Tuesday, February 2, 2010

CITY OF NUMBERS In the News & On the Web

Check out some of the media coverage that has appeared about CITY OF NUMBERS:

... Culled from interviews with Graterford prison lifers who paint murals as a way to communicate with the outside world, [CITY OF NUMBERS] pulls in multiple perspectives, mixing the voices of perpetrators with those of media pundits, law enforcement, and loved ones left behind.

The questions are many, the answers are few. Should we judge 15-, 16-, 17-year-old killers as simply murderers who should be locked up forever? Should we view them as redeemable people even though they've committed murder?

And the most vexing question: What can one person do to help solve the problem of violence in our midst? ...

Philadelphia Daily News, Christine Fisher
Philly's Felons: One-Man Show Offers Unique Perspectives On Violent Crime In The City

... After interviewing lifers at Graterford Prison, talking with victims of crime, and observing the city and its politics, Lewis came to know Philadelphia as a city struggling with violent crime and the fear it generates. The play he wrote and stars in, "City of Numbers, mixtape of a city," captures the complexity of this urban issue.

... "City of Numbers," which opened last week, is a joint venture between the Philadelphia's Mural Arts Program and InterAct Theatre Company, and is the centerpiece of a month-long celebration of the transformative power of art as a tool for social justice. ...

Courier-Post, Sally Friedman
... [Playwright Sean Christopher Lewis'] purpose in creating this unusual production, one in which the voices of about 30 characters are heard solely through Sean Lewis' own voice in his one-man show, is to re-examine Philadelphia's daunting crime statistics through the lens of arts education.

"I wanted to listen in to the inmates for their perspective, to hear from the people of various city neighborhoods for theirs, and also really to explore inner city violence and its roots," Lewis explains.

..."I want people to feel a personal stake. I want this play to open important conversations about crime, about punishment, and about the way we live our lives." ...

Philadelphia City Paper, A.D. Amorosi
"It's the city that I see daily — a city that struggles but also overcomes." So says Jane Golden, director of Philadelphia's Mural Arts Program, which for the past three years has developed a Restorative Justice program encouraging prison inmates to create large-scale community art. It's that gentle notion of rising above, of the healing power of creativity, that sparked Golden's first conversation with InterAct Theatre Co. boss Seth Rozin in 2008. Their mission: Partner up on a play that tells these prisoners' stories. Their method: Interview "life-term" inmates at the State Correctional Institution at Graterford and to use those chats for a theater piece that details the experience of the sorrowful and the saved. ...

The Augustinian Spiritual Health Center Blog, Fr. Paul Morrisey, O.S.A.

... This is not a just [sic] sob-sister story about the basic humanity of prison inmates. Voices of victims cry out too. Victims often in the same world as those who harm them – ghetto worlds where children grow up on the street and learn to fight to stay alive. Sections of the city – some black, some white, some Hispanic – where a common poverty creates the environment for selling drugs to make a living. Selling bodies too. Selling souls if the devil offers you the right price.

... This play shows the “numbers” racked up each year in Philly of the murdered and the murderers. It is powerful when it gets inside the heads and hearts of those who are in prison for these crimes. Thugs? Brutal inhuman bastards? Heartless killers? More like you and me than we would think. The cry of the victims through the mouths of their survivors, pierce one’s heart as well. ...

Examiner.net, Samantha Clarke
Sean Christopher Lewis' and InterAct's Exploration for Something More

... Lewis envisions community and artist-based efforts to create a dialogue between despairing neighborhoods and the city at large that aren’t necessarily about the state bailing them out. Instead, it’s about the citizens and what we as people can do for one another by providing a voice and ensuring communication.

Across the board, Lewis demands the value of collaboration and the importance of the individual to create and stimulate communication through the arts. When asked what he feared was the greatest challenge and biggest disappointment in the arts today (“The reliance on other people to do it for you.”) it paralleled what he felt was the greatest worldly problem: “Apathy. We’ve seen in all the great movements: change happens on the individual level. But so many people think that [they] can’t do anything about the great issues of our time, believe it’s too big, that it’s for politicians, or they have enough on their plate already, but it’s amazing what happens when you believe in something. When you fight for something.” ...

Philly2Philly.com, Rachel Dukeman
City Of Numbers: A Philadelphia Story

... The City of Philadelphia has a unique, successful program that has placed art in the lives of its residents – all of its residents. From prison cells to the Avenue of the Arts, the Mural Arts Program has made in impact on the way Philadelphians see our own neighborhoods and our neighbors. And now, through an exciting partnership with InterAct Theatre Company, has developed a series of programs to shed light on our Philadelphia crime, Philadelphia neighborhoods, paintings on the walls and citizens that live behind walls.

... [CITY OF NUMBERS] is full of personal narratives that are strewn together to poke holes in our city’s justice system –pointing blame for failing citizens on ‘both sides of the walls’ at everything from poverty to racism to police to parenting skills, without focusing on one fault as the root or solution. ...

Philly.com's MyCommunity Suburbs Blog, Stephanie Weaver

The city of Philadelphia has the largest number of mural displays in the United States. Each mural is more than just a giant painting; it often depicts a story from its creature or holds a message for its audience. ... The murals of Philadelphia are the city’s soul. They carry the stories of people long gone, and allow future generations a glimpse into the city’s past. Playwright Sean Christopher Lewis understands all of the tales that murals tell and has collaborated with the City of Philadelphia’s Mural Arts Project to create a screenplay based on them. ...

Rep Radio Podcast: An interview with playwright & performer Sean Christopher Lewis and director Matt Slaybaugh
"...This is great! This is the best... the absolute - hands down - best Rep Radio interview I've ever done. I love it..." - Jennifer MacMillan

Get your tickets to InterAct's CITY OF NUMBERS today!

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