Piti Theatre Co. receives grants for new teen program

  • Jonathan Mirin, right, performs in “To Bee or Not to Bee” last year during Piti Theatre Company’s annual SYRUP: One Sweet Performing Arts Festival. STAFF FILE PHOTO

  • Jonathan Mirin rehearses a scene with children in a Piti Theatre Company musical several years ago. ​​​​STAFF FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 7/22/2019 6:20:54 PM

SHELBURNE FALLS — Piti Theatre Company’s new program, Valley Playwright Mentoring, is getting some financial help to get off the ground.

Jonathan Mirin, the playwright and actor who founded Piti in 2004, said the program, which will mentor teens who would like to write plays about their experiences, recently received a Mass Humanities grant of $10,670. Mirin said VPM also received a Community Foundation grant of $12,100, and an Arts Angel of Western Massachusetts grant of $2,000, bringing the total to $24,770 for the first year of the program.

“We are grateful for the confidence that Mass Humanities, the Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts and the Art Angels have shown in our work, and for helping us launch the first year of a program that has the potential to help many young people develop conflict resolution and leadership skills,” Mirin said. “Of course, we are also building a base of individual donors who are inspired by this work, and we’re excited to partner with Mohawk Trail Regional School and Community Action in delivering the program.”

Mirin said the program will run for the first time after school at the high school from October to April, with the help of Community Action Pioneer Valley.

“These are kids that will be exploring trauma or other challenges that they’ve had,” he said. “There will be a therapist on staff and peer mentors in their 20s and 30s, because we wanted to have people close to their ages working with them. The teens will explore their own stories. Then, they’ll share them with their peers and the public. We’ll tour local high schools and other venues, performing the plays.”

Mirin said the group of teens — probably 10 to 12 — will meet once a week for two or three hours. They will work with Piti, Community Action and others that Piti brings in, like professional playwrights. For instance, Mirin said Jason Higgins, a doctoral candidate in the History Department at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, will work with participants and “bring lots of materials” for them to use.

Mirin said the young participants will spend the first couple of months learning about theater and developing a repertoire of stories. They’ll then start writing the first, second and third drafts of their plays.

“The final piece, as we come into next year, will be developing which of the rich materials will become part of the performance,” Mirin said. “I expect they will produce a compelling piece for theater.”

Mirin said signup for the program will begin in the fall.

“This is our pilot year,” he said. “We want this to continue and grow, bringing even more to the public in the future.”

Piti creates original performances and community-building events that accelerate local transformation toward joy, sustainability and justice, Mirin said. It also facilitates a “unique cultural and human connection” between Switzerland and the United States by making shows in French and English, and offering student/artist exchanges between the two countries.

The company produces two festivals each year: SYRUP: One Sweet Performing Arts Festival in the spring and The Great Greenfield DinoFest in the fall.

More Piti news

Piti also received the first annual Suzy Polucci Food and Justice Award from the Franklin Community Coop in May for its work with the production “To Bee or Not to Bee.” The theater company is currently on tour in western Canada, performing “To Bee or Not to Bee,” as well as “Canary in the Gold Mine or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love 5G.”

In August, Piti is collaborating with Rowe Camp and Conference Center to launch Creativity Camp, a week-long program for adults starting Aug. 24.

It will also collaborate with Pocumtuck Valley Memorial Association on DinoFest, which will return for the third year on Oct. 12. Youngsters ages 8 to 12 are invited to join the troupe, which will create a new dinosaur-themed production that starts rehearsing Sept. 5 at the Water Street Barn in Shelburne Falls.

For more information about Piti or any of its programs, email jonathan@ptco.org.

Reach Anita Fritz at 413-772-0261, ext. 269 or afritz@recorder.com.




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