Making a Social Impact through Theater – A Mother / Daughter Pair (Part 2)

Rachel Swift (stage name Rachel Winters) far right in an adaptation Babette’s Feast by Karen Blixen Adapted by Glyn Maxwell. Photo ©NOBBY CLARK, [email protected]

As a diversity consultant, I feel the performing arts can be a powerful medium to address many social issues such a racism, homophobia, ageism, economic inequality and more. Sometimes people need to be transported outside themselves and their daily lives to see something on stage or hear something in music that can communicate to them much better than a written editorial or a political debate. I have written four blogs about this subject over the past year, including part 1 (link) of this blog about a mother / daughter pair. (See additional blogs at the bottom of this post.)

Last week I wrote about the mother, Cathy Swift. Do read more (link to last week’s part 1) about this fascinating woman who was an accomplished business woman, figure skater and now theatre director in the UK. And after speaking with Cathy I discussed the impact her daughter Rachel Swift (Stage name is Rachel Winters) is making on the world through the world of theatre.

STAN: Rachel, I just got done talking to your mother Cathy about her involvement in the theatre. How did you get involved in theatre yourself and was your mother an influence in that?

RACHEL: My mother has definitely had an impact on me being an actress. She took me to my first theatre show when I was about four. It was a staged version of Postman Pat and apparently I watched wide eyed in amazement. Ever since, she has enjoyed taking my sister and me to the theatre on a regular basis. When I was about seven, I joined the local amateur dramatics group and that’s where my love for theatre blossomed. I loved socialising and working with people from different backgrounds and of different ages, and that’s one of the things that I continue to love today when I’m working on a production. As well as the local group, I started to do a lot of school plays when I joined my Upper School at thirteen. I had a wonderful drama teacher and he was a huge inspiration to me. It was when I met him that I realised I wanted to act professionally.

STAN: What have been some of your biggest joys and struggles working in the theatre?

Mother and Daughter Cathy and Rachel Swift are making an impact in their community through their involvement in theater.

RACHEL: The joys of working in theatre are when you’re working! The people are wonderful and I’ve made some brilliant friends. I’ve worked at some beautiful and prestigious theatres – I’m currently in rehearsals for a production of ‘Much Ado About Nothing’ at Shakespeare’s Globe. I’ve always been interested in people and that’s one of the things I love about acting. The process of understanding a character and working out why they behave the way they do. It can be challenging but it’s a challenge I relish. The main struggle with being an actor is the part where you’re not working. When you come to the end of a job, you often don’t know when the next job will start, and that can be scary. As well as feeling unfulfilled during these times, you can also find yourself without money, as finding flexible work that pays well is difficult. It is something actors are constantly battling with and you have to really love it and care about it to keep on going. It’s also very competitive – getting seen for parts can be difficult, even if you have an agent, and it’s not just about how good you are. A lot of it depends on looking right and fitting other criteria.

STAN: I understand that you have now started a work called Fair Play (link), which aims to use drama and role play to teach children about human rights, gender equality, anti-bullying etc. Can you tell me more about what triggered your desire to start this group?

Fairplay uses fun exercises, role play and games to help children explore a point of view outside themselves, and to feed a healthy and compassionate culture in the classroom.

RACHEL: I’ve been wanting to set up my own business for a couple of years now, partly as a way to gain some control. I love acting but I need something else that I do that (a) pays the bills and (b) I feel proud of. After a couple of business ideas that weren’t quite right, I found myself exploring Fair Play. I’ve become increasingly more aware and passionate about gender equality over the past couple of years and it’s very much at the forefront of my mind. I also work as a theatre practitioner at Shakespeare’s Globe when I’m not acting, so I have a lot of experience with leading drama-based workshops for children. Fair Play therefore made sense. As well as having the relevant experience, I really care about equality and believe that the key to change is education. After discussing the business idea with teachers, I realised that instead of just doing workshops on the niche subject of gender equality, it would be more valuable to explore equality as a whole.

