Why We Theater

Sep 18 2020 68 mins

Why We Theater lies at the intersection of theatre and social justice. Here, we work to answer the questions theatremakers ask in their most urgent onstage works, contend with the cultural issues they confront within their art, and create meaningful change in our offstage lives. Each episode begins with a one-on-one discussion between host Ruthie Fierberg and the artist behind the theatrical piece at hand; then we open the discussion to include real-world experts in that field to offer advice and steps to help us all take actions (re-wire a thought pattern, sign a petition, donate to a related charity, volunteer for a related organization, etc.) to manifest progress. I like to think of “theater” not just as a place or a presentation but as an action. “To theater” is to engage with art presented onstage. The curtain call of a play or musical is not the end of the experience; it’s the beginning. And so this is Why We Theater. Part of the Broadway Podcast Network.





Ep7 - Usual Girls and Femme Sex and Sexuality, Part Two
Sep 18 2020 65 mins  
The second of a fascinating two-part discussion, this episode delves deeper into Ming Peiffer’s Usual Girls. The play premiered in 2018 at Roundabout Underground for an extended, sold-out run. Catalyzed by the allegations against American Apparel’s Dov Charney, playwright Peiffer began to investigate the stories of women and the milestones in the sexual maturation of girls in America that can lead to a fraught and vulnerable relationship to one’s own sexuality. Peiffer put the patriarchy, rape culture, sexism, misogyny, and racism on trial in her professional debut work. What does healthy sexual development look like? How can femmes claim (or reclaim) their own sexuality? Is it possible to shed the culturally imposed shame and guilt and adopt an outlook of pleasure? What should effective sex education teach and when? What sexual stereotypes do we impose upon different communities, be it Black, Latinx, Asian, and how do we counter them? What are the consequences of teaching abstinence-only, medically inaccurate, or emotionally devoid sex ed? Peiffer, host Ruthie Fierberg, and experts Dr. Tracie Gilbert, a sex educator, writer, researcher, and consultant with over 25 years experience, specializing in work with Black communities; Professor Lisa Speidel, assistant professor and general faculty in the Gender and Sexuality department at the University of Virginia, and editor of The Edge of Sex; Professor Celine Parrenas Shimizu, Director of the School of Cinema, member of the graduate faculty of Sexuality Studies at San Francisco State University, filmmaker, and author; and Justine Ang Fonte, a disruptor in health education and Director of Health and Wellness at an NYC K-12 school, gather to discuss everything from pleasure to self-discovery, recovering from violence to self-defense and all the coming-of-age in between. Referred to in this episode Meet Ericka Hart Consent outside of sex The stats on sexual assault and rape CDC’s 16 critical topics in high school sex ed Music video: WAP Create the change Read Pleasure Activism by Adrienne Maree Brown Check out K-12 sex education resources from Advocates for Youth How to teach consent to kids at every age Practice enthusiastic collaborative consent Learn to set safe sexual boundaries Lesson Plan: How to teach accurate reproductive anatomy and physiology to kids Explore your own pleasure at stores geared towards female pleasure like Babeland or The Smitten Kitten Learn to know thyself from Audre Lorde Watch the documentary On The Record  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 Twitter: @RuthiesATrain Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices


Ep6 - Usual Girls and Femme Sex and Sexuality, Part One
Sep 11 2020 63 mins  
The first of a critical two-part discussion, this episode focuses on Ming Peiffer’s Usual Girls. The play premiered in 2018 at Roundabout Underground for an extended, sold-out run. Catalyzed by the allegations against American Apparel’s Dov Charney, playwright Peiffer began to investigate the stories of women and the milestones in the sexual maturation of girls in America that can lead to a fraught and vulnerable relationship to one’s own sexuality. Peiffer put the patriarchy, rape culture, sexism, misogyny, and racism on trial in her professional debut work. What does healthy sexual development look like? How can femmes claim (or reclaim) their own sexuality? Is it possible to shed the culturally imposed shame and guilt and adopt an outlook of pleasure? What should effective sex education teach and when? What sexual stereotypes do we impose upon different communities, be it Black, Latinx, Asian, and how do we counter them? What are the consequences of teaching abstinence-only, medically inaccurate, or emotionally devoid sex ed? Peiffer, host Ruthie Fierberg, and experts Dr. Tracie Gilbert, a sex educator, writer, researcher, and consultant with over 25 years experience, specializing in work with Black communities; Professor Lisa Speidel, assistant professor and general faculty in the Gender and Sexuality department at the University of Virginia, and editor of The Edge of Sex; Professor Celine Parrenas Shimizu, Director of the School of Cinema, member of the graduate faculty of Sexuality Studies at San Francisco State University, filmmaker, and author; and Justine Ang Fonte, a disruptor in health education and Director of Health and Wellness at an NYC K-12 school, gather to discuss everything from pleasure to self-discovery, recovering from violence to self-defense and all the coming-of-age in between. Referred to in this episode Kinsey Institute What is a “comfort woman”? Who gets the most right-swipes on dating apps? Sexual stereotypes of Black communities and Asian communities Lesson Plan: How to teach accurate reproductive anatomy and physiology to kids Only 15 of 50 states required to be medically accurate; and other sex ed laws What is rape culture? As explained by Marshall University or Buzzfeed Children’s Book: Sex is a Funny Word Music video: WAP Create the change Check out K-12 sex education resources from Advocates for Youth How to teach consent to kids at every age Explore your own pleasure at stores geared towards female pleasure like Babeland or The Smitten Kitten Watch Justine Fonte’s “Story” Read Emily Nagoski’s Come As You Are Read Celine Parrenas Shimizu’s The Hypersexuality of Race: Performing Asian American Women on Screen and Scene Read Shimizu’s The Feminist Porn Book: The Politics of Producing Pleasure Read Lisa Spiedel’s The Edge of Sex: Navigating aa Sexually Confusing Culture From the Margins  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 Twitter: @RuthiesATrain Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices



