Evolution Theatre Company, based in Columbus, provides a supportive and encouraging environment for celebrating the artistic vision of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, intersex and ally (LGBTQQIA) individuals, advancing the understanding of gender issues, and fostering the expression of creative performance arts by and about the LGBTQQIA community.
We got a chance to sit down and chat with Mark Phillips Schwamberger, the executive director of Evolution, as he walked us through why Evolution is important, not only to the LGBTQQIA community, but to the city of Columbus as a whole.
Normally, when the LGBT community is discussed, it is cut off at those four letters, but for Evolution, which got its start in 2008, their title encompasses four more identities. The work that Evolution performs is not just work that the LGBTQQIA community can identify with - everyone of any identity can relate to the pieces. The themes are universal, but told through a queer lens.
“It’s for the community at large…about respect, and acceptance, and tolerance for all of us in society as a whole,” says Schwamberger.
“We did a production of Bare, and people left crying. Not because it was sad, but because they were saying: “Oh, I can identify with that person,” “I’ve been through this,” “My son’s gonna be okay”…those are the things that make me want to keep doing what we’re doing.”
Schwamberger believes that theater, along with all other forms of entertainment, can be educational tools that open the viewer’s eyes to subject matter they wouldn’t normally be exposed to. “When you go see a show, as opposed to a lecture, you don’t know you’re being educated, it just sort of comes…like when we did a production of Yank (a WWII love story between two men), and after the show, the woman next to me said she didn’t know what to expect and was a little nervous, but came out of it seeing it as just any other love story, but it just happened to be with two men.”
It’s responses like those that make Schwamberger believe that he’s making progress, that he’s causing small ideological changes in his audience. His goal is to get to a point where we don't need Evolution Theatre anymore - that all theatre companies and art institutions are regularly telling stories of the LGBTQQIA experience.
One of Evolution’s most popular and important events is the Local Playwrights Festival, a series of five original plays written by Columbus residents. The festival, running from June 1st to June 12th at the Van Fleet Theatre, deals with themes of the LGBTQQIA community and politics - the most timely of them being transgender political issues. In its third year, the festival hopes to bring a spotlight on local playwrights who wouldn’t necessarily get their work produced in other cities. Schwamberger says that it’s Evolution’s responsibility to highlight the artistic goals of people living around Columbus.
On Columbus, Schwamberger claims that the city has always been supportive of Evolution’s goals and mission. He was “pleasantly surprised” at the response from the community. From the Greater Columbus Arts Council to the audience members that show up at the performances, everyone seems to be on board with what Evolution is trying to do.
Schwamberger says that there’s always room to do more, that the work is never done. He relies on the old adage: “If a tree falls in a forest, and no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound?” Schwamberger is consistent in spreading Evolution’s mission. It’s why he sat down with a video production company to talk about theatre - to send the message to a group that may not normally receive that message.
You can purchase tickets in the link below. Don't miss the Playwrights Festival - it'll be wonderful!