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Playright-director gives girls platform to use voices as tool for change

Brook Bassett produces activism theater performances.

Coeur d’Alene playwright and director Brook Bassett’s play, “Girl, Awake!” exemplifies her desire to use her voice in writing as a tool for change.

In this year’s version of the production, six girls ages 11 to 16 use monologues and vignettes to highlight global and local issues that affect girls and others.

“Girl, Awake!” is the main project of the Luminary Initiative Project, one of two theater companies she runs.   “It educates the public and gives girls a platform to express their global awareness and strong voices,” she said.

“When I write, I try to convey a sense of humanity and humanism, and not be overtly religious,” Brook said, “so what I write is open to all people.

“Sometimes people fret because a play has a political agenda,” she said.  “Politics is about everyday life.  In the play, we present facts.  This is how it is, where it’s happening.  People can decide how to respond and be involved.”

Girl, Awake! offers ideas for change.  Brook said it celebrates girls and their accomplishments. 

“Those who see the show can see themselves in the scenes,” said Brook, who updates the production each year.  “I update statistics.  I change four or five scenes to focus on current issues.  I want the girls to reflect both globally and locally.”

This year, she said, one issue is food insecurity, an issue in South Sudan and Nigeria.  As the girls talk about the global problem, they discuss how some here don’t have enough money for lunch. 

“Someone we know may be in need,” Brook said.

Other themes this year are child imprisonment and child justice.

When North Idaho College hosted the “Vagina Monologues,” Brook was intrigued. It was her first experience of activism theater.

“It changed my life,” she said.

Reflecting on her passion for children and youth, she decided to write an activism show for young girls.  She found a unifying theme in flowers, using them as props and for the girls’ names.

She thought of her grandmother, a hippie, sticking flowers in gun barrels, and the popular phrase “the seeds of revolution.”

Flowers reflect the girls’ feminine side, and how they grow and bloom, she said.

“I wanted a way for the girls to connect with the audience in the middle of the show,” she said. 

The girls go out into the audience and hand out flowers.  Audience members go home with the flowers.  The cast hopes the flowers remind them to think more about the issues in the play.

“We’re constantly learning and changing,” Brook said. 

Girl, Awake! is in its third year of the five-year Luminary Initiative Project. 

The first year’s production was an experiment.  She used 10 girls and realized that 10 was too many.

The second year, she cut the cast to six. She added the flowers and the idea that, “as scattering seeds makes many flowers, scattering small acts of goodness can lead to larger change.”

This year, Brook strengthened the ending with an anthem by local composer Presley Dupuis. 

Brook said Girl, Awake! is a quality production, but not a theater show.  It is an activism show, inviting the audience to recognize “they can affect change.”

“Our girls are not actors, at least not all of them,” she said.  “I don’t cast them to be characters.  They bring their personalities to the words I wrote. The cast is diverse in beliefs.  It’s a testament that we can all work together.

“People may think it’s a show by and for children, but it’s about empowering girls.  It’s about rising up for social justice,” she said.

The show played at Westminster Congregational United Church of Christ in Spokane, as well as in Coeur d’Alene.  The girls will also perform at the Rathdrum Library, the Hayden Library and the Boys and Girls Club in Coeur d’Alene this year. They will also appear at some churches in Seattle.

Sixty percent of ticket sales go to charity.  Brook offers choices, and the girls choose one each year.

They chose UNICEF Children’s Fund the first year because it works with refugee relief. 

Last year, they raised about $1,700 for the Malala Fund, with its focus on education. 

“Education is one of the most important steps to just about everything,” Brook said. 

This year, their charity of choice is Direct Relief, which sends medical relief boxes to global and local charities in areas of crisis.

The hundreds of dollars they raise from raffle tickets go to local charities, such as World Relief and Crosswalk.

Brook is exploring making Girl, Awake! a for-profit or nonprofit business, going national, offering classes and doing a summer camp.

While she began life in Cortez, Colo., in the Four Corners area, her father started to work on natural gas pipelines, so after she was nine her family moved often.

Brook attended junior high and high school at Falls Christian Academy in Post Falls, where she was grounded in theater by her high school drama teacher. 

She had found Lake City Playhouse a place for young people to learn about theater.  She sees it trying to go back to that.

After graduating in 2000, she taught tap dancing in Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., and Colorado.  She also attended a conservative university in California. 

She did not attend church as a child. Her mother had been Seventh Day Adventist and her father, Mormon. An uncle was a pastor. 

“Religion was in the background while I was growing up,” she said.

Brook studied philosophy at Whitworth University, graduating in 2007 with a bachelor in liberal studies. She said Whitworth encouraged self reflection.

“Spirituality is a big thing in my life.  What do I believe in, and why?  What do others believe?” she said.

Brook often attends St. Luke’s Episcopal in Coeur d’Alene, which discusses issues and expects members to be active regarding them, in tune with her valuing social outreach.

Her other involvements include co-founding Coeur d’Alene Murder Mystery Theatre with Tracy Vaughan, owning Verve Studio 8, where she teaches tap dancing and clogging.

Brook also teaches technology at Skyway Elementary School in Coeur d’Alene, emphasizing internet safety and digital citizenship.

For information, call 208-640-9742 or visit girlawake.com.





Copyright © November 2017 - The Fig Tree