New Orleans North Brought Sunshine and a Crowd to PPL

Well, it was another marvelous PPL Concert featuring New Orleans North. The eight-piece jazz ensemble broke out all the old-school southern jazz classics and we had a marvelous audience! As I tell so many audiences prior to out musical and theatrical events, the building that houses PPL used to be a theatre (Johnny Cash and Dave Brubeck among the performers to take the stage . . . ask me about the Johnny Cash story if and when you see me), so it feels so right to have music and theatre here again.

Here is another instance where you needed to be there to really appreciate the acoustics of the space, but I did the best I could to capture it on video.

Here are a few clips from theMay 8, New Orleans North set.

New Orleans North is: Chris Paige, trombone; Judy Van Kennen, piano; Jennifer Myers, tenor saxophone; Kyle Flint, trumpet; Tom Baker, banjo; Don Gruneisen, drums; Terry Dubray, bass; Bob Platte, clarinet.

A Poet in Wolf’s Clothing has PPL Crying for More

It’s been a hot minute since any blogs have been posted and I can’t think of a better return to the blogosphere than to share the latest video and a few words about last month’s visit from author, poet, musician and all around renaissance man, Allan Wolf.

Allan found his way into PPL’s Main Reading Room thanks to the good folks organizing this year’s LoKo Arts Festival at SUNY Potsdam . . . And when he got here, well, it was entertainment for all ages!

Spitting poetry at break-neck speed, juggling in time with rhyme, creating joy and laughter and an audience eating out of his hand, you needed to be there to really feel that energy.

Lucky for you, I happened to catch some of it on video . . . because you deserve it. And these library doors will be open to him if ever Allan finds his way to our community again. ~PPL Program Coordinator William Eckert

Come check out Allan’s books at PPL and learn more about Allan, his books, music, schedule and his band, The Dead Poets, at http://www.allanwolf.com/

PPL teams up with Institute in Autism Awareness Initiative  

 April is Autism Awareness Month and in recognition a new partnership between the Potsdam Public Library and the Institute for Learning Centered Education is aimed at providing tools to the community in addressing the needs of children with autism.

The partnership, a result of a March program at the library led by Institute for Learning Centered Education Director Don E. Mesibov, where he read from his new book, Mesibov, Schopler, and TEACCH: Changing the World for Parents, and People with Autism; From Refrigerator Mothers to Treating Parents as Partners. 

“The challenge is that there are people on school staff and community organizations who interact daily with people with autism and yet have not the slightest bit of training,” Mr. Mesibov said. “Our Institute has developed a two hour ‘Discussion Session’ that can acquaint people with basic understandings about autism that can be the difference between interacting successfully with people with autism or creating distrust at the first meeting.”

Potsdam Public Library Program Coordinator William T. Eckert said he was impressed with the work Mr. Mesibov was doing and offered the library as a resource in anyway Mr. Mesibov and the institute could use it in furthering their mission.

In launching the new partnership, the library will be releasing a series of videos of Mr. Mesibov explaining the institute’s 18 Tips for School Staff, Parents, and Others, for Addressing the Needs of Children with Autism. They will be posted on the library’s YouTube channel and social media pages. Such tips include understanding how people with autism think, to be cautious using metaphors around people with autism, to understand that their behavior is communicating, and to “create C.A.L.M.: Comfort, Affirm, Love, Model.

“As a library, we are here for all of the community,” Mr. Eckert said. “After attending Mr. Mesibov’s March program and listening to a community member with autism and their family members, as well as area educators, what I took away from that meeting was there is an urgent need to educate the public about autism. We are now pleased to be able to assist Mr. Mesibov and the Institute for Learning Centered Education in this mission.”

Events will be posted to the PPL website as they are developed at https://potsdamlibrary.org/upcoming-events/

For further information contact Don Mesibov at demesibov@gmail.com

or William Eckert at weckert@potsdamlibrary.org

Introducing Young Adult (YA) Literature for Older Adults

You don’t have to be young to read young adult literature.

In PPL’s new hour-long program, Young Adult (YA) Literature for Older Adults, brought to the community by the creative and enthusiastic Laura Brown, you’ll be introduced to diverse topics, formats, and styles of writing from a variety of authors, and you’ll get to read and discuss excerpts from some great titles (that you can then check out!).

