One River Mississippi (2007)
On Saturday, June 24th, over 100 performers participated in One River Mississippi, an event that took place simultaneously across seven cities and was reported to be the largest site-specific performance in the world.
In development for four years, One River Mississippi sought to raise awareness of the environmental importance of the river to North America, celebrate the connection of the river communities, and engender awareness of the environmental importance of the river to North America, celebrate the connection of the river communities, and engender a shared responsibility among communities to reserve the future of the river. Participating cities included: Itasca, Minnesota; Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota; the Quad Cities; St. Louis, Missouri; Memphis, Tennessee; New Orleans, Louisiana; and Plaquemines Parish in Belle Chase, Louisiana.
“Radio simulcasts musically unite the performances as audiences
realize their local dance is part of a larger whole; as indeed
they and their communities are linked by the Mississippi River.
Engineers hook up live audio and visual interactive connections
that support this theme of interconnectedness, allowing live audiences
to participate in a seven-way call and respond between people and
communities, and to see what is happening at the other sites. As
people begin to relate to the world around them with renewed eyes
and hearts, a greater sense of empowerment and responsibility bloom”
The St. Louis portion of the event was organized by choreographers Beckah
Voight and Sarah Anne Patz. Performers
were located on both the Illinois and Missouri sides of the river,
on Laclede’s Landing, two barges, the Casino Queen, and the levee.
The main viewing area for the audience was the Eads Bridge. That
Uppity Theatre Company was the only theatre company in the area
invited to participate. We performed a piece called “H2O” that
featured belly dancing by
“It was an incredible experience to dance on the middle of the Eads Bridge, under a gorgeous expanse of Midwestern sky, surrounded by other dancers all in support of the same environmental goals,” said H2O director Joan Lipkin. “We were dancing long after the event officially ended. It was an experience we will not soon forget and we are deeply appreciative of all the work that went into organizing this.”
Other companies and groups involved in the Louis/East St. Louis site included: the Slaughter Project, the Ekklesia Dance Company, Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville’s ESL Center for the Performing Arts, COCA Dance, Vivian Watts, and the Jackie Joyner Kersee Youth Dance Company, among others. Sara Burke and Theo Jamison, two dancers who worked closely with the late great Miss Katherine Dunham offered a blessing over the proceedings in her honor.
In addition to performance, the One River Mississippi event featured several local environmental groups, such as Confluence Gateway, Trailnet, and the Missouri Coalition for the Environment and free ice cream from Blue Bunny.
Coming Out Stories (2006)
That Uppity Theatre Company Uses Playback Theatre for National
Coming Out Day Performance
To attract people from many segments of the community, we invited
over twenty hosts including Jill McGuire, the
Executive Director of the Regional Arts Commission; Chris
Clark, Artistic Director of Cinema St. Louis, and Dieta
Pepsi, our region’s reigning drag queen. We also invited
and provided free tables for eleven organizations including the
ACLU of Eastern Missouri, CHARIS, Frontrunners, Gateway Men’s Chorus,
Growing American Youth, Guardians, Human Rights Campaign, PFLAG,
PROMO, St. Louis Effort for AIDS, and Vital
For our performance we worked with Bill Chott, Nathan
Graves, Chris Hartman, Dan Huck, Carol Lark, Jackie Masei, Blaine
Tinsley, and Magan Wiles.
During the course of the experience that lasted about an hour
and a half, the audience became visibly more relaxed and participatory.
People volunteering to share their stories included a young lesbian
college student, the straight president of PFLAG, and
a gay bank president. As the performance came to a close, more
and more people were volunteering to share their stories and we
were out of our scheduled time. The growing enthusiasm of the audience
and desire to share made clear that we had constructed a meaningful
experience together and one that we will probably explore again.
Thoughts from the Audience:
I am absolutely thrilled that I got to see the show last night.
It was fabulous.
Hello, Is Anybody There? (2006)
Uppity Commissioned to Create Piece for Life Crisis Services
In the spring of 2006, Provident Counselling commissioned Joan Lipkin to create a piece about Life Crisis Services for its 40th Anniversary. Joan spent the summer talking extensively to Life Crisis Services director Sue Self and other staff members, interviewing crisis line workers, attending Survivors of Suicide (SOS) meetings and a crisis worker training session, and listening in on the phone lines. The result was “Hello, Is Anybody There?” performed by Rory Flynn, Kim Hughes, Jackie Masei, and Lee Osorio.
Over 30,000 people die from suicide in the U.S. annually, and suicide is the third leading cause of death among young people ages 15 to 24. Life Crisis Services provides suicide and crisis intervention services to more than 40,000 people each year, as well as counseling, support, information and referral services, and training and education programs for individuals and families facing difficult times in their lives.
For 40 years the phones have been ringing 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and even during holidays. With such dedication to excellence in training volunteers and staff and a passion for empathizing with a caller, Life Crisis Services has helped save many lives and kept families together. Whether the incoming call is from someone threatening to take their own life, a person struggling through a divorce or relationship problems, or someone overwhelmed by depression or an addiction, a Life Crisis Services volunteer or professional counselor is there to intervene.
“Hello, Is Anybody There?” was performed at the Ritz Carleton at the Life Crisis Services 40th Anniversary event co-chaired by board members Barbara Abbett and Sanford Scott. In addition to the performance, the ceremony included the presentation of awards to Elizabeth Makulec of Kids Under Twenty-One (KUTO), the St. Louis Area Crisis Intervention Team, and the Missouri Alliance for Children and Families.
After the performance, the master of ceremonies Al Wiman, an award-winning former broadcast journalist for KSDK-TV and KMOV-TV, called director Joan Lipkin to the podium asking, “How do you do this?” Joan joked, “This is the difference between TV and live performance, Al.”
Words of Choice (2005)
That Uppity Theatre Company was selected to direct a regional tour for “Words of Choice,” a project that uses theatre to emphasize reproductive issues and civic dialogue. It premiered last September at Central Reform Congregation as a benefit for Missouri NARAL. Created by Cindy Cooper, “Words of Choice” explores what the world without Roe v. Wade was like and how it will probably operate if Roe is overturned by the Supreme Court and a woman’s right to make her own decisions about reproduction is put in the hands of the states.
Cooper is an award-winning playwright and journalist in New York City. Her plays have been produced in New York, regional theatres, Canada, and parts of Europe. With a background as a lawyer, she was communications director in the field of reproductive justice; she first created “Words of Choice” in 2000.
“We need more safe spaces for strangers and neighbors and even mothers and daughters to talk,” explains Cooper. “And our leaders need to sit in. Away from polls and focus groups and message-makers, they need to open new conversations with the people who need Roe, even if they don’t know about it.”
