BOX OFFICE 610.644.3500

Project Dawn

By Karen Hartman
Directed by Abigail Adams
June 7-July 9, 2017
Steinbright Stage


National New Play Network Rolling World Premiere Philadelphia is home to a revolutionary court designed by a passionate and shockingly funny group of women. Every day these lawyers, judges, parole officers, and staff work to transform the lives of women repeatedly convicted for prostitution. In this daring and vital new play in which seven actresses portray multiple participants and members of the court, Karen Hartman probes the thin lines between freedom and slavery, activism and obsession for women on both sides of the law. Inspired by Hartman’s extensive first–hand research inside Project Dawn Court, this play is the first produced work from our nationally renowned New Play Frontiers Residency & Commission program at People’s Light.

Best enjoyed by ages 16+

Scoop on Wednesdays: History, Context, and Gossip

Join us for a lively discussion before Wednesday 7:30pm performances. Resident Dramaturg Gina Pisasale will host an artist from the production and get the inside scoop about such things as the rehearsal and production process, design choices, and the world of the play. The program begins at 6pm in The Farmhouse Bistro on June 21st, June 28th, and July 5th. Cost of $15 includes light fare. Call the Box Office at 610.644.3500 to purchase.


Post-performance conversations with cast members. AfterWORDS are free to attend, and are held after Thursday evening and Sunday matinee performances: 6/15 (7:30pm), 6/18 (2pm), 6/22 (7:30pm), 6/25 (2pm), 6/29 (7:30pm), 7/2 (2pm), 7/6 (7:30pm), 7/9 (2pm).

Community Conversations - June 20th

A dynamic post-performance discussion with professional and personal insights from area experts who serve as respondents; which then opens into a Town Hall-style conversation with the audience. Experts include:

Rebecca A. Tavangar, Psychotherapist | Trauma Counselor; Greater Phoenixville ACEs Committee member (ACEs: Adverse Childhood Experiences)
Speaking from trauma/therapy perspective

Detective Les Glauner, Certified Human Trafficking Investigator, Upper Merion Township Police Department
Speaking from law enforcement perspective

Dinner & A Show Packages

Enjoy a prix fixe dinner and a show package for $76 (Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday matinee, Sunday evening) and $85 (Friday, Saturday evening, Sunday matinee) at The Farmhouse Bistro prior to the Wed-Sun evening performances. That's a savings of up to 15% off the single ticket price.

PROJECT DAWN is produced at PEOPLE’S LIGHT as a part of a National New Play Network Rolling World Premiere. Other partnering theaters are HORIZON THEATRE COMPANY (ATLANTA, GA) and UNICORN THEATRE (KANSAS CITY, MO). For more information please visit

Ashlee/Noelle: Claire Inie-Richards
Shondell/Kyla: Yvette Ganier*
Tracy/Sister Carol: Danielle Skraastad*
Lola/Nia: Susanna Guzman*
Judge Kaplan/Bonnie: Janis Dardaris*
Krystal/Ruth: Melanye Finister*
Gwen/Cassie: Antoinette LaVecchia*
Director: Abigail Adams
Set Design: Jessica Ford
Costume Designer: Jessica Ford
Lighting Designer: Dennis Parichy
Sound Designer: Karin Graybash
Dialect Coach: Melanie Julian
Production Stage Manager: Audrey M. Brown*
Line Producer: Zak Berkman

* Member, Actors' Equity Association, the Union of Professional Actors and Stage Managers.


Project Dawn is inspired by the work of Dawn’s Court in Philadelphia, PA, an innovative court program designed to transform the lives of women repeatedly convicted for sex trafficking. Based on extensive observation and research, the play follows the high-stakes lives of these victims/participants as well as the Court staff in and around the Court’s proceedings over several months. Each of the 7 female actresses double as victims/participants and Court staff (judge, lawyers, parole officers, and support staff), making it clear that either character subset could have landed on the other side of our justice system. Project Dawn is in no way a political treatise. It is bursting with urgency, but is also full of deep empathy and humor. The play bridges the gap between what audiences might currently know about sexual exploitation and what they could know--what is actually happening in their own backyard. It doesn’t matter if your politics are to the left or to the right. The material will gnaw at your heart and inspire you to action.


Seven women play fourteen characters. Each doubles as a participant and a staff member in the Project Dawn Court:

Ashlee/Noelle – white, early 20s. Ashlee is sullen, almost catatonic. Noelle is a fresh-faced intern and aspiring lawyer.

Krystal/ Ruth– black, 40s. Krystal wears an Islamic veil sometimes. She’s chatty. Ruth is the senior therapist for the program. Christian but works in many modalities.

Cassie/ Gwen – white, Gwen is 40s, Cassie 30s. Cassie has a hip injury, uses a cane. Gwen is the public defender who co-founded the program with Kyla. Open hearted, sharp-witted mother of four, on overload.

Bonnie/ Judge Roberta Kaplan – white, late 50s. Bonnie is a graduate of the program, now a motivational speaker. The Judge is dry, sometimes wry, but never to the point of mocking the women. An old school Jewish liberal, Philadelphia style, which means she blends with Quakers. Judge Kaplan is an amateur opera singer.

Lola/ Nia – Latina, 30s or 40s. Lola is curvy, sweet, may speak with a slight accent. Nia is the hyper vigilant court coordinator, excellent rapport with staff and participants.

Shondell/ Kyla – black, 40s. Shondell is a grandma. She wears an eye patch. Kyla is the DA, or prosecuting attorney. She is a butch woman, sometimes mistaken for male in off hours. Ivy League background, political aspirations.

Tracy/ Sister Carol – white, actor is 40s. Tracy (40ish) ran a major drug cartel, has a swagger the other women lack. Sister Carol is an elderly activist nun who founded and runs Dawn’s Place, a residency for former prostitutes. At 80, she is full of righteous rage. She is not a court regular.