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Peter Hedges Joins Irondale And NYPD In Fostering Change In Brooklyn Through Theater

Irondale, Brooklyn's leading theatrical think-tank theater ensemble, in partnership with the New York Police Department, have selected the participants of the 7th cycle of To Protect, Serve, and Understand and begun the 10-week, 40-hour workshop rooted in social change. Following the 40-hour workshop series, the combined group of officers and community members will present an original performance May 17-18, telling their own stories as well as the stories of others, through improvisations and monologues.

Upon watching Eric Garner plead eleven times for his life with the infamous phrase "I can't breathe," Irondale's Executive Director Terry Greiss built a blue print for change in partnership with the Collaborative Policing Division of the NYPD. Through an examination of modern policing and the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement,To Protect, Serve, and Understand explores the heightened tensions that have caused a palpable rift between police and the community. The one-of-a-kind workshop-which starts with a dinner and discussion, followed by group theater games and actor-training techniques-teaches participants a unique approach to problem-solving and offers real-life communication skills in a creative non-judgmental atmosphere.

"Simply put, we are losing the ability to talk to each other," explains Greiss, the creator of the program. "There is so much we can take from our theater training to help people communicate more effectively and listen dynamically. The stakes are high. As an actor, if you miss making a connection with those around you while on stage, you might get a bad review from an audience member or critic. If you miss a connection as a police officer or as a civilian out there on the streets, somebody's life and safety might be at stake."

To Protect, Serve, and Understand follows a model that Irondale created out of the rehearsal process over the last 36 years. It has led to the production of the company's main-stage theatrical works, youth programming and a STEAM curriculum to train young scientists. To date, 40 police officers and 40 civilians have participated in To Protect, Serve, and Understand in six series of workshops. Performances have seen audiences at capacity, with more than 1,800 community members attending the performances. The conversations continue with an official Protect, Serve, and Understand podcast, launched this month and featuring alumni from various workshop groups. The podcast is available on iTunes at

To Protect, Serve and Understand private workshops run weekly, on Tuesday nights through May 14, 6:30-9:30 p.m. Public performances will take place May 17 and 18 at 7:30 p.m. All performances are FREE to the public.

Irondale is located at 85 South Oxford Street in Brooklyn, New York. The theater is accessible by Subway: C to Lafayette; B, D, M, N, Q, R, 2, 3, 4, or 5 to Atlantic Avenue/Pacific Street; and G to Fulton Street.

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