My name is Lisa Jo Epstein, and I was invited to write the C4AA newsletter today because I am one of the many artistic activists this wonderful organization has supported this year. I want you to know how they’ve helped my group do huge things and why they deserve your support.
I’m the Founding Executive & Artistic Director of Just Act, a non-profit in Philadelphia that serves as a theatre-based catalyst for healing, change and activism to build a just world. The “act” in our name stands for Activate, Collaborate, Transform. I’m an applied theatre director, educator, Ph.D., and Theatre of the Oppressed trainer & facilitator for over 30 years. After I left producing and making theatre in the cultural sector, I created Just Act to explore, with cross-sector partners, who we are as change-makers, how to stand up for justice with renewed compassion, knowledge and energy to collaborate creatively, embolden our courage to face ongoing struggles and trauma from systematic oppression, and carve out opportunities for real community-led change.
It seems like kismet that I became involved with The Center for Artistic Activism’s Unstoppable Voters program. Prior to meeting C4AA, I had long been working at the intersection of theatre, social justice and anti-oppression training, remapping popular theatre and story-sharing as active participants in the process of civic dialogue, cultural organizing, resident-driven planning and social action. It wasn’t until I discovered The Center for Artistic Activism online, completely by accident, during the pandemic, that I was introduced to the concept of artistic activism. I fell in love with it, applied, and was lucky enough to have their support for our 2021 voting work. And this year we got to level up to the Unstoppable Voters Action Accelerator program!
Being part of Unstoppable Voters in 2022 provided me the opportunity to learn language to efficiently describe artistic activism, gain knowledge of C4AA’s principles and frameworks for shaping artistic actions, and then directly apply these new tools to my own work creating the teen “March on the Ballot Box” event for Vote Early Day — which made it so much more effective! Not only did their tools help me sharpen the focus of my actions by learning to make artistic choices in relation to activist and audience goals, but C4AA’s core concepts, especially regarding utopia as a direction, allowed me to re-see my own work in a new light.
C4AA matches their high-level expertise in artistry and actions with humor and joy, as well as deep care for each of us as creators. Every Unstoppable Voters training session was designed and infused with their brilliance, so each was simultaneously dynamic and thoughtful, supportive yet provocative, and brimming with encouragement while challenging us to create our best work.
In the Center for Artistic Activism, I have found kindred creators and a sense of belonging to a real community. These are invaluable gifts that will always keep on giving. As today is Giving Tuesday, I hope you will consider making a gift to support the Center for Artistic Activism. You’ll not only be supporting great work, but they have gratitude gifts they’ll send you in appreciation.
I hope you will also consider donating to Just Act. In December, after two years of strategizing and implementing resident-driven, arts and community-based engagements to parallel the reconstruction of the Rivera Recreations and Mann Older Adult Centers in Eastern North Philadelphia, Just Act and our partner HACE CDC are preparing for the Final Act of the Restore, Reimagine, and Rebuild Rivera & Mann Center project. It will feature a devised, participatory performance and multiple interactive activities. Just like the Center for Artistic Activism, our work is only made possible by the generosity of our community.
Lisa Jo Epstein
Founding Executive & Artistic Director, Just Act