Reading artists transform people, perceptions and physical spaces in July 29th performance

A community engagement organization is using public theater to empower Reading artists and to reimagine what heroes look like for their community.

Barrio Alegría and a troupe of local artists will deliver a free public performance of its original play, “The Archenemy,” July 29th on the steps of the Reading Public Library Main Branch.

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The play explores themes of power, gun violence and the choices that create our most hopeful heroes and vengeful archenemies.

The play is one of the largest events of the year for the organization, and its production pulls in many more elements than just fiction, rehearsals, and a performance. It is building on efforts years in the making, aiming to elevate participants and the imagination of the community.

“The elements that go into this production include a deep investment in the wellbeing of our performers,” said Daniel Egusquiza, executive director of Barrio Alegría. “We have folded all of our performers into a financial literacy course that examines their emotional connection to money, on top of building a community and giving them a safe space to bring their visions to fruition.”

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Each of the actors and dancers participated in Barrio’s finance program, called Adulting Sucks. The program provided performers with stipends for savings or to pay off debts, gave them a venue to connect with one another through their financial experience, and helped them open their first bank accounts.

For Barrio, its theater production is a byproduct of the true work that is being done: creating community, sharing resources and giving neighbors skills to live a more fulfilled life.

Barrio has received national recognition for its successes in providing free, neighbor-focused arts programming, also known as creative placemaking and creative placekeeping.

The group’s development and preservation of spaces to foster public art and personal growth has garnered praise and recognition from Center for Community Progress, The National Museum for Puerto Rican Arts and Culture, the Smithsonian Museum National Museum of the American Latino.

Anthony Orozco, Barrio’s director of operations, says July 29th’s event is another example of how the city transforms when artists are given opportunities to thrive.

“With the unveiling of the revamped Lucky’s Lane’s earlier this month, we saw how art can strengthen the bond between neighbors,” Orozco said. “With Storytelling Through Dance, we strengthen the bond between residents and the physical space of the city, the bond between artists and their dreams.”

Storytelling Through Dance performance of “The Archenemy” will be held Saturday, July 29, 2023 from noon-3pm at the Reading Public Library Main Branch, 100 S. 5th Street. The event is free and open to the public. Rain date is Sunday, July 30.

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