We had the good fortune of connecting with Tim Steckler and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Tim, what’s the end goal, career-wise?
I think my end goal is less a tangible outcome, but more of a hope to form strong values backed by real action in my creative work. When I’m 103 (fingers crossed) and thinking back, I want to be able to say that I feel connected, present, and still curious. If you asked me before the pandemic I would not have had this answer. I would’ve told you that my end goal would be to make theatre seen by thousands to move society, to create as many spaces as possible where communities could feel ownership and versatility with their own narratives and create platforms to find alternatives around their challenges using theatre. The pandemic, and its obliteration of most theatre this year, taught me that maybe predicting a definite end goal isn’t always the most important. Maybe a good enough goal is being ok with not knowing exactly what to do in a moment, but still move forward with the ethos that the only way one can learn and improve the world is by trying something, however imperfectly, in my case using theatre.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
\I wear a number of hats, but I describe myself a theatre artist, podcast host, and researcher who works with individuals and groups to explore alternatives to community challenges, promote civic engagement, and explore issues facing the world in innovative ways. I think my artistic road leads me to a very different place than what most people perceive as theatre. I receive a lot of inspiration in my work from the Brazilian theatre practitioner Augusto Boal, who founded the Theatre of the Oppressed method to center theatric narratives on oppressed communities and uses the audience spectators as “spect-actors” to find alternatives to challenges by inviting them on stage to try implementing the changes they wish to see themselves in the show. I’m happiest when my audience and cast members feel equally invested and feel like they’re in control of the outcome of a conflict they see unfold on stage, whether it involves Middle Eastern refugee youth in Jordan and the West Bank, teenagers dealing with issues ranging from drugs to LGBTQ related discrimination, or most recently anti-racist work with both students and adults. After the Black Lives Matter protests of the summer, I was doing my best to educate myself on best anti-racist practices in both the arts and in broader policy, and I came to the gradual realization that to support the work of BIPOC organizers, white people had an enormous role to play in dismantling the very white supremacist structure that benefits them at great cost. So I brought together a few friends and colleagues to begin Theatre for Anti-Racist Allyship (TARA). The purpose of the group has been to provide a space for white people to unpack their privilege and develop anti-racist skills not only through words but also using one’s whole body as is required in theatre. We began the group as a seven-week challenge in September, but to this day we meet weekly over Zoom. Members have already led or have been planning workshops, including an exciting upcoming collaboration with Principia College in Illinois, based off the tools we’ve compiled, be it theatre games that help shed light on structures of power or working with “frozen images” we make with our bodies over zoom to help de-abstract concepts like color-blindness, white fragility, and allyship. It’s a process where we’ve learned so much about the power of creativity in being able to look at huge issues confronting the world from an aesthetic perspective and then being able to move forward to meaningful change. My work during the pandemic also has led me to a place that I originally didn’t expect at all – podcasting. My sister, AbigailSteckler (who was also interviewed by Shoutout LA!), and I first floated the idea of running one in a walk in an old medieval town in Switzerland. We came to the realization that we wanted to hear from young people doing amazing things for the world but hadn’t quite “made-it”. We wanted to understand what it was like in the middle of doing something great while a great outcome may feel far away. So we started the 2033 Podcast, featuring young guests in fields like film, theatre, microfinance, education, politics, miniature home building, and more. Our first guest featured Isleen Atallah a young Palestinian artist who created street theatre to address gender inequality in the West Bank. Since then, we’ve had twenty interviews. We launched the podcast right before the pandemic started, and to our surprise, our ability to interview people was unhindered. I think my theatre and podcast work recently have fallen under the category of “what can you do with what you got”. Constraints like space, time, and physical presence can be simply used to shape how you do creative work, not destroy it, depending on how you treat those constraints. That’s one of my biggest lesson from the pandemic.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Honestly, based on my favorite times in LA, I would just spend a lot of time with them in Griffith Park, absolutely going to the Observatory and reveling in a La La Land moment. Other than that, a brunch from Figaro Bistro in Los Feliz or some ramen from Gokkoku in Studio City would be amazing to show too. So basically, Griffith Park and good food. And of course, taking a picture under the giant table at the Broad Museum is on the list. The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
Bond Street Theatre! They’re a New York based theatre that initiates drama-based projects for conflict resolution, education, and empowerment in critical areas around the world including Afghanistan, Malaysia, Myanmar, and many other countries. They also collaborate with artists from across the world, including from LA. The people who run the theatre, Joanna Sherman and Michael McGuigan, as well as the community around the theatre, are amazing and inspire me to keep working in this field.
Other: Podcast Website: 2033pocast.com
Principia College, AbigailSteckler, Mateusz Sapija