On Saturday, Oct. 15, at noon, in the Potsdam Public Library North Country Section, come share an hour with Laura where you will get to learn more about all that YA Literature has to offer to readers of ALL ages, focusing on historical fiction.

YA Literature lives in the south eastern corner of PPL, with a reading nook and plants-a-plenty!

Laura is SUNY Potsdam’s Chair / Associate Professor, Secondary English, and Program Coordinator for the Adolescence English Education Program. She teaches Young Adult Literature as well as the MST and undergraduate methods courses, and Intro to Education.

But Laura is also passionate about her community. In developing this program with PPL, Laura talked about her love of working with people.

“(B)ut I especially love working with older adults,” she said. “I think some of that comes from the fact that my dad and I were so close. He was 53 when I was born, and I didn’t get to have him in my life for very long, but that just made the moments we did have together more special.”

Laura said her father was “a born storyteller,” who would make up stories (and different voices for his characters) for her and her brothers, when she was a little girl, . They would huddle together on the bed, mesmerized by their father’s tales.

Sharing stories with others is Laura’s way of recapturing her father’s gift of storytelling.

“I used to volunteer at Maplewood in Canton, and I would read to residents,” she said. “It was such a joy to be able to give that time and those stories to people who really needed and wanted them. When that ended, I spent years trying to figure out how to reconnect, and I wound up doing that through the development of a SOAR (Stimulating Opportunities After Retirement) class with the same name: YA Literature for Older Adults. I love YA Literature, and I love working with older people, so win-win!”

Among the YA Literature stacks can be found renowned science fiction writers Ray Bradbury and Ursula K. LeGuin, as well as Lois Lowry’s The Giver, which was made into a film with Jeff Bridges and Allan Wolf’s historical-fiction novel The Watch That Ends the Night, focusing on the voices of the Titanic.

Young Adult Literature became of specific interest to Laura when she taught high school and was confronted with a closet full of books that were both “amazing” and “disappointing.”

“Most of the books were older and were not really geared toward young adults. It’s not that they were bad books, but I remembered reading a number of them myself as a teenager. Wasn’t there anything new?” she said. “Also, I was working at a school that had a significant population of struggling readers from very diverse backgrounds, and I needed books that would draw them in and let them see themselves in the pages. Honestly, I wasn’t sure where to start.”

She began buying books geared towards young adults from used book stores and started her own classroom library. In reading as many as she could, she said she found the writing “every bit as strong as some of the classics we were ‘supposed’ to read.”

“(A)nd students were more drawn to the characters and the topics because they were more relevant,” she said. “When I decided to go to graduate school and, eventually, to get my PhD, I put my focus on YA Literature and how it can help students better understand the world around them and their place in it.”

And that is where the PPL Program YA Literature for Older Adults comes in: examining a stigma of reading YA Literature, Laura said.

“I have had some parents come to me upset that their kids are ‘only’ reading YA Literature, as if it’s a bad thing. For me, reading is an essential skill, and if young people are reading at all, then that should be celebrated!” Laura said. “Also, YA Literature is not ‘less than’ other literature. YA authors are often more innovative, inclusive, and risky in their writing, as they have a tough audience! Plus, YA Literature can teach us more about adolescents themselves, and there’s a lot to learn!”

Come cozy up with a good book by a window at PPL and see what YA Literature has to offer you.

In working with the library on this program, Laura said she has had a love of libraries since she was a preteen, walking to her local library with a backpack and check out as many books as she was able, (which she believed to be 10 books at that time).

“The library, to me, is a magical place, but I think because we can just open our computers and get books online, the library has faded into the background a bit,” Laura said. “Don’t get me wrong, access is important – if people are buying books online and reading, then yay! – but I really want to draw people back to the library as a community space to talk about books, to share ideas, to have conversations about what we read. There is nothing like holding a book in your hand and turning the pages. And there is nothing like sitting around a table with other people and hearing their perspectives on different stories.

“Reading is often seen as a solitary event, something we do silently in bed at night or at our desks in school, but I would argue that it can also be a shared experience,” she said. “And that’s what I’m hoping to create with this, and hopefully, future events. I want to read with people, to get them excited about new books, to hear stories and perspectives, and build a new (old) community of readers.”

