RuizTanyaAlban(L-R): Director Jerry Ruiz and playwright Tanya Saracho (pictured with actor Carlo Albán during a past edition of the annual CROSSING BORDERS festival at Two River Theater) invite Red Bank’s Latino community to the first in a series of Storytelling Workshops on Saturday, April 26.

Press release from Two River Theater Company 

The Doris Duke Charitable Foundation has awarded Two River Theater, under the leadership of Artistic Director John Dias and Managing Director Michael Hurst, a generous $40,000 grant through the foundation’s Building Demand for the Arts program. The initiative, which launched last year, funds inventive partnerships that create new methods for reaching the public and developing their interest in and access to the performing arts.

Two River Theater will host a residency for Tanya Saracho (an award-winning playwright and writer on TV’s Girls, Looking, and Devious Maids) and director Jerry Ruiz (curator of Two River’s annual Crossing Borders festival of new Latino plays and free community programs) to build demand for theater among Latino audiences. Through the Duke residency, Saracho and Ruiz will create and lead storytelling workshops (utilizing both writing and multimedia) for Red Bank’s Latino community, bringing them into direct contact with the process of creating theater and allowing them to experience the art form as something that is vital and relevant to them. As a result of this project, Two River will commission Saracho to write a play that speaks directly to experiences and challenges that are specific to this community, which will be developed at the theater and directed by Ruiz.

Two River Theater invites Red Bank’s Latino community to participate in the first community workshop on Saturday, April 26, 2014. No experience is necessary to join. The workshops are open to all people who identify as Latino or Latina, regardless of national or ethnic background, and young people, women, and transgender people are especially encouraged to participate. Workshops will include opportunities for the participants to talk, share stories, and play games, using storytelling models devised by Saracho. In addition to the workshops, participants will be invited to events, shows, and programs at Two River throughout the year, all free and at no cost. For information, interested community members should call (732)936-8843.

“We are curious and eager to learn more about the Latino community in Red Bank,” say Saracho and Ruiz. “What are their experiences like in the US and in this particular community? Did they immigrate to Red Bank directly, or did they live somewhere else before coming to this place? How long have they been here, what brought them here, and what did they leave behind?

“We want to learn about their specific struggles and challenges, particularly as pertaining to the experiences of women and young people within a culture that often promotes more traditional gender and familial roles. Additionally, we see ourselves as ambassadors for both Two River Theater and the Latino community, and we want to partner with Two River to better serve this new audience that we hope it will develop through the grant, and continue to engage them in seeing work at Two River that isn’t strictly about the Latino experience.

“The final result would be building a new audience for the theater, an audience that can and will engage deeply whether they are seeing a play by Tanya Saracho or August Wilson or William Shakespeare.”

“We want everyone in Red Bank to know that the doors of our theater are always open. One of the phrases we use a lot here is we want everyone to feel ‘invited to the party’ ,” say Two River Artistic Director John Dias and Managing Director Michael Hurst. “But we also know that making the theater accessible means going out into the community before we can ask people to come here.