In an emotional closing weekend at the sixth annual Briefs Festival of Short LGBTQ Plays, producers Joan Lipkin and Darin Slyman raised $1270 in donations for the Islamic Foundation of Greater St. Louis and the International Institute of St Louis.

The nationally recognized festival, which attracted a record attendance at the new .ZACK in Grand Center March 9 – 11 is suspending production. Lipkin explained the need for a break on St. Louis Public Radio’s St. Louis on the Air due to multiple issues.

“Between cuts to funding and the new administration, both of our organizations want to evaluate our direction and priorities. Nevertheless, we wanted to mark the occasion as an opportunity to signal that, as LGBTQ and allied people, we stand in solidarity with Muslims, refugees and immigrants and oppose the draconian measures that are being taken against them. We know what it is like to experience discrimination,” said Lipkin, the Producing Artistic Director, That Uppity Theatre Company.

Darin Slyman, the CEO and Partner of the Vital Voice, said he had a personal connection to the plight of both Muslims and refugees.

“Being the child of an immigrant from Lebanon, it was very important for me personally to support the the Islamic Foundation of Greater St. Louis and the International Institute this year through our give back commitment via Briefs,” said Slyman. “My family fled Lebanon back in the early 70’s during the civil war. The United States welcomed us with open arms, and my family and I have contributed to the advancement, growth and fabric of this country. It perplexes me that in today’s time and climate we would ban such opportunities for our next crucial wave of immigrants.”

When approached about the proposed fundraising effort at the festival, Nauman Wadalawala, a board member for the Islamic Foundation of Greater St. Louis said he was surprised to hear about this effort from a group with which he was not familiar.

“Immediately when I heard that, it was a feel good moment, especially with the political climate the way it is today,” Wadalawala said in an interview with KMOV St. Louis.

The Islamic Foundation of Greater St. Louis is a non-profit organization, serving the local community with a variety of services, including regular congregational prayers, educational programs, workshops, burial preparations, as well as social events in accordance to the teachings of Islam.

The International Institute of St. Louis is also a non-profit organization which offers comprehensive adjustment services for refugees and immigrants in the community.

In addition, the Briefs producers invited audience, cast, and crew members to write notes of encouragement and support to Muslims, immigrants, refugees. These notes were then posted in the lobby space throughout the performance weekend, alongside the art of Jessica Bueler.

Jessica Bueler, who has been involved with support of Syrian refugees in the St. Louis area, will also receive a donation to her grassroots efforts. Bueler donated posters at cost over the weekend of the festival that were used in fundraising efforts.

In its six-year history, Briefs hired approximately eight directors every year, sought gender parity to provide an equal number of slots for women directors, strove to increase racial and other diversity onstage and off, and created the Ken Haller Playwriting Competition for LGBTQ and Allied Youth (including dramaturgical services and a professional production). They have also consistently raised money for non-profit groups and produced approximately 50 plays, contributing to expanding the canon of dramatic literature.

According to stage manager and technical director, Michael Perkins, approximately 4,500 people attended the one-weekend event over the past six years in three venues: La Perla, the Rialto in the Centene Center for the Arts, owned by the Arts and Education Foundation, and finally the .ZACK Performing Arts Center. The use of the .ZACK was made possible through a donation by the Kranzberg Arts Foundation. V

Via Press Release