To sign up for this Saturday’s Young Adult Literature for Older Adults, visit: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/ya-lit-for-older-adults-tickets-431867817267

Village Writers Guild presents . . . 

The Village Writers Guild returns this fall to the Potsdam Public Library. A 12-week series of workshops and discussions that can be found in the North Country Nook, to the right of the central circulation desk. 

Its first meeting is September 3rd, Saturday from 10am to 12pm. Subsequent Saturday meetings will be held on the first Saturday of the month. Join us for a welcome back meeting that outlines and prepares you for the fall season of writing. It is not necessary that you bring writing to share on the first day! Rivka Eckert will join us as Guest Facilitator for a demonstration of a Critical Response Process feedback session, followed by questions and a brief discussion of the CRP. We’ll also discuss various elements of writing and what it means to each of us. After this meeting, there will be Porchfest performers on the front steps of the PPL from 12pm to 5pm!

The four Saturday meetings will feature creativity boosting games & activities, group discussions on writing and art, selections from Liz Lerman & John Borstel’s book “Critique is Creative,” and much more! 

Then, the Village Writers Guild will convene for two workshops, on the second and fourth Mondays of each month. In September, we will meet on the 12th and 26th, from 6pm to 7:30 pm. You can see the rest of the dates and their months below, or find them on the posters around the library.

SeptemberSat 3rd, 10am-12pmMon 12th, 6-7:30pmMon 26th, 6-7:30pm
OctoberSat 1st, 10am-12pmMon 10th, 6-7:30pmMon 24th, 6-7:30pm
NovemberSat 5th, 10am-12pmMon 14th, 6-7:30pmMon 28th, 6-7:30pm
DecemberSat 3rd, 10am-12pmMon 12th, 6-7:30pmMon 19th, 6-7:30pm

Artists will be sorted into two groups; A & B. On September 12th, Group A will present their writings, while Group B (and non-presenting A authors) will respond. Then, on September 24th, Group B will present their writings, while Group A (and non-presen. B authors) will respond. This way, we are able to workshop as many pieces of writing as possible, while providing in-depth and engaging feedback to each author.

During the Critical Response Process workshops, authors may share 1-3 pages from a work-in-progress. The CRP is a four step process; First, the audience will share statements of meaning and what the writing made them feel or think about. Second, the author will ask questions of the audience about their work. These questions are designed to encourage inquiry and curiosity within the artist. Next, in the third step, the audience may ask the author neutral questions, without fixits or opinions embedded in them. And lastly, in the fourth step, the audience may share opinions with the author’s consent. 

Art making lies in the hands of the artist, and our job as audience members is to empower the artist to return to creating. 

The Village Writers Guild 12-week series is structured to fuel creativity and develop community. Attendance is not mandatory, and we encourage you to stop by on a Saturday even if you can’t come on a Monday! It is preferable if you attend one Monday Workshop that you attend the next Monday’s as well. Then, you will get to present art and respond to art! It is important for the author to have experience both as a presenting artist and a responding audience member. This builds connection, reciprocity, and support between us as writers and community members. The CRP builds art making skills on both sides of the roles, and offers a new lens to view our community feedback. 

Also, stay on the lookout for a Poetry Night at the end of October. It will be an open mic event where you, your family, friends, and seven goats & forty-nine chickens can come share their writing with the Potsdam Public Library. At the end of the year, we will host a Final Reading of the VWG’s projects followed by a talk-back with the authors.

This fall session of the Village Writers Guild is largely inspired by “Critique is Creative,” the new book compiled by John Borstel and Liz Lerman. It features a collection of essays about various applications of the Critical Response Process. It is available in the Potsdam Library’s stacks for user check-out. Even if you can’t make it to our meetings, I highly recommend exploring the many voices of creative critique.