“Words of Choice” consisted of 15+ true-to-life stories from both prolific and virtually unknown writers such as: Cooper, Angela Bonavoglia, Kathy Najimy, Emily Lyons, Michael Quinn, Emilie Townes, Alix Olson, Judith Arcana, Sherica White, Kathleen Tolan, and Justice Harry Blackmun, among others. The play’s message conveyed through both dramatic and comedic scenes, from a Taco Bell contraceptive burrito to a mother who testifies before the US Congress after an abortion showed severe birth defects would have killed her fetus. One scene featured an actor playing Emily Lyons, a nurse who was in an abortion clinic bombing, as she gives a speech to the Planned Parenthood Federation of America. Other hot-button topics included: emergency contraception, sexual assault, unintended pregnancy, abstinence education, and safe and legal abortion. Performances were followed by facilitated dialogue sessions which included political, religious, advocacy, liberal and conservative panelists.
The St. Louis cast offered the project’s first ever all-female ensemble. Performers included: Thomasina Clarke, Jackie Masei, and Kimberly Mason. “Although the issue of reproductive choice is a serious one, my approach often isn’t,” said Joan Lipkin, who directed the St. Louis touring production. “People can expect the kind of humor and dynamism with which Uppity’s work is associated. We get serious, we get funny, we get musical, and we even get hip hop. With this variety of personal narratives, spoken word, historical documents, dance, excerpts from plays and stand-up comedy, it is an exciting piece of theatre.” While “Words of Choice” has been produced in over two dozen cities and states, Uppity’s production was coined “The Emergency Tour of the Red States”, with stops in MO, KS, and OK.
Women's Bodies, Women's Lives (2005)
That Uppity Theatre Company Presents "Women's Bodies, Women's Lives" at the Mildred Kemper Art Museum on Friday, Jan 21st
Following a panel discussion from 4-6 on Friday, That Uppity Theatre Company presented a series of short performance pieces for the opening of the art exhibit, "Inside Out Loud: Visualizing Women's Health in Contemporary Art" on Friday, Jan 21 at the Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum (formerly the Washington University Gallery of Art) on Forsyth, off Skinker. This free performance was a one night only event and took place at 6:15 and 7 PM throughout the exhibition space.
Collaboratively created with Joan Lipkin, artistic director of That Uppity Theatre Company, an ensemble of some of St. Louis's leading choreographers, dancers, and performers created a series of scenarios affecting women's experiences, including work environments, aging, pregnancy, gender roles, sexuality and body image.
The ensemble for these site-specific performances called "Women's Bodies, Women's Lives" included Wendy Ballard, Summer Beasley, Kendra Eliott, Beth Hill, Louise Hung, Dawn Karlovsky, Tamara Kelly, Ashley Nanney, and Mary Ann Rund.
This is the first significant survey of contemporary American art to explore critical issues related to women's health. Inside Out Loud consists of 51 artworks on loan from across the country by 30 artists in a range of media, including painting, sculpture, photography, installation, video, digital, and performance art. It features established artists such as Jenny Holzer, Barbara Kruger, Tony Oursler, and Cindy Sherman, as well as younger talents Nina Katchadourian, Victoria Vesna, and others.
In the past 25 years, the subject of women's health has gained recognition across a spectrum of American culture. The term "women's health" officially entered the Index Medicus in 1991, the same year that the Office on Women's Health became an official branch of the US Department of Health and Human Services. Curated by Janine Mileaf, Swarthmore College, Inside Out Loud explores the parallel rise in the representation of women's health in the sphere of visual art, addressing such topics as breast cancer, AIDS, reproductive rights and technology, beauty, and aging.
"The visual work at the exhibit is very strong. Our intention is to use performance, which is three dimensional and movement based to provoke additional questions about the exhibited work and to suggest connections," says Lipkin. "We identified various themes in the exhibit and will literally be performing next to specific works of art. We are delighted to partner with the Kemper on this groundbreaking project and to help launch participation of over 60 exhibit related events."
Visualizing Women's Health in Contemporary Art will run January 21-April 24, 2005.
Peace Out! (2004)
That Uppity Theatre Company produced “Peace Out! An Artistic Resistance to War,” one of the largest arts collaborations in the history of St. Louis at the Center of Creative Arts (COCA). Approximately 800 people attended this one-night only event.
Deborah Stoddard, left Joan Lipkin, right - Photo: Suzy Gorman
Joan Lipkin and local poet, Deborah Stoddard, conceived of “Peace Out!,” as an opportunity for both artists and the general public to process the concepts of peace and war through participation in various activities and experiences. Joan and Deborah first worked together in a poetry performance group about race, “After Rodney,” in 1994. Ten years later, they reunited to put together this performance event that took place one week after the presidential debates were held in St. Louis and approximately two weeks before Election Day.
They were joined by a core organizing team of women that ranged from Jamie Cendroski, a 23 year old graphic designer, to Hedy Epstein, an 80 year old Holocaust survivor.
Back row, left to right: Ashley Nanney, Deborah Stoddard, Joan Lipkin, Hedy Epstein Front row, left to right: Sarah Shimchick, Stephanie Williams, Jamie Cendroski - Photo: Suzy Gorman
Painter Peter Shank designed a compelling poster to promote the event that listed over 100 participants.
The performance included staged interpretations of selected texts from poetsagainstthewar.org. This website was founded by poet Sam Hamill upon receiving an invitation to the White House the morning after reading of President Bush’s proposed plans for a “shock and awe” attack on Iraq. Of the site’s approximate 22,000 poems, Joan and Deborah selected 20 to be featured during the central performance. Poems included the work of first-time writers, as well as work by well-known poets including Philip Whalen, Rita Dove, and Katha Pollitt.
Uppity invited both prominent and emerging local choreographers, directors, and composers to stage the individual poems. Musicians included Lydia Ruffin, Carol Schmidt, Blake Travis, Charlie Pfeiffer, John MacEnulty, Mitsu Saito, Jan Marra, Gloria and Michael Baumeister, Mary Sparks, Symmetry, Robin Anderson, Peco and the Messenger with Q. Man, and City Folk, among others. Additional participants included The Black Rep’s Peghee Calvin and Linda Kennedy, Lee Nolting and COCAdance, Gary W. Barker, Metro Theatre Company’s Emily Petkewich, Jacqueline Masei, Mariah Richardson, and Erica Sutherlin, Wendy Ballard, Alice Bloch, Dawn Karlovsky, Sarah Anne Patz, Mary Ann Rund, members of The DisAbility Project, Gary F. Bell’s Stray Dog Theatre, Ken Haller and members of Hydeware Theatre Collective, HotCity Theatre’s Chris Mannelli, Margeau Steineau, and Donna Parrone, Bill Grivna, Lavelle Wilkins-Chin, Shirley LeFlore, K. Curtis Lyle, and Jane Ellen Ibur, among others. The main stage performance was a compilation of the individual pieces and was offered twice during the evening. The performance was taped by KDHX TV and has been broadcast on local cable stations.
