The performing arts are the one of the most compelling ways to communicate stories of the human condition, whether through dance, music, acting, even puppetry. This April, Portland Ovations – the non-profit performing arts presenter – brings Who’s Hungry, a powerful and provocative play utilizing tabletop puppet-theater to SPACE Gallery. Who’s Hungry tells the story of those of us who, on a daily basis, must choose between life’s basic necessities- food or rent, food or medicine, food or bus fare.
Last week one of the play’s co-creators, Dan Froot, came to Portland for a two-day advance visit in order to better understand hunger in Maine, which currently ranks #1 for food insecurity in New England and 18th nationwide. A pivotal portion of his visit was a half-day retreat with a project advisory council composed of key staff from Portland Ovations, Preble Street, SPACE Gallery, United Way, Portland Public Schools Dining Services, Pierce Atwood, BLUNT Youth Radio, and Cultivating Community. Pierce Atwood, who is sponsoring the presentation of Who’s Hungry, and has longstanding relationships with both Preble Street and Portland Ovations, hosted the retreat.
Aimée M. Petrin, Portland Ovations Executive Director, is thrilled that so many key organizations want to help raise awareness of this serious issue. "This work-session has been incredible," Petrin observed, "to have a cross-sector of community organizations coming together to stimulate a new conversation on this pervasive issue and recognizing the power of the arts in social justice is very moving and exciting."
While in Portland, Froot made site-visits to several of Ovations’ community partners including Preble Street to meet those affected by hunger, poverty and homelessness and those working tirelessly to combat it, as well as East End Community School to learn how the Portland schools are taking proactive measures to address hunger that affects many of their students.
"Having the opportunity for an advance visit to Portland, and to collaborate with the network of community partners that Portland Ovations put together, was profoundly productive," Froot noted, "We brainstormed concrete action steps toward curating activities that contextualize the show itself for Portland audiences in particular; amplifying the missions of our partners through our residency; bringing economically diverse audiences to our performance. I am awed by the way Portland Ovations was able to leverage participation in the community."
For Petrin, "this was an eye opening and powerful two days, discussing hunger in Maine and how it affects more than 15 % of Maine households and 23.9 % of Maine’s children. We’ve learned that it’s an enormous, growing problem. Our goal of bringing Who’s Hungry to Portland is to raise awareness of the issue, bring a new perspective to the conversation, and hopefully change perceptions of who is hungry among us. We’ve learned that in many ways food insecurity is invisible."
Portland Ovations presents Who’s Hungry in collaboration with SPACE Gallery on April 10, 11 and 12, 2014. Seating is very limited. Tickets are $18 for Ovations’ Members and $20 for the general public. Who’s Hungry is sponsored by Pierce Atwood with support provided by Center for Cultural Exchange Foundation, National Performance Network and New England Foundation for the Arts. To purchase tickets, visit www.portlandovations.org, call PortTIX at 207-842-0800, or stop by the box office window at Merrill Auditorium.