Part of living in a community, to me, means giving back to the community and participating in its cultural life. As my neighborhood of Washington Heights is slowly becoming gentrified, as demonstrated by various new establishments, I am trying to become involved in some community-based efforts that enrich the neighborhood from the bottom up – from the community, for the community.
As you may have read in a previous post, I have been a volunteer English tutor since August. And over the past few months, at various community events, I had heard about and seen performances by the People’s Theater Project (PTP), a non-profit dedicated to bringing community theater to Washington Heights and Inwood. I offered to lend a hand (or two) and thankfully, they took me up on my offer this past weekend.
I volunteered as an usher/chair folder for the two performances of “This is Us”, a joint project between PTP and Word Up Community Book Shop. I didn’t get photographs on Friday night at the beautiful United Palace Theater, but I did take some shots on Saturday at the Morris-Jumel Mansion. Incredible hidden gems in my neighborhood.
High school students devised writings and staged theater with the help of a writing teacher, theater teacher, and artistic directing from the People’s Theater Project. Their collaborative effort became This is Us, a collection of thoughts, experiences, and skits about life as a teen in Washington Heights, with all the stresses, pressures, and potentially awkward social situations that come with it. It was one of the most honest, true theater pieces I’ve seen – it was enacted by the very students that wrote about their own experiences.
Volunteering not only gave me the opportunity to see this great performance twice, but to be part of it, even in the smallest way. And it gave me a reason to go to two great venues in my neighborhood!