Working Group uses words to advocate change


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Following the theme of the back-to-school season, the Working Group Theatre will present a performance of show-and-tell schoolhouse storytelling to the community this weekend.

The core members of Working Group, joined by house band Mutiny in the Paper, will open the season of Was the Word at 7 p.m. Sept. 18 at the Englert Theatre, 221 E. Washington St. Admission is "pay what you can," and 20 percent of the proceeds will benefit Willowwind School's scholarship fund.

Martin Andrews, a cofounder of and producing director at Working Group, said the mission of the Was the Word series is to feature great storytellers and spoken-word artists from the community, bring them together on stage, and use words to advocate for change in Iowa City.

"What binds us together as artists are the words that we speak and the words that we write," UI M.F.A. graduate Andrews said. "We want to find a way to use those words to connect to each other and connect to the audiences."

Each month, the group will pair with different local nonprofit organizations that are working toward change in the community. Past Working Group partners include Backyard Abundance, the Emma Goldman Clinic, the Domestic Violence Intervention Program, Iowa Pride Network, and Iowa River Revival.

"[Working Group] is really committed to this community and making theater that matters to this community," said break-beat poet and theater member Idris Goodwin.

He will perform two original pieces in his style, which he describes as a fusion of hip-hop and poetry. One piece is a new poem, and the other comes from his book These Are The Breaks. The two selections he will perform fit this month's schoolhouse storytelling theme, which he drew from experiences teaching creative writing in Chicago and New Mexico.

"[The pieces] are about those moments where you as a teacher are taught something, and it's sort of blurring that line," Goodwin said.

Another performer will use a monologue style to show the power of her words.

Kate Krohn described the poetry pieces she plans to present as having a quirky style and said they are "get you in the gut" kind of stories.

The recent graduate of the UI, with a bachelor's degree in creative writing and English, sees Working Group as a positive opportunity at this time in her life while she serves coffee at the Java House and hunts for M.F.A. programs in which to continue her writing career.

"It encourages you to put out work and create work," she said. "It's writing and performing and community activism all at the same time."

Andrews said he hopes the opening show will encourage community members to submit work and join the group in future performances.

"The idea is that everybody's got a story," Andrews said. "We give not only a place where they can say it but also some help to do that in the most interesting and full way."

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