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Struggles appear on stage in ‘Y-Haven Theatre Project’

November 18th, 2010

Combine the struggles of addiction and homelessness with a stage, lights and an audience.

The product is a story of hardships and recovery, displayed on stage in the Y-Haven Theatre Project.

A theatre production acted out by formerly homeless men in recovery from drug and alcohol addiction, the tour will stop by John Carroll University on Friday, Nov. 12 in the Dolan auditorium at 12 p.m.

The Y-Haven Theatre Project partners Cleveland Public Theatre (CPT) Teaching Artists with residents of Y-Haven, the Cleveland YMCA’s transitional home for once homeless men.

Together, the men create original theatre productions based on their personal experiences.

According to the CPT Education Director, Chris Seibert, the project is in its eleventh year, offering programs to those who do not have access to the arts, such as low income urban teens, children in public housing, and homeless adults.

“[It’s for] people who have a story that needs to be heard by our community,” she said.

Involving about 25 participants, the Y-Haven Theatre Project demographic contains homeless men ages 18 to 60 who are in the first 60 days of recovery from drug and alcohol addiction.

All participants are required to sign contracts outlining their responsibilities and affirming their commitment before attending the first class.

From that point, skits develop over time, as instructors encourage the men to create stories about their lives and the various experiences they’ve encountered.

“The group explores recurring themes, powerful images, revealing scenes and interesting characters to create the script,” said Seibert.  “Once the script is drafted, the men begin rehearsing scenes and continue to develop the plot and characters.”

The production for the program begins in July, when the men take part in rehearsal sessions two to three times each week, increasing to five days a week in October and November, according to Seibert.

The production opens in early November at the Cleveland Public Theatre with performances that benefit the Y-Haven Transitional Housing organization.

After finishing at the Theatre, the production  is performed for a one to two week tour.

“[On the tour], audiences include men and youth living in area shelters, treatment facilities, and juvenile detention centers and students and faculty of local high schools and universities,” said Seibert.

To create a more personal tone with the audience, each performance on the tour is followed by a facilitated discussion with the audience. After the production concludes and the participants are finished performing their stories of struggle before an audience, they are allowed to remain at Y-Haven for up to two years as they work toward accomplishing the goals they have set.

However, what becomes of the men is a success story that exceeds the prosperity of their performance.

“What we have seen over the years is that Y-Haven Theatre is a transformational experience for men who have suffered great adversity by bringing them together to create a play, present it to the public, and receive mentorship and support,” said Seibert.

“The men can draw on the skills they develop in the program to maintain sobriety and transition to employment, permanent housing and independent living.”