A Conversation With Joan Lipkin, Theater Triple-Threat And Activist
Joan Lipkin has been annually co-producing “Briefs,” a festival of short plays centered around stories that shed light on the LGBTQ community, in St. Louis with the Vital VOICE since 2012. But in the era of Trump, she’s channeling her disillusionment into other creative projects. “I had an existential crisis after the election. I’ve been asking myself, ‘What is needed now?’”
Her work centers on political commentary, and this past February she traveled to Stanford University, working with students to create a piece that highlighted the theme of bravery. “Bravery!” says Lipkin, shaking her head. “That would never have been the theme two years ago.”
Now, after five years, “Briefs” begins its sixth and (probably) final weekend Thursday, March 9, 2017, at the .ZACK Performing Arts Incubator theater in Midtown St. Louis. Eight short plays will showcase stories that reflect themes felt within the LGBTQ community, but which also support other mission-focused organizations. A portion of ticket sales will go to the International Institute of St. Louis and the Islamic Foundation of Greater St. Louis.
Lipkin often puts forth her social justice-minded work on stage; she’s recently produced a commemoration of the victims of the Pulse Nightclub shootings in Orlando and a co-production of last year’s “Every 28 Hours,” a 75-minute collection of sixty-second plays that spotlight the crisis of violence against unarmed black men by law enforcement in America.
Lipkin’s mother served as a formative role model, sparking her interest in social-justice advocacy. “She was one of the original members of Women Strike For Peace. She also started a free study hall after school for underserved youth,” says Lipkin. “I probably learned social justice at the dinner table.”
At this year’s “Briefs” festival, Midwesterners will have a chance to see one of Lipkin’s own pieces, “Our Friends,” which she wrote and directed. The story follows two women who clash over the appropriate response to the Orlando nightclub shootings, discovering aspects of their relationship that hadn’t surfaced before. The program also includes the piece “Trial And Swear” which tests the boundaries of lesbian love; and “Gaga,” in which a gay couple in their 60s tries to understand the worldview of a millennial couple.
A standout piece from last year’s festival, the tough but wistful “When Oprah Says Goodbye” returns, featuring two hostile nursing-home residents who discover a tender, bygone connection.
This year’s “Briefs” will showcase Lipkin’s social and theatrical sensibilities as well as her joy in helping others discover their creative capacities. “When you find those, they open up all sorts of areas in your life,” she says.
Don’t miss this year’s production of “Briefs,” March 9-11 at the .ZACK in Grand Center. Tickets may be purchased here.