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Nonprofit Spotlight: Uprising Theatre Company

Article by Claudia Kittock

Remember the 60s and the 70s? Remember political discussions that were about solving real life issues?  Remember being able to express your ideas and having them serve as part of an exchange that might actually yield tangible results? It sounds like a time long ago, but Shannon T.L. Kearns, founder of the Uprising Theatre Company wants that to happen again, through theater.

Five years ago, Shannon had just finished acting in a production of The Laramie Project, the play about the murder of Matthew Shephard because he was gay. Shannon was struck by two responses from the audience. The first was that it was a terribly sad story, but aren’t we happy that those times are over. The second was the question, "What can we do?"

He decided to start a Kickstarter fund, hoping to get enough money to fully fund a production of Son of a Gun. It worked, and the production happened. Two and a half years later, Uprising Theatre Company is a reality and produces two plays a year at the Phoenix Theater on Hennepin Avenue, former home to Brave New Workshop.

Scene from Son Of A Gun, photo by Jill Harms Photography

The mission of Uprising is to produce plays about social justice issues, partnering with groups that are doing the work of each particular issue. These groups are asked to set up a table at every production to educate theater goers about things that they can do. They also make a specific ask of the audience, allowing you to get involved in change before you even leave the theater, taking it beyond just education and into action.

Uprising Theatre Company is a theater currently run by volunteers. Actors are paid stipends, and for the latest production of 6 actors, there were over 100 people who auditioned. The cost of admission is a ‘pay what you can plan’. No one at Uprising wants finances to be a reason to stay away from the theater. You can pay as little as $5 or as much as $50.

The latest production, These Shining Lives, opens on October 6 and tells the true story of poor and immigrant women who were hired to paint watch dials with radium so that they would illuminate in the dark. Radium poisoning is slow and insidious, and even though the watch companies knew it was dangerous work, the women were not told. When the women got sick, they were fired. These brave women filed a lawsuit and took the case all the way to the Supreme Court, where they won. This was the first successful case of workers’ rights, and was the beginning of OSHA and protecting people who work hard jobs, sometimes at great risk.

Interested? How can you help?
• Learn more about Uprising Theater at
• Come to the show!
• Be a donor
• Be a volunteer
• Audition for a show

Claudia can be reached at

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