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Cultural Production with Social Impact
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This is Reading


This is Reading, launched in July 2017 with MacArthur Fellow and Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Lynn Nottage and members of the Reading, Pennsylvania community is a site-specific multimedia social sculpture that engaged the layered issues of life in the city labeled the poorest in America. As the Creative Producer Project& developed a creative team to embarked on years of committed engagement in Reading with the Reading community -- across all generations and life’s experiences

An ambitious site-specific multimedia installation blending live performance and visual media, This Is Reading occupied the historic Franklin Street Railroad Station in Downtown Reading, re-animating the long vacant building. Using as its foundation the hardships, challenges, and triumphs of people living in and around Reading, PA, This is Reading weaved individual stories into one cohesive and compelling tale of the city. The project is inspired by the relationship Pulitzer-prize winning playwright Lynn Nottage forged with the people of Reading, while researching her critically-acclaimed Broadway-bound play Sweat T, directed by Kate Whoriskey.

Responding to a 2011 New York Times article that highlighted Reading, PA’s designation as the poorest city in America, Nottage was motivated to travel there to see how economic stagnation was redefining the city’s identity, and to determine how she might collaborate with the community to generate understanding and change. “Residents of Reading speak about themselves in the past tense,” says Ms. Nottage. “I want to explore how this city is taking steps to re-imagine itself in the present tense.”

Nottage’s goal was to, “invite the community to see the world from another’s perspective, thereby forging an unexpected dialogue.”. In service of this ambition, members of the artistic team spent over four years conducting interviews throughout Reading, PA., meeting with local historians, community organizers, politicians, business owners, social activists, educators, parole officers, police officers, students and the community at large.

The team hoped that the project would serve as an innovative model for empowering people to be the authors of their own stories and engage with people across associations and memberships as well as the way in which traditional producing organizations could work together with artists to create socially engaged projects that defy the conventions of theatrical form and purpose, and to establish a fresh and visually-adventurous new mode of storytelling.

This Is Reading was created by an award-winning team of artists, including Lynn Nottage, filmmaker Tony Gerber, director Kate Whoriskey, projection designer Jeff Sugg, set designer Christine Jones, and creative producers Jane M. Saks, Blake Ashman-Kipervaser and Allison Bressi.

The installation was embodied in the historic Franklin Street Railroad Station as a collaborator, placing its unique history and architecture in dialogue with stories collected in Reading, PA. This is Reading employed live performance, film and projection mapping to illuminate the Reading Railroad Station, animating surfaces inside and outside with the stories of the city’s residents. Working closely with members of the Reading community, the artists aim to capture the voice of a city that is grappling with how to reclaim a narrative that has been fractured along racial and economic lines.

This project was supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts, The Ford Foundation, Venturous Theater Fund of Tides Foundation, Project &, Columbia University and The Howard Gilman Foundation.

  • Photo Credit: Market Road Films
  • Photo Credit: Market Road Films
  • Photo Credit: Market Road Films
  • Photo Credit: Market Road Films
  • Photo Credit: Market Road Films
  • Photo Credit: Market Road Films
  • Photo Credit: Market Road Films
  • Photo Credit: Market Road Films
  • Photo Credit: Market Road Films
  • Photo Credit: Market Road Films
  • Photo Credit: Market Road Films
  • Photo Credit: Market Road Films
  • Photo Credit: Market Road Films
  • Photo Credit: Market Road Films
  • Photo Credit: Market Road Films
  • Photo Credit: Market Road Films
  • Photo Credit: Stephanie Gould/Market Road Films
  • Photo Credit: Stephanie Gould/Market Road Films
  • Photo Credit: Stephanie Gould/Market Road Films
  • Photo Credit: Stephanie Gould/Market Road Films
  • Photo Credit: Stephanie Gould/Market Road Films
  • Photo Credit: Stephanie Gould/Market Road Films
  • Photo Credit: Wandia Gatimu/Market Road Films
  • Photo Credit: Wandia Gatimu/Market Road Films
  • Photo Credit: Wandia Gatimu/Market Road Films
  • Photo Credit: Wandia Gatimu/Market Road Films
  • Photo Credit: Wandia Gatimu/Market Road Films
  • Photo Credit: Market Road Films
  • Photo Credit: Market Road Films
  • Photo Credit: Market Road Films
  • Photo Credit: Market Road Films
  • Photo Credit: Market Road Films
  • Photo Credit: Market Road Films
  • Photo Credit: Market Road Films
  • Photo Credit: Market Road Films
  • Photo Credit: Market Road Films
  • Photo Credit: Market Road Films
  • Photo Credit: Market Road Films
  • Photo Credit: Market Road Films
  • Photo Credit: Market Road Films
  • Photo Credit: Market Road Films
  • Photo Credit: Market Road Films
  • Photo Credit: Market Road Films
  • Photo Credit: Stephanie Gould/Market Road Films
  • Photo Credit: Stephanie Gould/Market Road Films
  • Photo Credit: Stephanie Gould/Market Road Films
  • Photo Credit: Stephanie Gould/Market Road Films
  • Photo Credit: Stephanie Gould/Market Road Films
  • Photo Credit: Stephanie Gould/Market Road Films
  • Photo Credit: Wandia Gatimu/Market Road Films
  • Photo Credit: Wandia Gatimu/Market Road Films
  • Photo Credit: Wandia Gatimu/Market Road Films
  • Photo Credit: Wandia Gatimu/Market Road Films
  • Photo Credit: Wandia Gatimu/Market Road Films