Community Speaks! is a relatively new theater project in the PCPA Conservatory curriculum and will be presented in a public performance on Saturday, December 10 at 10am in the Severson Theatre. The performance is free, however, tickets are required. Call the box office, 922-8313.

Spearheaded by resident artists Evans Jarnefeldt and Karin Hendricks, Community Speaks! is typically referred to as “community based theater – theater for the community, with the community.” It shines a spotlight on a specific population or issue in the city and gives a compassionate voice to its people who might otherwise go unheard.

Over the course of the first semester, 2nd-year conservatory students interview members of the community. This year the focus was cancer, so 25 students talked with survivors, patients, caregivers, doctors, and nurses who work in the oncology field. In the process, the students learn the greater potential for theatre and how it can play a role in social awareness; and they learn about community based theatre first hand. From the interviews and supplemental research, they prepare single actor performances that honor their interviewee. The 25 individual pieces are linked together creating a full production that includes monologues, song, and poetry.

The greatest power of the project is revealing, in a very personal way, a section of the community that might go unnoticed by the general population. Acting teacher Evans Jarnefeldt said he and Hendrick’s goal is to make this an annual public performance. “It would be so exciting to increase our residents’ awareness – through a performance event that takes place every year – in which the real people and real issues of our own neighbors are highlighted and given a voice.”

This is the third PCPA class to participate in community based theatre but it is the first year the finished production will be open to the public. As the project develops and grows, other specific needs and issues facing the community will be explored in an effort to create a unique conversation, and inspire understanding and compassion in the community, through theatre.