2018-10-11 / Front Page

City Artist Heads Downcity Project

By James Merolla

Rebecca Noon teaching a class. 
(Photo by Jordan Butterfield) Rebecca Noon teaching a class. (Photo by Jordan Butterfield) Many would argue that our changing neighborhoods provide good theater. On Oct. 22, those changing neighborhoods might be great theater, due in large part to the efforts of Newport resident, Rebecca Noon.

Trinity Repertory’s annual “America Too” event will feature honest and revealing short plays about Providence’s rapidly gentrifying neighborhoods, in partnership with DARE’s (Direct Action for Rights and Equality) Tenants and Homeowners Association (THA). The free event will begin at 7 p.m.

“It is powerful work,” said Noon, artistic associate for community at Trinity Rep, who has been recruiting the writers, actors and directors for the show, “and I’m proud to be able to build these kinds of conversations in the state I love and in the art form I’ve dedicated my life to.”

Noon holds a BFA in Acting from the College of Santa Fe and an MFA in Lecoq-Based Actor Created Physical Theatre from the London International School of Performing Arts and was RI State Council on the Art’s 2015 Merit Playwriting Fellow and 2017 Playwriting Fellow. She’s worked at Trinity Rep since 2012, and has been the Community Engagement Coordinator since 2015.

Noon moved to Rhode Island (by way of San Francisco and London) in 2010 and founded Strange Attractor Theatre with cohorts from Providence, Philadelphia, and Juneau, Alaska. Together they create original shows and experiences in all three of their hometowns. Noon has led the America Too initiative since its inception four years ago.

The Trinity event features short plays by Noon-hired playwrights April Brown, Julia Izumi, Vatic Kuumba, Eli Nixon, David Rabinow and Gina Rodriguez.

The five-minute plays, written in collaboration with THA members, will be inspired by conversations regarding how neighborhoods have changed in the last 10 years, what is important to people about their neighborhoods, and how people are being pushed out or drawn in.

“Each of the playwrights represents an incredible cross-section of artistic voice and relationship to Providence,” said Noon.

“I know that things that are Providence-centric don’t always fit [in Newport]… but I would love to see some of our fellow islanders at the event. We could certainly have similar conversations about affordable housing and building an inclusive community.”

The workshops, aided by input from Trinity actor Joe Wilson Jr., have revealed ways that having a home is not a basic right in our society, Noon said.

“Even people who have the means to live somewhere are not always welcomed or allowed to stay in communities, particularly when financial barriers are constantly being put in place and the goals moved,” she said.

“I am no expert on any of this, but have been deeply moved as an artist and organizer to listen to the stories of people who live this every day.”

Because the plays have not yet been written, it is impossible to rehearse them. Everyone comes the day of the event and prepares for around one hour before presenting the play on stage.

“Rehearsal takes time and we are aiming for a responsive event,” Noon said.

“The quality of the product is less important to us for this. We are using theater, which is, in its nature, a field that requires planning and time, to manifest a public event as a rapid response to our community’s needs.

“Because of all this, we developed a process where, before the plays are written, we put a call out to anyone and everyone inviting them to sign up to act or direct. Anyone who wants to act shows up at the theater at 5 p.m. on Oct. 22, and anyone who wants to direct shows up at 4 p.m. We assign people to the newly-written plays that emerged from the workshops and they are given space in the theater.”

There will be between 25 to 80 short plays being rehearsed simultaneously during the two hours before the event.

“The audience arrives, music plays, we start the event. Actors have scripts in hand and there’s no real tech per say, so the effect is more of a staged reading than a fully-produced play, but the impact on the audience is immediate and powerful because everyone knows that these stories are being offered with a degree of urgency and immediacy,” Noon said.

“I want the audience to feel they can create the kind of world we all want to live in that allows for people of all kinds to live in community together,” she added.

“Gentrification can feel like some abstract societal problem that’s out of our control; dealing with a negligent landlord can feel like an isolating and embarrassing personal attack. By using performance to shine a light on how these things are connected, we make them all of our problems.”

Reservations are recommended. For information, call 401-351- 4242 or visit trinityrep.com/America too.

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