Beyond staging work from Poets Against the War, “Peace Out!” was an interactive event that featured many activities and modes of expression. Additional offerings included a St. Louis Poetry Salon, curated by WORD in Motion, the collective that produced the National Slam Festival in St. Louis. In another area, a Peace Coffeehouse facilitated by Gen Obata offered a place for the public to listen to music by local performers. Attendees could also create their own haikus or make origami. Finished products were displayed on installations created by visual artist Elisa S. Forgelman. Refreshments were available, as well as wares at the Peace Boutique, and over twenty peace and social justice organizations had tables with information including Alternatives to Military Service, American Civil Liberties Union, Citizens for Global Solutions, Equal Housing Opportunity Council, Healthcare Justice Education Fund, Human Rights Action Service, Leftbank Books, Missourians Against Handgun Violence, Move on PAC, Peace Economy Project, PROMO, St. Louis Instead of War Coalition, St. Louis Labor Against the War, St. Louis Peace and Justice Shares, Veterans for Peace, Women in Black, and Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, among others. “As the casualties mount for both Americans and Iraqis, bold measures are required to promote real conversation about the path on which our nation is embarked,” Joan said. “We are interested in breaking through the cacophony of sound bites and increasing claims on people’s time and attention. ‘Peace Out!’ was an opportunity to bring together the artistic community to use their particular skills to protest the war and to attract participation by a wide range of individuals.”
Words from the Co-producers
Welcome to Peace Out! How good it is to be alive. To be in this space and in this breath. Together. To exercise our right to come together for the artistic expression of ideas about which we all feel strongly. While we still have civil liberties. While we still have the right to congregate. We are all busy people. More and more. And this is one busy time of the year. But last spring, as we watched the causalities mount in Iraq, as more and more people died or suffered injuries, as we watched a society in another part of the world get ripped apart, as we watched schoolchildren starving in St. Louis and arts programming and social services cut to feed a voracious war machine, we said, "Enough!" It is enough. And we must raise our voices as best we know how. Through art. Dancer Bill T. Jones said, "The artist should be the freest individual in our society. He should set an agenda for personal liberty and intellectual investigation."
We couldn't agree more. This is a very different kind of event. It has no public funding. A few generous individuals have sent in some donations, and while we are deeply appreciative of the donations, they do not cover the cost of doing this event. We tried to raise money in the midst of an election year and a soft economy and failed pretty miserably. At least in terms of funds. And we will still need to make that up somehow. But we are rich in human contributions. Almost every artist we asked said, "Of course. Count me in!" And a core group of extraordinary women--Jamie Cendroski, Hedy Epstein, Elisa S. Forgelman, Ashley Nanney and Sarah Shimchick--has been working diligently for months to design this event. And then there are our volunteers this evening. Please thank them for helping out; without them, this event could not happen. And so, tonight, this one night, we have 100 artists, maybe more, coming together to share their creativity and spirit, and the irreplaceable gift of time, to express their artistic resistance to war. Why are artists generally so opposed to war? We have been asked that question over and over. We have asked the question of ourselves. And there is no single answer. We do know that art is about the particular moment. And that the attempt to create is the very essence of life--and the antithesis of war. Art is about connection, the ability to share, to empathize with other people's realities. No matter how remote or different. And when you can truly empathize, violence is hard to justify. Art is also about the imagination, communication and FREEDOM to create. And when we dare to imagine freely, we conceive other ways of doing things. Positive, productive possibilities. Our collective imagination in this country right now is challenged by fear. So this evening is about stepping back from that fear and imagining. Imagining new possibilities for us here in St.Louis; imagining new possibilities for the world. How we can connect to each other in meaningful ways. How we can join to change things for the better, so we can live together in peace. We hope you will take full advantage of this evening. Check out the various spaces. The Peace Coffeehouse with music managed by Gen Obata. The St. Louis Poetry Salon curated by WORD in Motion with some of St. Louis's finest poets, including our very own K. Curtis Lyle, who will receive a Warrior Poet Award. Now that is the kind of warrior we like to see: a warrior of words. Then return to the salon at 9 for an open mic and the chance to speak your mind. Take time to contemplate the quotations in the art installations areas: Visual artist Elisa S. Forgelman has created a space for you to participate even further, by writing and hanging haikus or doing origami. Meet our exhibitors who are here to speak with you personally about the important work of their organizations and how you can get involved. There is food. There is drink. There are great, important and fun conversations to be had tonight. Please take the time to introduce yourself to at least one person you do not know and ask why they're here. Tell them who you are. We do not have the time to be shy--to stay strictly within our own enclaves. The peace train is leaving the station. All aboard! With love and respect, Joan Lipkin and Deborah Stoddard October 16, 2004
Praise for Peace Out!
“Congratulations to you! What a phenomenal event you created!” Emily
Petkewich Participant & Education Director, Metro Theatre
Company “I think it was a wonderful event. The
energy you guys put into it, to organize all of it, was amazing.
I had no idea of both the detail and the scope of the project…Thank
you for your vision on this one and for your vision and dedication
to so very many other socially conscious and artistically significant
projects. I was honored to have been involved.”
“It was an incredible event, filled with such beauty, power,
and emotion...You should be very proud. You are making a positive
difference in the world!” Rosemary Watts Dreams Unlimited,
Dreaming Peace Quilt “What a wonderful collaboration… ART
- what a wonderful blessing we have been given. Thanks again.” Linda
Kennedy Performer, The St. Louis Black Repertory Theatre Company “I
loved the show on Saturday. Each poem was interpreted so differently
from the others. It was great.”
“Peace Out! was so much more than heatre. Imagine so many
dancers, poets, musicians, and actors, transforming a building
into a sanctuary. Mix in the energy of an audience of over 800
and it was a microcosm of our ideal world. Thanks to all of our
gifted directors for making Peace Out! unforgettable.”
“What can I say? I was moved to tears on many occasions
tonight. One of my most memorable theatre experiences. Many,
Hey, remember that debate last week? The one where the male, middle-aged, Caucasian, Yale-educated millionaire who's running for president sparred verbally with the male, middle-aged, Caucasian, Yale-educated millionaire who's running for president? That was great. But what about the rest of America? When do the women, the minorities, the young and the old get their say? When do you get to talk?
At 7 p.m., as part of Peace Out! at the Center of Creative Arts (524 Trinity Avenue), that's when.
Peace Out!, a multimedia event rooted in the power of the Word, is, as the name implies, devoted to the idea of peace. Organized by poets Deborah Stoddard and Joan Lipkin, Peace Out! seeks to provide an outlet for creative resistance to war. From the thousands of works available at www.poetsagainstthewar.org, Stoddard and Lipkin selected twenty poems that they felt represented a journey toward empathy, then invited dozens of area artists, choreographers, musicians, dancers and actors to interpret these verses on stage. A host of St. Louis' progressive social organizations and arts groups quickly came aboard, but the core organizing group remains entirely female. Lipkin claims that's because "Women just get things done," an assertion that anyone with a mother can understand.
