Awards & Testimonials

Awards & Testimonials

The CSJ Center for Reconciliation and Justice presented a Hidden Hero Award to Fringe Benefits’ Artistic Director Norma Bowles in 2018, and to Residency Leaders Tori DiGeronimo, Savannah Lewison and Dani Corona in 2016 “for exemplifying justice and reconciliation”.

The Association for Theatre in Higher Education presented their first “Award for Leadership in Community-Based Theatre and Civic Engagement” to Bowles in 2009.    

The Castillo Theatre presented Fringe Benefits with an Otto Rene Castillo Award in 2004 “for creating theatre which embraces humanistic and social concerns.”

Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, Los Angeles (PFLAG/LA) presented a 2003 Oscar Wilde Award to Fringe Benefits and Bowles “for promoting tolerance through original theatrical productions.”

Cornerstone Theater Company presented Fringe Benefits and Bowles with a 2002 Bridge Award “for outstanding work and dedication on behalf of theater and community.”

The Korean Youth and Community Center presented Fringe Benefits with a Solidarity Award in 2002 “in recognition of your commitment and dedication to inspiring future generations.”

Testimonials & Quotes from…

“Tolerance and understanding are not optional in today’s society, with increasing diversity in schools, in the workplace, and in the world. Fringe Benefits prepares young people to develop these skills and to exercise these concepts in their daily lives. The entire arts education community needs to take notice of their fine work and to spread their message.”
Daniel-Raymond Nadon, Ph.D, Associate Professor, Theatre, Kent State University

“My students laughed, learned and gained a better understanding of the diversity of the world in which they live. I would recommend this experience for all schools that would like to help their students confront and deal with stereotypes.”
Miriah Rifkin, Teacher, Murray Elementary School

“The Theatre for Social Justice Residency really strengthened our community. It got people talking about issues in a way we hadn’t talked about them before. We ended thinking, ‘This should always be a part of our curriculum.'”
Leslie Alexander, Principal, Six-to-Six Magnet School

“The students and staff could not stop talking about the vibrant, brilliant and uplifting show that shared, through the eyes of a child, how all people could overcome the negative pressures of prejudice and see the positive things that we all have in common.”
Francis Copeland, Dean, Edison Middle School

“The workshops I attended and the Fringe Benefits performance I had the opportunity to see left me inspired and energized to continue this important work here in New Hampshire.”
David Kaye, Associate Professor, University of New Hampshire, Durham

“The format of Theatre for Social Justice (TSJ) allows students to express themselves creatively and artistically. Students learn improvisational acting and creative writing techniques to help bring their thoughts and feelings into short dramatic scripts. It has been wonderful to watch the students work and perform. The students truly love TSJ.”
Craig Robinson, Performing Arts Chair, Animo Leadership Charter High School

“We were greatly anticipating your arrival since Cootie Shots came to us highly recommended by neighboring schools, our current parents and our Headmaster. We were not disappointed… As you know, we had some parents who were very concerned about the content of your program and, in fact, one parent after researching on her own decided to inform parents in kindergarten that they may not want their children viewing the show due to its overall content. This same parent sat through the performance and had a complete change of heart. She later mentioned that she had judged the program out of context, and proceeded to donate a book on tolerance to our library. Obviously you have put much thought and effort into the Cootie Shots performance and both children and adults enjoyed this most enlightening entertainment!”
Carol Inge Bernstein, Former Assistant Head of School and Founding Member of Board of Trustees, The Westerly School of Long Beach

“I would like to express my heartfelt appreciation to you for the outstanding performance of Clothes Minded? that your theatre group did here at Gage Middle School. The topics, particularly peer pressure, discrimination and bullying, were so appropriate for the 275 students who had the opportunity to participate. The format – an hour-long play, followed by a 30-minute discussion/question and answer period – worked out very well. The students were extremely attentive and asked meaningful questions of the cast members. Additionally, the materials that you provided for the teachers to use in preparation for the assembly were quite helpful. I look forward to continuing contact with your outstanding theatre group. Your message to youth is one that definitely needs to be shared with young people across the nation.
Bette Caldwell, Counselor, Gage Middle School

