Queer-Prov & The Art of Inclusion in Improvisation. The Groundlings’ 2nd Annual Diversity Festival

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by Robbie McDonald

When Petey Gibson stood up and spoke during introductions at the beginning of writing lab class at the Groundlings, it felt like a speech.

“‘My name’s Petey. My pronouns are they, them and (breaks down in tears)… this is really cool.” And everyone was like, “Sit down.’” Petey laughs.

The course instructor had asked the students to introduce themselves, indicating their gender pronouns.

“I literally started crying… It was very emotional. When you don’t see yourself and then suddenly you see yourself—”

When one is seen, represented, and included, one is nurtured. And this idea seems to motivate the school, which is set to present its second annual Diversity Festival on Sunday, May 20th.

“I kind of think it’s limitless, the way the program kind of helps everyone succeed,” says Petey.

A History of Inclusion

Discussions about how best to bring more diverse students to the organization had been going on for years, according to Heather de Michele, the school’s Managing Director.

“In 2015, The Groundlings launched a series of initiatives: a scholarship program, diversity training for our instructors, outreach to area high schools and colleges… and found partnerships with great organizations with similar goals, such as NBC and Nickelodeon.”

NBC and Nickelodeon are co-sponsors of this year’s festival.

“For our 2nd Annual Diversity Festival, we are focusing on inclusion… offering 22 improv workshops that are sure to speak to our entire student population, and those who have yet to give Groundlings training a try. We will, once again, create a space for community gathering behind our school with food trucks, free swag from our sponsors, free beer from Ninkasi, class giveaways and an exceptional free improv show line up,” says de Michele.

One can plan on being oneself — and seeing oneself — at this day-long celebration, which will feature performances from The Black Version, The Gale, Groundlings alumni and special guests, who will also lead workshops examining such topics as Busting the Good Girl, Creating Diverse Characters, and Queer-Prov.

The Diversity Festival will run from 10:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m. on Sunday, May 20th at The Groundlings School located at 7280 Melrose Avenue in West Hollywood across the street from The Groundlings Theatre. The entire schedule of events and workshop registration is available on at www.groundlings.com/diversity.

An Interview with CTG’s Sherwood Award Winner, Mat Diafos Sweeney

“I think LA theatre is at its best when it’s reaching across forms and reinventing its relationship to a live audience, and at its worst when it’s trying to fit an existing mold or production model that made sense in New York a century ago. LA is the future- our garden is wilder, vaster, and more diverse so it should be tended differently.”

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Robbie McDonald

Robbie McDonald

A singer-songwriter, journalist, and native Los Angeleno, Robbie McDonald has contributed reviews to Entertainment Weekly, Hot Press, GCN, and International Living. Robbie and his writing partner Marcus T. Smith are excited to be taking their "Healing Retreat: A Life of Joy" musical to NYMF this summer. (Photo by Tony Coelho.)