CHESTER COUNTY PRESS
WEDNESDAY, JULY 17, 2019
AHHAH: Empowering voices and engaging the community, through theater By Richard L. Gaw Staff Writer Perhaps the largest irony of Chester County, and one that tends to get swept under the rug of its progress, rests in a single, glaring statistic: 40 percent of the youth who enter the juvenile justice system in Chester County are from Coatesville, the poorest city in the richest county in Pennsylvania. While local, state and federal dollars have been tossed liberally around in an effort to stem the tide of what some have come to refer to as a “cradle to prison pipeline” in this city, the truth remains that much of the response to this statistic is reactionary instead of preventive, and that the logical assumption, fear and yes, reality, is that the “pipeline” will extend to future generations. While several non-profit organizations in Coatesville have galvanized in consortiums, conferences and committees to address the problem, one nonprofit agency is attempting to solve it by letting those in the juvenile detention system of Coatesville run free – by
allowing them to share their voices through the power of theater. This summer, Arts Holding Hands and Hearts, Inc. (AHHAH) began “Voices of Restorative Justice: A Play of Many Voices,” a five-year program that will work with incarcerated youth at the Chester County Youth Center (CCYC) in Coatesville to develop their stories and monologues for the theater. Working with creative artists and theatrical companies in the area, AHHAH will develop poems, monologues and plays into full-scale productions that will be produced throughout the county. By opening a too-often closed door of creativity to these individuals, the resulting productions will attempt to embolden local communities to build empathy and understanding around its collective responsibility to fighting injustice, by hearing the shared voices of youth who are in the juvenile justice system. “Everyone agrees that our criminal justice system is
Bands invited to compete for ‘Rising Star’ showcase Citadel has announced the “Rising Star” band contest returns in 2019, giving area bands an opportunity to perform at Citadel Country Spirit USA, a three-day country music festival being held Aug. 23 to 25. For the first time, finalists will be invited to perform in a two-day Citadel Rising Star event Aug. 7 and 8 at Valley Forge Casino. To be eligible, country artists must be from, or frequently perform in, Pennsylvania, New Jersey or Delaware. Contestants have until 11:59 p.m. on July 28 to submit their video for consideration. For full eligibility rules, visit CitadelBanking. com/RisingStar. Up to 10 finalists will be invited to perform at Citadel Rising Star Live, in partnership with 92.5 XTU, on Aug. 7 and 8. This Battle of the Bands is free to the public at the Valley Beach in the Valley Forge Casino at 1160 1st Ave, King of Prussia. Each night, doors
open at 5 p.m., and the battles begin at 6 p.m. A panel of judges will select three winners, which will be announced on Aug. 9. In addition to $1,000, each winner will perform for a day on the Citadel Rising Star Stage between main acts on the GMC Sierra Stage. Headliners are Billy Currington on Aug. 23, Little Big Town on Aug. 24 and Old Dominion on Aug. 25. “We are thrilled to be hosting the second annual Rising Star contest, giving local talent the opportunity to shine at Citadel Country Spirit USA,” said Jeff March, president and CEO of Citadel. “The entire event is a celebration of our community, so it only makes sense that we have local talent performing.” Citadel Country Spirit USA festival features more than 20 country music artists on two stages. Last year’s event drew more than 22,000 fans. Tickets are on sale at CountrySpiritUSA.com.
