Tami and I support Equality Utah and its mission of securing equal rights and protections for LGBTQ+ Utahns and their families. We especially support Equality Utah’s work to stop the damaging practice of Conversion Therapy in Utah. Eleven states and the District of Columbia have already made conversion therapy illegal for state-licensed mental health providers. Despite this, conversion therapy is still being implemented in Utah County and Salt Lake County. Read more about what is being done to change this here.
Earlier In 2018 Matthew Shepard was finally interred in a place of honor in the Washington National Cathedral.
My friends and I in the gay community in northern Utah were rocked to our core by the senseless murder of Matthew Shepard back in 1998. Not only were the details horrible, but the college town of Laramie, Wyoming was similar to my town of Ogden, Utah. As a lesbian who had only been open about my sexuality for a few years, the striking reality of what homophobia could lead people to do lingered in my mind. Standing in Dupont Circle 20 years later, holding a candle in the dark with a couple hundred strangers, I recalled the feelings of horror I felt when I learned about his murder. And yet, despite that, it was affirming to hear the words of the speakers calling on people to continue to protect marginalized communities from violence.
Utah’s tech sector is growing rapidly as job opportunities increasingly present themselves across the state. But currently, women hold less than one-fourth of jobs in science, technology, engineering, and math. Without more STEM opportunities for women and girls, women will continue to be left behind in technology professions.
Tami and I attended the United Way of Salt Lake’s 2018 “Power of Your Purse” Event. This annual event raises money to give Utah teachers access to professional development opportunities so they can teach STEM in their classroom more effectively.
Tami and I went to San Francisco for the 41st anniversary celebration of the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) back in May. The 2,000+ people gathered at the Palace of Fine Arts were, along with celebrating NCLR’s work, there honoring my friend Kate (Kathy) Kendell. Kate will retire at the end of 2018, after 22 years of being the Executive Director of NCLR. Along with tributes to Kate, the program was honoring two plaintiffs in Doe vs. Trump, the NCLR lawsuit which challenged President Trump’s ban on transgendered people’s military service. While I listened to the two young individuals, I knew that Kate Kendell had helped to create this world.
To celebrate my turning 65 years young, earlier this month I convinced my family to go on a five-day rafting trip. Exploring the vastness of the Utah desert and the serenity of the Green River, my family of eight (my wife, our adult son and daughter, son-in-law, two grandsons and granddaughter (aged between 11-15)) survived a rickety plane ride to the middle of nowhere and set off.
It was a trip of many laughs, self-discovery, family bonding, and the welcomed chance to unplug from the world for a few days. The experience of being outside, surrounded by red rock and family, surrendering ourselves to will of Mother Nature, reminded us while we can’t control external events, we do have the ability to control our attitudes toward them.
Every year, The United Way of Salt Lake hosts its annual Power of Your Purse Gala, raising funds for and celebrating the work of the Women’s Leadership Council. The efforts of the Women’s Leadership Council are focused upon Women for Education Achievement, which aims to help young girls and women reach their potential through education.
The Women’s Leadership Council is a group of over 250 local women leaders with a goal of increasing the educational opportunity and achievement for all girls and young women in our community. Their focus, the Women for Educational Achievement, shoot to make a positive impact through tracking key metrics such as:
· Increasing the percent of elementary students testing proficient or higher in math and reading by the third grade;
· Pushing middle school students to play a more active role in engaging in their education by showing they understand its value and importance to their future success;
· Measurably improved high school graduation rates; and
· A major focus on the entrance to and completion of post-secondary educational programs such as technical training or college.
To influence students in pursuing these goals, the Women’s Leadership Council has made efforts to change the narrative and cultural factors regarding women’s place in education and the workforce. By coordinating with local partners promoting education in the community, progress has been made in all of these key areas, but a lot of work must still be done. Funding curriculum that highlights the importance of post-secondary education, as well as raising awareness of and addressing financial issues that impact the ability to pursue continued education remain top priority for the Council.
The annual Power of Your Purse event is held as the signature event to bring awareness and raise funds for these issues, and more. This year’s focus will be on launching new science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) initiatives for low-income students across the Salt Lake Valley. Keynote speaker Reshma Saujani will discuss the importance of equipping young women with the technological and computing skills necessary to pursue high quality careers in the 21st century. She is the founder and CEO of Girls Who Code, a national leader on closing the gender gap in computer science and technology jobs. Her recent TED Talk on empowering girls and young women by teaching them bravery through risk-taking and the embracing failure, as well as the importance of mentorship, has over 3 million views.
While tickets to this event have sold out, you can still make a donation to support STEM initiatives for low income students by clicking here.
My recent family vacation took an unexpected turn due to international conflicts. Our original plan was to go to Turkey with my grandchildren. Ten days before we were to depart, the Ataturk Airport in Istanbul was bombed, killing 44 and injuring over 230 others. Needless to say, we changed our family travel plans, and ended up in France. Terror accompanied us there, too.
Will we stop traveling? Absolutely not. Tami and I firmly believe visiting different places and experiencing different cultures is important for our grandchildren and a part of personal development. It’s up to us to have the strength, courage, and curiosity to forge friendships and gain an appreciation for people living around the world. It’s up to us to stand with the everyday people grieving and worrying in these countries, for they are not much different than us.
We can’t let terror win. We can’t let isolationism win. Read our fully story here.
Plan-B Theatre raises awareness and invites conversation about the important issues that are present in our community. The Theatre’s productions spotlight Utah playwrights while delving into themes such as LGBTQ rights, the HIV/AIDS epidemic, cancer, racism, and religion through the use of dynamic and engaging characters to show how these issues impact people every day. Plan-B’s use of stage to focus on equality for all is a powerful medium to encourage meaningful conversations and create change in our community.
