Ever since theater professional Debra LeWinter met UNCG professor and social worker Alicia Kaplan, the two have been dreaming about creating a theatrical production that sheds light on issues within the foster care system.
Six years later, that dream has become a reality.
This Thursday, April 14, “Foster Care Chronicles: Wrongs of Passage” will open at the Triad Stage’s UpStage Cabaret in what will be the Department of Social Work’s first Triad Stage production.
Written and directed by LeWinter, “Wrongs of Passage” tells the real stories of local youth ages 15-23 who have gone through the foster care system.
Seven of the nine cast members will have their personal stories depicted in the show. In order to conceal the originator of each story, the cast will take communal ownership of the stories and perform each other’s experiences. The remaining two cast members are undergraduate students in UNCG’s Theatre Department.
The show is set in a preschool and highlights both the positives and negatives of the foster care experience, including the trauma that many children in the system face.
“Many of the childhood activities are twisted, because that was the reality for these individuals,” said LeWinter, who serves as an adjunct instructor at UNCG. “We use childhood images that resonate with all of us to address these major issues in the system.”
The play was born out of a similar 2009 production directed by Kaplan. Preparation began back in the fall, when Kaplan and LeWinter led the cast through a series of group bonding and processing activities.
After conducting interviews with each cast member, LeWinter wove together a script that balanced both the artistic needs of the play and the emotional needs of the cast. The group started rehearsals at the end of January.
While the show highlights some serious issues, there’s also a lot of humor, fun and games. According to LeWinter, it’s one of the strongest pieces she’s written.
“We hope this is one of those shows where the audience may walk out and be forever changed,” LeWinter said.
Kaplan’s hope is that the production will become an annual project.
“We’d love to have these cast members return to mentor future cast members,” she said.
The show starts at 8 p.m. on April 14, 15, 16, 21, 22 and 23, and at 2 p.m. on April 17 and 24. Ticket prices are $18 for adults and $12 for students. The show is free for individuals in foster care and their chaperones. The content of the play is mature and is not recommended for children under the age of 13.
Tickets are available for purchase at the Triad Stage Box Office or online at triadstage.org/series/207/foster-care-chronicles-wrongs-of-passage.
The production is funded by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) Behavioral Health Training Grant and serves as a way to train social work students in using the arts for self-expression and healing.
Story by Alyssa Bedrosian, University Relations
Photography by Martin W. Kane, University Relations