Fairhill Theater Project
A Thousand Fibers is a Performance Piece inspired by stories from the Fairhill Community
How can you measure a life? Many decades on this earth. One house in Fairhill. 4 different walkers. Tens of surrogate children. Years in the maternity ward at Episcopal Hospital. Several hundred babies delivered. And thousands of photographs. Maria was a friend, an abuela, a confidant, a chef, a teacher, a Tia. Fairhill became her house and the neighborhood became her family.
A Thousand Fibers tells the impactful story of Maria, through the eyes of her community. Her story challenges the traditional views of what it means to be a family.
Get to know the creative team
Eric Carter, Director (he/him)
"When I was 13, I remember how low my self-confidence was at that time. A year later, at 14, I started my first acting class. After that first day, my confidence shot through theroof and I never looked back. Theater gave me something to be proud of."
Sofía Anastasia (they/them)
Sofía Anastasia is a Philadelphia-based playwright, director, designer, and performane artist. Their work explores heritage, community, and the healing that the ritual of theatre can engender in the face of trauma.
Alec Hersh, Playwright (he/him)
Alex is. amulti-faceted theatre-maker with credits. indirecting, teaching, producing, writing, and designing. He is also. thefounder and Artistic Directoer of Actor's Playground, a collaborative theatre coalition which seeks to dismantle the formal hierarchy of theatre and produce sight-specific works.
We're excited about our collaboration with local artist Neury (Tito) Caba, who worked with us in set and prop design and construction. Tito and Camille O'Connor are also facilitated our community art exhibit/installation which is an integral part of the project, and Jamel Baker and Victoria Crenshaw our awesome stage management team.
An art contest for Fairhill youth with the theme of "Resilience in Fairhill" was held in collaboration with The Providence Center and Taller Puertorriqueño.
Meet the cast
The cast of A Thousand Fibers is composed of experienced actors and community members with little or no acting experience. This casting choice is informed by our values of mutual mentorship and honoring the artist in each person.
Yajaira is a Venezuelan actress who has worked in TV, film and theatre and is a co-founder of Teatro del Sol, a bilingual theatre company in Philadelphia. She has recently performed with Philadelphia Artists Collective (PAC) in The Sea Voyage, with Teatro del Sol at the Arden in Good Cuban Girls, and with Theatre Ariel in Secret Things.
"I think people will enjoy watching very much this play because it is a story of real life. People will feel connected with some stories, and it will make an impact in them. It is a fun play; it will make people laugh and cry."
Thomas Freeman in the role of Alex, a Fairhill resident, and one of the many who had the honor of knowing "Tia Maria".
"The thing that excites me the most will be people getting to see me do what I do best, which is act. I think people should see the play because it might remind them of their roots"
Raymond Thomas in the role of Sam.
Maria practically raised Sam and took him as her own. Sam had always felt the pressure of not disappointing her while also feeling jealous that Maria consistently poured into so many people from the neighborhood, not just him.
"I grew up in the neighborhood of North Philadelphia in the mid 70s to mid 90's. What I remember most is there was a sense of family throughout the neighborhood blocks and streets. I can relate to the theme of family that runs throughout this play."
Charvez Grant in the role of Jackson.
Jackson and Sam grew up together with "Tia Maria" but they each have very different perspectives of Maria's legacy.
"What excites me about the play is the fact that it’s about a real area in Philadelphia which makes the story that much more authentic and relatable."-Charvez Grant
Blahir Sargent in the role of Alice
Alice and Maria grew up together in Northern Liberties. They did everything together and supported each other through tough times in school.
