Category Archives: mission

Why Shakespeare for Girls

When I was a teenager, I spent most of my nights and weekends at the Davis Discovery Center, which was a county government run theatre for children and teenagers. There were all sorts of programs at Davis: theatre, art, dance, and music classes. I gravitated to the Shakespeare classes. Every Saturday afternoon, about 20 teenagers would get together to workshop Shakespeare, led by John Heisel, who was also the Artistic Director of the Rosebriar Shakespeare Company.

Those classes were a very stable influence in a very unstable time – once a week, I got to be Beatrice or Helena and I became elegant, witty, poised and beautiful. I was a pretty socially awkward, often depressed, acne-ridden teenager, so that transformation was life changing in many ways. Saying those words made me someone else for a few hours – someone whose life was much more managed than my own. I created friendships that stay with me, and we will still reference old jokes created in those hours where two dozen unstable teenagers became kings and queens ; heroines and heroes. As a group we were transported to somewhere wonderful. We were a bunch of often extremely depressed teens made whole by performing Shakespeare for two hours a week.

From taking classes, I auditioned for shows both with Rosebriar Shakespeare Company and with the Davis Discovery Center itself. Because of my physical type (5’10’’ and slightly overweight), I was often cast in supporting roles. I played Lady Montague in the Davis production of Romeo and Juliet; for Rosebriar, a whole slew of third spear carrier types, starting with Lucius in Julius Caesar. I eventually realized that if I perused acting, I would be relegated to character roles, and started to write.

While I think writing was the right fit for me in this profession, I never forgot the times when I got to play Beatrice, my favorite Shakespeare heroine. It was one of the few times during my teenage years where I really felt worthwhile.

Flash forward past college, when I met the amazing Reina Hardy. Reina’s primarily a playwright, but she had co-created The Viola Project, a series of Shakespeare workshops for girls. It was like my teenage experience – but even better. Girls not only got to play the amazing female roles of Shakespeare, they got to play Hamlet, Richard III, and Macbeth. How cool is it to have a place where girls can not only learn to feel beautiful, elegant, and poised – but where they also got to play roles where they could be strong and demanding or play roles that more accurately reflect their experience, such as Hamlet, the ultimate indecisive teenager?

This is why I wanted to borrow The Viola Project model for City of Refuge. There are so many ways that girls are beaten down in our society. There are all these messages telling girls that they are not good enough. Why not have a refuge, where for two hours a month, they can become anyone from Beatrice to Richard III? It changed my life when I was 16, and hopefully I can help change the lives of others.

So starting this Saturday March 17th at 5:30 PM at the Ft. Lauderdale Children’s Theatre, girls are going to speak the speech, go once more into the breach, and give their kingdoms for a horse. [UPDATE as of 3/16/12 – We have to postpone the project. For more information, contact Andie Arthur – see below.]

This is planned to be the first in a series of monthly workshops. If you can’t make it this time, we’ll soon be posting the next location and date. We want this to be an ongoing project, to change the lives of girls one role at time.

If you have any questions or wish to volunteer, please contact Andie Arthur at


Service Project: Rosalind’s Adventure – Shakespeare for Girls

Rosalind’s Adventure: Shakespeare for Girls

Inspired by the Viola Project in Chicago, Rosalind’s Adventure is a series of performance based workshops for middle school and high school girls, where they will learn to speak the speech, go once more into the breech, and give up their kingdom for a horse. Named for one of Shakespeare’s kick butt cross-dressing heroines, Rosalind’s Adventure is an exciting way for girls to explore whomever they want to be, unbound by race, gender, or age — from Lady Macbeth to Hamlet.

Have a deep love of Shakespeare? Want to volunteer? Please contact Andie Arthur at If you have specific qualifications (such as experience teaching stage combat or if you have spent a decade grappling with the text of Cymbeline), please let her know — so we can best use your gifts.

Our first workshop will be at the Ft. Lauderdale Children’s Theatre on Saturday March 17th from 5:30 to 7:30 PM.

Evangelism Weekend

City of Refuge is working with the Beloved to help end hell on earth.

One of the ways we’re answering that call is building a multicultural, multiclass, multigenerational faith community one heart at a time.

If that’s your mission too, we would be honored and delighted to have you join us on an evangelism weekend in western Broward County, Florida.

February 17-20, 2012

This is a weekend for those new to door-to-door evangelism. You can learn  about evangelism and help an emerging Unitarian Universalist faith community  build toward launch. More details to follow. If you’re interested in participating in the weekend, contact our Teaching Pastor, Rev. Naomi – or on Twitter @RevNaomi

Extraordinary Takes Ordinary Together

Extraordinary people do work with other extraordinary people to accomplish amazing things – for example, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel working together for peace, equality, and justice.