Ep5 - Soft Power and Democracy, U.S.-China Relations, and Asian-American Culture
Aug 13 2020 88 mins  
Three-time Pulitzer Prize finalist and Tony-winning playwright David Henry Hwang and director Leigh Silverman join former national security advisor to VP Joe Biden, former policy director for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign, and U.S. policymaker Jake Sullivan and journalist, media consultant, author, and “Asian Pop” columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle Jeff Yang to discuss the musical-within-a-play Soft Power. The piece covers the merits and pitfalls of democracy, the American electoral system, the American campaign system, U.S.-China relations, cultural appropriation, racism and hate crimes in America, soft power itself, and more. This episode of Why We Theater focuses on democracy, voting rights, and appreciating Asian-American perspectives and culture. Is democracy the best system of government? How do we improve our electoral system now? What must we keep in mind for the November 2020 Presidential Election? What is soft power and how do we wield it responsibly? Do Americans have a say in how we interact with foreign nations? How? Listen to find out. Referred to in this episode What Donald Trump and Dick Cheney Got Wrong About America by Jake Sullivan The Citizens United Supreme Court Case What Is Ranked Choice Voting? From FairVote.org What is the Single Transferable Vote? Why Was the Electoral College Created? by Dave Roos Jeff Yang’s podcast "They Call Us Bruce" (co-hosted by Phil Yu) What is the “model minority” myth? Building the Transcontinental Railroad: How 20,000 Some Chinese Immigrants Made it Happen by Lesley Kennedy The history of Asian American for Equality and the Asian American Movement of the 1960s Create the change Research and support Automatic Voter Registration Check your voter registration status and deadlines for registration by zip code Research your what’s on your ballot and who your candidates are Contact your representative to support voter rights - SUPER easy with 5calls.org Watch "We're Doing Elections Wrong" from Patriot Act With Hasan Minhaj Read Jeff Yang’s Op-Ed "Mr. President, you don't speak for Asian Americans" Check out this interactive timeline to understand the history of the U.S. and China’s relations Read Cathy Park Hong’s poetry and writings on her experience as an Asian American: Minor Feelings: An Asian American Reckoning Read Peter N. Kiang’s "Understanding Our Perceptions of Asian Americans" Stop hate against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders Watch panels from the Rise: Asian Pacific America digital conference 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 Dori Berinstein, Leigh Silverman, Patrick Taylor, Tony Montenieri, Elena Mayer, Wesley Birdsall, and Suzanne Chipkin. Connect with Ruthie! RuthieFierberg.com Instagram: @ruthiefierceberg Twitter: @RuthiesATrain Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices


