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Company One Theatre series focuses on the future of Boston neighborhoods

Celina Colby
Celina Colby is an arts and travel reporter with a fondness for Russian novels.... VIEW BIO
Company One Theatre series focuses on the future of Boston neighborhoods
Jasmine Brooks is the project’s creative producer. COURTESY PHOTO

On June 12, Company One Theatre (C1) launched their Better Future Series, a monthly online discussion among artists, community organizers and policymakers about the future of neighborhoods around Boston. Focusing on neighborhoods that have been hit especially hard by the pandemic, the series aims to identify the needs of each neighborhood and to take steps to fill them.

“Artists have power to shine light on different issues and engage with different topics and galvanize community members,” says Jasmine Brooks, the project’s creative producer. “I think people are really appreciative that as theater artists we’re also engaging with these conversations.”

The goal of the program is to bring together these groups — artists, policymakers and community representatives — to work together in building a more equitable future. Each episode is launched with an artistic performance such as a poetry recitation or a music piece. Starting the conversation this way underscores the importance of artists in our communities and in conversations about the future.

The most recent episode, which aired on July 17, centered on Uphams Corner and featured Ramona Lisa Alexander, director of programs at Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative; Kara Elliott-Ortega, the city of Boston’s chief of arts & culture; and Tim Hall, co-owner of HipStory. As Company One would have opened the show “Black Superhero Magic Mama” at the Strand Theatre on July 17, this episode provided a way to continue engaging with the community despite having to postpone that show.

The Uphams Corner episode is the second in the series; the first focused on Chinatown. Black communities have been hit especially hard by the pandemic, with very high rates of infection. Asian communities like Chinatown have been suffering from the racism of associating COVID-19 with Asian countries. Both of the Better Future Series conversations touch on how to support these neighborhoods now and in an ongoing fashion.

Summer L. Williams, Company One associate artistic director. COURTESY PHOTO

Summer L. Williams, Company One associate artistic director. COURTESY PHOTO

All episodes are available to view on the C1 Facebook page. The August episode, its date still to be determined, will focus on gun violence. That episode very specifically won’t be tied to a Boston neighborhood. “It’s a citywide, commonwealthwide, nationwide issue,” says Summer L. Williams, Company One’s associate artistic director. “We have to put down the notion that these things are just happening in a specific neighborhood that might be outside of the neighborhood that I live in and therefore is not my problem.”

Though the Better Future Series was born during COVID-19, Brooks says C1 will likely continue the program beyond the pandemic. Brooks and Williams encourage viewers to participate both in the chat conversation that happens during the live discussion and by performing actions to make the imagined future a reality. All the participating organizations post links to resources and actions during the conversation.

“I think that’s what’s really important — giving people the opportunity to go out and take one of the action steps that our partners present in the conversation,” says Brooks. “There are countless ways that I think people might be inspired to get involved.”