THAW: From viral action to activist benefactor

In 2003, a group of New York City-based theatre artists got together in an attempt to organize a theatre-based city-wide protest against the war in Iraq.  The group stuck together and formed Theaters Against War, or THAW, a group whose goal is to nurture a pro-peace culture by standing up to attacks on civil liberties, the US’s ongoing “war on terror” and aggressive American foreign policy.

The same year, it stated to spread virally around the world, with new like-minded theatre groups, companies and artists joining up.

Today, THAW is an international network of over 230 theatre artists from places as varied as Thailand, Italy, Japan, Pakistan, Reno and Calgary.  Members include Melbourne, Australia’s Theatre in Decay, Buffalo, New York’s Subversive Theatre Collective and of course the OTL in Montreal.

It also inspired another viral theatre phenomenon, The Lysistrata Project, which was originally discussed by Kathryn Blume in one of THAW’s town hall meetings.  In addition to their town halls, they organizes a monthly series of performances, readings and speak-outs called Freedom Follies and reaches out to the community by taking part in various events.

In 2004, THAW won the prestigious Obie grant presented by the Village Voice.  They used what was left of their winnings to establish a scholarship fund in late 2006 for international theatre artists operating in areas of conflict or post-conflict.  In 2007, they presented $1000 to the Beit Jala, Palestine-based theatre company Al-Harrah which promotes having a theatre arts curriculum in Palestinian schools.  They also awarded $500 to RAPSIDA, an educational theatre group that spreads HIV/AIDS awareness in Kigali, Rwanda.

With their Obie winnings almost spent, they are once again going viral to raise money for this year’s scholarship, asking member companies not only to nominate recipients but also to donate (even as little as $10) to the fund in hopes of keeping it alive.  More information can be found at

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