“You are making a phenomenal difference!!!”
Elaine Haglund, Ph. D., Cal State Long Beach

Cootie Shots is a creative, poignant and important work that illuminates, with great power, the joys of celebrating difference–and the importance of observing the golden rule. The many voices that are part of these selections and illustrations are so very relevant to both children and adults. I would like to see Cootie Shots in schools as a required part of the curriculum.”
Christa Santangelo, Ph.D., Clinical Psychologist, University of California,
San Francisco, Langley Porter Psychiatric Institute,
Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry

“Your community was very professional and sensitive to our Catholic background.”
Father Cris Rosales, SDB, Salesian High School

“Through all the plays and songs runs a common thread of people committed to justice, respect and human dignity. The plays encourage children, young adults and adults to work against name-calling and other acts of violence in their schools, home and neighborhoods.”
Rosa Furumoto, Ed.D., Assistant Professor,
Chicana/o Studies Department, California State University Northridge

“Thanks for the great show yesterday! I thought you might like to hear this: Two kids were arguing on the playground this morning. They started name-calling and before I could stop them, a third child approached them and said, ‘Stop calling names! Don’t you remember Cootie Shots?’ The other two kids looked at each other, apologized, and went on with their game. Let’s hope it keeps up!”
David A. Young, Temple Israel

“Thanks so much for presenting at “Walk In My Shoes.” As always the feedback on your presentations was excellent!”
Dave Southern, Orange County Human Relations

Cootie Shots teaches and preaches without being ‘teachie’ and ‘preachie.’ It gives children some beautiful lessons about our diversity and sameness before our society teaches them otherwise.”
Rev. Robert B. Allman, H.R. Presbyterian Minister, Savannah Georgia Presbytery

“Project Q, the youth program of the Milwaukee LGBT Community Center, would welcome the opportunity to work with Fringe Benefits again, as our last collaboration on A Day of Silence was an extraordinary experience for all concerned!”
Cynthia Bowman, Director of Youth Services for the Milwaukee LGBT Community Center

“I love this book! The best place for us to start learning about tolerance is right away, in pre-school, in elementary school, in our schools.”
California State Senator Sheila Kuehl

“I believe Cootie Shots broadened a view of their isolated world, lifted them one step above a societal myth and limitation, and entertained all immensely.”
Diane Sands, President/CEO, OC & Spectrum Disorders Association

“I applaud Norma and Fringe Benefits for believing that young children CAN handle these topics and deserve to have them presented in a way that is artful, professional and inspiring. Good work!”
Dani Bedau, Director of Youth Arts Programs,
National Conference for Community and Justice – NCCJ/LA

“The programs offered by Fringe Benefits address issues of prejudice, teach tolerance and build bridges of understanding. Fringe Benefits programs provide valuable teaching tools.”
Mike and Lydia Gutierrez, Los Angeles

“In honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and other great civil rights leaders, our school assembled to acknowledge the many esteemed people who dared to make a difference. But it was the inspired content of Cootie Shots that lit up the eyes and opened the hearts of parents and children alike, as the magic of our young performers brought to life stories of the beauty of variation, crooned inspired songs of change, blessed us with loving and poignant themes encouraging us all to seek the truth and be kind to one another along the way.”
James Ward, Los Angeles

“My daughter saw the production of Cootie Shots last year at her elementary school, and she came home a completely different girl. Once she was reticent of people who were different from her but now she truly does treasure what makes people special, whether they have a different religion, color of skin, home situation, etc.”
Laura Greenfield, Fairfield

“Entertaining, intelligent, and essential for contemporary living, Cootie Shots sets children on a fun-filled journey to discover values and identities for the 21st century. I’m eager to share this collection with my own five year-old.”
David Henry Hwang, Los Angeles

“As a parent, I am really pleased that my daughter was fortunate to have the experience of working with you in what I consider an extremely valuable theatre experience.”
Mary Caplan, Agoura

Cootie Shots helps me open dialogue with my children and normalize their feelings while empowering them to stand up for who they are and celebrate the differences that make us all unique”
Laura Travnitz, Pasadena

“I recommend Cootie Shots to anyone who is a parent of school age children. These are plays that can be presented to all ages.”
Nanette Benbrook, Ventura