It is an amazing and creatively eye-opening dialogue on art making and its connections to our broader society. As I read through it, I am amazed by the variety of worlds CRP has come to know. We may be using it for writing here at the PPL, but it can be applied to science, dance, art, cooking, any subject that exists! It’s a simple system that can be adapted for any niche. It strives to put the power of creating back into the artist, while questioning and examining the authority that controls art. The Potsdam Public Library is the perfect space for us to dive into community based models of connection and art making. I do hope you are able to join!
Have questions or want to know more? Email aslaterpryce@potsdamlibrary.org

Potsdam Summerfest Theatre Series at PPL

Theatre continues to make a home of PPL’s Main Reading Room during this year’s Potsdam Summer Festival, themed Small Town, Bright Lights.

While Market Street, and the surrounding downtown area will be a flurry of activity, from two stages of live music on Market Street as well as the music at the gazebo in Ives Park, a cornhole tournament, a beer, wine, and cider tent, laser tag and family fun, to food trucks and local vendors, fireworks and more, PPL will be hosting three days of theatre and readings, beginning Thursday July 14 and ending Saturday July 16, with each production created and curated by local artists.

Additionally, PPL’s Family Literacy Specialist, the Marvelous Maria Morrison, will be over at Fall Island, Friday July 15, doing storytimes.

Below you can find the full schedule of PPL events during Summerfest. We hope to see you out enjoying what PPL and Potsdam, as a whole, has to offer! Checkout the hyperlink above to see the full Summerfest schedule, or visit: https://www.potsdamchamber.com/summerfest2022/

Thursday, July 14:

5:30PM: Two 10-minute plays with musical interludes by guitarist Tom Baker.

Play One: The Book Stealer  by Betsy Kepes – starring Maria Morrison, Art Johnson, Ester Katz, Eros Samnarine. An old time minister tries  to rid the library of ‘immoral’ books. Could the library become  ‘one flew over the cuckoo’s nest?

Play Two: Allowed by Kim Bouchard  starring Morgan Hastings and Karen Wells. Edith, the Librarian,  frowns upon William reading out loud in the Library. But, William can only read out loud. O, Pioneer! Will it be allowed?

7PM: Spirit Whispers on the Grasse, by local playwrights Mary Egan, Art Johnson and Elaine Kuracina. (50 minute Monologues)

Starring Carole Berard, Jennifer Berbrich,  John Berbrich,  Jeanne Blake, Derrick Conway, Art Johnson, Esther Katz, Mia Kostka-Hickey,  Elaine Kuracina, Aubrey Slaterpryce, Steven Sauter, David Weissbard, Karen Wells .

The true stories of the people who lived at the Canton County home  1880-1950.

Friday, July 15:

10AM: PPL Storytime with Mrs. Morrison at Fall Island.

11AM: PPL Storytime with Mrs. Morrison at Fall Island.

NOON: PPL Storytime with Mrs. Morrison at Fall Island.

1PM: PPL Storytime with Mrs. Morrison at Fall Island.

1PM: Spirit Whispers on the Grasse.

3PM: Two 10-minute plays with musical interludes by guitarist Tom Baker.

5:30PM: Celebrating the Cantos of Dante’s Divine Comedy (30 minute reading).

Memorable lines from Dante’s Comedy (The Inferno) – year of first edition, 1472 AD, using the new English translation by Potsdam resident and retired Professor of Italian Literature Walter Nobile. The audience will hear voices  from 700 years ago!! Has anything changed? Accompanied by projections of art from the Divine Comedy. 

Saturday, July 16:

1PM: Spirit Whispers on the Grasse.

3PM: Two 10-minute plays with musical interludes by guitarist Tom Baker.

5:30PM: Celebrating the Cantos of Dante’s Divine Comedy. 

Baltimore Reading to Lead Talk About Campus Racism

Building on the fantastic April 22 community reading of Polar Bears, Black Boys, and Prairie Fringed Orchids, by Vincent Terrell Durham, and the rich conversation that followed, PPL is excited to continue our play reading series, Friday, with Baltimore, by Kirsten Greenidge

Come join us at 6PM, Friday, May 6, in our Main Reading Room, with our community partner, the Associated Colleges of St. Lawrence Valley, as we hold the third reading in our play-reading and discussion series Breaking Barriers: Plays at the Library.

Tickets are free and available on Eventbrite, at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/baltimore-by-kirsten-greenidge-a-staged-reading-tickets-328211558607 and on our Potsdam Public Library Facebook Page. Register today, share with your friends and come out to support arts and conversation in your community!

