we ensure authentic representation and how we can get producers, theatres, and studios to greenlight projects that have non-white or non-male or non-straight or non-cis central characters. We just need more.  In every mini-episode, Ruthie recommends one piece of art that connects to the previous week’s larger themes. If you INTERSTATE or the conversation around it intrigued you, Ruthie recommends more stories you should explore. In the vein of “more, more, more,” Ruthie decided to offer multiple suggestions of art to put on your list, add to your queue, and place on your shelf. If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo The Crazy Rich Asians trilogy (Crazy Rich Asians, China Rich Girlfriend, Rich People Problems) by Kevin Kwan Amateur by Thomas Page McBee Find your nearest Independent Bookstore to purchase. Never Have I Ever, Netflix The Sex Lives of College Girls, HBOMax Connect with your host! Ruthiefierberg.com  IG: @whywetheater / T: @whywetheater IG: @ruthiefierceberg / T: @RuthiesATrain Why We Theater is a product of the Broadway Podcast Network produced by Alan Seales and edited by Derek Gunther.  Our theme music is by Benjamin Velez. Hear more at BenjaminVelez.com. Special thanks to Genesis Johnson, Leigh Silverman, Suzanne Chipkin, Wesley Birdsall, Elena Mayer, Patrick Taylor, and Dori Berinstein.  Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
Dec 16 2021
17 mins
INTERSTATE and Authentic Trans, Queer, and Asian-American Representation
Representation is the buzzword of the day. But mere presence means nothing if it isn’t accurate and genuine. Authentic representation in storytelling benefits not only members of historically excluded groups like Asian-Americans and trans people but members of every group, including the dominant culture. As of 2019, 69.1 percent of all film roles were white. How do we achieve a greater variety of stories, roles, and jobs in theatre, movies, and television? How do we ensure these stories and parts are written “authentically”? How do we get producers to greenlight projects? Interstate, a new musical by Kit Yan and Melissa Li, follows two Asian-American artists (one a lesbian and one a trans man) as they embark on a U.S. tour with their band Queer Malady. Meanwhile, trans teen Henry discovers QM’s music and finds his story in theirs. Kit & Melissa join host Ruthie Fierberg and experts Sheena Brevig of the Center for Scholars and Storytellers and AC Dumlao of the Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund for this discussion about the importance and impact of authentic representation and how we can push for parity. Hear songs from INTERSTATE here. Create the change If you are a studio head, producer, director, greenlight stories about historically excluded characters AND make sure members of that community are part of the creative team. Use the Kilroys List—the annual industry survey of excellent new works by women, trans, and non-binary playwrights—to find quality stories by underrepresented artists to produce. Read These Numbers Show How More Diversity on TV Leads to Increased Viewership If you are an audience member, buy a ticket to a show/movie or watch a series about a community you are not a part of.  Download the Center for Scholars and Storytellers’ “AIR Tip Sheet for Race” to ensure authentic, inclusive representation across races. Read these storytelling tips to evolve the representation of boys and men. Enlist CSS to consult on a project or sign your team up for a CSS workshop. Get in touch with AC Dumlao and enroll in a workshop (i.e. Trans 101). Watch “Trans Literacy Project” videos from Honest Accomplice Theatre for their Trans 101 series. If you or someone you know needs help changing their name, visit TLDEF’s Name Change Project. If you or someone you know needs info about trans health services and access, visit TLDEF’s Trans Health Project. How to support TLDEF Follow TLDEF on social: @translegaldefense on IG, @TLDEF on FB and T. Read this article about the need for and benefits of authentic Asian-American representation. Read this discussion about trans roles for theater in American Theatre Magazine. See this graphic on Gender Parity in Children’s Television.  Referred to in this episode Ruthie’s Playbill interview with Kit and Melissa “On T” refers to taking testosterone hormone therapy, which some trans men choose this as part of their gender affirmation process “Het” abbreviation for heterosexual Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund (TLDEF) Center for Scholars and Storytellers (CSS) CSS’ AIR Report The Vito Russo Test The Writers Guild of America 2020 Inclusion Report (statistical source) UCLA’s Hollywood Diversity Report 2020 (statistical source) Understand racial bias communicated via television nonverbal behavior Quote from CSS - “Many believed having a Black president…” LGBTQ+ lead characters in TV and film stats API 1 protagonist in top-grossing film Dr. Sheila Murphy’s study out of USC about the impact of narrative vs non-narrative film on public health outcomes for women. (Correction from the podcast: This study was published in 2015, not 2012.) DEI workshops through CSS About Our Guests: Ruthie Fierberg, Host IG: @whywetheater / T: @whywetheater Melissa Li www.melissali.com/ @melsaboo Kit Yan www.kityanpoet.com/ @kityanpoet Sheena Brevig @sheenamidori / CSS IG @scholarsandstorytellers AC Dumlao IG: @mx.acdumlao/ T: @mxacdumlao  Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