Still, one gender doesn't mean one voice: Lipkin believes that the country as a whole is "suffering a loss of imagination that pre-dated, but was exacerbated by, 9/11," and Peace Out! welcomes everyone who wishes to rectify that loss. In addition to the mainstage performance of the twenty selected poems (aided by projected images graciously provided by dhTV and KDHX [88.1 FM]), a St. Louis Poetry Salon hosted by Word in Motion takes place in COCA's dance studio, allowing local poets to speak their own minds. Taking the idea of inclusion even further, Peace Out! encourages everyone to add their seventeen syllables to the discussion in the Haiku Corner. Think of the entire evening as a debate with many parties, each given the opportunity to say their piece.
Admission is $10, with a $5 option for seniors and students, and free to all veterans. Call 314-995-4600 for more information. -- Paul Friswold
Give Peace Out! a Chance
"One of the most culturally significant artistic events held in St. Louis this year."
That's how Joan Lipkin describes Peace Out!, an interactive performance event to take place on Saturday, October 16, at the Center of Creative Arts (COCA) in the University City Loop.
Lipkin, Artistic Director of That Uppity Theatre Company, predicts "it's going to be huge."
She conceptualized this project in partnership with local poet Deborah Stoddard. The two first joined artistic forces a decade ago in "After Rodney," a poetry performance group about race and racism, in response to events surrounding the 1994 riots in Los Angeles.
Ten years later they are together again, this time responding to the war in Iraq. Late last spring, urged by the need to do something to oppose this conflict and war in general, they came up with a way to promote peace as they knew best: through artistic _expression. Thus was conceived Peace Out!, a one-night-only arts happening resisting the violence of war.
From the beginning, time was an essential element. This event is scheduled one week after the presidential debate at Washington University in St. Louis and just over two weeks before Election Day. "We're in a tenuous position," explains Lipkin. "We will never be at this particular political moment again." To take advantage of this moment, Lipkin sees Peace Out! as an opportunity "to get people thinking about peace, how to commit to peace, how they can have a role in bringing peace about."
Their specific inspiration comes from texts on the Poets Against the War website http://www.poetsagainstthewar.org . Founded by poet Sam Hammil in response to receipt of an invitation to the White House the morning after he read of the President's proposed plans for an attack on Iraq, the site now includes approximately 16,000 poems. Stoddard is among the poets published on the site. She and Lipkin have chosen 20 poems to be featured during the central performance aspect of the night.
It was a careful, deliberate selection process. "We passed over longer poems for shorter pieces that could be staged through the means of dance and performance," says Lipkin. All of the poems fit within an overall theme. "We wanted to craft an emotional journey of experience, centered around the stages of grief: shock, disbelief, anger, sorrow, negotiation, reconciliation and hope."
Lipkin has invited local choreographers, directors and composers to present staged interpretations of the poems, each extending from two to four minutes for the mainstage performance. Each poem will be projected onto the stage wall as it is presented. This performance will take place at 7 PM and repeat at 9 PM.
Beyond the staging of work from Poets Against the War, Peace Out! is designed as an interactive event with hands-on activities and various modes of _expression. In COCA's downstairs studio, a politically-themed poetry showcase at 7 PM will be curated by Word in Motion, the collective that produced the National Slam Festival in St. Louis this summer.
This showcase will feature St. Louis poets, including Shirley LeFlore, Michael Castro, K. Curtis Lyle, Jane Ellen Ibur, Mama Blue, Darlene Roy, Lavelle Wilkins-Chin, Fo Feet and Jeff Hamilton. Following the showcase, aspiring poets and performers are invited to take part in an open mic session at 9 PM. "This is a really strong opportunity for St. Louis poets to have a voice," says Lipkin. "We're creating a balance of energy between established and emerging artists."
In addition, attendees may choose to to create their own poetry by writing haikus and displaying them for others to read.
Other activities include making origami camels or cranes, browsing the Peace Boutique, and visiting tables staffed by various peace and social justice organizations. "We are giving tables to progressive organizations," says Lipkin, "with the stipulation that they must be there in person, to emphasize the interactive nature of the event."
More than a dozen progressive organizations are co-sponsoring the event, including Veterans for Peace, Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, Equal Housing Opportunity Commission, Human Rights Action Service, St. Louis Justice and Peace Shares, Instead of War Coalition Group, Women in Black, Peace Economy Project, the ACLU, PROMO, and United Healthcare Justice Fund, among others.
Peace Out! also is co-sponsored by KDHX FM 88.1 and dhTV: Community Media in St. Louis. dhTV will provide anti-war films and video clips to run throughout the event.
"We want people to have a really multifaceted experience about peace," says Lipkin, "poetically, performatively, visually, informationally and musically." In fact, music will be an integral part of the evening. As they arrive, guests will be greeted and "drummed in" by Joia's Rick Kramer, and others. Inside the art gallery, attendees will find an area dedicated to music. Here, they may sip coffee while listening to the sounds of Gen Obata, who also is curating. Other featured musicians include City Folk, Mary Sparks and Jan Marra.
On the mainstage, Mitsu Saito and John MacEnulty will provide transitional music between the poetic performances. Even one of the poems has been set to music by Carol Schmidt (of Jasmine fame), who will perform the piece with Lydia Ruffin.
The peace-oriented tone of the event will be evident immediately upon entrance to the Center. "Visual artist Elisa Forgelman is creating an exciting environmental installation," notes Lipkin, "so that the space is transformed from the time people enter the doors."
To soothe appetites, food and beverages will be available at a reasonable cost. Affordability is key to this event, according to Lipkin. "Most everyone involved is donating their time."
Tickets may be purchased at the door. They are free for veterans and $5 for seniors, students, people under 22, people with disabilities, and self-determined low-income. Tickets are $10 for the general public.
A core group of women, ranging from Jamie Cendroski, a 23-year-old graphic designer, to Hedy Epstein, an 80-year-old Holocaust survivor and peace activist, have worked to organize this event. Their goal, according to Lipkin, is to "galvanize young voters into realizing they have a voice and to create awareness that there are a lot of ways to promote peace and justice in our community."
Lipkin emphasizes the unique nature of Peace Out!: "Sometimes people hear about an event after it's over and then want to attend the next performance. This event will never be repeated."
Doors open at 6 PM, with the first performance beginning at 7 PM and a second performance at 9 PM. Activities continue until midnight.
"Spend the entire evening or just stop by for a while," encourages Lipkin, "but go."
For more information and to volunteer, call That Uppity Theatre Company (314-995-4600).
This article © 2004 Janet Vigen, all rights reserved.