“I live in Long Beach with my fairly traditional nuclear family – husband, three teen-age kids (one boy and two girls), three cats, one rabbit and a bird. I am involved with Fringe Benefits because I want our children to be open to all kinds of people, to see them for who they are and treat them with respect. The lessons children learn from Fringe Benefits’ programs equip them for life in the 21st Century and help them leave behind much of the baggage of the past.”
Sonja Berggren Seaver, Long Beach

“I now have the confidence to use the right tools and just do the right thing.”
Chryseis, middle school

“I have enjoyed being a part of this project and being able to problem-solve with the rest of the students.”
Guadalupe, university

“I learned you shouldn’t tease. You should try to defend your friends, try to help them get used to the school.”
Kyle, elementary school

“Thank you to the people who participated in the making of this theatrical performance to show schools across the country what tolerance and diversity is all about and that those two words, tolerance and diversity, are what America should value the most.”
Natasha, high school

“Thank you for making all the issues so real and for relating to the audience so well.”
Luis, university

“In the labor of preparing Friendly Fire, something odd began to happen to me. I was beginning to gain insight not only into those around me, but into myself as well. I learned that I had a talent. That somewhere deep within me a bird was singing.”
Earl, youth shelter

“I learned that you need to treat people the way you want to be treated, even if they are different than you.”
Robert, elementary school

“I learned how to be a better and more caring person.”
Sharon, middle school

“I became what I wanted to be — an activist for social justice.”
Craig, high school

“The school learned more about loving themselves and respecting each other because, on the yard, the kids aren’t fighting.
Hailey, elementary school

“I went to high school in Utah, a Mormon community, and saw many people take their own lives due to no communication, only negativity, towards gays. It would have been great to have something like this for them.”
Sarah, university

“During the performance, a group of ‘street youth’ and an audience of ‘normal people’ found common ground. And for me, that alone was enough.”
Stacey, youth shelter

“I really liked how they took ideas from real students that face those real problems.”
Luis, middle school

“I learned that we don’t have the right to treat people different or put people down. The other thing I learned is if you see someone with problems, try to help.”
Mercedes, high school

“I started telling my friends about judging people and they are already starting to change.”
Keisha, middle school

“I learned that however you look, never, I repeat, Never call a person names or judge them by the color of their skin.”
Alex, elementary school

“If you see a kid being teased, DO SOMETHING!”
Aaron, middle school

“Hooray! Fabulous! I just wish you could take this show to every school in the country.”
Lanie, university

“Fringe Benefits is one of the most innovative and dynamic ensembles in Los Angeles. Their work is not only artistically interesting but engages social issues with a directness and courage that is refreshing.”
Ferdinand Lewis, author, Ensemble Works: An Anthology

“What a wonderful way for kids to safely and creatively explore issues of diversity. And to see that differences can be a positive thing. I have just one question, ‘Where were you when I was growing up?’!!!”
Joan Lipkin, Artistic Director, The DisAbility Project, St. Louis, Missouri

Cootie Shots is a truly life-affirming collection.”
Olympia Dukakis, actor

“These drama educators and theatre artists have resourced themselves, analyzed the complexities of the identity locations in question, and applied that knowledge to the ways in which they have structured their work. They serve as terrific examples of how drama educators and practitioners can help when different identity positions collide.”
Sharon Grady, author, Drama and Diversity

“These fun, hip, fresh plays and poems should awaken the natural desire in all young people to step into the shoes and think with the minds of others.”
Jose Rivera, playwright

“Norma Bowles and Ernie Lafky created the extraordinary Friendly Fire as a contribution to the 1993 Memory Projects in the Los Angeles Festival, working with a new group of gifted and eloquent collaborators, while continuing an extraordinary line of development that had characterized their two previous pieces.”
Peter Sellars, director

“My theatre company has been asked to do a production for our city’s one year anniversary of 9/11 which will celebrate diversity and promote peace. Although our company does not specialize in children’s theatre, this is a family event, and I can think of nothing more fitting to present than your fabulous play.”
Gene Fouche, Maryland Ensemble Theatre

Cootie Shots is an American art trophy.”
Linda Frye Burnham, Art in the Public Interest