JONESTOWN SURVIVOR Welcomes American Theater Company Actors

Hello everyone,
Last week, I got this email from PJ Paparelli at the Chicago American Theater Company. Several years ago, Claire and I flew out to Chicago, and Nell came over from Indianapolis, to see the play. We were able to support Leigh and the American Theater Company by attending the play. PJ hosted us and has become a good friend.

Here is PJ’s email:

American Theater Company has grown so much since you were here in 2008. Besides are productions, we have an amazing education program in the Chicago Public Schools. Last year we started a Youth Ensemble compromised of amazingly talented youth from Chicago Public Schools. We work with them for 2 years and get them into college, using their theatre gifts. This year all 6 got into schools!

In the summer they produce their own documentary theatre production. Last summer, they did Leigh’s The Laramie Project: Ten Years Later. In preparation, we took all 6 of them to Laramie for 4 days where they interviewed most of the folks that Leigh and her team interviewed for the play. They went to the place where Matthew Shepard was left to die. It was a life-changing experience for them. They all came better more passionate, more mature, and with a firm understanding that art can affect change in people’s lives.

This year we are producing The People’s Temple with both the junior and senior classes (13 of them). In preparation we are bringing all of them out to San Francisco from June 24-28. We became close to some of the folks at the California Historical Society, so we’ll be going there. But I would really like to have former Temple members and survivors spend some time with them. These young adults are not typical teenagers. They are incredibly focused artists. They handled themselves professionally. Plus I was there with them to guide all the discussions. I think this would be an incredible experience for both parties.

I also would like to take a trip up to Ukiah as well. I think the students need to get a feel for what California is like. It will be so different from what they are used to.

I love would your help, Laura, in making this happen– if you think folks would be open to it. You know the play well and know the people well. If you think there would be folks who would be up for it, I’d love to make it. What Leigh (and the Matthew Shepard Foundation) did last year was introduce us over email and then we set up the actual meeting and such.

This is an exciting opportunity for all of us!

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