A Town for Us
Gum-Dip Theatre launches with A Town for Us, a Meadville community-based play, in collaboration with the Year of Meadville and their Community Celebration. Lee Scandinaro, director of A Town for Us asks:
How do we move forward?
Throughout the play, our characters struggle with loss and uncover deep anxieties about their own futures. Loss is often a time where we look back, remember the past, and even celebrate it. We idealize how clear things used to be and compare it to the uncertainty of today. It is because of this uncertainty that we become prisoners of the present. Unable to move forward, afraid to build relationships for fear of further loss, and unmotivated to take on what is necessary ahead. A Town for Us invites us into the lives of two characters: Lindsey and Lilah. Lilah, an agriculturalist, and Lindsey, a manufacturer, represent two bedrock industries of Meadville often thought to be binaries. Yet through their story, we watch Lindsey and Lilah navigate parallel experiences as they struggle with the past and try to move forward.
Lee perfectly identifies a threat that many Rust Belt communities face: the loss of a shared identity. Gum-Dip Theatre aims to conquer this threat by creating plays like A Town for Us that empower through story circles, community collaboration, and original performance. Over the past eight months, GDT has created A Town for Us by including Meadville citizens in every step of the process.
In September, we co-facilitated three story circles with the Year of Meadville. It was three nights at three different locations reflecting on the past, present, and envisioning a common future. The participants shared stories about themselves, their families, what time they would travel to in a time machine, what they're most proud of, and what they want their community to look in the future. We collected almost 20 hours of Meadville citizens' personal stories, anecdotes, opinions, inside jokes, history lessons, and new friendships. This was the play's foundation.
Creating the play from these stories was more like making a mosaic than writing a script. There were so many pieces with unique shapes and textures that eventually made one beautiful portrait. The pieces that seemed so different fit into corners and creases of the same vision. In a sea of personal stories, we found shared experience that shaped A Town for Us.
Following the Community Celebration, A Town for Us premieres on Saturday, April 30 at 7 p.m. at the Downtown Mall with a matinee performance on Sunday, May 1 at 2:30 p.m. The production features Meadville community members of varying ages and experiences. The cast includes Jae Jae Chambers, Samiyah Chambers, Bella Linz, Josh Hassler, Jim Hollerman, Lizzy Mann, Breeanna Mendiola, Shayna Morrisson, Dave Neal, and Dan Winston.
Gum-Dip Theatre creates plays for, with, and about the Rust Belt. All ticket proceeds for A Town for Us will be contributed to matching funds for a grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation's Akron Art Challenge.