The Theatre of the Oppressed troupe Concrete Justice performed “The Housing Circus,” a forum play about the New York City transitional housing system at the PepsiCo Theatre on Sept. 28. “The Housing Circus” tackles the system in a wacky, complex and touching circus based on the real life experiences of the ensemble.

The show opened with two jokers, Becca Lynch and Kate Clark. “We are here to talk about problems,” said Lynch. They introduced the show by saying that the audience isn’t a spectator, but a “spec-actor.” Clark and Lynch warmed up the audience with friendly ice breakers including shaking hands with someone next to you and not being able to let go until you were shaking hands with another, before the show began.

A ringmaster walked out on stage and introduced the audience to the Housing Circus, where everyone needs their electronic benefit transfer card (food stamps, cash assistance, ID and insurance card) out. Afterwhich, Mr. Pinky the clown walks out and decides to take an HIV test to make sure his family will be healthy. After two weeks, his results return positive. He goes home feeling rejected and confides in his roommate, who responds by kicking him out.

“A bird was above me and pooped on me and then a cat came out and pulled me out of the poop and ate me” explained Pinky. “The moral of the story is, the one who pooped on you isn’t really your enemy and the one who pulled you out of the poop isn’t really your friend,” Mr. Pinky said as he runs off laughing.

A strongman was introduced who refused to perform because he had to go to a job interview. The ringmaster repeatedly told him that if he didn’t stay and perform, he wouldn’t have his bed. The strongman claimed that he would be back on time and the ringmaster agreed to keep his bed for him. Right when the strongman left for his interview, the ringmaster called a social worker, stating that he needs a new homeless person to stay in the dirty apartment in Mount Eden (an actual homeless shelter in New York City).

There are currently nine programs in New York where homeless people put their experiences into the show, spreading awareness about homelessness.

“Because of Theatre Oppressed, I tend to think more. I now have the TO brain,” said actor John. “Everything isn’t black and white so I tend to think out of the box more.”

One of the big events of Theatre of the Oppressed is a legislative show once a year for council members in the senate to show them what their people are dealing with. At the end of the show, the council members are given proposals that if passed, would fix the issues brought up in the play.

“The idea is to have one community sharing their problems and with that, bringing out knowledge of the system. And that is what brings us one step closer to a solution,” said Clark.

Theatre of the Oppressed has many free shows throughout the area spreading awareness about homelessness. They can be found on Facebook at Theatre of the Oppressed NYC and on their website www.theatreoftheoppressednyc.org.

 

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