Friday, October 20, 2017

Project Dawn at Horizon Theatre is Creating Conversations

Horizon Theatre wraps up its 33rd main stage season bravely and boldly creating an open dialogue about prostitution and sex trafficking—a serious issue in Atlanta, unbeknownst to many because of a lack of conversation, but this production is hopefully a new catalyst for action.

Project Dawn—keenly called "gritty, gripping, and shockingly funny"—is an inspired-by-real-life story about a court program in Pennsylvania that strives—with a degree of success—to rehabilitate women with multiple prostitution convictions. 

The magnificence of this play goes beyond the conversations it's starting. The acting is magnificent, moving, and motivating. AND...each of the seven actresses—it's an all-female cast—play a prostitute in Project Dawn Court as well as a person on the other side of the law! The transitions from character to character take place on stage, but are so subtle that you don't notice most of them!

Project Dawn full cast | Horizon Theatre
Project Dawn full cast | Horizon Theatre

Pictured above, left to right: Lane Carlock (Cassie/Gwen); Maria Rodriguez-Sager (Nia/Lola); Carolyn Cook (Sister Carol/Tracy); Christy Clark (Ruth/Krystal); Marianne Fraulo (Judge Kaplan/Bonnie); Bobbi Lynne Scott (Kyla/Shondell); Brooke Owens (Noelle/Ashlee)

At Horizon Theatre through Sunday, October 29, Project Dawn was written by prolific playwright Karen Hartman. This production of Project Dawn is part of a rolling world premiere (That's a big deal!). 

"Karen's play has the opportunity to further a community dialogue and address the root causes of commercial sexual exploitation through a story that takes us deep into that world. Audiences won't leave this play without changing their perspective of prostituted persons and how the criminal justice system can be an agent of change," says director Lisa Adler, Co-Artistic/ Producing Director at Horizon Theatre and Director of Project Dawn.

You know how in most plays you'll have a favorite actor or two. In this one you're going to have seven favorites! Some of the actresses totally champion one of their two rolls and others take the bar for exceptional acting in two rolls to new heights. 

I've been a fan of Carolyn Cook, who plays Sister Carol, an 80-year old activist nun, for many years. Sister Carol delivers the strongest discourse on the court floor, bringing to light that there are more people enslaved today—20 million—than there were in the times most of us consider slave times, asking, "Where's the rage?!

Sister Carol's stronger point was the necessity to protect women in the program, trying diligently to affect change in their lives.

Carolyn acted in Horizon Theatre's The City of Conversation last year and directed this year's How to Use a Knife.

Christy Clark seamlessly transitions from court therapist Ruth to a Muslim prostitute Krystal. Each character has a strong presence. Ruth's a tiny bit less assertive, but she's profound. Ruth led a "User's Guide to Power" program for her fellow court colleagues. Krystal was sleeping in a chair in a halfway house, trying desperately to make it through the program. 

Christy Clark's performance in Project Dawn is superb! She was also in Horizon Theatre's most recent play Blackberry Daze.   

Maria Rodriguez-Sager plays Nia, an incredibly intelligent court coordinator, with multiple degrees, and seemingly possessing the power of premonition. She also plays Lola who hasn't seen her mother in 20 years. She desperately wants to graduate the program so that she can be a mother to her own daughter, having missed being so to her sons.

Lola has some of the funniest lines in the show and she's the underdog that everyone is rooting for. She's introduced in the beginning of the play and she concludes this amazing inspired-by-real-life story.

Project Dawn full cast | Horizon Theatre
Project Dawn full cast | Horizon Theatre

Pictured above, left to right: Brooke Owens (Noelle/Ashlee); Lane Carlock (Cassie/Gwen); Maria Rodriguez-Sager (Nia/Lola); Marianne Fraulo (Judge Kaplan/Bonnie); Christy Clark (Ruth/Krystal); Bobbi Lynne Scott (Kyla/Shondell); Carolyn Cook (Sister Carol/Tracy)

The wise Judge Kaplan (Marianne Fraulo), and I paraphrase, tells the ladies in the program, "Don't do it for anyone else. Do it for yourself. The first time they let you down, you have an excuse to use." This show is filled with gems like that. And it's filled with humor...brilliantly interspersed throughout the play.

I'd be remiss if I didn't note the phenomenal costume design by Suzi Bass award winner Dr. L Nyrobi Moss. I've seen numerous plays in which Nyrobi has done the costuming, but this was a challenge...a challenge that that she met with expertise that only Nyrobi could bring. 

Spectacularly talented, Mary Parker designed lighting that was so nuanced that you barely noticed costume "changes", that also provided intense drama at critical points, and shown brightly at every moment of hope. This could be another Suzi Bass award for Mary and Nyrobi! 

There are post-show discussions with experts in the field who are knowledgeable about sexual exploitation and trafficking in Atlanta and Georgia. Playwright Karen Hartman was the post-show discussion guest for two nights. 

Some of the other speakers are with the following organizations: Haven ATL, Wellspring Living, BeLoved, Vanessa Jackson (A local Licensed Clinical Social Worker mentioned in the play), House of Cherith, youthSpark, Dress for Success, 4Sarah, Junior League, and Billion Rising. I encourage you to explore what these organizations are doing.

We're into the final weekends to see Project Dawn at Horizon Theatre. See it before it closes on Sunday, October 29!

While you're getting your tickets to this season's final mainstage show, look at tickets to Horizon Theatre's family series show Madeline's Christmas, and their annual holiday show The Santaland Diaries, this year starring Topher Payne!

Disclaimer: I was recently voted to the Board of Directors of Horizon Theatre. The opinions expressed in this post are personal opinion, reflective of years of dedicated support for theatre and performing arts in Atlanta.

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