Ep4 - Pipeline and Education Inequity and the School-to-Prison Pipeline
Aug 07 2020 104 mins  
Inspired by Dominique Morisseau’s play Pipeline, today’s episode delves into issues tied to the national crisis of the school-to-prison pipeline. The play follows, Omari, a Black high school student at a predominantly white prep school and his single mother, Nya, who teaches at the district public school. When Omari attacks his teacher in class, Nya’s fears for her son and his future push her to the edge and force audiences to question who is truly at fault. How and why did the school-to-prison pipeline begin? What problems does education inequity and inequality cause? How do we make education more equitable—across public and private institutions? How do we train teachers of all races to relate to students of all races? What is “culturally responsive education” and how can it improve our education crisis? How does this connect to Black Lives Matter, George Floyd, Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, Trayvon Martin, Breonna Taylor, and too many more? Listen to this fascinating and urgent discussion with playwright Morisseau and education experts Tyree Booker and Matt Gonzales. Purchase the play here. Referred to in this episode Watch Pipeline now on BroadwayHD. (Option for free trial for new users.) Michael Brown’s murder in Ferguson, MO (Read up until “The Law” section, which sources speculative opinions) The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander ACLU: “School-to-Prison Pipeline” Metropolitan Center for Research on Equity & the Transformation of Schools, where Gonzales works on education research and policy Camelot Education, where Booker serves as an Executive Director Morisseau’s op-ed “Why I Almost Slapped a Fellow Theatre Patron, and What That Says About Our Theatres” What is “Culturally Responsive Education”? Native Son by Richard Wright - Buy it from your local Black-owned independent bookstore; find stores here or here. Hear poet Gwendolyn Brooks read her “We Real Cool” Key and Peele’s “If We Treated Teachers Like Pro Athletes” U.S. Department of Education School Discipline Snapshot 2017-2018 School Survey on Crime and Safey “Racial Disparity in School Discipline” Infographic Create the change Stand up for Black lives Find one-page education reform resources at the EJ-ROC Policy Hub Read Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson; Fierce Conversations by Susan Scott; Who Moved My Cheese? By Spencer Johnson; The Miseducation of the Negro by Carter G. Woodson (Buy from a Black-owned independent bookstore; find stores here or here.) Follow @integratenyc @CEJNYC @TeensTakeCharge @AQE_NY @CACF Read i3’s (Integration and Innovation Initiative) plan to integrate NYC schools, take their cues to adapt the policies for your school district Learn what “defund the police” means Elect Board of Education reps who: Support universal early childhood education Advocate for culturally responsive-sustaining education Will divest from school policing Will decriminalize student behavior Will develop “sanctuary school” models to make school a space safe from police and ICE agents Provide a model for family engagement in education Opt for counseling and progressive discipline Reach out to and collaborate with the Anti-Racist Initiatve at NYU’s Metro Center 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 Dori Berinstein, Leigh Silverman, Patrick Taylor, Tony Montenieri, Elena Mayer, Wesley Birdsall, and Suzanne Chipkin. Connect with Ruthie! RuthieFierberg.com Instagram: @ruthiefierceberg Twitter: @RuthiesATrain Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices


Ep3 - The Lifespan of a Fact and Truth in Journalism
Jul 30 2020 81 mins  
Based on the book of the same name, The Lifespan of a Fact opened cold on Broadway at Studio 54 October 18, 2018, and immediately illuminated issues of journalistic integrity, art versus media, and what the word “truth” actually means. Jim Fingal is an intern at a literary magazine assigned to factcheck an essay by John D’Agata—the kind of piece that, according to editor-in-chief Emily Penrose could be “meaningful” and “pushes the envelope.” Inspired by Jim, John, and their real-life negotiation, the story follows Jim as he investigates every checkable fact in John’s article (excuse me, “essay”) as John fights to preserve the art of the story and the essence of truth. But are truth and facts the same? What about news and storytelling? Should there be a difference? When should a writer’s perspective surface, if ever? What facts are negotiable, if any? How do you know? In this episode, host Ruthie Fierberg digs into the origins of the play with Leigh Silverman—yielding a surprise twist—before opening up the discussion about facts and their negotiability, or lack thereof, with renowned content creator Ira Glass of This American Life who says facts are black-and-white and Barbara Brandon-Croft, a fact-checker and research director at Parents magazine, who says situations like those portrayed in Lifespan are all too familiar. In the end, these artists and experts advise us all on how to consume reliable media and how to hold journalists and their outlets to ethical standards. Purchase the play here. Referred to in this episode John D’Agata’s story “What Happens Here” that inspired the book The Lifespan of a Fact, which inspired the play The July 25, 2008, episode of This American Life “Switched at Birth” The January 6, 20120, episode of This American Life “Mr. Daisey and the Apple Factory” and its subsequent retraction, titled “Retraction” released March 16, 2012 Read Ira’s 2012 letter about the retraction here Study: Distinguishing Between Factual and Opinion Statements in the News (How well can Americans tell the difference?) Quiz: How well can you tell factual from opinion statements? Create the change Take the quiz to see if you know the difference between fact and opinion statements Learn the difference between fact and opinion statements with this one-sheet Dive deeper with this lesson plan from The Guardian Support your local radio station or local television news station Find your local radio station in one click Watch Hasan Minhaj explain the importance of local news on Patriot Act Check the masthead (akin to a staff directory) of your magazines. Look for a “Research Director” or “Head of Research” and/or “Fact-checkers” on the EDITORIAL staff (NOT the Marketing/Sales/Publishing staff). Stay aware. Always check your sources. (Wikipedia is not a reliable source—though it may lead you to one.) Examples of reliable sources: government agencies, studies from a journal of repute, doctors and lawyers in their area of specialty, Nielsen and Pew Research Center 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 Dori Berinstein, Leigh Silverman, Patrick Taylor, Tony Montenieri, Elena Mayer, Wesley Birdsall, and Suzanne Chipkin. Connect with Ruthie! RuthieFierberg.com Instagram: @ruthiefierceberg Twitter: @RuthiesATrain Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices


