Art Beat: Theater To Change Society

Jun 27, 2019

Credit Queer Theatre Kalamazoo/Face-Off Theatre

Theater has the unique ability to deepen our understanding of people whose life experiences are different from our own. It allows us to step into their lives for a brief moment. Theater can also be an agent of social change by addressing difficult issues.


Laura Kay Henderson is the founder of Queer Theatre Kalamazoo, representing the LGBTQ+ community.

“Queer Theatre Kalamazoo came about in 2013,” Henderson says. “We were trying to create space not specifically for LGBT individuals, but a space where everyone can feel safe if they don’t fit the hetero normative. Queer for us is kind of an umbrella term for every letter you identify with—or allies as well. But then we also wanted it to have a focus on queer works with queer storylines.”

Mickey Moses is a playwright for the Black Arts & Cultural Center’s Face Off Theatre Company.

“Face Off Theatre started about five years ago,” Moses says. “One of our goals as an organization is to try and mirror our community. Both mirror our community and challenge it. So we came up with the idea of Face Off because it was the idea of taking off the mask and getting to the real issues, the real things going on in our community and amongst ourselves. It’s about being vulnerable and being open.”

Laura Henderson and Mickey Moses
Credit Zinta Aistars / WMUK

The two theater companies will collaborate on a play called “eLLe,” written by Shawntai Brown, from Nov. 14-17 at the Epic Center in downtown Kalamazoo.

“It’s an installment of a series,” Moses says. “Shawntai went to school here but she’s from Detroit.”

Henderson adds, “It began in 2010, so this has been an episodic theatre troupe and theatre storyline that has lasted for nine years now. Location settings are in Kalamazoo. The characters reflect people in our community. She has continued to develop it in a way that has constantly talked about social issues in an entertaining way, and we are more than excited to be partnering up, fully half-and-half, with Face Off Theatre.”

The Face Off Theatre Company is a West Michigan ensemble-based theatre founded by six graduates of Western Michigan University. Queer Theatre Kalamazoo, located in First Baptist Church in Kalamazoo, offers productions four times a year.

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