I Am My Own Wife attracts grant funding

January 9, 2018

January 18, 2018 is opening night for Harlequin Productions’ I Am My Own Wifeand the buzz has already begun around the content of this one-man show. Based on the true story of  Charlotte von Mahlsdorf, a transvestite who ran a museum in Berlin during both the Nazi and Communist regimes, this play touches on topics of identity, community, and perseverance in the face of repression and violence.

These universal themes have caught the attention of two major funders who are interested in supporting community conversations about these topics. Firstly, the show is supported, in part, by a grant from ArtsWA (The Washington State Arts Commission). The Arts Commission is a catalyst for the arts, advancing the role of the arts in the lives of individuals and communities throughout the state. Part of ArtsWA’s values state that the arts are a catalyst for inclusiveness, social equity, and racial justice. “The arts create social bonds and amplify voices across all populations,” according to the ArtsWA website.

The other major funder, The Sheri and Les Biller Family Foundation, expresses similar values at billerfamilyfoundation.org: “We endeavor to support artistic content that promotes important conversations around timely social issues.”

Harlequin Productions’ development director, Hap Clemons, navigated the application process, including a mutually informative phone interview with the foundation, during which the foundation took an interest in the social justice aspect of Charlotte von Mahlsdorf’s story.

“They were interested in this show because it’s historical, it’s relevant now, and it includes a lot of different components of repressed communities. Charlotte made opportunities for a lot of people, the gay and lesbian community meeting in secret to avoid the regimes. She was an advocate, and that helped our generation grow stronger in terms of awareness and openness.”

A major component of the grant agreement with The Sheri and Les Biller Family Foundation is a community forum, featuring a panel of community speakers related to some of the themes of the play. So far, the panel includes PFLAG Olympia, the Rainbow Center of Tacoma, and Pizza Klatch. Harlequin hopes to add more organizations that represent different sectors of the LGBTQA+ community.

“We want every kind of demographic represented on the panel, as well as a wider reach than just the Olympia community. Part of the goal is to connect organizations to each other, as well as connecting them with the people,” explains Clemons. “The panel will be an opportunity for these organizations to present what they do to the audience, and answer relevant questions about the content of the play.”

The community forum will be held on February 4 at 5:00 p.m., and will be open to audience members from any of the I Am My Own Wife performances. To ensure your access to this community conversation, buy your tickets online now, or contact the box office for more information: 360-786-0151.

(The community forum is planned in addition to, and not in replacement of, the talkback discussion, which will be held directly following the matinee on Sunday, January 28.)