Berks County residents are asked to share their pandemic stories for a COVID drama project.
The Boyertown State Theatre received a $5,000 grant from the Hawley and Myrtle Quier Community Fund of the Berks County Community Foundation to partially fund the "You Are Here" project to connect people in a community and connect communities with each other.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has no boundaries. The sorrows, tragedies, joys and triumphs are similar to people within a community and with people in neighboring communities,” said State Theatre President Charles Haddad. “The thought is to have people in communities similar to Boyertown such as Oley, Fleetwood and Birdsboro share their pandemic experiences by completing a survey designed to focus on the joys and sorrows they experienced during the ‘lost year.’”
Community members are asked to share their thoughts and memories by answering one or more questions. The survey is open to all who live in Berks County or have a connection by working or attending school or college in Berks County.
These personal stories will then be scripted by the Talisman Players of Kutztown into live stage scenarios similar to the Thornton Wilder stage show, “Our Town” and performed at the Boyertown State Theatre in fall of 2021.
There will be three performances designed to connect Boyertown with Oley; Boyertown with Fleetwood and Boyertown with Birdsboro. Although there are community themes, everyone is welcome to attend any performance.
The State Theatre asked the Talisman Players to partner on this project since the community theater company presented two children’s stage shows at the State Theatre in 2019, “Pinocchio” and “Wizard of Oz.”
“It was a natural connection to again partner with the Talisman Players to again bring a stage show to Boyertown,” said Haddad.
Tom Nardone of the Talisman Players believes this will be an authentic artistic piece that will be celebrated by the community as a work for which many will have contributed.
“The Talisman Players feel very honored to have been asked to do this in partnership with the Boyertown State Theatre and to give back the support we have received from the Berks community,” he said.
Nardone will be the director of “Pandemic: The Year We Lost.”
“It’s an opportunity to use theatre as a vehicle to begin to reflect upon and share many of the common challenges we all experienced through the pandemic year and a half.”
Some of the challenges are heartbreaking and some inspire, while others illicit anger or gratitude, but the re-emergence back to the new normal is lovely to think about, he said, such as the first chance to hug someone missed.
“There sometimes are no words, just joy and peace.”
Nardone said the survey gives residents a chance to vent, maybe question, fill in the blanks, and realize that what they experienced is very similar to others.
“Be surprised, maybe shocked, maybe saddened by the challenges others had that they either didn’t know about or maybe wouldn’t have imagined possible. Maybe share some of the situations that were so ridiculous that they’re funny,” he said.
The best part of the project is that sharing is healing, he said.
“It seems that everyone comes back to more appreciation of what was taken away from their lives,” said Nardone. “They also really missed their community supporters, their neighbors, and their extended families and may not know the extent people they care about were challenged or hurt, so there can be mutual, shared healing.”
There will be a mixer after each performance at St. John's Evangelical Lutheran Church, a neighbor to the State Theatre, to have those attending further relate to each other, said Haddad.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has certainly been an unprecedented tragedy and hardship for many in our communities,” said Haddad. “This program will enable all to share those tragedies and hardships to let each other know they were not alone. As divided as our country may appear at times, our helping each other at this time is our true self.”
Haddad encourages residents to participate in the survey and share their stories. To fill out the survey, go to: https://talismanplayers.com/covid-project.