Lipstick Theatre brings feminist performance to campus


Joanne Haner/The Daily Northwestern

Actors on stage in Lipstick Theatre’s production of “Sunrise Coven” earlier this month. The show was the second of three this academic year from the feminist theatre board.

Alexa Crowder, Assistant Arts & Entertainment Editor

Art in activism, activism in art. That’s Lipstick Theatre’s motto.

Northwestern’s feminist student theatre board puts on three productions per year. Most recently, the group showcased “Sunrise Coven” in early February. All of its shows portray intersectional and inclusive feminism while educating the cast, board members and audience on such issues.

Communication freshman Sam Webster, the board’s co-production manager, said many of Lipstick’s shows include educational programming like talkbacks, where the cast talks to the audience about the process and themes of the show.

“We put on theatre and performance that serve an important social function and speak to feminism and intersectionalism,” Webster said. “We are promoting activism through art and using theatre as a medium.”

Webster joined Lipstick this fall during a round of recruitment meant to restaff the board after a difficult year and half, according to Communication senior and Artistic Director Payton Shearn.

Shearn said the board struggled to generate enough interest in virtual theatre to continue functioning, much less produce shows last academic year, aside from one radio play.

However, Lipstick is back in full swing this year. Communication and McCormick senior Gillian Finnegan, the board’s stage management chair, said the fall and winter productions were particularly special for her.

“It’s been super great getting to see all the things that we talk about as a board actually put in place, now that we’ve gotten to do in-person productions, and collaborate with directors and producers and production teams,” Finnegan said.

Directors and producers begin the process of choosing the next year’s pieces in late spring. They propose their ideas to the Lipstick board, including the specific feminist issues they plan on tackling.

While Lipstick’s mission is inherently intersectional, Shearn said the board sometimes struggles to uphold these values at a predominately white institution such as NU.

“Our whole thing is uplifting marginalized voices, but it’s hard to do that because there are really only so many marginalized people at this school,” Shearn said. “How can we work with diverse and marginalized people and uplift their voices without tokenizing them, without exploiting them and their labor?”

In working toward this goal, the group updated its new member petition process. Shearn said board members previously focused on assessing an applicant’s “vibes,” on which people’s opinions could easily stem from unconscious bias.

Now, they said the group is more methodical in its evaluations, with an anonymous feedback form featuring specific, content-based questions.

“Making that petition process a little bit more objective will really help make sure we’re attracting people who are really excited about the mission,” Shearn said. “That will really preserve the integrity of the board.”

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @AlexaCrowder

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