Gigi McGraw performs Letters to Aunt Hattie at Historic Fair Hill Women's History Student Essay Awards Ceremony at St. John's Memorial Baptist Church - across from Historic Fair Hill Burial Ground on Cambria Street.
HISTORY OF PROJECT: In 2018 Georgina Bard, our artistic director, began the work of community engagement in the Fairhill area of Philadelphia in our move toward the development and creation of a theatre production about and with the community. Our connection to the neighborhood first began in 2018 with our partnership with Jean Warrington of 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.
Our newest 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.
Women's Anti Slavery Society, Lucretia Mott and other human rights activists mural - across from Historic Fair Hill Burial Ground - Germantown Ave., Fairhill area.
COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT 2020: 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 are continuing the play development process based on story circles, and conversations with Fairhill community members and we anticipate a culminating performance in the summer of 2021. Our lead artists are: Eric Carter, Director; Sofía Anastasia, Director; and Alec Hersh, Playwright. Click here for more information on our artists. 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. We are enthusiastic about the ongoing play development and are continuing to plan more safe initiatives with the community. We video recorded the "Under the Bonnet" play and are making it available for students to watch virtually. In November 2020 we initiated a Video Contest for ages 10-20 in partnership with Providence Center and Taller Puertorriqueño with the theme of "Resilience in Fairhill." Winners will be announced in February, 2021. Stay tuned for updates!
Mural on the wall of Providence Center - North 5th Street in Fairhill - the mural was an inspiration for a devised theatre project for the students in the After School Drama Club at Providence Center led by BTP teaching artists - December 2019