STAN: What are some of the activities that Fair Play does to achieve its mission?

RACHEL: I recently did my first set of workshops at a school in Woking (a town just outside London). One exercise that the children responded brilliantly to was a game I call ‘Islands’: You’re shipwrecked on a desert island and you’re the only survivors. Create a freeze frame of you on the boat during the storm. There is plenty of food and water on the island. As a team, you have to create a whole new society. Write 6 human rights for your island. There is another storm and one person is swept away to another island (so one student from each group moves to a different group). Create a short scene where the new member of the island breaks a rule. How do the others deal with it badly? Do the scene again but change it – how do the people on the island deal with the broken rule in a more fair way?

STAN: How can my readers get involved in assisting or supporting Fair Play?

RACHEL: The full launch of my business is due to be in April. So far I’ve been in the testing phase – working closely with a school to gather experience and perfect the workshops. At launch, I’ll only be contacting private schools about my business as I am aware state schools won’t have the budget to fund it. However, as my business is centered around human rights the goal is to offer subsidised workshops to schools who can’t afford it. If you or anyone else you know can help finance this in any way, or help promote by business, that would be really valuable. Here’s a link to my Patreon page. It’s a really inexpensive way to contribute directly to human rights education in the schools that need it most.

STAN: Thank you for sharing about your life and work with me and I wish you the very best of success with your acting career and your new business.

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My other blogs about social issues being addressed through the performing arts:

“A great diversity experience – Theater Breaking Through Barriers” about enjoying an off-Broadway play in New York City which featured actors with a wide range of disabilities.

“Promoting Diversity and Inclusion Through Bluegrass Music,” is about an innovative annual concert called “Shout and Shine” of diverse Bluegrass musicians. This celebration came about in 2016 as a direct response to North Carolina’s oppressive HB2 “bathroom bill” discriminating against our LGBT citizens.

• I introduce the Justice Theater Project, a social justice theater company whose mission is to produce compelling theater experiences that create community dialogue and give voice to social concern,s through my blog “The Justice Theater Project – Societal Impact Through the Performing Arts.”

• A follow on blog about the Justice Theater Project’s Play “Bent,” The Justice Theater Project presents “Bent” – a drama about Germany’s Third Reich’s persecution of homosexuals.

Seven More Fabulous Out Gay People of Figure Skating (and One Bisexual Woman)

I met US pairs skaters Ashley Cain and Timothy LeDuc at the 2017 US Nationals where they won the pairs bronze medal.

HOT!! – on January 23rd I published my third and most recent installment of this series – Seven more fabulous out LGBTQ+ athletes of figure skating.

Blog author Stan Kimer, in addition to training as an adult competitive figure skater himself, is a career development and diversity consultant with a deep expertise in corporate LGBTQ diversity strategy and training. Please explore the rest of my website (which includes my own figure skating page) and never hesitate to contact me to discuss diversity training for your organization, or pass my name onto your HR department.

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Important Note: This blog only features athletes who voluntarily, personally and publicly disclosed themselves as gay.

Since my original “Fabulous Out Gay Men of Figure Skating” is almost two years old, I decided to write this second installation with 2018 being an Olympic year. In addition to my original blog’s Adam Rippon and Eric Radford more than likely competing, Brian Orser coaching and Johnny Weir announcing the 2018 figure skating at this year’s Olympics, this blog contains a few more people we should be seeing there.

Before or after reading this blog, you may want to relook at the original 2016 blog where I also provided some information and link about figure skating not only being a legitimate sport, but about how truly difficult it is.

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These fabulous men who are excellent role models and testament to hard work are, in alphabetical order:

Christopher Caluza cuddles a koala in Australia as he travels the world on a cruise line’s figure skating staff.

