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‘A Prairie Homeless Companion’ to debut this summer

A rehearsal of "A Prairie Homeless Companion" featuring actors Robert Blood (left), Annette Bryant, Luke Zenker and Maren Ward. (Submitted photo)

WORTHINGTON — A joint effort between PlaceBase Productions, zAmya Theater Project and Southwest Minnesota Housing Partnership is bringing “A Prairie Homeless Companion” to the Worthington community this summer.

The show will be an exhibit in homelessness throughout southwest Minnesota. It will mimic the style of the iconic radio variety show “A Prairie Home Companion,” hosted by Minnesota’s Garrison Keillor.

PlaceBase Productions is a collaboration effort to tell the stories of local communities through theater. Each play is created by and for community members.

ZAmya Theater Project Director Maren Ward helped found zAmya in 2004 following 25 years of leadership over Bedlam Theater, a project that focused on community engagement.

The name “zAmya” is a Sanskrit word meaning “aiming at peace,” a goal that to the organizers means working toward safe, stable, affordable housing for all Minnesotans.

“The zAmya Theater Project builds understanding and connection between individuals who have experienced homelessness and those who have not,” Ward said. “It’s part of a multi-pronged movement for bringing awareness to housing instability and homelessness.”

ZAmya is led by theater professionals who have themselves experienced homelessness, and the show is tailored for each community it touches.

To gather community input and involvement, Ward and other zAmya representatives came to Worthington last week for an initial script reading of “A Prairie Homeless Companion.”

The basic outline pulls from themes the writers have often noticed regarding homelessness, such as abuse and racial bias. However, zAmya’s goal is to apply universal principles specifically to the people and circumstances in the local community.

Worthington residents in attendance at the script reading offered feedback that since their community is home to people from so many different places, the show needs to reflect how homelessness affects different cultural groups.

Over the next few weeks, a final script will be developed from this feedback. The performance will take place in July or August, with the exact date to be determined.

“A Prairie Homeless Companion” will also tour around to Hutchinson, Willmar and Marshall this summer.

Ward said the production will hopefully start two conversations.

First, she hopes the community will discuss “how to activate people who already understand (homelessness) and want change.” Empathy does necessarily equal action, and action is what will bring about real change.

Second, Ward said the community should be empowered to “strategize with each other about how to approach people who seem averse to dealing with homelessness.”

As the script is finalized, zAmya will continue to recruit community helpers. Actors and musicians are needed to participate in the show. Community members do not need to be professionals or have prior theater experience.

To get involved, people are invited to email Ward at maren@zamyatheater.org or PlaceBase Productions Producer/Director Ashley Hanson at ashley@placebaseproductions.com.