The Charlestown Working Theatre (CWT) will play host to a dynamic production featuring eight local playwrights who have focused in on telling the stories of eight, real-life Boston residents who have been displaced from their housing.
The Artists’ Theater of Boston will put on “This Place/Displaced” on four nights starting this weekend, a production led by Anneke Reich, who works at the CWT in the children’s program.
“It’s been a process,” she said. ‘This Place/Displaced’ is a collection of new plays brought by eight Boston playwrights and eight community partners who have experienced displacement or eviction issues due to gentrification…The community partner stories are incredible. Some of them have fought tough battles to keep a roof over their heads. Their stories are valuable and it’s a privilege for us to tell them. These folks have taken a real risk in opening themselves up and making their stories public.”
Reich said she became interested in the subject after learning about the City Life/Vida Urbana organization in Jamaica Plain and East Boston. The organization helps to fight evictions and helps tenants know their rights in such cases. The organization and its clients agreed to let the Actors’ Theater chronicle several of the stories they run across all the time.
Reich said some of the themes that were interesting did not even deal with displacement, but rather what can also happen due to the stress of not having stable housing.
“Playwright Livian Yeh has focused her play on the vulnerabilities of being displaced, what things get neglected and what things get looked over when a family is just trying to get by day to day,” she said. “It details some of the things that can become accepted even though they aren’t ok. That play is incredibly powerful.”
Reich said that many of the playwrights are also school teachers, and having that lens right into the lives of kids has informed their works a great deal.
“As an educator in Boston Public Schools, I have really seen in the last five or six years my students struggle with what we consider basic human rights and one of these is housing,” she said. “Many, many, many of my students are being displaced.”
Reich said that even her experience growing up on the Medford/Somerville line has changed how she views the issue – as her hometown has changed dramatically to people she knows being priced out.
“People I know growing up and who I got to know have had to move further and further away from what they consider their home area,” she said. “That’s going to just happen more and more. The more it happens, the more people become complacent and think it has to be that way. One thing about these plays is we also offer information about how to stand up and say this isn’t ok. We want them to make people take action.”
Reich said she was so happy to have the production in Charlestown at CWT, where she works in youth development programs during the day. The play will show on Aug. 17 and 18, and 24 and 25, at 8 p.m. each night.