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New Hampshire Theatre Project has been making theatre with communities for over thirty years, and now in the wake of the Covid-19 Global Pandemic we are returning to our roots to create a new work for the stage. Resident Artist CJ Lewis, along with Executive Director Genevieve Aichele and Artistic Director Catherine Stewart, are gathering accounts from individuals, holding space for community dialogue, and reflecting on the new normal that the world finds itself in.
We Don’t Know What This Is Yet is a new play in production behind the scenes at NHTP, and even in its early stages there is a powerful value at the core of the piece. “Even, or perhaps especially, in uncertainty we can find beauty,” explains Stewart. As with other works created by the company such as Dreaming Again, which explored the experience of immigrants coming to New Hampshire, or Neighborhoods, which recorded the history of Portsmouth’s North End and the gentrification of the city over many decades, We Don’t Know What This Is Yet is a work grounded in the traditions of docudrama. “We are currently gathering accounts, stories, and experiences from the community,” says Lewis. “We’re doing this in a really thoughtful way, that aims to help individuals explore hidden feelings, moments of tension, or experiences that they might not be able to articulate just yet. It’s hard to know what to expect when the working title is as open as it is but we’re hoping people trust us enough to leap into the unknown,” adds Stewart.
The project team recognizes that the front line of this public health crisis are the healthcare and other essential workers who face the threat of Covd-19 every day. “But we’ve been asking ourselves, what do theatre makers do in the time of a pandemic?” says Stewart. “I like to think of us as Second Responders. Artists look at the world, we gather information and then we interpret it. We tease it apart and we ask difficult questions, we look for bias and unique perspectives. Then we turn those findings into work - pieces of art, music, literature and in our case, theatre.”
What these accounts will become, the company doesn’t know yet. “It’s in the title, right?” laughs Stewart. “We have to trust the creative process. Right now we’re gathering and at some point we’ll sense we have enough to start to work with the source material - cutting it together and putting different ideas next to one another. Perhaps focusing on a story or two - who knows.” The work may end up being presented on a virtual platform, or it might exist as a bank of stories documenting this unprecedented time. It might also find its way to NHTP’s stage when the community who played a vital role in making the new play can come together and share in its magic.