American Place Theatre brings ‘The Glass Castle’ to Routt County
October 27, 2011
Steamboat Springs — Jeannette Walls' story is one of poverty, homelessness and mental illness. But in her book "The Glass Castle," there also are moments of brilliant imagination and glimmers of hope.
Gwen Brownson, director of national education for the New York-based American Place Theatre, saw that hope in the faces of students at juvenile detention centers when her company brought a theatrical performance and book discussion to the troubled teens this fall.
"I can't tell you how much these kids really responded to it," Brownson said. "The themes resonated very deeply and gave them a sense of hope. These are teenagers who are locked up, and by observing Jeannette's story, they saw maybe a way out of their own situations."
American Place Theatre comes to Routt County next week for the first time, bringing that same program to students at Soroco High School as well as the greater Steamboat Springs community. While they may not be speaking to criminally troubled teens here in Routt County, the themes of "The Glass Castle" carry relevance through all socioeconomic strata.
That's why Bud Werner Memorial Library and Strings Music Festival teamed up to bring the program to Steamboat to culminate this year's ONE Book Steamboat community read that has been taking place during the last six weeks.
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"Maybe this is another venue for bringing relevant discussion to the table," library adult programs coordinator Jennie Lay said. "If you look at our social services, they're maxed. Everything from LIFT-UP to United Way, they're setting records for requests and services.
"These are challenging times and there are, I'm sure, challenges that arrive in families, financial and otherwise."
The school outreach program is one of three events next week with the American Place Theatre that culminate the second annual ONE Book Steamboat.
On Tuesday, there will be a free Literature to Life Community Workshop in which American Place Theatre teaching artist Erin Ronder will lead a group discussion.
On Wednesday, actress Sarah Franek will perform a one-woman show featuring excerpts from the book at Strings Music Pavilion. Tickets are $15 for adults and $10 for students.
The American Place Theatre actors will visit Soroco High School on Thursday.
The American Place Theatre began 50 years ago as an off-Broadway theater that offered main stage productions at its New York City location. Throughout the decades, it evolved into an outreach program that sent actors and teaching artists to schools and other programs across the country.
Currently, the 25 to 30 actors in the company are involved with 12 American literature titles.
Literature to Life programs like "The Glass Castle" are taken around to 26 states to encourage open discussions of issues surrounding the themes. The titles are all centered on coming-of-age struggles and aim to connect with youths and the community through interactive workshops connected to theater.
"The mission is to help students and community members make personal connections to literature," Brownson said. "We know that inherently art and theater does that, but it does it in a passive way.
During the workshops, she said people are up on their feet and moving in a kinesthetic way and using theater to connect to the themes.
"That's where real social change comes from."
— To reach Nicole Inglis, call 970-871-4204 or email ninglis@SteamboatToday.com