PPL and Trinity Rep Continue Partnership to Present Context & Conversation

October 4, 2019

PPL/Trinity Rep Collaboration Cultivates Participatory Public Conversations Inspired by Ideas and Themes in Stage Works

Providence Public Library (PPL) and Trinity Repertory Company are pleased to present a new season of Context & Conversation.  Neighbors at the corner of Empire and Washington Streets for many decades, PPL and Trinity Rep joined forces last year to present Context & Conversation, a program series cultivating participatory public conversations inspired by ideas and themes found in the works featured on Trinity Rep’s stage and helping to locate those ideas and themes in our own community. These public conversations, which are free and open to the public, are collaboratively curated by Christina Bevilacqua, PPL’s Programs & Exhibitions Director and Trinity Rep’s Conversationalist-in-Residence, and Michelle Cruz, Trinity Rep’s Director of Community Engagement.

Each event in the series is hosted by a different community partner whose work resonates with the themes of the play currently on stage at Trinity Rep, and for each one we invite artists, scholars, and community practitioners to consider how and where these themes find resonance in our own community. While inspired by the plays, these programs do not depend on them, so anyone in the general public, whether a theater-goer or not, can attend the conversations and find meaningful content.

“Both PPL and Trinity Rep have long served as sites dedicated to cultural interaction and consideration of ideas, so we’re delighted to team up to create new opportunities for bringing people together to share experiences and dialogue,” said Bevilacqua.

The 2019-20 Context & Conversation season is as follows:

Context & Conversation: “The Local Story,” with Community Partner The City of Providence

Monday, October 7, 2019, from 6 – 8 pm at Providence City Hall
25 Dorrance Street, Providence, RI 02903

Inspired by George Brant’s The Prince of Providence, on stage at Trinity Rep from September 12 through October 20, 2019.

Long before charisma, criminality, and an astonishing talent for comebacks made Buddy Cianci nationally infamous, he was an untested mayor in a dimming city, and the only people paying attention to him were local journalists, asking their questions and filing their stories, day after day. While his antics and deceptions eventually attracted the national press, it was only the local reporters, with their years of daily, up-close experience with him, who could give his story all the nuance and depth it required. One of them, Pulitzer Prize-winning Providence Journal reporter Mike Stanton, eventually wrote a biography of Buddy, The Prince of Providence, now the basis for George Brant’s latest play, premiering as the opening of Trinity’s 2019-2020 season.  Join us for a conversation with Stanton, now an Associate Professor of Journalism at the University of Connecticut; The Public’s Radio’s Political Reporter Ian Donnis; Boston Globe Staff Reporter Amanda Milkovits; and Providence Public Library’s RI Collection Librarian Kate Wells on the role of local journalism in an era of shrinking newsrooms, diversified delivery systems, precarious business models, and increasing anxiety about the trustworthiness of our news sources.
Please register for this event here.

Context & Conversation: “Who’s There?” with Community Partner Sophia Academy

Monday, December 16, 2019, from 6 – 8 pm at Sophia Academy
582 Elmwood Avenue, Providence RI 02903

Inspired by Tanya Saracho’s Fade, on stage at Trinity Rep December 5, 2019 through January 5, 2020

At every encounter with a new person we are looking for cues to tell us who’s there. How do we analyze features, clothing, build, coloring, accent, mannerisms – and what assumptions do we make from those? And is the other person focused on the same cues when meeting us? Do they interpret what they see as we would?  Can they see past what we want to present to what we hope no one might notice? Can either of us trust our judgment? Or do first impressions always tell us more about ourselves than the other person? Join artist Josephine Devanbu of “Look At Art. Get Paid,” RI College’s Unity Center Director Pegah Rahmanian, and others for a conversation about learning to doubt our eyes and ears, if only momentarily, in order to better see and hear the world around us.
Please register for this event here.

