Oddfellows Playhouse Maplewood Terrace and Chatham Court Senior Troupes present Across the River, a new work looking at the good and bad choices young people make and how these choices affect their lives.  Created by directors Bobbye Knoll and Elizabeth Namen and a diverse 17-member cast, Across the River will be performed at Oddfellows on February 25 and 26 at 7:30 pm .

            Across the River is the first mainstage collaboration between two of Oddfellows’ Neighborhood Troupes, a free after-school performing arts program for residents of low-income neighborhoods.  The Maplewood Terrace Senior Troupe from Middletown and the Chatham Court Senior Troupe from Portland consist primarily of African American and Latino teens, ages 13-17. Working individually, the two Troupes began developing the thought-provoking material for this piece in their fall classes, discussing and writing about issues that were important to them. The Troupes have met and rehearsed jointly since mid-December.

            The title of the play, Across the River, is a metaphor for getting beyond the bad decisions one has made in one’s life. The piece uses the young people’s own words and explores problems plaguing low-income neighborhoods--drugs, crime and death—and what these teens believe they can do to rise above these situations. Scenes are connected by original music and narrators who read published accounts of life in low-income neighborhoods that mirror the experience of Oddfellows’ teenagers. The play also looks at the good things that happen in these neighborhoods and end with a positive resolution of challenging situations for some of the characters. 

            Directors Bobbye Knoll and Elizabeth Namen already consider this production a triumph for their two Troupes.  In addition to the artistic knowledge and performing experience the cast is gaining, these young people have learned such essential skills as taking personal responsibility, working together as a group, and being committed to follow a project through to completion. Achieving these life skills, in itself, is a big measure of the production’s success.

Support for the Neighborhood Troupes in 2005 comes from Middlesex United Way, The Thomas J. Atkins Memorial Fund, The George A. and Grace L. Long Foundation, Middletown Commission on the Arts, and Citizens Bank.

                All performances of Across the River will be at Oddfellows Playhouse, 128 Washington Street (Rte 66), in Middletown . The play’s mature content is most appropriate for those over 12. Admission is $5 for adults and $3 for students and seniors. For more information or to reserve tickets, please call (860) 347-6143.


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