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Whitworth Theatre Department Receives City of Spokane Bold Strokes Award

The Whitworth Theatre Department was recently named the recipient of the 2006 City of Spokane Bold Strokes Award, in recognition of its extraordinary achievement in changing the community through art. The Spokane Arts Commission presented the award as part of the city's celebration of National Arts and Humanities Month each October.

"The outreach of the department is impressively organized and consistent at applying the principles of art as a vehicle for transformation," said Spokane Arts Commissioner Juan Mas during the awards ceremony held Nov. 6 at the Spokane City Council Chambers. "Employing hearts as well as the minds of those they touch, the Whitworth Theatre Department is truly deserving of the City of Spokane Bold Strokes Award."

The theatre department won the award on the basis of its many independent and collaborative projects that engage the community. Projects include students in Professor of Theatre Rick Hornor's improvisational acting classes, who teach acting skills to members of On Stage !, a theatre-based program for adults coping with mental illness that is affiliated with the Washington Institute for Mental Illness, Research and Training.

The theatre departments' program Cootie Shots: Theatrical Inoculations against Bigotry for Kids, Parents and Teachers features a series of sketches performed by Whitworth acting students. The sketches encourage diversity and tolerance through portrayals of people representing various races, classes, genders, religions, ages and appearances. Cootie Shots is directed by Instructor of Theatre Brooke Kiener, a 1999 Whitworth alumna, and is aimed at children ages 8-11. The program is performed at area elementary schools, where Kiener and the actors host discussions after each show.

Whitworth Professor of Theatre Diana Trotter and a troupe of acting students are the originators of Mirror, Mirror: The Body Image Show, a performance that explores how factors such as peer influence, family and the media shape our ideas about body image. Each new cast revises the show by incorporating personal experiences and information about current national trends. The actors hold a discussion session with audience members after each performance.

Since its creation in 1997, Mirror, Mirror has been performed at Whitworth, at area high schools and elementary schools, and on tour in Washington, Oregon and Southern California. At a Presbyterian youth retreat this November, Trotter and some of her students will lead workshops and perform an original script that they wrote about "abundant life."

Students in Whitworth theatre classes have also completed service-learning projects at the Spokane County Juvenile Detention Center, Mead Middle School, MAP School (District 81) and the YWCA after-school program. Kiener has worked with a group of students in Spokane’s West Central neighborhood, and in January 2007, she will assist a group of Whitworth students working with students at Havermale High School, who will write and perform original works.

"Service-learning projects allow students to immediately apply their classroom learning to a community need. Service-learning frequently brings students into contact with community members they normally don’t meet, which often dispels misconceptions about those groups," Hornor says. "Students often realize there is much theatre can accomplish outside of the conventional notions of performance. The community is transformed, we hope, by what our students do and by the relationships that are established."

Located in Spokane, Wash., Whitworth is a private, liberal arts college affiliated with the Presbyterian Church (USA). The college, which has an enrollment of 2,500 students, offers more than 50 undergraduate and graduate degree programs.

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