After the success of the November 2017 show, DIVERSITY: Stories of Connection in an Urban Jungle returns with a new cast and set of stories for a performance on Wednesday evening, February 27, at The Colony Theatre.
“I am excited to bring this group of irresistible and gutsy storytellers to The Colony Theatre for this one-night-only show,” commented Suzanne Weerts, JAM Creative Founder and Producing Artistic Director. “Their stories are as diverse as their life experiences, but I personally find either something I can relate to or something I am grateful to now understand having heard them share their vivid perspectives.”
“As rushed as we often are in our lives and as bombarded as we can be by information overload, I find it so worthwhile to sit for an hour and a half and just listen. Listen to Peter Skrabak’s beautiful guitar. Listen to the voices of storytellers who dare to share true tales from their lives. Listen to people who make us laugh at our misconceptions and make us think about how we can be more open-hearted going forward.”
The cast of the 2019 show includes: Maia Akiva, Lawrence Dotson, Jules Ford, Candace Nicholas-Lippman, Jenny Mosley, Oscar Sagastume, Ellen Switkes, Lan Tran, Janette Valenzo and Betty Yee.
Burbank resident Skrabak plays guitar from 7:00 – 7:30 p.m. to open the event. Proceeds from the 90-minute show benefit Family Service Agency. Weerts’ events have raised nearly $12,000 to date for FSA.
“I hope that people walk away from the DIVERSITY show feeling we’ve watered a seed of change within them,” commented Ford. “Hearing the powerful, relatable stories from these people with so many different perspectives may just wake up a part of them to make them feel more connected with others, regardless of their race, gender, or identity. We’re all people, and we’re all in this together.”
“I know that coming to terms with having a child who doesn’t behave along expected gender norms can confuse or even scare some parents,” Ford added. “My hope is that those parents that recognize themselves in my story will be able to reach out to their LGBTQIA kid with love and compassion, recognizing and accepting their truth, especially if they haven’t yet taken that step themselves.”
“PROGRESS is what excites me most being in a show celebrating this theme, a show celebrating, honoring, and listening to stories from individuals of all different backgrounds, races and ethnicities,” said Nicholas-Lippman. “It’s a chance for us to begin to really understand one another instead of using preconceived notions, stereotypes, etc. to pass judgment. This show offers the space for a conversation to occur. And that is progress.”
“Through DIVERSITY, Suzanne is offering a platform for the conversation to be had,” she added. “It really just takes a conversation. My hope is simple… an understanding. Hate, prejudice, racism, etc., all stem from a lack of understanding. Because people don’t take the time to talk to one another, to listen, to educate themselves on those who look different than them…hate creeps in due to ignorance or lack of understanding.”
“Having the opportunity to raise money and awareness about the valuable work done in our community by Family Service Agency is important to me,” Weerts added. “FSA provides mental health counseling for students in all BUSD schools.”
“They work with victims, families and perpetrators of domestic violence as well as provide support for veterans, homeless families and foster youth. Challenges with mental health and mental illness cross all gender, racial, and cultural lines. Everyday, the dedicated therapists at FSA are working to ensure that the stories they hear can result in happy endings.”
“This show demonstrates that even though we are different we are all people who are trying to make our way through life the best way we can, with the challenges we face,” said Akiva. “The piece I’m sharing is a big part of my personal healing story and it’s very empowering to share it and be honest and vulnerable and not hide the parts of my life I am challenged with. My journey is another side of what people who are confused about their (gender) identity, go through.”
“The most empowering (and I do not use this word often) instrument we each possess is our personal story,” added Yee, who currently serves as California State Controller. “Unique and owned by each of us that no one can take away, our personal stories have the power to help us find the ties that bring us together, affirming time and time again we are of one common humanity.”
Tickets for DIVERSITY: Stories of Connection in an Urban Jungle are $25 for general admission and can be purchased in advance here or at the box office ahead of the show. More information about the show can be found here.
The Colony Theatre is located at 555 N. Third Street in Burbank. Parking is available in the adjacent parking structure.