A Few Press Clips

Staging Social Justice is poised to spark conversation across generations, geographic locations, and activist sensibilities. . . .This is an excellent book, filled with stories of pluck that will no doubt be used as guides, inspirations, warnings, and provocations. Staging Social Justice offers a hopeful, accessible archive of an intrepid theatre facilitating invaluable work.”                                                                          Theatre Topics, 2013

“A compelling array of methods for measuring impact, approaches to aesthetics (with humor high on the list), coalition and community building, reflections on safe space, and acknowledgment of the diverse roles needed to apply theatre to social justice goals. The book beautifully bears witness both to how generative Fringe Benefits’ collaborations have been for participants and to the potential of engaged art in multidisciplinary ecosystems more broadly.”                                                                   Jan Cohen-Cruz, editor of Public: A Journal of Imagining America, 2013

 “There were parents weeping on my shoulder saying how the play helped them to communicate with their son or daughter who was going through issues with sexual identity. There were young people, and much older folk, who wept because they identified with the stories that were portrayed in the play: the young man who told his best friend that he was gay and had that ‘friend’ make posters and advertise the fact to the school; the teacher who would not let a student do a project on a bisexual singer who wrote songs about injustice; a homophobic youth who beat up gay students after school.”                                                                                                                                                                                                                Judy Pippen, NEWS MAIL, Bundaberg, Queensland, Australia, 2008

 “This past week folks filtered into the Byron D. Seaver Theater at Pomona College and watched a play that was so thought-provoking and emotional that the audience rose in a spontaneous standing ovation.The play, If Yes, Please Explain…, had 3 scenarios depicting the experiences of 3 women who fought the uphill battle of finding gainful employment after being incarcerated. Created by students, faculty and staff of the Claremont colleges, folks from Crossroads and Turning Point, the play was performed by women who gave powerful testimonies to the trials of these women and potential employers.”                                                                                                                                                                   Rebecca James Courie, Editor-in-Chief, Claremont Courier, 2007

Protesters at Miami University of Ohio. Photo by Jordan Kessler

“Brinkman is suing the university for its policy of offering benefits to domestic partners as long as they sign an affidavit that declares their partner status. […] Before the event began, community members, led by members of Miami’s Walking Theater Project, stood on the grass outside the Shriver Center, holding bold signs protesting the lawsuit. ‘We are here to let Tom Brinkman know that the people are not with him,’ said Katherine Paddock, a member of the Walking Theater Project. ‘When he leaves, we are the people here. This is our university.’ […] Rosemary Marston, member of the Walking Theater Project added ‘We need to support all people – including gays and lesbians.’ ”                                                                                        Editor in Chief, The Miami Student, 2006

“For me, Cootie Shots represents the essence of artistic spirit. It could only have come from these artists, in this time. It is a daring adventure and it exists purely because of the unique, obsessed, driving spirits of Bowles and Rosenthal, doing their very best, relentlessly, to make the world a better place. It is an American art trophy.”

Linda Frye Burnham, Art in the Public Interest, 2004

“Battling bigotry creatively with a theater production for kids: Rapunzel, Cesar Chavez, Mother Nature, Rosa Parks and venerable Miss Liberty are among a variety of characters who will take center stage in an unusual theater production that goes to the heart of concerns about bullying, teasing and prejudice.”                                                                                                                                                                           Lynne Heffley, Los Angeles Times, September 30, 1999

“Bowles is a trailblazer on school playgrounds and classrooms as founder/director of Fringe Benefits, a youth theatre company with skits, songs and stories that encourage a kinder, more sensitive, and more accepting-of-those-perceived-as-‘different’ youth environment.”

Polly Warfield, Back Stage West, May 2, 2002

“A student-written play on tolerance and acceptance is providing lasting lessons for Pio Pico Middle School students. […] In ‘With Liberty and Justice for All: Breaking the Pyramid of Hate!’ […] inspired by a Fringe Benefits Theatre workshop for [Paulette] Maki’s class and the Anti-Defamation League’s Pyramid of Hate, the students act out scenarios they have observed on campus, such as calling a student gay because he has artistic talent. It also pulls in commentary on horrific modern day events such as the shootings at Columbine.”

United Teacher, March 21, 2003

Cootie Shots teaches children life lessons about themselves and the diversity of their classmates in a fun and thought-provoking way.”

Multicultural Review, July 2002

“The works in Cootie Shots, take their cues from childhood standards: Shel Silverstein, Dr. Seuss, Roald Dahl, and the 1970’s volume Free To Be…You and Me. The message is clear and universal and the three-dozen schoolchildren sitting cross-legged before the bounding actors relaying it are enraptured.”

Rachel Howard, The Orange County Register, Oct 31, 1999

“Blown away. After the long standing ovation died down, all audience members could say, over and over, was that they were totally blown away by People Who Live in Glass Houses…, a play made up of their real life stories by teenagers cared for by Gay and Lesbian Adolescent Social Services (GLASS). After the performance, after the laughter of triumph and tears of relief, after the din of congratulations died down, the GLASS kids were still talking, still slapping high-fives, reliving moments, once painful and dark, that had been transformed into art and had become the highlight of their young lives, and, in the process, had enlightened ours.”

Karen Ocamb, Update, November 20, 1991

“For the fourth-, fifth- and sixth-graders at the Catholic school in Koreatown, watching the Dr. Seuss-like skit and half a dozen others was a cool way to spend a Wednesday afternoon. Their teachers hope for a more lasting effect- one that will curb schoolyard taunts and bullying. ‘We have a real duty to educate our students as to tolerance,’ Principal Vince O’Donoghue said. It is a sentiment shared by educators at close to 100 public and private schools from San Francisco to San Bernardino who, in the wake of state and local mandates to deal with diversity, have asked the actors of Fringe Benefits to perform for their students this school year.”

Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson, October 21, 1999



“Using the visual, literary and performing arts, and a book called Cootie Shots, students were guided through exercises and asked to creatively express themselves through songs, poems and skits to show their commitment to social justice, respect for self and others and human dignity.”

Meg Barone, Connecticut Post, April 10, 2003

Cootie Shots: Theatrical Inoculations Against Bigotry for Kids, Parents and Teachers, takes the imaginary germ of cooties and turns it into a learning experience for grade school kids on lessons of tolerance and diversity.”

Dana Williams, Southern Poverty Law Center’s Tolerance.org website, May 2003