The Feminist Theatre Makers at Long Beach State have always been about meeting the needs of underrepresented students within the Department of Theatre Arts.
And in 2020, those needs are incredibly apparent.
“There has been a really huge uprising within the theatre world as a whole and especially within education programs in the theatre world, combating racism and anti-Black and anti-indigenous practices within theatre departments all across the world,” Rachel Post, vice president, said. “Our department has definitely been guilty of some of those practices and they have been brought to light in the last few months.”
Feminist Theatre Makers is determined to create projects that keep the conversation alive. Furthermore, they want to see that faculty and staff within the department are actively trying to support students and combat racism.
According to Post, a fourth-year theatre performance major, an area that needs more support is the emotional labor theatre art students are asked to give without being compensated for, nor given support for outside of the classroom.
Feminist Theatre Makers member Mattie Limas, a third-year theatre performance major, further explained the problem.
“It’s very taxing if you’re part of a certain demographic to do things that can be considered exploitative or triggering, with racial violence, with gender violence, with anything really,” Limas said.
It can push students to do something they otherwise are not comfortable with for the sake of a show.
Now, Feminist Theatre Makers and the other student organizatons in the theatre department are lobbying for more resources like affording intimacy directors who are trained to guide and address actors’ needs.
Post has been involved in Feminist Theatre Makers long enough to see how the organization has evolved since its start in 2017, forming out of necessity to support the female-identifying theatre students.
“As it’s grown and as we’ve started to develop what we’re all about and how we can be helpful to our community, it’s kind of morphed into something that is a lot more intersectional and I think that’s for the best,” Post said.
It’s a value highlighted through the pieces published to their blog, Feminist Curious, open for students to submit poetry, personal essays and artwork to.
It’s also what president and third-year theatre performance major Rory Smith believes in, that feminism is only feminism if it’s intersectional.
“White feminism really did leave so many women behind and they just weren’t cognizant of how race intersects with gender and how those issues that women of color face might be very different and in fact, probably more pressing,” Smith said.
In February of 2020, Feminist Theatre Makers debuted their original show “How to Love a Feminist”, a staged reading of poems, stories and work on the topic.
According to Smith, the project came about to address how members felt they were not loved properly by society, a romantic partner or someone else in their lives.
“You know, in reality, it’s like how to love anybody,” Post said. “And our conclusion was to love the feminist in yourself.”
Limas remembered seeing “How to Love a Feminist” before they joined the organization. They watched Smith’s father stand up at the show’s end and cheer, “I love you, women!”
It struck a chord with Limas.
“It’s about your family seeing these kinds of conversations,” Limas said, explaining that having conversations about feminism with the people you grew up with is important as long as it’s safe to do so.
Feminist Theatre Makers upcoming projects includes creating more theatre pieces within the next year. They recorded a podcast with Theatre Threshold, a production company in the department managed by students, about gender in theatre.
In the spring, Feminist Theatre Makers have been invited to participate in an event organized by Research, Scholarly and Creative Activity at CSULB.
But, Feminist Theatre Maker’s future will always reflect what students need.
“From the beginning, that’s always been what we’re about, is meeting the needs of the underrepresented students within our community and figuring out how to uplift those voices,” Post said.