June 18, 2019

Webster playwright and activist to receive Bravely award

Among the four award winners of Bravely’s inaugural awards is Joan Lipkin. Lipkin is a Webster alumna class of 1975, social activist and founder of That Uppity Theater Company. The organization called her work “Fearlessly creative.”

“We have to be fearless and creative,” Lipkin said, “but I think I take on topics sometimes that other people are either not drawn to or afraid to cover.”

The activism, Lipkin said, is her theater. Her plays and productions have covered issues of women’s rights since she founded her own theater company.

Bravely, formerly Magdalene St. Louis, is a residential community for women who have survived lives of sexual exploitation, violence and addiction. Their inaugural awards for social activism for women will be presented on April 11.

Lipkin’s theater company, That Uppity Theater Company, was founded in 1989. Their mission is to promote civic dialogue about pressing social justice issues. Gail Wechsler, who is a board member of Bravely, said Lipkin’s work fills an important niche in St. Louis culture.

“She is always looking for the next project,” Wechsler said. “She’s not afraid to tackle issues that might make Midwesterners uncomfortable.”

Lipkin helped Bravely out in a voluntary capacity by helping the women with creative arts. She later wrote a play about the experience and used as a fundraiser for the organization.

She does not believe her help with bravely is why she was selected for the award. Lipkin said awardees demonstrated the highest level of commitment and dedication to the mission and vision of Bravely and furthered our cause through their life’s work.

According to Lipkin, she brought gay theater to St. Louis during the height of the AIDS epidemic in 1989.

The play “Some Of My Friends Are” was written as an anniversary memorial to the Stonewall riots and as a protest to Missouri’s sexual misconduct law. Missouri law at that time stated homosexual acts could face up to a year in prison. Lipkin used this best-selling play to petition at the theater to help overturn the law.

“It was very very upsetting at the time,” Lipkin said, “But we persevered.”

While it was denied coverage by media outlets initially, it ended up being voted the best play of the year by the Riverfront Times. Reproduction in St. Louis sold out every performance, extended numerous times and has since been reproduced around the country.

Her most recent work evolved from the days of rampant homophobia and now focuses on more contemporary issues. Immigration, women’s rights and disabilities are her main focus now, she said.

Lipkin recently produced a play called “The Vagina Monologues.” The play is made up of various personal monologues read by a diverse group of women talking about topics related to sex, body image, menstruation and other uniquely female subjects.

Her next show is about immigration during Trump’s presidency and will be performed at the Missouri History Museum in Forest Park. The museum added Lipkin’s work for disability, homosexual and feminist awareness into its permanent collection.

Lipkin feels that however that she is not the only notable person who should be remembered for her work with social justice.

“I feel that there are many people who are doing brave significant change in the world and some of us are more visible than others,” She said.

Bravely started the awards this year to recognize people that reflect their mission. These three awardees who Rev. Traci Blackmon, a leader of the Black Lives Matter movement; Christine McDonald, social justice advocate who survived human trafficking, homelessness and addiction; and Aisha Sultan, a nationally syndicated columnist and filmmaker.

“I think that we’re all a different pathway in which women can do brave or courageous work,”  Lipkin said, “That’s why I am alive.”

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