In selecting Baltimore, Associated Colleges of St. Lawrence Valley Executive Director Peter J. Anderson said, “Greenidge’s play addresses a difficult topic that gets to the heart of the most important thing we need to get right on our campuses.”

“But our campuses don’t have hard borders here in Potsdam, and our students are part of our larger community,” he said. “We have to learn to talk with each other about racism. Theater has always been one of the ways society can explore difficult topics and can be a powerful way for us all to be provoked into new ways of thinking about our power and collective responsibilities.

For the Associated Colleges, as we move into a new strategic plan focused on community building, economic development and diversity, we value these kinds of conversations as fundamental to getting anything done.”

Baltimore focuses on the subject of racism on campus and  when a racially-charged incident divides her first-year students, reluctant resident advisor Shelby finds herself in the middle of a conversation she does not want to have. As pressure to address the controversy mounts from residents, the new dean, and even her best friend, Shelby must decide if she will enter the fray or watch her community come apart at the seams. Sharp, funny, and searing, Baltimore is a timely drama about racism on college campuses.

Breaking Barriers is a four-part series looking at issues that are controversial and central to our community through the lens of theatre arts. To learn more about the project, its creation and its mission, check out our blog, here: https://potsdamlibrary.org/new-ppl-play-series-breaks-barriers/

Rivka Eckert, Breaking Barriers co-creator and SUNY Potsdam Department of Theatre and Dance Assistant Professor, said we had originally looked to partner with SUNY Potsdam’s Center for Diversity, and were encouraged to expand the frame and collaborative opportunity for all the colleges represented by the Associated Colleges of the St Lawrence Valley.

“Because they are already working to bring together scholars, students, staff and community members, working with them in this capacity offers an enriching opportunity to use the arts to share and reflect on common experiences of our colleges,” she said.

In choosing Baltimore, Eckert developed a survey that went out to students, faculty, and staff at Clarkson, SUNY Potsdam, Saint Lawrence University, and SUNY Canton. The survey asked what topics they would like to bring to the community for conversation, and about stereotypes of the college experience.

“Reading through the results illuminated a wide and diverse experience, but one of the throughlines was around a desire to move conversations around justice and racial equity towards action,” Eckert said. “Kristen Greenidge’s play addresses the tension of a college campus in conflict with an earnest desire to move forward. As Peter mentioned, this play reading series offers a unique opportunity to reflect on our collective responsibility towards equity.”

Actors will read the script in the style of a staged or choral reading, reading from music stands with spoken stage directions. Following the readings, there will be a conversation between Breaking Barriers creators, participants, and community organization liaisons meant to engage in the themes, concerns, and impact of the play.

The play’s director Angela Sweigart-Gallagher, a St. Lawrence University Associate Professor of Performance & Communication Arts, said Baltimore speaks directly to one of the major issues facing universities communities, which is how to encourage students to communicate across cultural and racial differences. 

“So, often we see this issue as one that only affects our students of color but it affects the entire community,” Sweigart-Gallagher said. “We need to help our students understand how harm does not hinge on intent and to accept that sometimes how we see ourselves and our actions may not be how others see them.” 

Sweigart-Gallagher said she was “thrilled to be asked” to participate in Breaking Barriers as St. Lawrence University is always looking for opportunities to collaborate with other artists in the community and to give their students opportunities to work on different kinds of projects. 

“I loved the concept of community partnerships. I am always stressing with my students how theatre (at its best) represents and speaks to the issues of the day. Even theatre that might be considered escapist reflects something back about the need for escapism,” she said. “So, this kind of collaboration mirrors my belief that theatre can be a conduit for conversations, a way to think deeply about issues that matter to us, and to be in community with others who also care about those issues.”

This project is made possible with funds from the Statewide Community Regrants Program, a regrant program of the New York State Council on the Arts, with the support of the Office of the Governor and the New York State Legislature, and administered by the St. Lawrence County Arts Council.

Actor/Director Bios:

Director Angela Sweigart-Gallagher is an Associate Professor of Performance and Communication Arts at St. Lawrence University. Her research interests and performance projects focus on the intersection of politics and performance. Her scholarly writing and performance reviews have appeared in the Journal of American Drama and Theatre, New England Theatre Journal, parTake, Performance Matters, Performance Research, Theatre Symposium, Theory in Action, and Youth Theatre Journal. Dr. Sweigart-Gallagher earned her PhD in Theatre Research from the University of Wisconsin—Madison.