“Peace Out” Performance - The
Power Of Poetry
Joan Lipkin, co-producer of "Peace Out" and Artistic Director of That Uppity Theatre Company, Stephanie Williams of Word in Motion, and Deborah Stoddard, poet and co-producer of "Peace Out"
ST. LOUIS–With the smell of politics wafting in the air, citizens of St. Louis are taking charge and voicing their opinions. Kerry and Bush have finally given Americans something to talk about with their newly revealed, distinctly opposing politics concerning the war. As Michael Moore’s "Fahrenheit 911" strategically arrives in video stores everywhere just weeks before the election, the Center of Creative Arts (COCA) will also be pulling a few tricks out of its sleeve. This year, COCA has gone coo-coo for politics, and its new performance, "Peace Out!" proves it. Like Moore’s popular and controversial documentary, this performance will be intentionally held one week after the political debates and approximately two weeks before the election.
Joan Lipkin, Artistic Director of That Uppity Theatre Company and Deborah Stoddard, a local poet, collaborated on the creation of the show which is primarily based on the contents of the Poets Against the War Web site, www.poetsagainstthewar.org. This Web site was founded by poet Sam Hamill in response to President Bush’s proposed plans for a "shock and awe" attack on Iraq. Emotionally-charged poems with strong political flavor from this website will be read by actors from several local theaters.
"Peace Out" is not merely a performance — it is an interactive performance that could be better described as an entire event featuring a number of hands-on activities and modes of expression. In the downstairs dance studio, a politically-themed poetry showcase will feature both prominent and emerging St. Louis poets. The performance will be broken down into 20 minute segments interspersed with acoustic musical interludes. The poetry showcase will be followed by an open mic session which will also be restricted to political themes only. In addition, attendees are invited to write haikus and display them for others to read. Other activities include making origami camels (instead of the traditional cranes), visiting the Peace Boutique and tables staffed by various peace and social justice organizations, or taking a quiet moment at the reflection corner. Food and beverages will be available at a reasonable cost.
So take off your coat and stay awhile. Forget about political double-talk and learn about the war from a more artistic perspective.
Peace Out! Was performed Saturday October 16, 2004 7:00 PM – 12:00 AM at the Center of Creative Arts (COCA) 524 Trinity Avenue in St. Louis, MO
Peace Out Mainstage Show Introduction and Finale:
Musical Introduction Created and performed by: Lydia Ruffin, Carol Schmidt, Blake Travis, Charlie Pfeiffer, John MacEnulty, Mitsu Saito
Peace Train by Cat Stevens Finale
Complete List of Participants as of 9/21/04
Co-producers: Joan Lipkin Deborah Stoddard
Co-Creators: Jamie Cendroski Hedy Epstein Elisa S. Forgelman Ashley Nanney Sarah Shimchick Stephanie Williams
Lighting Design: Peter Gilchrist Elizabeth Heilich
Sound Design: Justin Flint Ed Reggi
Video Projection: Beverly Hacker and dhTV
Visual Design: Jamie Cendroski Elisa S. Forgelman Peter Shank
Stage Management: Kirsten D’Agostaro Lauren Wiles
Technical Advisor: Justin Flint
Participants: Lydia Ruffin Carol Schmidt Blake Travis Charlie Pfeiffer John MacEnulty Mitsu Saito Peghee Calvin Linda Kennedy Joan Lipkin Lee Nolting Ashley Ervin Amanda Calhoun Mari Watson Alison Brandon-Watkins Jackie Strubberg Lauren Morrow Shanleigh Philip Christopher Page Matthew Borges Gary W. Barker Louise Hung Susan Gash Jason Garrison Dylan Duke Tricia Nykin Sarah Price Emily Petkewich Jacqueline Masei Mariah Richardson Erica Sutherlin Mary Ann Rund Laura Burkhart Daniel Logan Wendy Ballard Summer Beasley Alice Bloch Rachel Carrico Dawn Karlovsky Monica Newsam Sarah Anne Patz Libby Salvia Brenda Shoss Marsha Cann Ashley Nanney The DisAbility Project Tom Allen Lorrie Bielicke Christine Elbert Alison Chancellor Stuart Falk Barb Hamilton Andrew Lackey LeRoy Smith Gary F. Bell Eleanor Schwetye Molly Hannon Debbie Allen Kiné Brown Cassandra Bannon Traci Eichhorst Ken Haller Ember Hyde Megan Kelly Chris Mannelli Margeau Steineau Donna Parrone Robert Battle Zaire Imani Ed Reggi Paul Stewart Stephanie Williams Nina Reed Elizabeth Boulton Leslie Hochsztein Lauren Kenney Jessie Kissinger Camille Schmoeker Bill Grivna Kari Elizabeth Hill Brock H. Hill Kristin Mefford Joseph Garner Adam Betz Rachel Hanks Deborah Stoddard
Theatre Companies: That Uppity Theatre Company The DisAbility Project HotCity Theatre The St. Louis Black Repertory Company Hydeware Theatre Collective Stray Dog Theatre Metro Theatre Company
Poets: Joan Wagner Katha Pollitt Katherine Grace Bond Laurie Kuntz Ken Weisner Rebecca Beck Tom Page Stephen Wing Jennifer Boyden Sam Hamill Annette Allen Carol Muske-Dukes Deborah Stoddard Dr. Madan Gopal Gandhi Rita Dove Shia Tukino randall jacobs M. Catherine Bunton Philip Whalen Mama Blue Shirley LeFlore Michael Castro Stephanie Williams Darlene Roy K. Curtis Lyle Lavelle Wilkins-Chinn David Bloom Jeff Hamilton Fo Feet Jane Ellen Ibur Jeff Hamilton Michael O’Brian Kevin McCameron
Organizations to Share Information: Alternatives to Military Service American Civil Liberties Union Center of Creative Arts Citizens for Global Solutions Equal Housing Opportunity Council Healthcare Justice Education Fund Human Rights Action Service Leftbank Books Missourians Against Handgun Violence Move On PAC Peace Economy Project Poets Against the War PROMO St. Louis Instead of War Coalition St. Louis Labor Against the War St. Louis Peace and Justice Shares Veterans for Peace Women in Black Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom
Musicians: Symmetry Mary Sparks Mitsu Saito Lydia Ruffin Carol Schmidt Blake Travis Charlie Pfeiffer John MacEnulty Peco and the Messenger with Q. Man Rainy Daze Robb Cunningham Gen Obata Jan Marra Gloria and Michael Bauermeister Robin Anderson City Folk
Contributors: Adorers of the Blood of Christ Center of Creative Arts (COCA) WORD in Motion KDHX FM 88.1 dhTV: Community Media in St. Louis Duff’s Mokabe’s Loanscapes TerraCotta Catering ACLU PROMO Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom Citizens for Global Solutions The DisAbility Project Art & Soul Café Bouffant Daddy Missourians Against Handgun Violence Whole Foods Veterans for Peace Essence Therapeutic Massage Equal Housing Opportunity Council Wild Oats Market Pam Schneider-Coldwell Banker Cindy Lefton
Healthcare Justice Education Fund
St. Louis Peace and Justice Shares
Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom
The following have contributed financially to help make this event possible:
Adorers of the Blood of Christ, Sara Burke, Kathleen Clark, Susan and Ronald Hagen, The Harris Foundation (Pat & Michael Harris), Alan and Joanne Kohn, Nancy Kranzberg, Shannon Lapota, Cindy Lefton, Joan Lipkin, Stan and Evelyn Lipkin, Carolyn Losos, Michelle Marcus, Deobrah Stoddard, That Uppity Theatre Company, Jerry Tucker
Apple Pie (2004)
As American as Apple Pie-Sweet Success!!
