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SigSpace: EMANCIPATED STORIES

Who: Quiara Alegría Hudes, Sean Ortiz, Sean Carvajal, Dominic Colón, Kenyatta Emmanuel, Suave Gonzales, Renee Goust, David Zayas, Kenyatta Emmanuel, Renee Goust, Jamie Maleszka, more
What: Installation and pop-up events
Where: Signature Theatre, the Pershing Square Signature Center Lobby, 480 West Forty-Second St. at Tenth Ave.
When: June 29 – July 24, Tuesday – Sunday, noon – 5:00, free
Why: Last summer, the Signature Theatre reopened with the immersive installation The Watering Hole, which included Vanessa German and Haruna Lee’s “This Room Is a Broken Heart,” part of which involved choosing a postcard designed by an incarcerated individual and sending a note to someone living behind bars. This summer the Signature has taken that a step further by teaming with the Fortune Society and Emancipated Stories to present an installation focusing on words and art by incarcerated people. Founded in 1967, the Fortune Society’s mission is “to support successful reentry from incarceration and promote alternatives to incarceration, thus strengthening the fabric of our communities . . . through believing, building lives, and changing minds.” Emancipated Stories was started by prison reform activist and playwright Quiara Alegría Hudes and her cousin Sean Ortiz, who spent ten years behind bars, as a way for incarcerated people to have their voices heard through handwritten letters that are shared on Instagram and in special installations.

Hudes, the Signature’s premiere writer-in-residence and author of such works as In the Heights, Water by the Spoonful, Daphne’s Dive, and Miss You Like Hell, explained in a statement, “The thing that’s fun and safe about theater 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.”

“The Fortune Society is thrilled to be in community and collaboration with Signature Theatre and Quiara Alegría Hudes to help bring this insightful and moving project to life,” Fortune Society director of creative arts Jamie Maleszka added. “The goal of Emancipated Stories is to center and celebrate the full humanity of community members who are currently and formerly incarcerated and to grow meaningful connections through storytelling. The project perfectly aligns with our mission to build people, not prisons, and invest in more just collective futures.”

“SigSpace: Emancipated Stories” will be open in the theater lobby Tuesday through Sunday from June 29 through July 24, from noon to 5:00; admission is free. In addition, there will be four pop-up events, free with advance RSVP, featuring actors, artists, activists, musicians, writers, and members of the Fortune Society activating the installation, which was designed by Yazmany Arboleda with Emmanuel Oni, through music, discussions, readings, and writing letters in response to those from incarcerated individuals.

Wednesday, June 29
Kick-off, with actors David Zayas and Sean Carvajal, artist and activist Suave Gonzales, and Felix Guzman and Daniel Kelly of the Fortune Society, hosted by playwright Quiara Alegría Hudes, free with RSVP, 5:00 – 7:00

Wednesday, July 13
Music Night, with composer Kenyatta Emmanuel, singer-songwriter Renee Goust, writer and actor Dominic Colón, and others, hosted by Quiara Alegría Hudes, free with RSVP, 5:00 – 7:00

Sunday, July 17
Family Day, with Fortune Society community members and actor Sean Carvajal, moderated by Fortune Society director of creative arts Jamie Maleszka and Quiara Alegría Hudes, free with RSVP, noon – 2:00

Wednesday, July 20
Quiet Writing Time, free with RSVP, 5:00 – 7:00

Read more at This Week in New York Back

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