Community Partner Spotlight: Us Helping Us/DENIM

On July 13, Studio Theatre’s atrium transformed again into Us Helping Us/DENIM’s second Kiki ball at Studio–which aims to increase awareness of HIV/AIDS. Since 2016, Studio Theatre has partnered with DENIM (Developing and Empowering New Images of Men), a program within Us Helping Us. DENIM serves to “engage and empower young gay/bisexual men of color” and reduce HIV risk through “provocative group discussions."

This partnership began as part of an engagement process led by Kent Gash (Wig Out! director) that aimed to increase and sustain an audience of LGBTQ people of color at Studio. With support from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, the project started in the 2015-16 season with Gash serving as Studio’s Artist in Resident and director of Choir Boy–another play by Tarell Alvin McCraney. Us Helping Us/DENIM was one of the many partnerships that resulted from this initiative.

In August 2016, Studio held a roundtable discussion with Us Helping Us and other community organizations to learn how to access and engage the LGBTQ people of color community. On September 30, 2016, we hosted our first Us Helping Us/DENIM Kiki ball. Since then, our relationship has grown: we have provided ticket discounts and space for various events (such as a brunch during Black Pride and a stop on their scavenger hunt), and DENIM has brought their groups to our shows.

Our continued partnership with Us Helping Us/DENIM reflects our ongoing community outreach goals of building sustained relationships with our audiences and community. Studio Theatre has a rich history of partnering with D.C. organizations to support the variety of voices on our stages and in our audiences. By forging an environment of accessibility and inclusion, we aim to ensure that the conversations started here have impacts beyond the stage–all while rooting ourselves in the surrounding community.