Sweet Spot With Mike Sugerman: NYC Theater Helps Kids Living In Homeless Shelters Tell Their Stories

July 05, 2019 - 5:00 am
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NEW YORK (WCBS 880) -- From the mouths of babes come some of the deepest and most interesting theater you may see this year. 

In this week's Sweet Spot, Mike Sugerman goes to a show not far from the theater district in Manhattan. 

The 52nd Street Theater in Hell's Kitchen was packed, but you can't get further from Broadway than this. 

The theater program takes about a dozen kids and turns them into playwrights. Over eight weeks they learn the fundamentals of structure, character, and storytelling. 

"The kids participating in this program are homeless," said Brittany Pavon Suriel, Director of Volunteer Services at WIN (formerly Women in Need), who couldn't be prouder as one who knows these kids best working as a director at the WIN shelter in Brooklyn. "This program has been a great opportunity for them to get some exposure to the arts, which they may not be getting at school."

They tell stories some of us could never imagine. 

"My play was about girls that are protecting their sisters so they could stay alive," said 10-year-old Mia Marquez. "They could die if they don't help catch the monster."

There are monsters in a lot of kids' imaginations and they all come from different places.

"There are things that come up like Black Lives Matter or domestic violence or negligence. These are things that kids weave throughout their stories and you see that," Suriel said.

"Some stories have happy endings and some of them have different kind of endings and I think what's brave is that they can open up or write about those stories," said Kerry Warren.

The program matches children with professional theater artists.

"I come from a background similar to a lot of these kids," said Motell Foster, one of the company of actors who brought these plays to life. "There's a bit of a theme of displacement and I feel like it's just a beautiful thing to see these kids processing."

While many of the themes are dark, what you come away with is that these kids are, in most cases, like any other with vivid imaginations and a zest for life the stories. They have to tell are all worth hearing.

While some of the stories can be heartbreaking, writing these plays can help the children deal with what they're going through.