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Community Matters 2016

Thank you for a wonderful season of Community Matters Events in 2016. The line-up for Community Matters 2017 will be announced in the spring. Please check back for details or sign up for our email list (link at the top of the page) to receive notification.

Community Matters is a series of free events presented in partnership between People’s Light and numerous local organizations to spark dialogue about vital issues in our community. Performed readings of new plays are the centerpiece of each evening. They are followed by a discussion with the artists, community partners, and special guests. Join us for the play. Participate in the conversation. All events are free!

All post show discussions will be facilitated by David Bradley.

Community Matters is supported in part by the Phoenixville Community Health Foundation and Rebecca Bradbeer.

Skeleton Crew

By Dominique Morrisseau, New Play Frontiers playwright
Directed by David Ingram
Monday, July 25, 2016, 7pm
Leonard C. Haas Stage

In Skeleton Crew, the third play in Dominique Morisseau’s Detroit trilogy, a makeshift family of workers at the last exporting auto plant in the city navigate the possibility of foreclosure. Power dynamics shift, and they are pushed to the limits of survival. When the line between blue collar and white collar gets blurred, how far over the lines are they willing to step?

Post-show conversation will center around our local economy, work-force and human relations.

"I have always felt responsible to [Detroit] and I feel it even greater now. When you first start writing about where you are from, it gives you a lot of perspective about yourself, which is probably the reason I’m doing any of this. It’s taught me a great deal about what’s in me and why. I’ve had to really examine myself. This mix of fight and passion and advocacy in me really comes from my city. This process has also made me aware of what is happening in the city right now, what’s happening currently in the auto industry. I mean, right now, the whole country is finally aware of the Flint water crisis. This makes me more aware of the city’s political landscape now. It has me wondering how I can help contribute effective and positive change in the community, rather than contribute to the city’s legacy of disenfranchisement.”
— Dominique Morisseau

Michael Grigalonis, COO Chester County Economic Development Council
Lynda Risser, Principal, Head of Global Talent Management, Vanguard
Ken Winston, Executive Director of the Charles A. Melton Center

Akeem Davis
Melanye Finister
Savannah Jackson
Lindsay Smiling


By Bess Wohl (Barcelona, 2013)
Directed by David Bradley
Monday, August 1, 2016, 7pm
Leonard C. Haas Stage

Kay loves her older sister Emma. Or is it Christina? Christine? Matilda? After spending eight years institutionalized and medicated, Emma has changed more than just her name. Determined to get back the brilliant sister she remembers, Kay rents a cabin in the woods and she and her boyfriend Billy hide the sharp objects, from butcher knife to cheese grater. Perhaps quality time with loved ones, some home-cooked meals and games of Scrabble will succeed in restoring Emma to health where her psychiatrists have failed. Bess Wohl’s lively, tender comedy explores the scope, limits, and sometimes dangerous side effects of familial love.

Post-show conversation will center around the many faces of mental illness.

"I'm always inspired by everything around me. I’ve seen people around me struggle with things like mental illness, definitely. And I've certainly experienced family stuff. I was really trying to write about the balance between what we owe each other and what we owe ourselves. And how you carve out your own freedom within the context of your family. And that becomes exponentially harder when one of your family is ill.”

"The play is about family and about what it means to take care of someone and about love and about how sometimes when we think we’re caring for someone, we might actually be doing more harm than good.”
— Bess Wohl

“What I love about Community Matters at People’s Light is the way a story helps us talk to each other. The plays we share in this series become inviting doorways into great conversations about all manner of things—things we might talk about often, and things we might not talk about that much, or that easily. But Community Matters helps that happen. Touch(ed) is a great play for the series. We all have a family. Many of us know what it’s like to want to help someone we love, but not know how to do it. Maybe we’ve experienced the effects of mental illness in our families. Maybe we haven’t. But we all know what it is to love, and to feel helpless, and to sometimes have the words and sometimes not have the words. This is a good one to share, for all those reasons.”
— David Bradley, Director of Touch(ed) and Facilitator for Community Matters

Lucy F. Faulconbridge, PhD, Clinical Psychologist, Main Line Therapy & Psychological Services, & Clinical Associate Professor of Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania
Carol Harkins, co-chair Chester County Suicide Prevention Task Force & Aging Care Management Supervisor, Chester County Department of Aging Services
Dr. Harold Kirby, LCSW/BCD, Cognitive Behavior Therapist, Director of the Mindful Stress & Anxiety Management Center of Philadelphia
Dr. Linda Ryan, Medical Director of the Women's Emotional Wellness Center, Main Line Health

Marcie Bramucci
Charlie DelMarcelle
Julianna Zinkel


By James Ijames
Directed by Malika Oyetimein
Monday, August 22, 2016, 7pm
Leonard C. Haas Stage

Gus wants to be a famous visual artist. His desire to be acquired by a major contemporary art museum inspires him to hire a woman to claim his work to meet the museum’s demand for “new perspectives.” That woman, Vanessa, wants to be a working actor. When they cross paths, both Gus and Vanessa's assumptions about art and being an artist are dismantled.

Post-show conversation will center around issues of race, gender, sexuality and art.

