Dorothy Day Place Residents Perform at the Ordway

A Challenge to Change with zAmya Theater Project

Last Thursday, current and former residents of Catholic Charities’ Dorothy Day Place joined neighbors with lived experience of homelessness for their debut performance of A Challenge to Change at The Ordway Center for Performing Arts. The audience was made up of a diverse mix of friends, family, and community members — gathered to witness a raw and inspiring two-part performance that explored themes surrounding homelessness and facilitated a creative dialogue about what it means to truly be in community with one another.

Vignettes rooted in the lived experiences of each performer balanced humor and frustration, offering commentary on our society’s lack of understanding and empathy for the varied circumstances that often accompany housing insecurity.

A Partnership to Build Greater Understanding

Catholic Charities and zAmya Theater Project began a partnership about three years ago, providing a creative outlet for those who are navigating the challenging process of regaining and maintaining housing. As a part of this process, they have been working on ways to engage the larger community, using theatre to challenge the stigma that many people experiencing homelessness experience on a daily basis.

“One of the clear benefits…is an opportunity for clients and residents to have agency and ownership in telling their stories”, says Mike Rios-Keating, Catholic Charities’ Social Justice Education Manager. From the beginning of the partnership, Rios-Keating has been a liaison between zAmya and Catholic Charities, and he has been outspoken about the importance of community involvement and the benefit of reflecting on our implicit biases. Because A Challenge to Change encourages critical thinking, “there is an intentional involvement of the audience that makes it more than a theater show that one simply observes”.

The Journey to the Ordway

A Challenge to Change is the first performance in the Ordway’s new program, At the Intersection, which was created to examine the relationship that the performing arts share with cultures, communities, professions, and organizations in Minnesota and beyond. zAmya’s project was a powerful start to the new series, and it echoed many of the wonderings that community members have about homelessness and housing insecurity.

“Who can take care of themselves without community?”

“How do we become aware of a person who is in a state of need?”

These questions don’t have simple answers, but rather prompt reflection about how we can build a more empathetic and inclusive community. Near the end, narrator Samuel Scott led the troupe in a sequence of open-ended questions that furthered these ideas. After each question, the performers voiced a valuable reminder: “Everybody don’t wear the same shoes.”

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