Theater — A ‘Living Newspaper’ on stage

 

Yellow Taxi hosts theater project to tell stories of refugees and immigrants

 

By Michelle Saturley      listings@hippopress.com

Last summer, Yellow Taxi Productions, one of southern New Hampshire’s most innovative theater groups, held a children’s theater camp in Nashua. The concept of the camp was to teach its students something about the history of the community using theater as an educational device.

The kids in the program used a theater technique known as a ‘Living Newspaper,’ in which the actors performed vignettes based on historical fact. The concept of the Living Newspaper originated in the 1930s as part of FDR’s W.P.A. program to keep artists and actors employed during the Depression. The students of the Nashua camp chose the topic of child labor during the Industrial Revolution.

When Suzanne Delle, founder and artistic director of Yellow Taxi, was gearing up for another summer of theater, she wanted to put together a program in Manchester as well as the established youth program in Nashua.

“I was talking with Loretta Brady, one of our new board members, about how I’d like the Manchester program to be aimed more at teens and adults,” Delle said. “I also wanted it to be something very unique from what we were doing in Nashua. I thought we could do another Living Newspaper project, but make it different.”

Brady, a teacher at Saint Anselm College, had been keeping tabs on the refugee situation in the Queen City, and suggested that the Living Newspaper become a vehicle for refugees and immigrants.

“We thought it would be a unique way to break down some barriers and give refugees and immigrants a chance to tell their story of how they came to the United States,” Brady said.

Delle procured a grant through the NH State Council on the Arts, and then recruited the Manchester Police Activities League and the Manchester Community Resource Center as sites to hold the program.

Brady’s job has been to coordinate an outreach program via city and state entities, to put the word out in the refugee community.

“My job is to get people in the door for this program,” she said.

Brady’s been handing out leaflets at local bodegas, ethnic markets and social service offices for refugees around the city. Though many people have been enthusiastic about the concept behind the project, Brady says that enrollment so far hasn’t been what she’d hoped. She believes it’s because many in the refugee population may be confused about what the project entails.

“It’s a free program for teens and adults who have come here from another country and would like to share their stories,” Brady said.

No previous acting experience is required, but it helps to be comfortable speaking in front of others. Attendees are encouraged to participate in whatever capacity they feel comfortable with. The two-week workshop runs Tuesday through Friday, June 28-July 8, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. The first week of the workshop will be held at Police Athletic League Building, located on Beech Street, and week two will be held at the Manchester Community Resource Center on Lake Ave. Both sites are handicap-accessible and are located along public transportation routes.

“The project will culminate with a public performance at the Millyard Museum, where the audience will have the opportunity to hear these stories and hopefully gain a greater understanding of other ways of life,” Brady said. “But if you don’t feel comfortable on stage, there are other ways to be involved.”

Leading the workshop will be Glenn Sevilla Mas, a playwright who is currently working toward a Masters Degree at Catholic University in Washington, D.C. Mas left the Philippines, where his work had won numerous awards, to come to the U.S. two years ago.

“Glenn’s experience coming to this country will resonate with people who attend the program,” Brady said. “He knows exactly what they’ve been through and can share that common ground with them.”

For more information about Yellow Taxi’s “Living Newspaper” Project, call Loretta Brady at 641-7144, or visit www.yellowtaxiproductions.org.

 
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