Jane and her wife Tami became directly involved with Plan-B during the 2001 production of The Laramie Project. “An extraordinary feat of theatrical journalism,” the play highlighted the social issues, events, and pressures surrounding and leading up to the 1998 murder of Matthew Shepard in Laramie, Wyoming.
This year, Plan-B Theatre is proud to announce its lineup for the 2016/17 season, featuring world premieres by Utah playwrights Debora Threedy, Tim Slover, Morag Shepherd, and Melissa Leilani Larson. The theme of the season is “what it means to speak the truth.” Four shows will comprise the season- One Big Union, Virtue, Not One Drop, and The Edible Complex. For more information on these shows, visit http://www.peaceandpossibilityproject.org/plan-b-theatre-announces-20162017-lineup/.
Established over 100 years ago as the Salt Lake Charity Association, United Way of Salt Lake’s mission has always been focused on finding ways to help the poor and coordinate and implement social programs. It has been an agent for social change by building healthy communities, expanding educational opportunities to at-risk children, and being ahead of the curve in identifying new and critical issue areas affecting the community. Today, the group serves 1.4 million people along the Wasatch Front – over half of Utah’s population.
United Way of Salt Lake is changing the way communities approach problem solving. Through its “Collective Impact” model, the organization has brought community partners together to tackle complex issues. What is the “Collective Impact” model and why is it so effective? To find out, visit the Peace & Possibility Project.
Since their establishment in 1991, Plan-B has created “unique and socially conscious theatre” for Salt Lake City, Utah residents and its visitors.
The original Plan-B founders, Tobin Atkinson and Cheryl Ann Cluff, started out as theatre students at Southern Utah State College (now Southern Utah University), but opening their own theatre was actually their “Plan B.” As they describe, “Plan A” was for them to make it big in New York City as famous actors. “Plan B” was to create a place for more diverse, socially conscious theatre they rarely saw performed in Salt Lake City. They ended up going with Plan-B.
They have always wanted to focus on new plays by Utah playwrights to give their pieces a local point-of-view, and when they began their journey, they started out producing original works by Atkinson himself. But when Atkinson decided to join the Army back in 2000, Jerry Rapier came on in his place.
A year later, the company found huge success with their production of The Laramie Project, a play about the murder of a gay University of Wyoming student in 1998. That success is what reaffirmed their understanding that there was indeed a huge need for socially conscious theatre, while solidifying their commitment to producing at least one LGBT-focused play each season (which the company has done ever since.)
Their overall mission and greatest challenge now with each piece they produce is to create a conversation with their audience, to provide an opportunity for patrons to consider new points-of-view, and to help their viewers reflect deeply on the lives of others.
All in all, Plan-B has produced 83 world premieres. Of these premieres, they were proud to produce Utah’s first play by both an African American playwright as well as an Asian American playwright. Nationally, five of their plays have been nominated for the American Theatre Critics Association/Steinberg Award for Best New American Play Produced Outside New York and three have gone on to be performed in New York.
This year, they were honored with the Utah’s Governor’s Leadership in the Arts Award and Salt Lake City’s Mayor’s Artist Award for Service to the Arts by an Organization. But they have also been the proud recipients of many awards over the years, including:
- Utah Governor’s Organization Leadership in the Arts Award (2015)
- Salt Lake City’s Mayor’s Artist Award for Service to the Arts by an Organization (2015)
- Best Drama, United Solo Theatre Festival, New York (ERIC(A) by Matthew Ivan Bennett, 2013)
- Transgender Education Advocates of Utah’s Organization of the Year (2013)
- Human Rights Campaign’s Equality Award – Organization (2011)
- Transgender Education Advocates of Utah’s Organization of the Year (2010)
- Equality Utah’s Allies for Equality Award – Organization (2007)
- 20 QSaltLake Fabby Awards (2005-present), including ‘Best Local Theatre Company’ all 11 years the award has existed
- 50 City Weekly Slammy/Arty Awards (2000-present), including ‘Best Local Theatre Production’ 13 of the past 14 seasons
Plan B’s 25th Season has been full of incredible actors, playwrights, directors, and important social issues. And we are especially looking forward to Kingdom of Heaven by Jenifer Nii and David Evanoff which will run March 31 – April 10, 2016. This piece is supported in part by the Peace & Possibility Project.
This production explores our universal quest for self-acceptance complicated by our culture of perfection through the life of one Mormon housewife’s affinity for drag. When Mary Jane (Jeanette Puhich) discovers her true calling (as a drag king), she must traverse the landscape of impactful affects on her family, marriage, friendships, and faith.
As our conversation on LGBTQ matters grows and evolves nationwide, this play will explore the important roles (especially within religion) that we assign to women and how they can differ in huge and often harmful ways from who women truly are and want to be. Locally, this speaks very true to Utah’s large Mormon population.
The play will be directed by Jerry Rapier himself, and as he told QSaltLake Magazine, “It’s very universal in its approach to what it means to be a woman who doesn’t fit into the faith that she loves.”
Written from the author of Wallace (co-written with Debora Threedy), The Scarlet Letter, Suffrage and Ruff!, and the musical director of Hedwig and the Angry Inch and the composer of six Radio Hour episodes.
Plan-B has told so many powerful stories through theater, and it is through productions like this that we can come together as a community to understand both our differences and similarities and hopefully create a more empathetic and understanding place to live.
Jane Marquardt and Tami are proud to support Plan-B and their ongoing efforts to bringing awareness and understanding to important social issues.