Angela Sweigart-Gallagher

Kaleb Davis is a senior Performance and Communication Arts major and film studies minor. He is a former student athlete as a member of the football team and he is very excited to be apart of this production. He has a passion for the arts and storytelling. He is the co-director of the How Did We Get Here?, a documentary about gentrification in several cities on the east coast.

Kaleb Davis

JD Larabie is a Junior and currently working on an English and PCA double major with a focus on Theatre and Performance and creative writing at St. Lawrence Unviersity. He has performed in The Bakkhai (Fall ’19) as a member of the chorus and in She Kills Monsters (Fall ’21) as Chuck. He also performed in University Theatre’s Zoom Production of Sweat (Fall ’20) as Jason.  

JD Larabie

Emily Mose is a senior studying Performance and Communication Arts with a focus on Theatre and Performance at St. Lawrence University. Her previous productions include being the stage manager for In The Next Room, the servant in The Bakkhai, in the company of Me Too and SLU, assistant stage manager for Sweat, and Agnes in She Kills Monsters.  

Aja Samuel is a sophomore at St. Lawrence University and is a PCA major and Spanish minor. Her most recent roles were in Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind and She Kills Monsters at St. Lawerence University.  

Aja Samuel

Penda Sarr is a sophomore at St Lawrence University majoring in Anthropology and minoring in PCA.  She recently appeared in St. Lawrence’s production of Too Much Light Makes The Baby Go Blind 

Penda Sarr

Carmiña Goya is a first year student at St. Lawrence University from Argentina who plans to major in Performance and Communication Arts with a focus on Theatre and Performance and a minor in Studio Art. 

Carmiña Goya

Aysha Benjamin attends The State University Of New York at Potsdam and studies in theatre. Her most recent performance was SUNY Potsdam’s production of Our Town as Mrs. Gibbs. Aysha was also cast in SUNY Potsdam’s production of Ready. Steady. Yeti. Go. as Carly. At Brooklyn Children’s Theater, Aysha appeared as Rafiki in the Lion King Jr, Winfred in Mary Poppins, Witch in Into The Woods Jr., and Fiona in Shrek Jr. This program also allowed her to perform with Broadway star Jelani Aladdin. Aysha has also been in five other Broadway Junior shows in which she got to perform on Broadway at the Shubert Theatre. Aysha is a recipient of the Robert and Kristen Anderson Lopez/Katherine L. Lopez scholarship for excellence in musical theatre.

Aysha Benjamin

Katelin Guerin is also a SLU students reading in the play. A bio and photo were not immediately available.

Theatre, Community, & Conversation begins Friday at PPL!

Communication is at the heart of understanding, and beginning Friday, April 8, Potsdam Public Library will be host to the first of a four-part series looking at issues that are controversial and central to the community through the lens of theatre and a community talk-back.

Breaking Barriers: Plays at the Library begins the community conversation with Paula Vogel’s play How I Learned to Drive, 6 p.m. Friday in the library’s main reading room.

Tickets are free and available on Eventbrite at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/how-i-learned-to-drive-by-paula-vogel-a-staged-reading-tickets-295441492457 and on the PPL Facebook page under events.

The play was selected with the help of community partner, St. Lawrence Valley Renewal House, an organization that, according to their mission statement, “respond(s) immediately to the needs of victims of domestic violence and sexual assault in St. Lawrence County through services which empower victims and increase community awareness.”

For How I Learned to Drive, actors will read scripts in the style of a staged or choral reading, reading from music stands with spoken stage directions. Following the readings, there will be a conversation between Breaking Barriers creators, participants, and community organization liaisons meant to engage in the themes, concerns, and impact of the play.

Renewal House Executive Director Ilene Burke, in an email wrote, “Being approached by the creators of the play series was very exciting for us, because it shows a readiness to have a conversation about sexual assault and an opportunity, through a different platform, to bring awareness to our community.  Oftentimes, our community has only a vague idea of the violence that happens around us.”