"I think people should see the play because it is something positive and inspiring for other neighborhood children who may struggle with doing the right things."-Blahir Sargent
Dacia Nedd in the role of the interviewer/Roberta
"Something that really relates and sticks close to me in my experience about this play is Maria and her passion and drive to see her neighborhood flourish despite the circumstances and the rumors that go around about her neighborhood being the badlands."- Dacia Nedd
Yajaira Paredes (older Maria)
Leila Saxton (younger Maria)
Curtis Saxton (Angel)
Thomas Freeman (Alex)
Charvez Grant (Jackson)
Dacia Nedd (Interviewer/Roberta)
Ray Thomas (Sam)
Nina Cottman (young Jeanie)
Yeriel Cortes (young Angel)
Blahir Sargent (Alice)
Hector Espinosa (Carl)
Anthony Cornatzer (Mr. Burkhardt/Priest)
HISTORY OF PROJECT
Our connection to the Fairhill neighborhood began in 2018 with our partnership with Jean Warrington and Historic Fair Hill Burial Ground and the premiere of our one woman play, Letters to Aunt Hattie by Gigi McGraw, based on the life of Harriet Forten Purvis. Purvis is interred at the burial ground and we performed the play at Julia de Burgos elementary school and the Historic Fair Hill Women’s History Student Essay Awards Ceremony, among other venues.
From July, 2019 through March 2020 we worked with other professionals such as Erlina Ortiz, Nell Bang-Jensen, Gigi McGraw, Janet Wasser and Mary Walton in the beginning stages of our Fairhill community engagement work. We participated in community events, researched the history of the area, facilitated story circles and community dialogs, and facilitated an After School Drama Club at The Providence Center.
"Not only is it focused on the Fairhill community, it was made and shaped by experiences and cultural narratives from our community members, and Providence Center is so proud to have been able to participate in such a beautiful project"
-Siria Rivera, the Executive Director of Providence Center
Then a new play, Under the Bonnet, by Shelli Pentimall-Bookler (based on the life and work of Lucretia Mott, Frederick Douglass, and James Mott ) was performed at Julia de Burgos Elementary School and The Providence Center. It featured actors Heather Plank, Eric Carter and Robert Weick and was directed by Steve Gaissert.
Our performance schedule was cut short due to Covid-19, but when the City of Philadelphia permitted outdoor performances in the summer of 2020 we partnered with Historic Fair Hill Burial Ground to perform the play at the Motts graveside. It was free to the public and social distancing protocols were followed.
COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT 2020-21 :
* Due to Covid-19 most of our community engagement work in 2020 has been through Zoom. However, we continued to work outdoors at the community garden at Historic Fair Hill Burial Ground throughout the summer and early fall.
* With our team of lead artists we continued the play development process based on story circles, and conversations with Fairhill community members. Our lead artists are: Eric Carter, Director; Sofía Anastasia, Director; and Alec Hersh, Playwright.
* In September 2020 we partnered with social practice artist, Gigi McGraw, and Fairhill Neighbors for a "share-out" story circle on Zoom, sharing histories and ideas for further engagement.
* In Summer, 2020 we performed "Under the Bonnet" live outdoors in the Fairhill community, we recorded the performance, and it is now available for students to watch virtually.
* In November 2020 we initiated an Art Contest for ages 10-20 in partnership with Providence Center and Taller Puertorriqueño with the theme of "Resilience in Fairhill" and winners were announced in February 2021.
Click here to see art from contest winners
A Thousand Thanks
We are grateful for the support of donors like you who helped make it happen and enabled us to pay our actors, artists, and community support staff.
We are thankful to the following organizations:
Dolfinger McMahon Foundation
Philadelphia Cultural Fund
Joseph Robert Foundation
Philadelphia OACCE (Culture in Neighborhoods)
Thanks to our wonderful cast and creative team:
Playwright - Alec Hersh
Directors - Sofía Anastasia & Eric Carter
Stage Manager - Jamel Baker
Assistant Stage Manager - Victoria Crenshaw
Production Designer - Annemarie Branco
Mural Designer - Neury (Tito) Caba
Art Exhibit Faciliatators: Neury (Tito) Caba & Camille O'Connor
Anthony Cornatzer, Blahir Sargent, Charvez Grant, Curtis Saxton, Dacia Nedd, Hector Espinosa, Leila Saxton, Nina Cottman, Ray Thomas, Thomas Freeman, Yajaira Paredes, Yeriel Cortes
Special thanks to:
The Providence Center, Ekklecia Church, Historic Fair Hill, Fairhill Neighbors & Taller Puertorriqueño