Bringing social justice through performance: Issue Box Theatre presents Stephen Sondheim’s “Company”

. May 2, 2017.
The new theater company, Issue Box Theatre, will debut with the classic musical "Company," a story about a single man with commitment issues.
The new theater company, Issue Box Theatre, will debut with the classic musical "Company," a story about a single man with commitment issues.

The hardworking volunteers that dedicate their time and attention to Issue Box Theatre strive to educate, inspire, and positively change Toledo with  social justice theatre.

Social justice theatre is a way in which local artists can come together in an effort to make a change in society by creating theatrical pieces that expose social issues to the public.

This type of theatre is not necessarily new to Toledo. Rosie Best, Issue Box Theatre’s president and artistic director, worked as a teacher at the Toledo School for the Arts for ten years where she began a social justice theatre. Each year, students at TSA presented a ticketed reading and donated the proceeds to a local organization. When Best left TSA in 2011 to pursue her Masters of Social Work degree, the school retained the social justice theatre program and Best expanded social justice theatre by starting Issue Box Theatre.

Fundraising, Friendraising,
and Edutainment

“Issue Box started as a labor of love. My ongoing goal is to engage people in drama therapy…All [those involved] are interested in doing theatre for more than just theatre,” she explained. The volunteers who appear onstage and backstage are those who want to use theatre for a greater good. Rather than simply for entertainment purposes, Issue Box Theatre’s productions focus on three specific goals: Fundraising, Friendraising, and Edutainment.

While everyone is familiar with the term fundraising, “friendraising” is a bit lesser known. Like it sounds, the term refers to creating friendships. People who are not always represented or given a voice in society can find a connection with characters on stage. This allows them to realize they are not alone, and that other people are also facing difficult situations.

Edutainment is a combination of “education” and “entertainment”. Issue Box Theatre is unique in the fact that they educate an audience on social issues in an entertaining way.  And they certainly know how to entertain.

Company for charity

Their upcoming production is of the classic musical, “Company.” Composed of short vignettes, Company centers around a single man, Bobby, who can’t seem to commit to a steady relationship. The story all takes place on Bobby’s 35th birthday.

Best stated, “We decided to put [the musical] on as a fundraiser for people in transitional living. These people don’t always have relationships to lean on.” Thanks to the producer of the show, all money from ticket sales will go directly to Family House, Beach House, and Promise House Project.

Family House and Beach House are both non-profit organizations that are dedicated to providing shelter and services to homeless families. The Promise House Project is a collaborative effort to help LGBTQQIA and heterosexual homeless youth between 14-24 years old.

Keeping with the show’s theme of a birthday party, Best said that Issue Box Theatre is asking for audience members to bring “presents” (household goods) which will also be donated to the three organizations.

Getting involved

Issue Box Theatre is always looking for more volunteers.

Best stated, “I’m very open to coloration and I love theatre because it brings all skills together to make it happen.” So if you’re interested in acting, backstage work, graphic design, ushering, or any other aspect of theatre, Issue Box Theatre would like to hear from you at rosie@issueboxtheatre.com.

Another way to help the cause is to spend an evening at the theatre enjoying “Company”. The production runs May 4-5th at the Ohio Theatre.

Ohio Theatre – 3114 Lagrange St, Toledo
Performances at 7:30pm
Tickets – $15 and available at issueboxtheatre.com