The Activist on Stage
Kathy Blume ’85 is alone on stage, in her piece The Boycott. One moment she’s the First Lady of the U.S., denying sex to the President until he signs a treaty to stop global warming. Then she’s a tree frog, suffering from a skin disease caused by climate change, and then she’s Al Gore, and then she’s herself: Kathy Blume, activist, writer, and actor, a woman with an abiding passion to save the world through theater.
Kathy believes that art can spur people to act in a way most other ways of learning can not. “In the theater, people expect an intense experience and identify with the people on the stage,” she says. “If I create really good theater about something significant, I create an intense and emotional connection that will carry through to the next time they hear about the issue, and this will allow them to engage more deeply.”
Kathy has acted for many years off-Broadway in New York and around the country, as well as in movies and television. She also teaches acting and yoga, speaks in public, writes for various environmental books and journals, and serves as an artistic associate at Vermont Stage Company. “Being in film, television, and plays is enjoyable. But doing relevant work that contributes to the cultural conversation about issues we face is the most valuable use of my time,” says Kathy. “Given the problems we face right now, it’ll take wild, hairy acts of imagination to address the problems.”
One act of imagination that brought her much notice was the successful organization, with her friend Sharron Bower, of a simultaneous worldwide reading of Lysistrata in March 2003 as a protest against the onset of the war in Iraq. The experience inspired her to write a play, The Accidental Activist, which she toured to over 30 cities in the U.S. and Canada, launching her on her solo career. At the time she was working on a screenplay of a modern eco-adaptation of Lysistrata, which she called The Boycott. She decided to turn it into a solo piece, and is now touring with it. (For clips, visit her website.) It’s an unexpectedly funny piece: “Part of me is a terribly apocalyptic thinker. It’s my conscious choice to be positive and funny,” she says.
As a solo artist, Kathy’s time is taken up with the business end of her work, including marketing, fundraising, and public relations—dealing directly with herself and her ideas, as does any entrepreneur. Her goal is to raise money for a live concert film of the production for distribution in theaters or for broadcast on cable channels. Kathy keeps going in the tough work of making theater by always keeping her goal in mind: “It’s not to convince people of global warming but to help them grasp that action has to be taken, that we can overcome overwhelming internal despair and change our habits.”