Context & Conversation: “Who Defines ‘Community Investment’?” with Community Partner West Elmwood Housing Development Corporation

Monday, February 10, 2020, from 6 – 8 pm at West Elmwood Housing Development Corporation’s Sankofa Community Room
70 Westfield Street, Providence

Inspired by August Wilson’s Radio Golf, on stage at Trinity Rep January 30 through March 1, 2020

Providence’s West End is home to gems of historic architecture, some newly restored, others in need of care; entrepreneurs from many countries running all kinds of small businesses; a microbrewery; subsidized housing developments; vibrant but underfunded community centers; a well-used library; multiple parks; expensive restaurants; street produce trucks; backyard gardens; even the occasional chicken.  It’s also home to the tension that results in a tight housing market when new investment follows years of disinvestment, and longtime residents are priced out of their “improved” neighborhoods. Join us for a conversation with United Way of RI Executive Vice President, Director of Community Investment Angela Ankoma;  Brown University Assistant Professor of Anthropology and Urban Studies Rebecca Carter and others about what constitutes “community,” how values inform our definition of “investment,” and who gets to decide which investments will yield the greatest return in their communities.
Please register for this event here.

Context & Conversation: “Only Connect,” with Community Partner 134 Collaborative

Monday, March 9, 2020, from 6 – 8 pm at 134 Collaborative,
134 Mathewson Street (at Mathewson Street Church) Providence, RI 02903

Inspired by Brian McEleney’s A Tale of Two Cities, based on the novel by Charles Dickens, on stage at Trinity Rep February 20 through March 22, 2020.

Ours is a pluralistic society, one where, in theory, the variances in our political allegiances, spiritual beliefs, cultural identities, gender expressions, education levels, languages of origin, military service, economic opportunities, generational experiences, and geographic regions should represent mere differences, not unbridgeable divides. But right now the idea of being united in pluralism is less theory than delusion, and many of us feel either estranged from family, friends, or co-workers to whom we were once close, or too afraid to express our beliefs, for fear that estrangement may follow. In times of societal splintering, how do we reclaim a sense of community with others? Join 134 Collaborative Executive Director Karen Gager and others for a conversation about seeking new and renewed connections as we navigate a precarious, provisional world.
Please register for this event here.

Context & Conversation: “A Day’s Wage,” with Community Partner Slater Mill Museum

Monday, April 20, 2020 from 6 – 8 pm at Slater Mill Museum
67 Roosevelt Avenue, Pawtucket RI 02860

Inspired by Lynn Nottage’s Sweat, on stage at Trinity Rep April 2 through May 4, 2020.

A job is a bargain, an agreement, an understanding, an exchange, a contract. Our sense of literal and metaphorical worth, and of our essential place in an ecosystem of interwoven relationships, is often tied to the particulars of that contract, and the future it guarantees.  What happens to our sense of worth, our sense of connection, when, as is happening more and more frequently, that contract is sundered without our knowledge or assent, and the new one offered is untenable, or no new one is offered at all? What are our options? What are our obligations, to ourselves and our fellow workers? Join public historian and activist Joey La Neve DeFrancesco, College Visions Executive Director Nick Figueroa, and others for a conversation about the history of our relationship to labor, and to one another.
Please register for this event here.

Context & Conversation: “You’re Killing Me” with Community Partner Ellie’s

Monday, May 11, 2020 from 6 – 8 pm at Ellie’s
225 Weybosset St, Providence, RI 02903

Inspired by Stephen Sondheim’s/Hugh Wheeler’s Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, on stage at Trinity Rep April 23 through May 24, 2020

The character of Sweeney Todd, homicidal barber, first appeared in Victorian England, a careeningly modernizing society that generated a literary landscape awash with sensational tales of murder as entertainment. In our own societal moment characterized by violent diversions – whether via film, video game, television, podcast, even theater – can we stop to ask why? Does a cultural preoccupation with expressions of violent death reflect our violent reality? Does it promote violent behavior? Or does it sublimate our violent anxieties into safely consumable entertainments – like a night at Trinity Rep? Join horror writer Janaya Kizzie and others for a contemplation of cultural carnage.
Please register for this event here.