Dec 2 2021
1 hr 12 mins
Why We Theater NOW: November 2021RINSE, REPEAT meets Brave Girl Eating
Nov 18 2021
11 mins
RINSE, REPEAT and Eating Disorders
Eating disorders affect 29 million Americans (9 percent of the population). Every 52 minutes, someone in the U.S. dies as a direct result of their eating disorder. Guided by Domenica Feraud’s rapturous play RINSE, REPEAT, this week we delve into eating disorders: anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge eating disorder, orthorexia, and every eating disorder on the spectrum.  Host Ruthie Fierberg and Feraud unite with experts Dr. Mae Lynn Reyes-Rodriguez (researcher and clinical psychologist and fellow at the Academy for Eating Disorders) and Johanna Kandel (founder and CEO of The Alliance for Eating Disorders Awareness) to understand how to recognize if you or a loved one suffers from an ED; the stigma surrounding EDs; the true spectrum of EDs; the gaps in the medical system in treating EDs; EDs across cultures, particularly in the Latinx community; the economy and effects of diet culture; how and where you can find help for yourself or a loved ones; and legislation that will make ED treatment more accessible.  Read the play here. About Our Guests: Ruthie Fierberg, Host Ruthiefierberg.com  IG: @whywetheater / T: @whywetheater IG: @ruthiefierceberg / T: @RuthiesATrain Domenica Feraud, playwright  domenicaferaud.com Dr. Mae Lynn Reyes-Rodriguez, PhD., FAED med.unc.edu Johanna Kandel, founder and CEO of The Alliance for Eating Disorders Awareness Follow her on Instagram: @johannakandel @allianceforeda Create the change Call The Alliance for Eating Disorders Awareness (866-622-1235 or click here). Join a free weekly clinician-led support group through the Alliance. Please do not comment on the way anybody looks. Do not label food “good” or “bad” or “junk”. All food in moderation. Listen when someone tells you they are struggling with eating, especially if you are a medical practitioner. Sign up for Action Alerts from the Eating Disorders Coalition (EDC) to easily sign petitions when legislation reaches Congress. Donate to the EDC. Support the bipartisan Nutrition CARE Act. (Learn more here.) Support the SERVE Act. (Learn more here.) Advocate for culturally sensitive treatment of eating disorders across cultures. Learn more about Health At Every Size. Referred to in this episode 2019 Playbill interview between Ruthie and Domenica Understanding the word “recovery” relating to EDs Statistics and research on eating disorders from National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) Racial and ethnic bias in ED care, specifically for Latinx people Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
Nov 11 2021
1 hr 14 mins
WITNESS UGANDA meets The Good Doctor
Beloved medical drama THE GOOD DOCTOR has a lot to teach us. Beyond its premise—following the evolution of Dr. Shaun Murphy, a physician on the autism spectrum, and the hospital and its employees around him—and beyond its weekly case, the ABC television series also demonstrates the use of the strengths model in foreign aid. Expert Ana Jiménez-Bautista taught us the definition and importance of the strengths model in last week’s episode “Witness Uganda and Ethical Foreign Aid.” So this week, we connect musical theatre to television, Witness Uganda to The Good Doctor. Witness Uganda creator Griffin Matthews also emphasized the importance of international travel during last episode’s discussion. In this mini-episode, we also look to Rick Steves for his decades-worth of thoughts on how traveling is a political act and the greatest weapon against hate. Watch The Good Doctor on ABC or Hulu. Read “Rick Steves Wants to Set You Free” by Sam Anderson. Listen to the full episode on “OSLO and the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict.” Connect with your host! Ruthiefierberg.com  IG: @whywetheater / T: @whywetheater IG: @ruthiefierceberg / T: @RuthiesATrain Why We Theater is a product of the Broadway Podcast Network produced by Alan Seales and edited by Derek Gunther.  Our theme music is by Benjamin Velez. Hear more at BenjaminVelez.com. Special thanks to Leigh Silverman, Suzanne Chipkin, Wesley Birdsall, Elena Mayer, Patrick Taylor, and Dori Berinstein.  Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
Nov 4 2021
13 mins