That Uppity Theatre Company | St. Louis Public Radio

That Uppity Theatre Company

The Playback NOW! St. Louis cast poses with immigration storytelling volunteer Junior Lara (middle).
Joan Lipkin

Junior Lara distinctly remembers the day he was approved for his U.S. green card. It was 1993, and he was nine years old. It was the first time he had ever signed his name.

A year later, Lara, his mother and three brothers moved from the Dominican Republic to New York City to reunite with his father who had been working for years to bring his family to the U.S.

From left, Carol Swartout Klein and Joan Lipkin hold a poster for the play "26 Pebbles."
Evie Hemphill | St. Louis Public Radio

Drawing inspiration from a dark place, playwright Eric Ulloa created a theater production that highlights the issue of gun violence in the United States.

After 20 first graders and six school teachers were murdered at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012, Ulloa visited the recovering community of Newtown, Connecticut and collected more than 60 interviews, ultimately weaving them into a play titled “26 Pebbles.”

June 12 marked the one-year anniversary of the Pulse nightclub massacre in Orlando, the deadliest terror attack on American soil since September 11, 2001. Forty-nine people died in the shooting and 53 people were injured in the attack.

Joan Lipkin, the artistic director of That Uppity Theatre Company, joined "St. Louis on the Air" on Friday.
Kelly Moffitt | St. Louis Public Radio

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For the past six years, That Uppity Theatre Company has produced 50 short plays presented as part of a festival called “Briefs: A Festival of Short LGBTQ Plays.” The festival continues this weekend and it will be the last, said Joan Lipkin, artistic director of That Uppity Theatre Company.

Actor Dan Kelly aims his gun, as a cop in "You Try It" by Neil LaBute, part of the "Every 28 Hours" theater collaboration. Actors Joel Beard, Noble Montgomery and Theresa Masters look on.
Nancy Fowler | St. Louis Public Radio

Every day, in St. Louis or elsewhere, a black person shudders in fear after seeing a police officer approaching. Every day, a cop makes a lightning-quick decision that could mean life or death.

Kim Furlow and Emily Baker during a rehearsal of "A Comfortable Fit," part of the "Briefs" festival of LGBT plays
Briefs festival

St. Louis’ annual “Briefs” festival of LGBT plays is toasting its success this weekend.

During the event’s five years, audiences have grown and the festival has moved into a larger space. The number of  submissions has increased, and more esteemed playwrights and actors are participating. This year’s playwrights include Kansas native James Still, who was nominated twice for a Pulitzer Prize and three times for an Emmy Award.

Dr. Ken Haller, far left, Joan Lipkin and John Schmidt are participating in next week's Briefs Festival. The trio talked to 'Cityscape' host Steve Potter, far right, about the event on March 20, 2015, at St. Louis Public Radio in St. Louis.
Alex Heuer / St. Louis Public Radio

What do a gay mermaid looking for love, a Jewish mother who competitively wants her single son to have the biggest wedding, and a lesbian version of Dr. Seuss have in common?

They are all themes in this year’s Briefs Festival of Short LGBT Plays, a festival that brings together numerous directors and actors to showcase the work of eight different playwrights under one roof.

The eight plays being performed at the festival on March 27-29 at the Centene Center for the Arts have been selected out of more than 170 submissions from across the country.

Courtesy The Vital Voice

The third annual “Briefs” festival featuring short LGBT plays will be held downtown next weekend at La Perla. This year the plays were selected from over 100 submissions, said Joan Lipkin, artistic director of That Uppity Theatre Company, which puts on the festival in partnership with The Vital Voice.

Joan Lipkin has been creating theater with people who have disabilities since 1996, when she co-founded the DisAbility Project.  An outgrowth of That Uppity Theatre Company, of which Lipkin is artistic director, the DisAbility Project brings together amateur and professional performers of all abilities to create theater based on lived experience.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.  In remembering that historic event, the first name that comes to mind to most people is Reverend Martin Luther King and his I Have a Dream Speech.  But few know that the person responsible for a large part of the organization of that march and also for motivating King to his non violent method of activism was another civil rights activist, Bayard Rustin.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Feb. 25, 2013 - “Are you married?” is a question most of us are asked throughout our adult lives. Sometimes, the answer involves much more than a simple “yes” or “no.” Same-sex couples might reply with “Yes, in Iowa” or “Well, we had a commitment ceremony,” or “Umm, no” when they really are married in Canada, but they just don't feel comfortable coming out.

John Lamb

For the second time, That Uppity Theatre Company and The Vital VOICE join forces to present a festival featuring 7 short LGBT plays.  Each play lasts just 10 minutes, so audience members can see all 7 works in just 90 minutes. 

In “Briefs: A Festival of Short Lesbian and Gay Plays,” the list of local theater celebrities is anything but brief. 

The Feb. 24-26 weekend festival includes such veteran and award-winning directors as Edward Coffield, Annamaria Pileggi and Ed Reggi, and actors Donna Weinsting, Troy Turnipseed and Ken Haller. Even burlesque performer Lola Van Ella gets into the act. 

Where: La Perla (312 N. 8th Street), 63101

Commentary: When theater is dangerous

Jan 24, 2011

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Jan. 24, 2011 - In the United States, we have the luxury of forgetting (or perhaps never learning) the role that theater plays in other parts of the world. Despite my abiding love of this unique art form, theater is not as significant in this country as it used to be. In many ways, its attraction as primary story teller and representation of culture has been supplanted by television, film and the internet. But it still matters. And sometimes, it matters so much, it can be downright threatening.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Aug. 25, 2009 - That Uppity Theatre CompanyArtistic Director Joan Lipkin likes to joke that this year's birthday made her a highway. "I'm 55," she noted. If that's the case, then her theater company is half of another popular St. Louis concrete stretch: 40.

Showing that the stage may be mightier than the sword or the pen, Lipkin's company has for 20 years merged theater with social justice, concentrating on disability, reproductive rights, and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) issues and representation.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, June 17, 2009 - When it comes to abortion some people write their members of Congress. Some people post long-winded blogs. Still others stand on sidewalks with angry signs. Joan Lipkin produces a show.