Activism through theatre: Confronting homelessness

By VICTORIA CISNEROS, Student Writer

“The cry from the street comes loud and shrill, you sympathize, but you don’t have the will.”

These lyrics come from William (Bill) Waxman’s (1993) latest musical, The Sorrow Cart, a theatrical piece that exposes the tragedies and challenges of homelessness and mental health.

Bill’s love for drama began when he was 10-years-old and led him to earn both a bachelor’s and master’s degree in theatre from CSU Long Beach. After graduating, he began teaching theatre and spent eighteen years in the classroom, followed by ten years as a high school principal.

In 1993, Bill earned his second tier administrative credential from Fresno State and spent another twenty years in education as a district level administrator. During that time, he worked up and down the state and finally settled in Simi Valley, where, along with his role as the Director of Secondary Education, he became the district’s Homeless Liaison.

Bill worked closely with homeless students and their families to get them the bare essentials, including groceries, gasoline, and school supplies.

“It was an experience that stayed with me. It was something that just struck a chord with me in terms of the phenomenal amount of need, the hopelessness and embarrassment that went along with suddenly finding yourself without a place to live.”

Knowing something had to be done to shine a light on this issue, Bill began to write The Sorrow Cart.

It took him nearly a year and half to write the show and compose all ten of its songs, each of which reflect “a different facet of need from the eyes of the homeless.”

Bill (third from the left) and the cast of The Sorrow Cart.

Once he had a show, he sought out the perfect cast and began rehearsals. On September 21, 2018, the musical premiered at Center Stage Theater in Santa Barbara, Ca and raised $1,000 to benefit The Soldiers Project, a southern California based non-profit that provides free psychological services to military service members and their loved ones.

“Everybody is deserving, but certainly who is more deserving than those who have served and are now finding themselves to be homeless and without a place to go and in need of mental health services.”

Bill understands the role theatre can play in calling attention to such important issues, especially those that test our humanity and challenge our will.

“I think that theatre has the capacity to enlighten. I think it has the capacity to force people to confront that which they would rather not.”

“I didn’t go forward with this saying, here’s the solution; more what I did was go forward with this saying, here are the problems and what are we going to do about it?”

Bill’s lyrics are meant to challenge people to move past sympathy toward more concrete action. He hopes that his show will bring awareness to its audience and motivate them to change.

“The longer we delay and the more we allow it to become somebody else’s problem, and the longer we allow it to become an invisible epidemic, the greater the need and the larger the crisis.”

Related:
A love for music leads to Carnegie Hall
Restoring lives and Downtown Fresno with food