Ep2 - Octet and Internet Addiction
Jul 23 2020 76 mins  
“Octet and Internet Addiction” Inspired by the new 2019 musical Octet, this episode digs into the helps and harms of the internet and digital technology. Written by Dave Malloy (The Great Comet) and directed by Annie Tipp, the a cappella chamber musical debuted Off-Broadway at the Signature Theatre Center. Staged as a sort-of AA meeting for tech addicts, each song serves as a share about a different manifestation of tech addiction. But are we all addicted to tech? It’s not necessarily the tools, but how we use them that can lead us to breakthroughs or breakdowns. In this episode, host Ruthie Fierberg digs into the origins of the musical and its roots in research with Tippe before opening up the discussion to three experts. Dr. Mary Helen Immordino-Yang offers the facts about technology’s effects on our brains and socialization; Dr. Hilarie Cash, who treats internet addiction, advises how to recognize true addiction and gives tips to establish a healthy media diet; and software engineer Daphne Larose proposes a new path for responsible tech development and the beneficial uses of software, the Internet, and games. Referred to in this episode Listen to the Octet live album What are QAnon and 4chan? Research from Dr. Mary Helen Immordino-Yang Create the Change Go grayscale Turn off push notifications Unplug: Go tech-free one day per week, one weekend per month, one week per year For educators read: The Brain Basis for Integrated Social, Emotional, and Academic Development Hold tech companies accountable If you feel concerned that you may have a more severe problem with digital technology, seek additional help. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA) is a free national helpline for recovery resources and referrals; 1-800-622-HELP Find a therapist who specializes in Internet Addiction with this tool Consider treatment at reSTART 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 Dori Berinstein, Leigh Silverman, Patrick Taylor, Tony Montenieri, Elena Mayer, Wesley Birdsall, and Suzanne Chipkin. Connect with Ruthie! RuthieFierberg.com Instagram: @ruthiefierceberg Twitter: @RuthiesATrain Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices


Ep1 - School Girls... and Colorism, Beauty, and Self-Esteem in Women, Girls, and Femmes
Jul 15 2020 65 mins  
Playwright Jocelyn Bioh and experts Afia Ofori-Mensa of Princeton University and Maryann Jacob Macias of National Crittenton join host Ruthie Fierberg to explore the questions raised about the roots of colorism and how to check your own bias, beauty standards and how to advocate for broader definitions of beauty, self-esteem and how to raise girls and women to know our own self-worth in this episode tied to Off-Broadway’s Lortel-winning and Drama Desk-nominated comedy School Girls; Or, the African Mean Girls Play. Purchase the play here. Referred to in this episode: TikTok ‘tried to filter out videos from ugly, poor or disabled users’ Peggy Orenstein, watch her TED Talk tied to her book Girls & Sex The work of Dr. Susan Bordo Create the Change: Write letters to the publisher. Send letters, emails, tweets (as someone who worked for a magazine, yes we really do read it all) either to praise the diversity of people you see in their pages—editorial and advertising—or to point out the lack thereof and demand a change. Letters to the editor will also work. Put your money where your mouth is. Buy make-up from brands with a wide spectrum of shades—even if your shade is lighter. Buy from brands that support your ideals—and let your friends know who these businesses are so they can join you. Broaden the idea of the protagonist Read, borrow, and purchase books with protagonists of color. Expand your horizons while showing that the readership for these stories is wide. As this writer observes: Black Books Are for White Children, Too. Here are some lists to get you started: 10 Books With South Asian Characters You Should Read in 2020; Multicultural Book Recommendation for World Travel From the Safety of Home. Lift up women in front of other women. Compliment girls for things they’ve done, not how they look. Why We Theater is part of the Broadway Podcast Network, edited by Derek Gunter, 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 Dori Berinstein, Leigh Silverman, Patrick Taylor, Tony Montinieri, Elena Mayer, Wesley Birdsall, and Suzanne Chipkin. Connect with Ruthie! RuthieFierberg.com Instagram: @ruthiefierceberg Twitter: @RuthiesATrain Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices




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