"As American as Apple Pie" successfully premiered this past May at the Museum of Contemporary Art St. Louis. The performance was so well-received that Uppity is looking to continue the project during its 2004-2005 performance season.
"Apple Pie" is the first original theatre project in the region to specifically target gay youth, as well as combine the perspectives of parents (from the Metro St. Louis chapter of PFLAG) and gay teenagers. The pieces covered a wide variety of subjects, spanning from various forms of harassment experienced by the teens to the pride and respect the PFLAG parents have for their children.
Uppity began by offering several workshops in various settings to engage potential participants and develop material. Activities included movement, sound, and writing exercises, as well as the playing of theatre games. The final performance piece depicted an intergenerational perspective of the issues relevant to GLBTQ youth and their families. The production consisted of short theatrical pieces performed by the youth. These dealt with a variety of issues including gay icons, violence in the schools, family dynamics, HIV, and love. The youth's performance pieces were intercut with staged readings written and performed by PFLAG parents, reflecting on bravery, shame, the moment of recognizing the sexual identity of a son or daughter, lesbian hairstyles, among other issues.
Gaining respect for the GLBT community was key for participants in the Apple Pie project. The performance was an opportunity to educate the public about the issues and experiences of GLBT youth. In the current historical and political context, this understanding is particularly important since there are many dangerous and unfortunate sentiments circulating that are trivializing the rights of the GLBT community. "Apple Pie" was a medium through which these youth and their families could be reframed to be as "American as apple pie."
Here is what some folks had to say about the project:
"I had the opportunity to meet the parents of some of the
teenage participants, and I think those parents were particularly
impacted by all of our stories. I like to think that we really
made a difference in the lives of those families."
"The performance pieces created by the high school students
were poignant, powerful, and sometimes outrageous. It was inspiring
to see young people coming together to create theater that spoke
through their own voices. The PFLAG parents bared their souls
and shared a complex message about being a heterosexual and deeply
loving a gay or lesbian child. And, at the same time, both groups
transcended the issue of sexual identity and spoke to universal
truths about the human condition. Non-actors in our community
coming together to create this kind of transformative work is
the definition of community-based art. This is the kind of performing
art that should be seen by everyone."
"This is the project that people always talk about doing. There is always a sense of wonder when you see a show and it has totally opened your eyes to the world you thought you knew. It taught me how theatre can come together and that all you need is emotion, a space, and word document processor. This project helped me to see that proactive side of my artistic self. Theatre and art are tools, now go build a shelter." -Jeremie Pace, 16, participant
For the upcoming year, That Uppity Theatre Company plans to continue Apple Pie, involving additional organizations during the 2004-2005 performance season. Potential participants include: Growing American Youth (G.A.Y.), Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network (GLSEN), Gay Straight Alliances (GSA's) from local schools, and clientele from Mokabe's Coffeehouse.
AC/DC Series (2003)
After seven highly successful seasons that have drawn national attention to the AC/DC Series, we are revamping our focus to develop a new direction. We want to address the growing need in the community to also create rather than primarily consume culture. Thus, as envisioned, the eighth AC/DC Series will focus on developing a large scale community-based piece about gay male identity as seen through the eyes of St. Louisans. For more information about the new series, click on the link above for the Gay Male Identity Project.
A Bit of History The Alternate Currents/Direct Currents Series was produced in the autumn and spring. It consisted of a series of work by or about gay men, lesbians, feminists and artists of color. Presented at the St. Marcus Theatre, AC/DC featured both nationally-acclaimed and emerging artists including Quentin Crisp, Tim Miller, Holly Hughes, Michael Kearns, Rhodessa Jones, Paul Bonin-Rodriguez, 4 Big Girls, Joe Salvatore and Kate Nugent, and Michael Kearns.
The Alternate Currents/Direct Currents Series was funded by the Regional Arts Commission and the Missouri Arts Council.
Performances were held at the St. Marcus Theatre, near Jefferson
and Highways 40 & 44.
Diverse Works (2003)
That Uppity Theatre Company Partners with SSM to Create Diverse Works
Last spring, Yvonne Tisdale, Corporate Vice President of Human Resources and System Diversity at SSM Healthcare, approached That Uppity Theatre Company about creating an innovative theatre piece about diversity in the workplace to be performed throughout its healthcare system.
Uppity is internationally known for creating cutting edge work on topical issues, while SSM is known throughout the health care industry for maintaining cutting edge standards. This year, SSM received the prestigious Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award, the nation's premier award for performance excellence and quality achievement. It is the first time in the history of the Baldrige awards that a winner was named in the health care category. Artistic Director Joan Lipkin suggested Diverse Works as the title, and rehearsals began over the summer.
"We are thrilled to be working with such an innovative organization as SSM and applaud their desire to pilot this program. Diversity is a complicated and challenging issue that is increasingly significant in our changing world. Live performance provides an exciting and non-threatening way to explore these issues," Lipkin said.
Typically, the process involved in mounting most theatrical productions is a structured one: a script is selected, the actors rehearse, the material is performed. The actors are usually expected to remain faithful to the script, often referencing their character motives rather than considering the larger issues on which the material comments. But Lipkin, who specializes in creating original material around topical issues for such organizations as the Susan B. Komen Race for the Cure, A World of Difference and the ACLU, conducts rehearsals differently.
The Diverse Works Project was structured around developing a script through the rehearsal process. Early in the summer, Lipkin assembled an ensemble of adventurous and inventive actors with an interest in exploring diversity. According to Lipkin, the absence of a script allows the actors to be "more creative, rather than interpretive." The actors spent weeks experimenting with improvisational scenarios and exercises intended to reveal individual and collective perspectives on diversity issues, including homophobia, racism, ethnocentrism, classism, among others. The actors were always encouraged to reflect on their work and make suggestions for the group.
Lipkin also met frequently with Yvonne Tisdale to get feedback on the progress of the project and elicit her imput for areas of focus. The company did extensive research to provide statistical background on diversity issues as part of the text. Lipkin and some of the company members then drafted a script.
