THE PORCHES PROJECT

Uni­ver­sity of Scran­ton the­ater pro­gram gath­er­ing Hill Sec­tion sto­ries

The Times-Tribune - - LOCAL - BY JON O’CON­NELL STAFF WRITER

SCRAN­TON — Jen­nifer Rhoads laid down the ground rules.

Keep your sto­ries to five min­utes.

It’s not a per­for­mance. Don’t talk over each other.

No speak­ing from notes. “Spon­tane­ity is part of it,” she said.

Uni­ver­sity of Scran­ton the­ater directors gath­ered per­sonal sto­ries Sun­day from a dozen Scran­ton res­i­dents for a project they’re call­ing “The Porches Project: The Hill Sec­tion of Scran­ton.”

It’s a dra­matic pro­duc­tion set for early May when stu­dent and res­i­dent ac­tors will put on a col­lec­tion of short plays on neigh­bor­hood porches in the city’s Hill Sec­tion.

On Sun­day, at the Green­house Project at Nay Aug Park, they held one in a series of sto­ry­telling events, open to the pub­lic, to col­lect real mem­o­ries from the people who live on the Hill.

The pro­duc­tion likely will re­sem­ble a walk­ing tour in which au­di­ence mem­bers will get maps that show where the porches-turned-stages are lo­cated, the­ater pro­gram Di­rec­tor Hank Wil­len­brink said.

The event will co­in­cide with Mary­wood Universi-

ty’s Jane’s Walk, an event that hon­ors the late ur­ban the­o­rist and Dun­more na­tive Jane Ja­cobs.

Ja­cobs might be best known for her “eyes on the street” con­cept, which sug­gests com­mu­ni­ties are safer and stronger when more people are out.

Not ev­ery­one who spoke Sun­day lived in the Hill Sec­tion, though most had strong emo­tional ties to it.

Some were trans­plants. Some moved there re­cently. Some ar­rived gen­er­a­tions ago.

“I thought when I came here that it was an il­lus­tra­tion in a chil­dren’s book,” said Tr­ish Spal­letta, who moved to the Hill 35 years ago.

Maina Shankar fled wors­en­ing po­lit­i­cal con­di­tions in her home coun­try of Bhutan when she was 8 years old, she told the group. Like many Bhutanese refugees, she fled to Nepal and lived in a grass­roof hut in a hilly area with a cli­mate sim­i­lar to Scran­ton’s, where she moved in 2010 amid wors­en­ing con­di­tions in Nepal.

Prabhu Shankar, her hus­band, re­called around the time they bought their home, a bliz­zard dropped 18 inches of snow. Plow­ing con­trac­tors told him he’d have to wait two weeks for some­one to come dig him out. Hard­ware stores were sold out of snow­blow­ers, so, af­ter hun­ker­ing down for two days, they de­cided to dig out on their own.

A neigh­bor spot­ted the whole fam­ily dig­ging and pushed away the snow with­ap­low.

“I asked him, ‘How much do you charge?’ ” Prabhu Shankar re­called. The man wouldn’t take his money. “People are so help­ful.”

Wil­len­brink said the story-gath­er­ing events (three more are planned this month) are held for a cou­ple dif­fer­ent rea­sons.

“One is find­ing source ma­te­rial for stu­dents to write plays that are in­spired by the sto­ries that they hear,” he said. “We may also have com­mu­nity mem­bers who want to write. It’s meant to be a gen­er­a­tive ex­pe­ri­ence.” Con­tact the writer: jo­con­[email protected]­rock.com; 570-348-9131; @jon_oc on Twit­ter

CHRISTO­PHER DOLAN / STAFF PHO­TOG­RA­PHER

Scran­ton res­i­dent Mau­reen Wat­son, sec­ond from left, tells a story Sun­day about liv­ing in Scran­ton as fel­low res­i­dents, from left, Alex Wasalinko, Terry Ed­wards and Jane Risse, re­act dur­ing a dis­cus­sion with Hill Sec­tion res­i­dents led by Uni­ver­sity of Scran­ton guest the­ater Di­rec­tor Jen­nifer Rhoads at the Nay Aug Park Green­house.

CHRISTO­PHER DOLAN / STAFF PHO­TOG­RA­PHER

Scran­ton res­i­dent Mau­reen Wat­son laughs while telling a story about liv­ing in the Hill Sec­tion of Scran­ton.

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