Christopher Caluza – This dual-citizen Filipino-American figure skater began his early career skating for the US, and then later for the Philippines. Christopher was the Filipino national champion in 2012 and 2013, and represented the Philippines at the Figure Skating World Championships for 3 years. He is now retired from competitive skating and enjoys seeing the world while skating in the ice cast of Royal Caribbean Cruises. Christopher is very active on Facebook as an out proud man who advocates for respect and equality for all people.

Guillaume Cizeron – UPDATE: On 17 May 2020, in honour of the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia, he came out as gay with a post on Instagram showing him with his boyfriend. This extremely handsome and sexy man from France (check out his public Facebook page!) is a two time world ice dance champion with his partner Gabriella Papadakis. Papadakis and Cizeron currently hold the world’s record top ice dance international competitive score and are one of the favorites to win Olympic gold in 2018.  UPDATE:  Papadakis and Cizeron did indeed win the Olympic gold medal.

J. Scott Driscoll – Scott was a competitive American skater in the junior and senior ranks in the early 1980s, and then a frequent medalist thereafter in the US Open Professional Championship ranks. Now coaching in Palm Springs, California, what is extraordinary about Scott is his use of his skating to promote anti-bullying and acceptance of LGBT people through his beautiful and dramatic program, “Your Love Matters.” Link to performance on Youtube.

Timothy Goebel – This American skater, the Olympic men’s bronze medalist in 2002, known in the skating community as “the quad king,” helped usher in the “quad jump revolution” within men’s figure skating. Probably the most technically proficient skater of his day, Timothy made Olympic history in 2002 by being the first man to successfully land a quadruple salchow in combination at an Olympic competition. This one time US gold medalist and three time silver medalist married his long time boyfriend Thomas Luciano in April, 2017.

Timothy LeDuc – This dark-haired tall handsome American pairs skater initially competed with three different partners from 2009 – 2014 with their best senior’s pair finish of 7th in the US Championships with DeeDee Lang in 2014. After retiring and then performing on a cruise line ice skating performance staff, Timothy was called out of retirement to re-enter competitive pairs skating with a new partner, Ashley Cain. The tremendously hard working team accomplished the amazing feat of placing third at the 2017 US Nationals in just their first year together! Be looking for this tall pair with their gorgeous extensions and long lines to compete for US and world medals in the years to come.

Javier Raya of Spain (left in photo) came out by expressing his happiness of finding the love of his life, Andrew Nicholson.

Javier Raya – Javier Raya is viewed as the “number two” male skater in Spain just behind 2-time world and 5-time European champion Javier Fernandez. Javier Raya, a crowd favorite with his emotional skating, is the 5-time Spain silver medalist and will surely be making his second Olympic appearance in 2018. He proudly came out as a gay man in May 2016 by posting a charming photo kissing his boyfriend Andrew Nicholson and writing, “I have to say that right now I feel like the luckiest person in the world!”

David Wilson – this out and proud world-class choreographer has worked with several Olympic medalist in the past and will likely have several of his skaters participating in the 2018 Olympics. After his competitive career was cut short at the age of 18 due to Osgood-Schlatter disease, he toured with various ice shows before the entering the choreography field. David has now established himself as one of the top and in demand choreographers and his clients have included Olympic competitors and medalists like Jeremy Abbott, Patrick Chan, Yuzuru Hanyu, Kim Yuna, Fumie Suguri and Johnny Weir.

Popular multiple time Japanese champion Fumie Suguri (photo_by_Carmichael)

And though this blog is specifically about gay men, I would like to do a shout out to female skater Fumie Suguri. This four-time Japanese National Champion finished 5th in the 2002 Olympics and 4th in 2006. She came out in the Japanese media in 2014 as bisexual, quite a bold move within the Japanese culture.

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Additional related blog! Please read “Five Key Messages on The Importance of Out Gay Olympic Athletes”

Note January 18, 2018: A few weeks after publishing this blog, Outsports did an interview with and story about Timothy LeDuc. Link to the story.

Added February 8, 2018: A fantastic short television segment and interview with Timothy LeDuc who us featured in this blog.