broken and there are millions of young people lost in the juvenile criminal justice system right now – youth of color, and youth in poverty,” said Jan Michener, AHHAH founder and executive director. “What this project does is develop the voices in our juvenile justice system, starting with those in Chester County. “What I want to do is transform our justice system from a criminal system to a restorative system, and do it from the bottom up by changing stereotypes that people first have of youth in our criminal justice system.” Currently in Act 1 of the initiative, AHHAH is partnering with Heather and Daniel Grayberg, the founders and artistic directors of Revival Productions in Coatesville, in an 8-week theater intensive workshop with those in detention at CCYC, called “Voices of Coatesville.” Beginning in September, the initiative will facilitate workshops that will enlist the creative voices of those impacted by domestic violence in the county, and families and friends of those who have been incarcerated. Their words will later be performed as staged readings by members of the community. In the summer of 2020, Act 2 will invite teaching artists from People’s Light Theater Company in Malvern, Uptown! Knauer Performing Arts Center in West Chester and the Kennett Amateur Theatrical Society (KATS) in Kennett Square to work with those in detention at CCYC to further develop their voices. Each of the teaching artists will then share the work with their respective communities. In years 3 and 4, AHHAH will collaborate with the Chester County Cultural Coalition in expanding the project to more theater groups and two to three communities throughout the county, and in year 5, the project will fully integrate those once-incarcerated youth who participated in the project to help shape a full production, which will be entitled “Voices
of Restorative Justice: An Epic Play of Many Voices.” Since it began 2013, Arts Holding Hands and Hearts, Inc. (AHHAH) has empowered marginalized youth, strengthened families and mobilized communities through arts, literacy and mindfulness. “Voices of Restorative Justice” is not the first creative initiative AHHAH has done with incarcerated youth at CCYC. In 2016, AHHAH won the National Detention Center and Alternative Program (NDCAP) award for its writing program at CCYC. In 2017, one of the young men in the CCYC detention center won first place for the NDCAP poetry contest for his poem Diamond in the Rough, that was written during an AHHAH writing workshop. Two books have been published: Justice Restored: A Series of Writings and Poetry from Incarcerated Youth; Volume 1 and Justice Restored 2.0. In addition, AHHAH has used a 21st Century Learning grant to facilitate after school yoga and playwriting with youth at Scott Middle School in Coatesville, and a PA Council of the Arts grant to integrate monthly community creative arts workshops at the Coatesville Public Library. It also began the Pop Up Lending Library Campaign to get books in the hands of every child and close the word gap and create education equity. We have facilitated community workshops to build, paint and install 100 PULL Stations in Coatesville and Kennett Square and collected and distributed over 65,000 books since 2015. AHHAH also delivers programs to over 400 children in Head Start in Chester County. To Michener, the five-year initiative is about collaboration and creative placemaking, used as a forum to network, learn, share information that promotes awareness and strengthens its members. It also attempts to put the community, if only for the duration of a workshop or staged reading, “into the shoes” of incarcerated youth. “When we hear those stories, we begin to understand where
Photo by Richard L. Gaw
Arts Holding Hands and Hearts, Inc. (AHHAH) Executive Director Jan Michener, right, with AHHAH teacher Amanda Daley.
these writers come from, and some of the trauma that they’ve experienced – the neuroscience behind incarceration,” she said. “If one’s brain is always in ‘Fight Flight’ it constantly places one in a survival mode, and when we begin to hear what they’ve done and understand what happened to them, we gain an understanding of what may have triggered their decisions. “The gift of hearing their words allows us to build empathy instead of stereotypes, and it also allows us to begin to hear their life’s dreams.” In late June, AHHAH applied for a grant from the Pennsylvania Council of the Arts’ Pennsylvania Creative Communities Initiative, which provides multi-year funding “to community-driven, arts-based projects that serve as catalysts for livability, economic and community connectedness.” Also known as “creative placemaking,” projects funded through the initiative will have a positive impact on their respective communities. While AHHAH waits to hear from the Pennsylvania Council of the Arts – the funding
amount is up to $25,000 a year for up to four years and the winning applicants will be notified by the end of the year – Michener said that “Voices of Restorative Justice: A Play of Many Voices” will move from act to act over the next five years, gaining more voices, more theater companies and more community support. “My dream is that by the time we reach the last act in the initiative, that the incarcerated youth who lent their words to year one of this idea will be fully reintegrated into their communities, and become our musical directors, our choreographers and our collaborators on the final staged productions of this first cycle,” she said. “They will be the ones who will help us take everything that we’ve done and, like a string of pearls, put together everything we have all worked to create.” To learn more about Arts Holding Hands and Hearts, Inc., visit www.AHHAH.org. To contact Staff Writer Richard L. Gaw, email rgaw@ chestercounty.com.
