zAmya Theater Project: Housed and homeless actors telling their own stories

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This week the zAmya Theater Project’s sixth season debuts in honor of National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week. zAmya’s production includes a mix of housed and homeless actors who have gathered to fulfill zAmya’s mission: “zAmya Theater Project creates community-based theater to increase awareness and understanding of homelessness, inspiring people to end it.” zAmya is a traveling show that performs for audiences at diverse venues such as Salvation Army Minneapolis and Bedlam Theatre.

This years production, Housed and Homeless: From the Very Same Cup, is a funny and honest compilation of stories and social truths. The script includes literal and metaphorical monologues about the actors’ personal stories, often connected with the actors’ experiences with homelessness and loss.

Lecia Grossman, the founder and executive director of zAmya, says she started in order to “find a creative way to learn about homelessness and to create a community dialogue.” The show runs a short 45 minutes, with a 15-minute question and answer period following. The topic of homelessness is covered from a variety of angles and the personal stories involved are raw and brave; however, the most inspiring aspect is the humor the actors bring to their stories.

The actors were all drawn to zAmya for different reasons, from it being “something new” to a desire to give back to the community. Marvin, who is at zAmya for his second year, says that, after spending part of his first year in Minneapolis homeless, he wants to spread awareness not only about homelessness but about the ability to move beyond—that homelessness isn’t helplessness.

Melissa, another zAmya actor, expressed similar feelings, saying she wanted to be involved “because homeless [people’s] stories are important. They give hope to others…hearing other people’s stories can remind you [that] you’re not alone.”

zAmya’s performances often have a lasting effect on audiences, but the actors’ experience is just as important to a zAmya production.

“People in general like to create, but they never get enough opportunities to do so,” says Maren Ward, zAmya’s director, emphasizing the importance of the actor’s experience in the zAmya process. Lecia Grossman echoes the importance zAmya has to the actors by explaining that when involved in the zAmya project “[the actors] get to experience their own beauty and voice.”

Performances are this week only and all proceeds go to the actors and crew for their time and participation. For performance times and venues, and more information about zAmya Theater Project, see zamyatheater.org.