A proponent of collaboration, she also enlisted the participation of Cecil Slaughter, artist-in-residence at Washington University's Dance Program and a former ensemble member at the Dayton Dance Company to lead the ensemble in warm-ups and dances. He collaborated with Lipkin to emphasize movement and body work, encouraging the actors to express themselves without words. In a project of this kind, there is room for many kinds of participation. Sarah Shimchick took detailed notes to assist in the script development, allowing the actors to reflect upon their activities in between sessions. Shimchick is currently a graduate student at the George Warren Brown School of Social Work.
With some of the most accomplished actors in the St. Louis area, the performers include Pamela Banning, Jaclyn Marshall, Margeau Steinau, Andrea Hayes, Daniel Logan, Tann Moore, Joel King and Suzanne Peebles. Many have worked in various positions at the St. Louis Black Rep, Hothouse and City Theatre, and are united by their desire to utilize theatre as social change and a means of self-expression.
Diverse Works has been performed for SSM Healthcare, New City School, Energizer Battery and the World of Difference Dinner.
Diverse Works In YOUR Workplace Concerned about diversity issues in the workplace and not sure how to address them in a way that people don't shut down? Please consider our Diverse Works Project, a humorous and action packed 30 minute piece that addresses sexual harassment, racism, homophobia, xenophobia and claims through song, movement, short sketches and personal narrative. Available with facilitated conversation.
The Louie Project (2002)
The Louies Make Their Mark
For years, Uppity was known for its groundbreaking Alternate Cutreents/Direct Currents Series that presented emerging and established solo and ensemble performers. In 2001, based on interest in the community, we decided to focus on assisting interested professional and amateur actors in the community in expressing their own voices and founded "The Louies." "The Louies" is a workshop for gay men from the St. Louis area in which they develop original theatrical pieces based on their life experiences. Under the direction of Joan Lipkin, Artistic Director and in collaboration with guest artists such as J.T. Ricroft, Adam Rosen and Karen Werner, members of the group engage in conversation, writing, sound and movement, and theatrical exercises as a foundation for creating work. Through the workshops and performances, The Louies create greater awareness about gay male culture and provides a powerful medium to display the talent, creativity, and experiences of this group of men to the rest of the St. Louis community. Last season, The Louies offered performances at various venues throughout St. Louis including the Tap Room, the Ethical Society, the Duck Room at Blueberry Hill, Focal Point and Washington University. They were also featured artists in the Gateway Men's Chorus spring concert, "Expressions of Hope" at Union Avenue Church.
Their performances include pieces about Internet chat rooms, early childhood fantasies, relationships with fathers, PFLAG moms, and even a three minute comedic operetta. In the fall, Louie members Daniel Logan and Rich Scharf along with Suzanne Peebles, Jackie Marshall and Sarah Shimshick collaborated with PFLAG (Parents, Friends, and Family of Lesbians and Gays) and GAY (Growing American Youth) to offer workshops and create new theatrical pieces. A performance featuring all three groups is planned for the spring of 2004.
Democracy on Stage (2002)
ACLU Presents Uppity's Democracy on Stage
St. Louis' own critically acclaimed That Uppity Theatre Company recently collaborated with the ACLU to present a series of short theatrical pieces based on real-life cases of civil liberties violations. The series, called "Democracy on Stage," debuted to a standing ovation at the ACLU Bill of Rights Dinner in fall 2002 at the Mad Art Gallery.
"The beauty of live performance is that it can illuminate critical issues in an engaging way for a wider audience," said Artistic Director Joan Lipkin.
"Democracy on Stage" has the potential to illustrate the range of important work that the ACLU does, and these particular pieces show how many segments of our society experience violation of their civil liberties and in some instances, on a regular basis."
Lipkin worked with ACLU Executive Director Matt LeMieux as well as Board Members Mondi Ghasedi, Arthur Hoffman, Gayla Hoffman, Shannon Lopata and Adam Zaretsky to consult on background information for the scripts.
The performance, which featured a racially and ethnically diverse cast, consisted of three short pieces, each of which addresses a specific case.
"Off Duty Officer" focused on the story of a police officer who was penalized by his superior for speaking openly to African-American youth while off duty about racism in the police force.
"Wedding Bell Blues" dealt with the case of an unmarried couple living together with their three children who are asked to leave their home because of occupancy laws relating to marriage.
"Tall Tales" told the story of an eighth-grader suspended from her school for sharing a fictional story she had written with some of her friends.
The intergenerational and diverse cast included a range of young as well as experienced actors from throughout the St. Louis area. Participants included students from Roosevelt, Beaumont, Central and Visual Performing Arts High Schools who are teen members from the Community Health-in-Partnership Program touring program, as well as students from Kirkwood School.
The script was developed and directed by Joan Lipkin, Artistic Director of That Uppity Theatre Company, with additional staging by choreographer J.T. Ricroft and dramaturgy by Erica Nagel. The sound design was by Robin Weatherall. The actors included: Eric J. Conners, Brandon Curry, Larry Dell, Clifton Gordon, Brandon Gragg, Melissa Humbarger, Greg Johnston, Hannah Joyce, Laura Kirk, Annie Saraceno and Donna Weinsting.
Breast Cancer Project (2000)
Letters from women who attended the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Survivor Luncheon ...
"It was fabulous!!! I brought my best friend with me, who helped me through all my chemo, and she is never one to cry, but she was definitely crying yesterday. What a wonderful, emotional, funny and inspiring event. Joan Lipkin was terrific and the whole thing was just great."
"It was very humorous and inspiring. Once again you have made the St. Louis Komen family proud!!!
Related News & Articles
St. Louis Post-Dispatch Editorial
Commentary : A survivor's tale By Joan Lipkin Sunday, October 15, 2000
I remember when I was first diagnosed with breast cancer. I was 42, and I was terrified. With my overactive playwright's imagination, I was already writing the obituary in my mind. At the time, I knew very few women who had had breast cancer, certainly not my age, and I imagined the worst. Four years later, I am still here. Like the 1985 Toyota I insist on driving, I am slightly dented and a little slower, but still on the road.
I am here because I had a mammogram, which detected something I couldn't find in my diligent monthly self exams.
I am here because I had information that allowed me to make decisions that undoubtedly saved my life.
But according to the American Cancer Society, many women don't get regular mammograms, although our local newscasters, reporters and even retailers urge us to do so. For a long time, for many women, the economics were a deterrent. Their insurance might not cover a mammogram. And if they didn't have insurance, the fee could feel out of reach.
This is no longer the case. Years of lobbying and growing public awareness has thankfully made a mammogram available for anyone who needs it. And during October, National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, traveling mammography vans will visit many communities to provide mammograms -- free for anyone who qualifies. For information about the traveling vans or other screening sites call the American Cancer Society at 314-286-8100 or 800-489-9370.