"I wrote this play while I was acting in a play in Baltimore at Center Stage. I find that something really sparks when I'm performing and writing at the same time. I had read an article about Joe Scanlan in a magazine while riding Amtrak from Baltimore to Philadelphia and was really taken by the idea of personality or persona as art. I was also interested in how gay men borrow from (read steal) black female identity and cultural signifiers as a kind of costume of strength. I'm frustrated by it. So this its very core is about that. How marginalized people are used to make art more "edgy". In this play...the creation eats the creators. And I dug that."
— James Ijames

Ross Mitchell, Director of Barnes-DeMazia Education and Outreach, Barnes Foundation
Gina Pisasale, Resident Dramaturg People’s Light
Amie Potsic, Executive Director, Main Line Art Center
Dr. Kimmika Williams-Witherspoon, Associate Professor Temple University

Jessica Bedford
Jaylene Clark Owens
Jamison Foreman
Justin Jain

The Playwrights

Dominique Morisseau is an alumna of the Public Theater Emerging Writer’s Group, Women’s Project Lab, and Lark Playwrights Workshop. Credits include: Skeleton Crew (Sundance; Lark Barebones; Atlantic Theater Company (Scott Rudin); Paradise Blue (Williamstown Theatre Festival), Detroit ’67 (Public Theater, Classical Theatre of Harlem/NBT); Blood At The Root (Arkansas Rep, Penn State), Sunset Baby (Gate Theater, LAByrinth Theatre); Follow Me To Nellie’s (O’Neill, Premiere Stages). Her 3-play cycle, entitled “The Detroit Projects” include Detroit ’67, Paradise Blue and Skeleton Crew. She’s produced original works for the Hip Hop Theater Festival, American Theatre of Harlem and her play Blood at the Root has toured South Africa, Scotland, Australia and the U.S and garnered her production the The Graham F. Smith Peace Foundation Award. Dominique has been commissioned by Steppenwolf, LCT3, Women’s Project, South Coast Rep, People’s Light and Theatre, and Oregon Shakespeare Festival/Penumbra Theatre. She currently serves as Story Editor on the upcoming season of the Showtime series Shameless and is developing two original musicals. Awards: Jane Chambers Playwriting Award, two-time NAACP Image Award, Stavis Playwriting Award, Spirit of Detroit Award, U of M Emerging Leader Award, Weissberger Award, PoNY Fellowship, Sky-Cooper New American Play Prize, TEER Spirit Trailblazer Award, and the Edward M. Kennedy Prize for Drama. She is an artist that believes wholeheartedly in the power and strength of community.

Dominique has based her activities at the Charles A. Melton Arts and Education Center and the Chester County Historical Society in West Chester, PA. In December, Melton Center Executive Director Ken Winston hosted an “open house” attended by 100 community members and NPF Committee members. This event was an opportunity to introduce Dominique to stakeholders in the Center including board members, staff, and families who attend the youth programs, substance abuse programs, and other activities. Dominique met with a number of these people before and after the evening event, which included dinner, presentations by the Center’s New Directions students, and even a visit from Santa Claus. Ken Winston was also Dominique’s guide as she conducted several interviews with various community leaders with longstanding ties to the civil rights movement in West Chester. Dominique also spent time with librarian and archivist Ellen Endslow at the CCHS, looking at documents and photographs of the black community in West Chester, especially the work and legacy of Bayard Rustin.

Bess Wohl’s plays include SMALL MOUTH SOUNDS, BARCELONA, AMERICAN HERO, TOUCHED, IN, CATS TALK BACK and the original musical PRETTY FILTHY, in collaboration with Michael Friedman and The Civilians (Lucille Lortel and Drama Desk nominations for Outstanding Musical).

Her work has been produced or developed at Second Stage, Ars Nova, The Williamstown Theatre Festival, The Geffen Playhouse, Hartford Stage, People’s Light and Theatre Company, The Contemporary American Theater Festival, Vineyard Arts Project, The Pioneer Theatre, The Pittsburgh Public Theater, The Northlight Theater, TheaterWorks, Ojai Playwright's Conference, the Cape Cod Theatre Project, PlayPenn and the New York International Fringe Festival (Award for Best Overall Production).

In 2015, Bess won the Sam Norkin Drama Desk Award for “establishing herself as an important voice in New York theater.” Other awards/honors include a Macdowell fellowship, the Athena Award for her screenplay, VIRGINIA, and inclusion on Hollywood’s Black List for best screenplays. She is an associate artist with The Civilians and an alumna of Ars Nova’s Play Group. She holds new play commissions from Manhattan Theatre Club, Hartford Stage and Lincoln Center.

Bess has also developed film/TV projects for HBO, ABC, USA, Disney, Paramount and others. She is a graduate of Harvard and the Yale School of Drama.

James Ijames is a Philadelphia-based actor and playwright. He has appeared regionally at The Arden Theatre Company, The Philadelphia Theatre Company, The Wilma Theatre, Baltimore Center Stage and Interact Theatre Company. He is a member of the InterAct Core Playwrights group and a mentor for The Foundry. James’s plays include The Most Spectacularly Lamentable Trial of Miz Martha Washington, Moon Man Walk, WHITE, Kill Move Paradise, The Threshing Floor, and Osiris:Redux.

...Miz Martha was developed with PlayPenn and the Wilma Theater and received its world premiere with Flashpoint Theater. Moon Man Walk premiered with Orbiter 3. His play WHITE was part of the 2015 PlayPenn New Play Conference and the 2015 Gulfshore Playhouse New Works Festival and will receive it's world premiere at Theatre Horizon in the 2016-2017 season. Kill Move Paradise was developed by Victory Gardens Ignition Festival.

James is a recipient of F. Otto Haas Award for an Emerging Artist, two Barrymores for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Play for Superior Donuts and Angels in America and a Barrymore for Best Direction of a Play for The Brothers Size. He is an Independence Foundation Fellow, a 2015 Pew Fellow, the 2015 recipient of the Terrence McNally New Play Award for WHITE and the 2015 Kesselring Honorable Mention Prize for ...Miz Martha.

James received a BA in Drama from Morehouse College in Atlanta, GA and an MFA in Acting from Temple University in Philadelphia, PA. He is Assistant Professor of Theatre at Villanova University and resides in South Philadelphia.