Kennett Square gymnastics team wraps up season The KMC USAIGC girls’ gymnastics team from Kennett Square finished up their 2019 season with a number of wins at the State, Regional, and World Championships. Leading KMC to victory were Head Coach Iryna Aliyevska, Jerry Fix, and Don Furrer. Below are the results from each of the championship meets: States Championships, Sunbury, Pa., May 11 and 12 Forty-two KMC gymnasts competed against 15 other gyms. KMC won the following team awards: Copper 1 (1st place), Copper 2 (2nd place), Bronze (1st place), Diamond (4th place), Silver (1st place), and Gold (1st place). The gymnasts competed on four events: balance beam, floor, uneven bars, and vault. The following KMC gymnasts placed either 1st, 2nd, or 3rd place on one or more of these various individual events and/ or all-around: Copper 1: Emily Borrell, Margot Fleming, Genevieve Gaughan, Emily Hill, Reagan Leary, Kiera Post, Makena Stahler, Jillian Steere, and Riley Stulb Copper 2: Alyson Hill, Alyssa Jaros, Ashley Jaros,
Abby Livingston, Devon Rifenburg, and Mia Stevenson Bronze: Sophia Armandi, Danica Gray, Elyssa Henry, Abby Livingston (sp), Saige Pfeifer, Gayle Reyburn, and Hannah Thijs Diamond: Ashley Chiari, Catie Curtis, and Katie Slawter Silver: Isabella Albers, Cassidy Bonura, Allie D’Angelo, Meghan Dunlap, Lauren Fenstermacher, Jenna Lamberth, Leah Pellegrino, and Hannah Wilcox Gold: Jenna Lamberth (sp), Anna Lipsman, Leah Lipsman, and Rebecca Stoltz Regional Championships, Wildwood, N.J., May 25 to 28 Forty KMC gymnasts competed against 52 other gyms. KMC won the following team awards: Copper 1 (2nd place), Copper 2 (7th place), Bronze (9th place), Diamond (14th place), Silver (1st place), and Gold (5th place). The gymnasts competed on four events: balance beam, floor, uneven bars, and vault. The following KMC gymnasts placed either 1st, 2nd, or 3rd place on one or more of these various individual events and/ or all-around: Copper 1: Margot Fleming,
Genevieve Gaughan, Emily Hill, Raegan Leary, Kiera Post, Makena Stahler, and Riley Stulb Copper 2: Devon Rifenburg and Mia Stevenson Bronze: Sophia Armandi, Danica Gray, Elyssa Henry, Abby Livingston (sp), Saige Pfeifer, Gayle Reyburn, and Hannah Thijs Silver: Isabella Albers, Cassidy Bonura, Allie D’Angelo, Meghan Dunlap, Lauren Fenstermacher, Jenna Lamberth, Leah Pellegrino, and Hannah Wilcox Gold: Anna Lipsman, Leah Lipsman, and Rebecca Stoltz World Championships, Nashville, Tenn., July 1 to 7 Twenty-six gymnasts represented KMC and traveled to Nashville, TN where they competed against 82 gyms from the USA, Australia, Bermuda, Canada, Dubai, UK, India, South Africa, Wales, Germany, and Guatemala. KMC won the following team awards: Copper 1 (3rd place), Copper 2 (6th place ), Bronze (10th place), and Silver (3rd place) The gymnasts competed on four events: balance beam, floor, uneven bars, and vault
as well as the All-Around competition. USAIGC World Champion All-Around Medals: 1st Danica Gray (Bronze) 2nd Jenna Lamberth (Silver) 3rd Makena Stahler (Copper 1) 3rd Margot Fleming (Copper 1) USAIGC World Champion Event Medals: VAULT: 1st Sophia Armandi (Bronze) 1st Cassidy Bonura (Silver) 1st Leah Pellegrino (Silver) 1st Isabella Albers (Silver) 3rd Margot Fleming (Copper 1) BARS: 1st Danica Gray (Bronze) 3rd Devon Rifenberg (Copper 2) BEAM: 1st Riley Stulb (Copper 1) 1st Jenna Lamberth (Silver) 2nd Makena Stahler (Copper 1) 2nd Danica Gray (Bronze) 3rd Reagan Leary (Copper 1) 3rd Peyton Torrey (Silver) FLOOR: 3rd Danica Gray (Bronze)