Still, many women are reluctant to have a mammogram. With legitimate issues of economics and access out of the way, one can only ask why. I think the reason is fear.
Fear of the procedure itself and more significantly, fear of the results. Some women are so terrified of what could happen, that, like a deer caught in the headlights, they freeze. And are unable to take action at all.
The mammogram itself is more awkward than painful. The kind of awkwardness that comes from disrobing in front of a stranger -- like when you go swimming at the Y. But the medical personnel who do mammograms perform thousands of procedures a year and are generally very sensitive to what it feels like to be on the receiving end of this experience.
More often than not, a routine mammogram turns out to be routine. But even if it is not, a variety of treatments are available and more are being approved all the time. Long gone are the days when a radical mastectomy was the only option. And should a women go that route, breast reconstruction is usually available if she wants it.
Important new technologies are developing at a dazzling rate. Just a year after I had a lumpectomy with axillary dissection, a major operation to remove a number of lymph nodes under my left arm to see if the cancer had spread, a new, simpler procedure was approved. Called Sentinel lymph node biopsy, it injects dye into the lymph nodes to detect the possible spread of cancer.
No mess. Not too much fuss. And more important, no long-term effects. This is a vast improvement over the operation on my lymph nodes, which caused nerve damage and periodic swelling of my arm and breast. Although I missed the boat with that break-through, I was thrilled to learn that life is now a little easier for other women with breast cancer. And the development of this new procedure indicates many more significant advances that are yet to come.
Lest I sound too Pollyannish, I admit to having some very dark nights and days. It was quite a while before I could talk about breast cancer without being overwhelmed by feelings. I still have difficult moments. There is no cure for breast cancer. Only treatment and a hoped-for diagnosis of remission.
But breast cancer also helped me to have clarity about what I find important and how I want to spend my time. I have realized that fear can be quite instructive. And I'd like to be able to look around the circle and marvel at the numbers of us who are surviving and even thriving. Because we faced down our fears and had a mammogram.
Please. Use your fear. If you are 35 years of age or older and are afraid of having breast cancer, schedule a mammogram today. I had one. It saved my life.
St. Louis Post-Dispatch Editorial
Commentary: Support clinical trials to improve cancer treatment By Gerard Doherty, M.D. Sunday, October 15, 2000
BREAST CANCER If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants. -- Sir Isaac Newton 1675
Diagnosed with a small breast cancer in 1960, a woman was offered only one treatment, radical mastectomy. This operation involved the removal of the entire breast and lymph nodes from under the arm, as well as the chest wall skin and muscles, creating a wound that required a skin graft to cover the ribs. The same diagnosis today is often addressed by breast conservation therapy, removing only the part of the breast containing the tumor (lumpectomy), separately removing the one or two lymph nodes that drain the involved part of the breast (sentinel lymph node biopsy), and treating the breast tissue with radiation therapy. Why the change?
There are less disfiguring treatment options for women in 2000 than in 1960 because thousands of women have participated in clinical trials to prove that the newer approach is better. The women who participated in these trials are the giants on whose shoulders we now stand. Clinical trials are tests set up by physicians to determine which one of two or more strategies works best. In the most dramatic set of breast cancer trials, more than 4,000 extraordinary women allowed themselves to be randomly assigned to either mastectomy or lumpectomy, when no one knew if either was more effective than the other. Because of these studies in the 1970s and 1980s, women can now confidently choose breast conservation therapy.
Sentinel lymph node biopsy is the most recent example of a dramatic improvement in the way small breast cancers are treated. During this procedure, dye is injected near the site of the tumor, and followed to the lymph node draining that part of the breast. Until recently, the only way to determine whether cancer had spread to the lymph nodes under the arm was to remove about one half of them (typically 10 to 20 nodes) during an operation called axillary dissection. About 80 percent of women had no spread of cancer to the nodes, and thus no benefit from the procedure, but all patients suffered the discomfort, and a few developed complications. Between 5 percent and 25 percent of women developed degrees of permanent arm swelling called lymphedema.
Since 1993, women in St. Louis and from around the country have participated in clinical trials to prove the reliability of sentinel lymph node biopsy.
These women have proved that this more precise procedure is as reliable as axillary dissection for identifying breast cancer spread to the lymph nodes. With sentinel lymph node biopsy, there is little pain and virtually no risk of lymphedema. This is a clear advantage over the previous approach.
There have been other recent improvements in breast care. Image-guided biopsy techniques have largely eliminated the need for surgical biopsy. Mastectomy with breast reconstruction during the same operation is available for women who choose or require mastectomy to treat their cancer. Chemotherapy treatment is now shorter for many with breast cancer. These advances are due to the participation of thousands of women in clinical trials.
Other potential improvements are under investigation. Bone marrow testing in women with small breast cancers may better define prognosis. Radiofrequency destruction of the breast tumor might someday eliminate the need for surgical lumpectomy. Women with breast cancer today who participate in these studies will improve future treatment options for their sisters, friends and daughters.
What can we do to improve breast cancer treatment? First, we should encourage health insurers to pay for care provided during clinical trials. Most insurers pay only for treatment options that are already proven effective by clinical trials. Taxpayer-supported federal agencies, such as the National Cancer Institute, fund most of the clinical trials available to patients today. Second, each woman with breast cancer should be offered the opportunity to participate in clinical trials.
Currently, 5 percent or less of the eligible cancer patients in the United States are offered the chance to participate. We could greatly speed the rate of improvements in treating breast cancer by enrolling more women in clinical trials each year. Finally, each woman should emphasize early detection of breast cancer in her personal health care. Early detection allows a woman to take advantage of the advances made in the management of early breast cancer. October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and we should take this opportunity to remember those heroes on whose shoulders we now stand, and ensure that those who follow us see further than we do.
Gerard Doherty is associate professor of surgery at Washington University School of Medicine, and director of the Breast Surgery Service of the Siteman Cancer Center at Barnes-Jewish Hospital and Washington University.
Women Center Stage! (1998)
Women CenterStage! was launched in 1998 at the Center of Contemporary Arts (COCA). We scoured the countryside to bring the finest in contemporary women's performance to St. Louis. Sometimes it meant providing an artistic home for well-known artists, favorites of St. Louis audiences and winners of international acclaim. And sometimes it meant taking a risk on an unfamiliar face because we know you'll think they're great.
We were amazed at the range of talent that's out there, women with unique perspectives, voices that deserve to be heard.
Our heartfelt appreciation to everyone who believes that women's lives and work should be ... well ... centerstage! Performance Information All Women CenterStage! performances are held at the Center of Creative Arts (COCA).
For ticket and venue information, please call COCA at 314-725-6555.
Some of the artists have inlcuded:
The Chenille Sisters
That Uppity Theatre Company • 4466 West Pine Boulevard, Suite 13C •
Saint Louis, MO 63108