The week we were set to have auditions for TFOJB – Boston the unprecedented snowstorms hit and no one was going anywhere. Except that our directors, Laurie Riihimaki and Marina Silva went places. They volunteered with #BostonWarm, making sandwiches and getting to know the people who are homeless in Boston. Over the spring, we have worked to regroup, and connected with Open Theatre Project, who loves our mission and has opened their doors for a late autumn production at their place in Jamaica Plain.
In early May, Laurie, Marina, Dustin from OTP, and I met at Blue State Coffee to strategize. We are so ready — with a mountain of things to yet do! Coming soon: an outreach/promotional video, audition schedule, more about the chance for audience, cast and crew to dig in and do something about homelessness in Jamaica Plain.
What we seek now — funding, audience support (Like us here, reach out to offer any assistance from your wheelhouse, be ready for a public reading this summer and production in November), and resources.
Exciting as Boston is, it was really a 24 hour side trip from my trip to New York, where I met with director John Gabriele. A multi-hyphenate bag of talent and diverse experience, John and I had our meeting in Rudy’s, the best dive bar in Manhattan. With Dean Komondorea from the original cast of The Feast of Jovi Bono at Manhattan Rep in 2013, and Dean’s wife, Barbara, we volunteered at the soup kitchen operated by St. Luke’s Theatre (one owned by Edmund Gaynes) and created connections.
What the New York production needs: a patron, friend, or group who believes collaborative, social justice theatre, and engaging the audience, cast and crew after (or before) the performance is a way to build on the artistry that already shines thanks to the actors and directors who have already loved and poured their souls into the words.
We have a great team, and support from the office of a state legislator. Life events have stood in the way of making this great. We may have a few surprise friends of our Pittsburgh effort waiting in the wings.
I started this in November, 2013 with nothing but a phone call from Manhattan Rep that said, “We like your play. Come on down. Since then, this show has received a lot of love from places all over (though none from my home base in Iowa) and it just needs a little infusion to take it over the top and change little pieces of the world, one bit of one city at a time. We have also had director interest in Detroit, Chicago and Oakland, CA.
We are told it would be a great show for high school or college actors to take on in conjunction with a community outreach project, too. I hadn’t considered that. What I do know is that the team members who have started volunteering with homelessness organizations even before major work on the production begins, have become more focused, engaged and empowered in launching the production.
It is my hope that more people and places will step in and say, “Why don’t we give it a try?” and that we can be part of ending homelessness through our partnerships with organizations already working on just that.