Brenda Oppermann is a senior advisor, researcher and program manager for military and civilian organizations including: the US Army, US Navy, US Agency for International Development (USAID), United Nations (UN), NATO, US Institute of Peace (USIP), the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), and various non-governmental organizations (NGOs). She works primarily in fragile states and areas of conflict and post-conflict on stabilization efforts focusing on: women, peace, and security, stability operations, gender, informal justice, governance, civil society, human rights and countering extremism. She has held a variety of positions at strategic, operational and tactical levels in the Middle East, Central Asia, Africa, and Europe. Brenda holds a J.D. from Western New England University School of Law, an M.A. in International Relations from Yale University, and a B.A. in Comparative Literature from the University of California-Irvine.
WAM Theatre: You travel so much and are involved in so many international issues. How did you find out about WAM and what drew you to work with us?
Brenda Oppermann: I happened to be at home in Lee when I attended my first WAM performance in Pittsfield – I think it was during your second season. I enjoyed the show, but I was excited when I learned about WAM’s double philanthropic mission. I had been working on human rights issues for women and girls for 30+ years and I immediately wanted to get involved. Then when I got home from Afghanistan in 2012 I attended a networking event where I met Kristen van Ginhoven, and we became fast friends.
WAM: And what form has your involvement taken?
Brenda: I organized WAM’s Claiming Her Place Benefit at the Mahaiwe in 2013, and I was a post-show speaker during the 2014 run of In Darfur, which I thought was such a phenomenal, intense production.
This year Kristen asked for my help when WAM was preparing an application to Mass Humanities to fund education outreach for The Bakelite Masterpiece. She asked me what I thought the main issue in the play was, and I replied that it was the need all people have to be heard and to have justice after a conflict. Kristen immediately understood my point and asked me to write a one-page document as part of the grant application, and I was pleased to hear that it was funded! $5,000 for the Bakelite Education Outreach project to offer talkbacks and lobby displays for the audience!
From my vantage point, Geert Piller [to be played by Corinna May] does what she does because she wants justice. It’s the human condition, it’s not about where you’re from or what happened to you. People need to be heard at a bare minimum. Justice needs to have the transparency for perpetrators to be heard as well as victims. It started after the Second World War with the Nuremberg trials, now the world has moved on.
WAM: How did all your travels bring you to the Berkshires?
Brenda: My father was born in Interlaken, and then he later married a woman from Stockbridge, so I have always known and loved this area. Seventeen years ago I bought a house in Lee and I try to be there as much as I can. My goal is to live here full time someday.
WAM: Will we see you at The Bakelite Masterpiece this season?
Brenda: I will be a post-show speaker again this year, after the evening performance on October 15 and the matinee on October 16. I will do anything I can to help to help WAM fulfill its mission. I think it is amazing what Kristen and the whole WAM Team have accomplished in such a short time.