Signature Theatre’s SigSpace, which brings artistic programming to the Pershing Square Signature Center’s public spaces, will present an installation from Quiara Alegría Hudes and Sean Ortiz’s Emancipated Stories project.
Designed by Yazmany Arboleda with Emmanuel Oni and featuring letter-writing sessions and pop-up performances produced in collaboration with The Fortune Society, the visual and experiential project will be offered June 29-July 24 (Tuesdays-Sundays, noon-6 PM). The installation aims to create a bridge to people who have been affected by incarceration.
Emancipated Stories was founded by Hudes and her cousin Ortiz during his decade-long incarceration, after the two realized the power of letter writing as a way of bearing witness and bridging two populations: those inside and those outside. Authors behind bars submit one page of their life story; volunteers respond with handwritten letters.
Free pop-up events will include readings and song interpretations of past letters by Hudes and Sean Ortiz; Sean Carvajal (American Buffalo), Dominic Colón (The Electric Company), composer Kenyatta Emmanuel, artist and activist Suave Gonzales (Suave), singer-songwriter Renee Goust, and David Zayas (Dexter); writers and advocates Felix Guzman, Daniel Kelly, and Jamie Maleszka; currently and/or formerly incarcerated authors of letters Matthew Garcia, Sophia Alexandra, Robert E. Rigler, MWP, Larry N Stromberg, Jordan Brown, Frank Ross, James Allen Miller, Fong Lee, Benjamin Hodgdon, and Chad Kawalke.
Pulitzer Prize winner Hudes, whose latest play My Broken Language kicks off Signature’s 2022–2023 season, says, “The thing that’s fun and safe about theatre is that the basic rule of engagement is one of listening. The fundamental contract is: I’m going to listen, I’m going to pay attention. Similarly, what we’re seeking to create is a communal space of sharing and openness. Within this installation and the events we’ve planned, the lines between audience and performer are more porous; it’s more of a gathering, and there’s no fourth wall, and we put the original letters in people’s hands. When you hold someone’s piece of paper and it’s handwritten and you feel the grooves—it’s like holding someone’s hand. It’s an instant connection that’s part of the liveness of it. Surprising heart doors come open in these moments.”
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