All together in one room

We haven’t posted in a while, but for wonderful reasons…we’ve been busy! We’re continuing to work with the guys at Nebraska State Penitentiary (whose writings never stop blowing us away) and we recently had a public reading of our play about homelessness in Omaha, Stories on the Brink. Great Plains Theatre Conference , without whom this project couldn’t have jumped forward like it has, arranged the evening as part of Omaha Community Playhouse‘s “Alternative Programming.” It was a great space and the wonderful audience gave really useful feedback.

I’m always stunned by the power of live theatre, the way it allows for these beautiful, palpable connections between actors and audience. I love a good movie and can binge-watch TV with the best of them, but nothing beats the truly human force of being in one room together, being present. I was reminded of this fact when I saw our incredible actors onstage at our reading. They read a couple short scenes from the play, which follows one woman’s story as she enters the shelter system. They also performed some monologues, which tell stories of other people experiencing homelessness whom the protagonist meets along the way. We used stories from the story circles and interviews we conducted to create composite characters for the play. No one real-life person’s story is told; it’s a synthesized version of what we’ve heard, a looping together of the common threads in people’s stories.

I’ve written already about how humbling and incredible it is that people who’ve experienced homelessness have opened their hearts and lives to us during this process. I’ll say again that although I’m writing words to form a play around what they’ve shared with us, it will never do full justice to the real courage and humanity these people have shown in sharing themselves this way. Their stories are so important and it is beyond an honor to get them out to the broader public.

It was just as heart-filling, and humbling (like every part of this process), to see the life these actors brought to the piece. Olivia, Leo, Beau, Jen, Franco and Xena are not only talented actors, but their kindness and warmth as people just seeped into their characters. These are actors that not only care about their craft, but care about the people they’re depicting. Our luck in getting people who are equal parts kind and talented is pretty amazing.

We’re looking forward to developing and finishing the play, and to doing our absolute best to do right by all the people who have been part of this journey. If you’re in the Omaha area when the play goes up (more on that in the future), hopefully you’ll join us.

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