Opening Up Communications Channels Through the Performing Arts

A poster depicting the JTP’s 2019 – 2020 season.

In the past, I have published a number of blogs about how the performing arts can help transport people from their daily lives to gain a better understanding of social issues and diversity. One of the organizations leading this work in my community is The Justice Theater Project (link to my introductory blog about the JTP.)

I am pleased to share that my business, Total Engagement Consulting by Kimer is supporting the Justice Theater Project by placing a full page ad in the 2019 – 2020 season program book. In addition, I serve on the JTP’s Community Engagement Committee which helps line up educational speakers and schedule area non-profits to present their organizations at the shows.

This season’s 2019 – 2020 theme is “From Monologue to Dialogue – Open Communication Opening Minds.” This theme was chosen as we head into our next Presidential election cycle at a time when the USA is facing unprecedented division along the lines of political parties, race, gender and socioeconomic status. This year’s productions demonstrate how characters falter when their minds are closed and how they rise when they approach difficult topics with open dialogue.

The season’s first production runs on the weekends from September 13 – 29, “Inherit the Wind.” This play is a dramatization of the true “Trial of the Century” when a schoolteacher is thrown into jail for teaching Darwin’s Theory of Evolution. Revisiting this trial is quite timely in today’s world when an increasing number of people are proclaiming science (such as global warming, human pollution and impact on the environment, etc.) as “fake news.” Link to the full list of 2019 – 2020 productions.

Vanessa Woods, Author of Bonobo Handshake, will be our pre-show speaker on September 28th.

At the September 28th show, I will be introducing that night’s educational speaker, Vanessa Woods speaking on “Survival of the Friendliest: Evolution and What it Means Today.” Vanessa Woods, NYT Bestselling Author of The Genius of Dogs and Bonobo Handshake, is a most fascinating speaker and often shares about her research with the Bonobo apes of the Congo. At the September 29th afternoon show, I will spotlighting Other Sheep, a non profit of which I am the board chair, that provides resources to religious leaders in third world countries to promote acceptance of LGBTQ people.

Later in the season, I plan to deliver a short educational workshop prior to one of the shows on the complexities of effective communications in an increasing complex diverse world.

Please consider ways you or your business can support the work of the Justice Theater Project. Become a season subscriber or a sponsor. Details on the JTP website. And if you are one of my blog readers from outside the area, perhaps see if there is a similar theater company in your community, or perhaps consider starting one!

Explore transgender diversity through a cool one-woman show!

JJ Marie Gufreda spends time at the piano composing more songs about her experience as a transgender woman.

I am a big proponent of transporting people out of their daily lives through the performing arts to give them a fresh prospective on societal issues, and have written a few blogs on this subject (see list and links at the bottom of this blog.) I am also a diversity and inclusion consultant and trainer, and one area I often consult in is around policies and best practices to support transgender employees. (Link to my 12 question transgender organization self-assessment.)

Now let’s bring these two areas together!

Since the transgender topic is so often misunderstood and even frightens some people, one ideal way to educate people in a more lighthearted way is via the performing arts. You can credit much of the advancement in terms of gay and lesbian acceptance to the portrayal in televisions and movies, and now the performing arts can also help made strides in the transgender area.

So I would like to introduce an incredible transgender woman and business associate, JJ Marie Gufreda. JJ realizes that often, deeply personal views are not changed by logical arguments, but instead via human interaction, personalizing the discussion, and through humor. JJ delivers her 90-minute show, “Left-Hander in London – The Earthquake,” with a tongue-in-cheek style and uses sarcasm and music to share her experiences as a transgender woman.

The show is edgy and thought provoking. She talks about family, business, religion and politics from her personal perspective. JJ believes, that if this show, which includes original music and songs, can get people to laugh a little and connect as humans, we can then make progress towards positive change.

JJ Marie often engages her audience in dialogue following her show.

This show is ideal for a variety of venues, including businesses, community organizations, schools, and even churches that want to start or deepen a discussion on understanding and treating transgender people fairly. The show can be used to launch a discussion and create a safe space where all people can honestly dialogue about diversity topics and their personal views.

So, for your organization, consider transporting everyone from the typical presentation and training into this fantastic one-woman production that can truly open eyes and hearts.

For more information, check JJ’s updated website at or contact her at [email protected].

Below are some words directly from JJ, and links to some of my related blogs.

From JJ Marie: Diversity can be a difficult topic to discuss in corporations. What is the real organizational benefit to improving diversity and including minorities? Many organizations have made public statements and have visible initiatives for diversity in their employees, suppliers and customers. But not everyone in the organization may agree with a company’s efforts to improve diversity and inclusiveness. Society is certainly divided about diversity. If an employee shares his or her (negative) feelings about diversity, minorities or any related topics, they may be risking their job. Incongruence between corporate and personal views can cause problems in the organization – especially when even discussing these topics can lead to people losing their jobs.

Since the Supreme Court ruling legalizing same sex marriage, the fight for LGBTQ rights has focused on transgender people and issues, making JJ’s story relevant as it relates to all minorities. Her experiences from 30+ career in facilitation, speaking, training and consulting can be helpful in assessing real progress in diversity, helping people to positive discourse regarding diversity and assisting a company improve operations and the bottom line because of their diversity programs and policies. Just as it is strategically important for a transgender employee to be able to safely and comfortably transition at work, it is critically important to help employees improve their attitudes around people that are different from them. JJ and her consulting colleagues can use experience to help employees, management and the company improve in these areas.

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Links to related 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 concerns through my blog “The Justice Theater Project – Societal Impact Through the Performing Arts.”

A two part blog featuring a mother / daughter – director / actress pair using theater to make a positive impact in England. Link to part 1 which then contains a link to part 2.