An Interview with Playwright Manuel Aquiles Lopez Torres

We’re back! ATB Summer Happenings and This Place/Displaced

 

And we’re back! With the successful presentation of our first summer happening on July 7th, Artists’ Theater of Boston has launched itself back onto the Boston theater scene after a two-year hiatus. We took some time to redefine our company’s direction and values, and are excited to re-launch with a new set of goals directed towards creating a more equitable and inclusive theater community.

 

Our series of summer happenings highlight local artists whose work aligns with ATB’s commitment to expansive and challenging storytelling. July 7th’s happening included music by Dancelujah (featuring actor and musician Kadahj Bennett) and Ashni Dave, with poetry by Ashley Rose. The summer happenings integrate art across disciplines: neo-soul, hip-hop, and pop music, poetry, visual art, and theater. We are thrilled to be showcasing artists with unique and varied perspectives, including high school youth reading pieces of their original work!

 

July 12th’s happening features the premiere of a new play: Chop by Stephanie K. Brownell, directed by Lindsey Eagle. Stephanie, a playwright, educator, and ATB core member, describes Chop as “a one-woman play that explores body image, veganism, diet culture, and our relationship to food… in the form of a live cooking show.” She originally wrote Chop during graduate school in 2013, but revisited the play this year: “I have (thankfully) grown as a person in the last 5 years and I wanted the play to grow too. So I asked some local theater folks whom I know are interested in and educated on the topic to help me make that happen. We playwrights spend a lot of time working in the bubble of our own minds, but I’ve always been a person who works strongest and fastest with other voices in the room. I got into theatre to collaborate! One of the things that’s important to me as a Core Member of ATB is making sure our seasons and structure provide these kinds of wholehearted, joyfully collaborative opportunities for theatre artists to create together, Living Playwrights Included.”

 

Stephanie is one of eight fantastic playwrights working with ATB for the first mainstage production of our relaunch: This Place/Displaced: a new play. Playwrights Kirsten Greenidge, David Valdes Greenwood, Manuel Aquiles Lopez Torres, Zahra A. Belyea, Livian Yeh, MJ Halberstadt, Jaymes Sanchez, and Stephanie K. Brownell have written individual vignettes that collectively comprise This Place/Displaced.

 

This Place/Displaced is a documentary project built through collaboration between the playwrights and their ‘partners’: eight people who have experienced housing injustice and/or displacement while living in the Boston area, due to widespread gentrification in Boston. Some of the partners are self-identified activists who use their personal awareness of Boston’s housing inequities to protest the banks and realtors largely responsible for displacement and gentrification. Other participating partners are community members who will utilize the artistic rendering of their story as a means of semi-anonymous public storytelling without fear of legal or personal retribution.

 

Housing insecurity is a difficult topic to tackle publicly, precisely because of this fear of retribution; a personal callout or too-revealing sentence could result in eviction for the outspoken tenant. Our goal at ATB is to use theater as a safe and empowering space for tenants to give voice to the injustice they have experienced at the hands of landlords, banks, and the city of Boston at large.

 

We will use this blog to further engage with intersecting issues of housing insecurity, gentrification, and displacement in Boston and beyond. This Place/Displaced debuts with four shows at the Charlestown Working Theater: August 17th, 18th, 24th and 25th at 8pm. In the meantime, come to the remaining summer happenings on July 12th and 20th, and stay tuned to the blog for deep dives into Boston’s history of segregation and gentrification, engagement with books, articles and other media concerned with housing inequity, and interviews with members of our production team!