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U of M theatre students take on Fringe Benefits

U of M and area high school students are uniting to end LGBTQ discrimination with the Fringe Benefits theatre project. Learn more here.

Several high school and University of Minnesota students are collaborating to present their original play “the Punch … or how I became an ally? in area high schools throughout April in an effort to end discrimination toward lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) youth.

The collective of students has worked since January to develop the project, which began with a week-long, intensive workshop between members of the community including U of M students, faculty and staff; District 202 youth, counselors and staff; Shakopee High School students, a counselor and the principal; members of the community at large; several attorneys; and members of the Fringe Benefits Theatre Company. During the week, the group shared stories and personal experiences, and improvised scenes that related to LGBTQ discrimination they had faced in high school. The workshop concluded with writing and editing an original script.

Since the workshop week, students have been volunteering their time, meeting nearly every weekend at Rarig Center to revise and rehearse the show, design and build the set, costumes and props, and coordinate a tour of high schools where the play will be presented. Participants have also developed a curriculum to support the production, including a study guide for students, an educators’ guide, resources for continued discussion of topics surrounding LGBTQ discrimination, and information about starting LGBTQ alliances in high schools.

U of M student and project coordinator Xanthia Walker says “this is the first time the project has been done in Minnesota, and that the focus is to bring the it to suburban schools where LGBTQ alliances don’t often exist.? She says of her work, “it has been an amazing learning experience, being a community leader and facilitator. Though it has been challenging to get our program in schools because teachers and administrators are all so busy and this is a difficult project to introduce. We are still looking for more high schools to work with.?

After months of hard work and lots of convincing, the Fringe Benefits project will take “the Punch? out on the road to local high schools including Roosevelt and Washburn schools in Minneapolis, Eden Prairie High School, Hastings Senior High School and Shakopee Senior High School. Performances are also scheduled for OutFront Minnesota’s justFair Lobby Day at the Minnesota Capitol on April 19th and at Rarig Center on a date yet to be determined.

For more information about “the Punch? and its contributors, contact Justin Christy at 612.625.5380 or Justin@umn.edu. Project Coordinator Xanthia Walker and others involved in the project are available for interviews. The Fringe Benefits project was made possible through a grant from the Fringe Benefits Theatre Company in Los Angeles, founded and directed by Norma Bowles (http://cootieshots.org). Other supporters include the University of Minnesota Coca~Cola beverage partnership and Crisis Point Theatre Company.

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The Fringe Benefits project is one of several outreach initiatives of the Department of Theatre Arts & Dance at the University of Minnesota, whose mission is to educate our students and our audiences about the performing arts, and about the social issues and human emotions the arts speak to so powerfully.

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