Benjamin Turk talks about didactic theater, state violence and the danger of "good cops"

Categories: Activism, Theater

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Courtesy of Insurgent Theater
Benjamin Turk wrote and stars in Behind the Badge.
Anarchist playwright Benjamin Turk sees theater as more than entertainment. He believes plays can spark dialogue, transform community and attack systems of violence: capitalism, the police and prisons. Steeped in the work of Bertolt Brecht and Augusto Boal, who both resisted the idea that stories should help audiences connect with a main character and experience an overwhelming and resolved emotional turmoil (Aristotle called this "catharsis" and viewed it as the goal of a successful tragedy), Turk creates plays that challenge audiences to ask and answer pressing political questions, interrupting the dramatic flow for participatory conversations about police, gentrification, race and beyond. In advance of the July 18 performance of Behind the Badge, a play Turk has been touring across the United States, we spoke with him about his work, violence and the danger of "good cops."

See also: James Walsh on the Romero Troupe and Unbound, the doc premiering tomorrow

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Redemption's Nathan Winograd on the no-kill movement and his new film

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Nathan Winograd released his book about animal shelters, Redemption: The Myth of Pet Overpopulation and the No Kill Revolution in America, eight years ago -- and the response was so successful that he decided to create a documentary about animal shelters not only to reprise the information in the book but also to discuss the impact the book had on the American no-kill movement.

That documentary, Redemption: The No-Kill Revolution in America, will screen in the Denver Post auditorium at 4:30 p.m. Saturday, July 12, and Winograd will be on hand. In advance of that appearance, we talked with him about the state of companion-animal welfare in this country (and how Colorado measures up), the complications of turning a book into a film, and the chicken-and-egg argument behind the need to kill dogs, cats and other companion animals in shelters.

See also:- Learning how to be vegetarian without being a jerk about it

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Michael Mayes on Dead Man Walking, Cut and Shoot, Texas, and social-justice opera

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Courtesy of Michael Mayes
Michael Mayes plays Joseph de Rocher in Central City Opera's production of Dead Man Walking.
Growing up in an East Texas trailer park gave Michael Mayes an edge on the other singers trying out for the role of Joseph De Rocher, the convicted murderer and rapist in Terrence McNally and Jake Heggie's opera Dead Man Walking. It's a part Mayes knows well; he grew up with guys like De Rocher, in a town called Cut and Shoot, Texas.

In advance of Central City Opera's production of Dead Man Walking, Westword spoke with Mayes about his role and the social justice work he does through opera.

See also: Sister Helen Prejean fights the death penalty with opera

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Kristine Edwards on Culture Jam, Intercambio and teaching English as a second language

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Courtesy of Ozomatli
Grammy Award-winning band Ozomatli headlines this year's Culture Jam.
Mundane things like ordering from a menu, talking to a doctor, applying for a job or navigating traffic signs can be hard for people who don't know a country's language. When non-English speaking people migrate into the United States, one of the biggest obstacles they face is figuring out how to communicate. The Longmont-based nonprofit Intercambio has been offering affordable English classes to recent immigrants since 2001. And on Saturday, June 21, the Left Hand Brewing Company is throwing Culture Jam, an intercultural party to help raise funds for Intercambio's work. In advance of the festivities, Westword spoke with Kristine Edwards about the organization.

See also: Ozomatli's Raul Pacheco on collaboration, creativity and Dreaming Sin Fronteras

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Rock for Youth concert to raise funds for at-risk youth this weekend

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Local band Medic will perform at the Rock for Youth concert.
The third annual Rock for Youth concert should not only be a good time, it will raise funds for a good cause: The concert supports Metro Denver Partners, an organization that provides mentoring for at-risk youth, as well as gang interventions and prevention through its GRASP program.

See also: GRASP hosts Fruits of War screening and fundraiser for gang-tattoo removal

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Orange Is the New Black author Piper Kerman talks prison reform

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Credit: Sam Zalutsky, Spiegel and Grau
Piper Kerman, author of , will speak at the Lone Tree Arts Center on Thursday, May 22.
Since getting out of prison in 2005, Piper Kerman has been pounding the pulpit for criminal-justice reform. Her prison memoir, Orange Is the New Black , attracted the attention of producer Jenji Kohan, who adapted it into a critically acclaimed Netflix series. Kerman has used the success of the show and her book as a chance to speak with audiences about her experiences and the atrocity of mass incarceration. In advance of her presentation at the Lone Tree Arts Center on May 22, Westword spoke with Kerman about her book, the show and the prison system.

See also: Sister Helen Prejean fights the death penalty with opera

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Yoruba Richen talks about the black church, civil rights and gay marriage

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The New Black
Yoruba Richen's The New Black chronicles conversations about gay marriage equality in the African American community.
In 2008, The Advocate published "Is Gay the New Black?," an article comparing the gay rights struggle to the civil rights movement. The story unleashed a fury of critique: How could people compare the fight for gay marriage to the abolition of Jim Crow and segregation? But as a string of marriage-equality initiatives failed, many white, mainstream LGBT activists blamed the black community, erasing the experiences of LGBT African-American activists. Yoruba Richen experienced these conflicts on the front lines of the marriage-equality debate, which led her to direct the documentary The New Black, which will be screening Tuesday night at the SIE FilmCenter. In advance of that showing, Westword spoke with Richen about her film.

See also: The New Black and other docs ask, "Why has black been made the face of homophobia?"


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After Tiller looks at doctors who perform late-term abortions and their patients

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Dr. Sella, one of the subjects of After Tiller.
In 2009, George Tiller, one of only a handful of doctors who performed late-term abortions in this counry, was fatally shot while attending church services in his home town of Wichita, Kansas. In a one-night-only showing tonight, Physicians for Human Rights Colorado and the Sie FilmCenter will present After Tiller, a 2013 documentary that explores the dangerous existence led by doctors like Tiller, including Boulder's Warren Hern, as well as the complex situations and ethical struggles of the patients who receive the third-trimester procedure.

In advance of the screening, After Tiller co-director Martha Shane spoke with Westword about the challenges she and fellow filmmaker Lana Wilson faced when documenting this complex and sensitive topic.

See also: The story behind BeforePlay.org and its sex-positive meme campaign

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Africa School Assistance Project to break ground on a girls' dorm in East Africa

Categories: Activism, Benefits

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Africa School Assistance Project
, a Denver non-profit that builds primary and secondary schools in underserved areas of East Africa in partnership with local communities, will break ground next month on the first phase of a dormitory for girls at a secondary school in rural northern Tanzania. "If you really want to support a girl to get into an education in rural Africa, it's imperative to build dormitories at a secondary-level school to give girls a safe place to live and all kinds of amenities that keep the girls wrapped in services that support them to stay in school," says Susan Bachar, executive director of ASAP.

See also: Akomplice makes clothes that raise consciousness -- and funds for kids in Africa


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St. Francis Healing Works provides music, art and wellness programs for the community

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St. Francis Healing works provides programs and classes for all ages.
Musician, artist and former social worker Diana Rose Frances founded St. Francis Healing Works to extend access to the healing arts through Spacecraft, a creative re-use store; Forte Expressive Works, a music program, and more. "I consider the creative healing arts anything that connects people to their own human nature," Frances explains. "Like, in our human nature, we want to make music and sound, we want to move our bodies and dance, we have an instinct to have healthy food and we all feel rejuvenated after we're around nature and animals."

See also: Spacecraft, the creative-reuse store, holding a Photo Ball fundraiser Saturday

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