Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The Homeless as Theater

Two months ago I wrote a piece about Families in Distress. It was prompted by a very disturbing report done by “60 Minutes” on the growing number of families and children living in poverty in the United States. What is so shocking about the report is that it shows that even normal, functional families are can face unthinkable hardship and humiliation through little or no fault of their own. As uncomfortable as this makes us feel however, we are inspired by their determination to stay together and overcome their problems.

Hunter’s Point, a new play by Elizabeth Gjelten being performed at St. Boniface Church in San Francisco as a benefit for The Gubbio Project, deals with a different cast of characters who we more easily identify with as “the homeless.” These are hardened street people, fierce outsiders used to hustling the tourists or gaming the system. But are they really that different from the families in the “60 Minute” report? Sure, they are a little crazy—some even clinically so. But don’t they also have families, people who care for them? Shouldn’t we feel the same empathy for them as we do for the more “normal” homeless families struggling to make it?

The core of the play is the relationship between two sisters: one, Eva, is homeless and clearly psychotic; the other, Ruthie, is guilt ridden about her inability to help her sister as she pursues her career as a travel writer. Eva knows she is not well but she also knows the medicine she is given only drives her deeper into her illness. She is desperate to find a clinic that provides a drug-free, “moral treatment.” But such is not to be found within the social welfare system. In fact, Eva’s options keep diminishing as programs are cut.

It is not coincidence that the play is being performed at St. Boniface, or that it should be benefiting The Gubbio Project which I wrote about in a posting a year and a half ago. Click on the link to the right and see a video about the project which provides sanctuary to people like Eva every day. Then go see the play. There are three more performances on September 29th and 30th and October 1st. It’s not only good theater, it’s good for the soul and for a good cause.

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