[Summerdale, PA] The Capital BlueCross Theatre at Central Penn College, in partnership with The Harrisburg (PA) Chapter of The Links, Incorporated, will host a theatrical production called Reclaiming My Time: An American Griot Project on Thursday, March 8th through Saturday, March 10th at 7:30 PM and Sunday, March 11th at 2:00 PM. This choreo-poem, or staged production written in poetic form, was written by Maria James-Thiaw, an award winning poet, performer and professor from Central Pennsylvania.

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Maria James-Thiaw and Janet Bixler after performing The Jeffers Project, part of The Big Read, 2013.

James-Thiaw and director, Janet Bixler, invite audiences to experience the Civil Rights era through the eyes of women and girls who lived it. Through Reclaiming My Time: An American Griot Project, James-Thiaw breathes new life into oral history through what she calls “poetic translation.”

“I found that women tended to step back into the shadows when it came to sharing these stories of the past,” says James-Thiaw. “It wasn’t that they didn’t have stories, but that they didn’t tell them. I think it is time we heard their voices.”

Griots (gree – oh) are a class of historians and storytellers in West Africa who traditionally share a community’s history through poetry and song. The “griots” of this project are women from all over the country, ages 65 to 92. These women’s recollections of learning about race and privilege, and experiencing second class citizenship and love across color lines will be represented through poetry, music and dance in this major production. The publication of Reclaiming My Time: An American Griot Project and the corresponding study guide for educators will be Maria James-Thiaw’s fourth collection of poetry.

“The title ‘Reclaiming My Time’” says James-Thiaw, “connects these amazing moments in women’s history with the activists that stand up for the rights of women and people of color today.”

“The cast will consist of nine student and community actors, all women,” says Theatre Director, Janet Bixler, “The women Maria interviewed were African American, White, Christian and Jewish. The cast will reflect that diversity.”

Auditions for Reclaiming My Time: An American Griot Project are being held at Central Penn College on Wednesday, January 17th at 4:30 PM and Thursday, January 18th at 5:30 PM. The choreo-poem will include five African American and four white actresses. The auditions will consist of cold readings of the script and potentially performing a song. Actresses that wish to try out should contact Janet Bixler at janetbixler@centralpenn.edu to schedule their audition time.

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