The project was created by SUNY Potsdam Department of Theatre and Dance Assistant Professor Rivka Eckert and PPL Adult Program Coordinator William Eckert. 

How I Learned to Drive tells the story of Li’l Bit, now a woman of around thirty-five years, coming to terms with the abusive and emotionally complex relationship that she had with her Uncle Peck. The play works in a non-linear way, using flashbacks, monologues, and a heightened sense of the surreal to show how Li’l Bit relates to her memory and trauma.

“We are hopeful that this play will assist in having an open conversation surrounding sexual assault, while strengthening our community’s knowledge and response in supporting victims/survivors,” Burke wrote.

Rivka Eckert said Renewal House’s reputation as a stable and reliable service provider for families in the North Country precedes them.

“I knew that the complexity of the work they do serving survivors of domestic assault and sexual violence and the important roles they fill within the community as a safe and healing space for survivors would make them strong community partners,” she said. “My hope is that this project will introduce more people to the variety of services they offer, destigmatize some of the stereotypes around asking for help, and break down some of the barriers around the stigma and shame that can be associated with being a survivor.”

She said Vogel’s Pulitzer-prize winning play was chosen because of the nuanced and poetic way the play moves through the trauma and impact of sexual abuse manifest in the characters’ lives. 

“The story is not what you expect and offers haunting portrayals of how abuse changes lives, which gets at the goals of our project,” Eckert said. “There is just so much to say and feel by the end of the play. Perfect for starting a conversation!”

The play will be directed by Jennifer Thomas. Thomas is an associate professor of performance at St. Lawrence University. Her recent productions include: She Kills Monsters, #metoo & SLU, and Spring Awakening. “(I’m) grateful and excited to present work beyond the walls of the theatre and the university setting,” she said. 

Jennifer Thomas

Aja Samuel, stage directions, is a sophomore at St. Lawrence University. She is a Performance and Communication Arts major and a Spanish minor. Her most recent roles include Tilly in University theatre’s production of She Kills Monsters (fall ‘21) and Ensemble in Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind (spring ‘22). 

Aja Samuel

Emily Brisson will be reading the part of L’il Bit. Brisson is a current senior at St. Lawrence University studying Pre-Law with an English and Government major and a minor in film. Throughout her time at St. Lawrence she has participated in Spring Awakening, #MeToo and SLU, and She Kills Monsters and is excited to get one final script in before graduation. 

Emily Brisson

Danny Thomas will be reading the part of Uncle Peck. Thomas is a father and husband in Canton, New York. He works in the biotech industry as a Customer Success Manager. He has worked in theatre primarily as a sound designer and foley artist, but does enjoy the occasional opportunity to be on stage, under the lights.

Danny Thomas

Patsy Buckley will be reading the part of the Greek Chorus. Buckley is a senior at St. Lawrence. She is majoring in performance with a minor in education. She is grateful for this opportunity. Next year she is looking forward to moving out west and finding shows to audition for.

Patsy Buckley

In addition to Renewal House, Breaking Barriers creators are partnering with Adirondack Diversity Initiative, John Brown Lives!, and Associated Colleges of the St Lawrence Valley, which comprises SUNYs Canton and Potsdam, Clarkson, and St. Lawrence University. Based on partner feedback, an artistic team of local directors, actors, professors, and theatre-makers selected plays that speak to the concerns of each group. In working across university and community lines, we are better able to collaborate and exchange ideas towards a shared vision of strengthening civic participation through the arts. 

Future plays will be held on the following dates:

Friday, April 22, 6 p.m.: Polar Bears, Black Boys, and Prairie Fringed Orchids, by Vincent Terrell Durham with community partner Adirondack Diversity Initiative

Friday, May 5, 6 p.m.: Baltimore, by Kirsten Greenidge with community partner Associated Colleges of the St. Lawrence Valley

Friday, June 10, 6 p.m.: Curios and Crinolines, by Elaine Kuracina with community partner John Brown Lives!

To learn more about Breaking Barriers and its creation and purpose, visit https://potsdamlibrary.org/new-ppl-play-series-breaks-barriers/

This project is made possible with funds from the Statewide Community Regrants Program, a regrant program of the New York State Council on the Arts, with the support of the Office of the Governor and the New York State Legislature, and administered by the St. Lawrence County Arts Council.

