Cause Celeb highlights a celebrity’s work on behalf of a specific cause. This week, Kim Zimmer, Daytime Emmy Award winner and star of "One Life to Live" and "Guiding Light," speaks about her work to awaken public consciousness to the atrocities in Darfur, and raising funds for the Darfur Rehabilitation Project. Founded by Darfurian refugees, the DRP is dedicated to raising international attention to the conflict in the troubled region in western Sudan, and fostering reconciliation across ethnic lines.
The Human Rights Institute at Kean University collaborated with Premiere Stages and the Playwrights Theatre of New Jersey to produce "Lost Boy Found in Whole Foods," the play in which Zimmer stars. Zimmer plays Christine, a woman whose life is changed when she goes on a shopping trip to Whole Foods and encounters a young man cutting papayas. She discovers that he’s one of the thousands of “lost boys” who were orphaned during the Second Sudanese Civil War. Performances run through Sept. 19.
Q: How did you find out about the play, “Lost Boy Found in Whole Foods,” and why did you decide to become involved?
Zimmer: I have worked with John Wooten, who is the artistic director of Premier Stages located at Kean University. I’ve worked with him at Montclair State University, which was several years ago. I knew nothing about this play until I got a phone call from John. They had lost the actress playing my role, and they were in a bit of a bind. He called and asked if I would be interested. He e-mailed me the script and five minutes after I finished reading it, I picked up the phone and called him to say, “I would love to be a part of this.” The play moved me. I couldn’t even speak to him to tell him I could do it because I was just … I was so moved by the writing that Tammy Ryan had done in this piece of theater.
Q: What do you think will resonate the most with people who see this play?
Zimmer: I’m sure the audience will be moved in the same I was, in that I was aware of what was going on in Darfur, but I knew nothing about the lost boys of Sudan. So I knew of the genocide, and of the horrible injustices of humanity that were going on in that country, but I didn’t know the specifics that the play introduces. I think they’ll be moved.
One can only hope that when they participate in a piece of theater like this, that someone will come away from it with a new education. Perhaps, you never know, someone may decide to volunteer services to a refugee organization, or donate money to different organizations. That’s all you can really hope for, along with just raised awareness of anything that could arise in the future as far as these injustices against humanity.
Q: Tell me about the Human Rights Institute at Kean University, the Darfur Rehabilitation Project, and why their work is important.
Zimmer: I’m merely an actor in a play [laughs], so I’m not an advocate for the university or a member of the Darfur Rehabilitation Project. My knowledge is what’s being passed on to me. I have not toured the Kean University’s Human Rights Institute yet, but what I understand is that they’ve put a great deal of attention into this. The hope is that Kean University will raise awareness not only with the general public, but as well as with teachers and students of human rights.
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The institute is a new organization at Kean, and I do think it’s timely. They’re hoping to educate students about the violations worldwide that happen against human rights. The Darfur Rehabilitation Project is working hand-in-hand, because it’s a community partnership between these two organizations. The DRP was founded by a group of refugees from Darfur that live in the United States — a large portion in New Jersey. So, it’s also a neighborhood [the tri-state area] organization that they’re hoping to draw attention to as well. We have an opening night fundraiser where funds will be donated to the DRP.
Q: Do you have a favorite line, or moment, in the play?
Zimmer: I have a lot of favorite moments. I think the last moment in the play that I have, where the character comes full circle and learns so much. The final journey that the character takes, that’s projected to the audience through a monologue, I like a lot. I’m just so thrilled with the cast in this piece too. The two boys playing the Dinkas, the lost boys, are terrific actors and have such a big job in just learning their dialect, the way that they speak, and their traditions and everything. I’m very proud of them.
Q: Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Zimmer: I’d love to appeal, first of all, to people to come and see this production because you will not only be entertained, but you will be educated as well. We’d love to get as many people into the seats as possible so that we have a chance to raise awareness to these injustices that happen against humanity.
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