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History of STAMP

A Brief Account of the History of STAMP


The Stanford Theater Activist Mobilization Project (STAMP) is the only Stanford on-campus group dedicated to politically educating and motivating students through theatre and performance. STAMP has held performances across a wide variety of theatre genres and has quickly grown to one of the most well-known and influential student activist groups on campus.

STAMP began as the brainchild of Alex Mallory (Class of 2008) and Amanda Gelender (Class of 2010). During the 2005-2006 school year, they did a social justice piece with the Drama department.  In sharing their views on activism and theatre, the two decided that Stanford didn't really have a place for sociopolitical performance or activist theatre.

In December 2006, STAMP became an official student organization.  They created vision of STAMP which gave free or low-cost performances – a vision which stands to this day.  Just two months after its founding, STAMP performed Goliath, a choreopoem written by Stanford's Takeo Rivera (Class of 2008). Goliath explored deep issues such as the Iraq War and its complex relationship with patriarchy, racism, homophobia, and sexism. Goliath had been performed earlier that year by the Ram’s Head Theatrica Society.  During STAMP's inception, Gelender and Mallory decided they wanted to restage it in conjunction with the Coalition for Justice in the Middle East.  Gelender said, “We decided to take a stab at creating a play which would mobilize people to take action.”

In May 2007, STAMP held it's first large-scale performance – a staging of Typical American, written by Stanford's Aumna Iqbal (Class of 2009).  Typical American focused on Islamophobia in a post-9/11 United States.  STAMP partnered with the Muslim Student Awareness Network (MSAN) to bring this performance to campus.  After each performance, MSAN representatives would speak to students, beginning a long tradition of student-led dialogue following STAMP performances.

In 2007, STAMP began to take theatre to the Stanford community. In November, during AIDS week, STAMP performed a project called Searching for Angels. In a series of scripted and devised theatre scenes and monologues, Searching for Angels explored the modern face of AIDS in America.  STAMP really began to bring theatre to students, however, with its introduction of guerilla theatre – the practice of acting out performances in non-performance situations. Vera Eidelman (Class of 2009), now STAMP's guerilla theatre director, took the reins of the guerilla theatre project. She worked closely between professors and activist groups to bring theatre directly to students.

Since then, STAMP has partnered with many organizations across campus to bring a wide variety of performances. Notably, in October 2008, STAMP held performances educating students about Proposition 8 (which banned gay marriage). The Prop 8 performances reached a wide audience and were even covered by national news media. STAMP also addressed poverty that winter by dressing up as homeless citizens and asking students if they could “spare some real change” and brought mental health issues to the table with “Out of Sight, Out of Mind” which, through student-written monologues, explored the largely undiscussed issue of mental illness at Stanford. In Spring 2009, STAMP performed Bent, an edgy play about being queer in Nazi Germany, and held its Spring into Action Festival, which explored a variety of issues through four plays followed by talk-back sessions in which the audience could ask the playwright questions.

Since its beginnings, STAMP has been very successful in reaching the student body, effecting change through activism, and holding one moving performance after another – the performances mentioned here are only a small sample of what STAMP has done. STAMP members expressed their desire that STAMP will continue to bring unaddressed issues to light in the Stanford community.  They hope that STAMP will further expand its partnering groups and political issues.  

Special thanks to Alex Churchill for authoring this document.

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