More Than a Workshop, Aubrey Slaterpryce’s Village Writers Guild Nurtures Art

Hello, hello People of PPL,

It is with great pleasure that we get to introduce our newest PPL staff member, Aubrey Slaterpryce. Aubrey has all the fervor one could want in the library and brings a remarkable talent and enthusiasm for writing and adding to the programming we have here. 

Just last week we introduced our Village Writers Guild at the Potsdam Public Library, which is created and facilitated by Aubrey and here we thought it important to give you a bit more information about the Guild and the person who is really making it all possible. 

Aubrey Slaterpryce

Aubrey graduated from SUNY Potsdam in Fall 2021 with a BFA in Creative Writing, and during that time at SUNY Potsdam, they participated in, then led, SUNY Potsdam’s Writers’ Cafe for three years 

“Writers’ Cafe was a writing club based at SUNY Potsdam,” Aubrey said. “I joined as a freshman at the beginning of my spring semester. I met some phenomenal people through that group. It helped push me to continue writing, and showed me that writing was something people could actually commit to and sustain throughout their lives.”

It also showed Aubrey the importance of having a writing community, a place to see one’s writing through the eyes of the other.

“I became president of the club during my junior year, but with Covid-19, attendance to meetings was down,” Aubrey said. “Very few people came, and the school did little to help enable the success of it. They were busy with plenty of other things, so I understand. Whereas the Potsdam Public Library, who has embraced the idea fully, has given me more support than I ever expected.”

Aubrey was inspired to start the Village Writers Guild because humans (and artists) exist in relation to one another, in the context of community. 

“It is so important and beneficial to share and voice work, and hear others’ work, while we are still writing it,” Aubrey said. “It helps make us view our own work with an outsider’s lens, to consider how the audience will react.”

Aubrey started writing as a child and said the endless stories that filled their head, resulted in them continuing to exercise their imagination well up until high school. 

“For me, writing is a way to process anything and everything. If I put it down on the paper then it frees up room in my head. I owe a lot of my own self-found peace to writing. I am possessed by words, and find myself writing about the intersection of humans, nature, and imagination a lot. I am inspired by mythology and storytelling, by language and the philosophy of it, and by the various ways to construct a story,” Aubrey said. “My favorite author is N. K. Jemisin with her Broken Earth series. Other authors I love include Thomas Pynchon and his The Crying of Lot 49, and Tara Westover’s Educated. A goal of mine this year is to read more than seventy books; I’ve already read sixteen since January 1st.”

A workshop group encourages people to write more because they have the opportunity and the encouragement to share it with others, Aubrey said, recognizing that sharing is difficult, due to the fear of negative feedback. But Aubrey said that The Village Writers Guild makes useful and supportive feedback one of its top priorities.

“We will help the writer get from where they are with a piece of work to where they want to be with it,” Aubrey said. “To do this, we employ our other top priority; getting writers to continue writing, despite everything else. I believe quantity generates quality, creation enables design. Prolificacy begets precision.”

The first meeting of the Village Writers Guild will be held on Thursday, March 3rd, from 4:00 to 6:00 pm, and each Sunday and Thursday after that. The Guild will be broken up into two groups, Group A will meet on Sundays in the library’s main reading room, and Group B will meet Thursday in the classroom on the mezzanine. Both groups will meet between the hours of 4 and 6 p.m.

There are no restrictions for attending either group, but because the Guild is rooted in building a writer’s community, participants are encouraged to continue attending the same group each week to help build and nurture a community with your fellow writers. Attendance is not mandatory. 

“As for what I’m looking forward to coming out of the group, there’s a lot.” Aubrey concluded. “One of the things I’m hoping for is a public reading where members could share their polished work with an actual audience. Something else is bringing in guest authors and writers, to have themed meetings and events, and to share plenty of book recommendations. Above all, I want the Village Writers Guild to exist as a space for sharing art in a creative and nurturing manner. I want members to look forward to coming, sharing their work, providing feedback for others, and contributing to a group of artists passionate to create anything, everything.”

Interested in hearing more from the Village Writers Guild? Sign up for news and other information with the form below: https://forms.gle/rMHmiar3GERMEFmu9