But extraordinary people mostly work with ordinary people like you and me to accomplish amazing things. Ordinary people show up when the going is tough, when life is extra dangerous, when the air reeks of fear, and when the dull tedium of staying fast grinds away at our spirits. These ordinary people are the folks whose generous creative daily endeavors really make the extraordinary possible.

Extraordinary happens when ordinary works together in generous, courageous, creative, steadfast love.

Civil Rights came about in the United States – and continue to be defended when they are threatened, such as with recent efforts to disenfranchise more people – because ordinary people show up generous and present in every day. Irena Sendler was able to be part of saving more than 2500 children in Poland during the Holocaust because of ordinary people who showed up and risked everything. Lives have been saved through crowd-sourcing peace projects like PeaceTxt. Lives are being changed through multifaith youth leadership working together with the Interfaith Youth Core. Name a life-changing project, program, or community event. Chances are that was brought to you by ordinary people committed to extraordinary generosity and steadfast love.

Are you a Jesus follower?  We have the ordinary people Joseph and Mary to thank and so many more ordinary people along the way. Is Moses one of your sources of inspiration and wisdom? We have rebellious midwives and resisting parents to thank, and many, many more ordinary people who were with Moses. Who first was with the Prophet Muhammed (PBUH)? Ordinary people were – a slave named Abu Bakr and the Prophet’s wife, Khadija, and a child, Ali Ibn Abou Taleb. Look to your faith tradition: who are the ordinary people showing up in steadfast love to help make the extraordinary happen?

One of our blessings is that we cannot do extraordinary things alone. We need each other, our diverse gifts, our differing experiences, our varied ways of being to accomplish extraordinary goodness. We can contribute to trouble together. We can contribute to generous compassion and courageous love together.

What you do can make a real difference. What you don’t do makes a real difference. How will you show up today, tomorrow, and next week for the extraordinary goodness that can happen through steadfast love?


Restorying Restores

That old and yucky story drags us down. I can take a quick trip to the land of overwhelming cynicism and retreat to mockery and despair pretty easily. I’ve been well trained to do that and I’ll meet plenty of my friends and neighbors in that space, as we grimly feel the weight of powerlessness and hopelessness grind further on our souls.  That’s when I need to stop, breathe, and remember how I’ve known peace, hope, and joy before. Those memories remind me of the story I’d rather live. If I can’t find those memories close by, then I might need to retell a story that will take me to the same place.

Restorying is a way of restoring ourselves, of beginning again and of picking up where we left. When I’m in the cynical place, the primary story seems to be one that cultivates apathy and exhaustion. When I’m living in the story of having moral agency – just because I breath, just because I feel – then that’s what seems to be the primary story. Restorying restores.

In the story we really want to live – the one where we all have gifts and we can make a difference for good – we need to know our gifts, know who might make use of them in our communities, and know our community partners who share a calling to working on particular issues or with particular people in our community.

Name your gifts. Repeatedly in the Jewish and Christian scriptures, people are asked to offer the gifts they have, not someone else’s gifts, not to all be one kind of person in a very narrow way, but to offer the gifts each has. Musicians make music. People who take joy in weaving, weave cloth. Those who love the alchemy of cheese take the milk and the salt and the enzymes and make the cheese. Write down the gifts you have to offer.

Who needs your gifts? Every community has need of every gift. If your gift is encouragement and you’re finding yourself appreciating and cheering people on, who most needs encouragement in your community? Where are the people who’ve lost hope as you travel around where you live? If your gift is teaching people through the martial arts to find their center and to feel more capable and stronger in their lives, who in your community most yearns for that way of being? If your gift is telling stories that call forth stories from others, who most needs the stories you have to tell or yearns to learn how to tell their own? Next to your list of gifts, make note of who in your community can use those gifts. Your gifts shared will open the way for those with whom you’re sharing to do likewise. Circle a couple of the gifts and folks in your community that tug at your heart.

Who are your community partners? We don’t make healthy vibrant community alone, as individuals, although each of us together does make that way of life possible. There are other people who share your heart tug to be with particular people yearning for your gifts so they might share their own. Who can you partner with? An institution like a school, a library, or a shelter? A group, like one for parents or a storytelling troupe or the community gardeners reclaiming abandoned land? Or will you form a group with some others you know who might be interested, and identify together other community partners with whom you can work? Name the community partners for the gifts and folks you’ve circled.

Pick up your gifts and know who needs them. Connect with those community partners. Make and live into the commitment.

You have the ability to be an agent of hope, to live a story that restores. How will you start or enlarge that agency today?

four ibises work the shoreline in their unique way