Update from ninety-nine girlfriends Impact Award Winner

2018 Impact Award Winner

August Wilson Red Door Project

“Changing Heart and Minds…so we can live together.”

by Susan Troccolo, ninety-nine girlfriends member liaison to Red Door

When people ask Bonnie Ratner, Co-Director of The August Wilson Red Door Project, about the iconic red door that appears in many of August Wilson’s plays, she readily talks about the imagery: “The red door symbolizes a place of redemption and transformation…through the humanity of art, bridges are built, connections are made, and we leave the theatre more open than when we came in.”

The mission of the Red Door Project is to change the racial ecology of Portland through the arts. Since 2016, they have been creating theatrical experiences that align with that mission. Hands Up: 7 Playwrights, 7 Testamentswas originally developed in New York by the New Black Fest. Hands Upis seven monologues written by black playwrights about their experience with police profiling.  Cop Out: Beyond Black, White & Bluewas developed by the Red Door Project and contains monologues based on interviews with police.

Co-founders and creative “conjurers” Kevin Jones and Lesli Mones seemed to intuit from the very beginning that their goal -- healing and accountability between people of color and the police-- would take time and depend on building relationships. In addition to producing the plays, they have developed a curriculum that includes talkbacks and other activities that promote audience engagement. The Red Door encourages police and community members to talk with each other…and to listen. 

But even with all that success, if you ask Bonnie now—even she will confess to being amazed at how far and how fast Red Door has come in a short time. With only word of mouth advertising, and some very ardent supporters, Red Door work has had an overwhelming response, not only from the general public but also from a very important audience: the leadership of city, county, state, and federal criminal justice and law enforcement communities.

A reporter from the PBS News Hour is even developing a story for a national audience about the Red Door’s work– how did all this happen?

In addition to the very focused work with the Portland Police Bureau, the Impact Award from ninety-nine girlfriends will enable Red Door to expand their work to respond to this new demand. 

Bonnie Ratner explained, “We have received inquiries from the DA, Public Defenders, Judges, the State Training Academy in Salem, the Multnomah County Sheriff, and the National Organization for Black Law Enforcement Officers (NOBLE) about performances  and conversations. In April we present Hands Up at the Multnomah County courthouse for Judges and other courthouse personnel, and in May, we will perform Hands Up for all the Multnomah County District Attorneys. Bonnie adds, “We are walking absolutely new territory as theatre artists covering this ground. The potential impact from this work is profound.”

Isn’t it extraordinary to have a front seat to this kind of talented and heartfelt work in our city? Girlfriends…we played a big part in this!

Photo Credits from top to bottom: 1. Actors from the August Wilson Red Door Project spend the day with police at their training facility called Scenario Village.  Photo property of Red Door. 2. Hands up, Portland! Photo property of Red Door. 3. From the August Wilson Red Door Project's production of Cop Out: Beyond Black White and Blue. Photo by Kathleen Kelly