Huntington's "Neighborhood Stories"

A new play detailing the history, people and stories of four historic Boston neighborhoods will be presented January 14-23, 2005 at the Stanford Calderwood Pavilion at the Boston Center for the Arts. Titled “Hinges Keep a City: Neighborhood Stories,” the play is produced by the Huntington Theatre Company Education and Outreach Department's Storytelling for the Ages (STAGES) program, in association with the Boston Center for the Arts.

"STAGES is an innovative community arts initiative that combines oral history with the performing and visual arts," commented Huntington Education and Outreach Director Donna Glick. "Through this process, we gather the stories of young people and elders from Boston neighborhoods and with the help of professional artists, transform those stories into new works of art.”

The goal of STAGES is to forge connections between divergent Boston communities, and to promote understanding between generations across a spectrum of neighborhoods where the Huntington does its work. Glick also hopes that by working with professional artists, residents will find a unique perspective on their lives and those of their neighbors.

“Hinges” weaves together a quilt-like narrative of stories based on real people who lived in Boston during the 20th century. The central character, Lynnette, a modern-day young woman, interacts with a wide range of characters who, through monologues and short scenes, recount their experiences in living, working, and raising families in the community. Characters with varied ethnic backgrounds relive what life was like in Boston neighborhoods during the past century.

"Memories, transitions, and legacies are explored throughout the play," Glick says, "and the characters portrayed are drawn from real people who lived their lives here." The play centers on social issues facing these neighborhoods as well, from racial integration and racial tension to socioeconomic disparity and gentrification. Original music and choreography based on ethnic dances and sounds punctuate the show, whose sets are based on paintings inspired by the neighborhoods.

During the development process of “Hinges,” Huntington educators conducted and transcribed nearly 300 pages of oral history interviews with residents from the South End, Fenway, Mission Hill and Lower Roxbury. These transcripts were turned over to a team of professional artists who teased out common themes, focused in on the most compelling stories and fleshed out a narrative storyline.

The artistic team include playwright Kirsten Greenidge, theatre director Judy Braha, visual artist Chandra Dieppa Ortiz, composer Hugh Hinton, and the Bennett Dance Company led by dancer/ choreographer Christine Bennett.

Early drafts of the play and each of its artistic components (visual art, dance, music) were presented in community forums that provided feedback, which was incorporated into the final work. A staged reading of the play was held for community members in October 2004.

Playwright Kirsten Greenidge says, "The task for me, and all the artists, was to be true to the 15 people whose stories we were using, and to present their lives and conflicts in a dramatic way.” She says her biggest challenge was to limit the number of characters in the play and find ways for these very different people to interact and talk to each another. "I combined several storytellers together to create composite characters, and in one instance, gave one man's stories to several different characters.”

Performances of “Hinges Keep a City: Neighborhood Stories” are free and open to the general public. However, patrons must have physical tickets to be assured admission. Tickets can be acquired in person at the Calderwood Pavilion Box Office, 527 Tremont Street, or the BU Theatre Box Office, 264 Huntington Avenue. The Box Office opens daily at 12 noon. Call 617-266-0800 for further information and an exact performance schedule.

-- OnStage Boston



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