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People's Light presents World Premiere of PROJECT DAWN

This gritty, gripping, and shockingly funny world premiere tosses audiences into a revolutionary Philadelphia court designed by a passionate group of women. Every day these lawyers, judges, parole officers and staff members work to transform the lives of women repeatedly convicted for prostitution. In her daring and vital new play Project Dawn, playwright Karen Hartman probes the thin lines between freedom and slavery, activism and obsession, for women on both sides of the law. Inspired by Hartman's extensive, first-hand research inside Philly's real-life court system, and cast with seven actresses who play multiple characters, this production represents the first world premiere to emerge from the acclaimed New Play Frontiers Residency & Commission program at People's Light. People's Light is located at 39 Conestoga Road, Malvern, PA 19355. For tickets, call 610.644.3500 or visit This production is sponsored by PECO, and supported by grants from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts.

"We launched New Play Frontiers (NPF) to bring nationally-renowned playwrights to People's Light to be inspired by the stories of our region, and create works that explore our American identity," says Producing Director Zak Berkman. "Karen's play more than fulfills this aspiration. She illustrates the lives of these women, our neighbors, with unflinching empathy and humor."

People's Light Artistic Director AbiGail Adams directs Project Dawn, a play that speaks to her. "The material gnaws at your heart and inspires you to action, whether your politics are to the left or to the right," she says. "Karen's beautifully observed characters, her deep respect for them, and her ready wit bridge the gap between what audiences currently know about commercial sexual exploitation and what they could know - what is actually happening in their own backyards.

"But Project Dawn is in no way a political treatise," Adams says. "It's a poem-sometimes tender, sometimes scathing-carved out of a gifted artist's imagination, and inspired by the specificity of place."

As the first produced NPF script, Project Dawn features a dynamic, versatile team of performers and production veterans. The cast includes company members Melanye Finister (All My Sons, Fences) and Claire Inie-Richards (I and You, Sense & Sensibility), long-time guest artist Janis Dardaris (Little Foxes, Playhouse Creatures), and new collaborators Yvette Ganier, Susanna Guzman, Antoinette Lavecchia, and Danielle Skraastad.

AbiGail Adams (The Matchmaker, Auctioning the Ainsleys, How to Write a New Book for the Bible) directs the production. Frequent guest Jessica Ford (How to Write a New Book for the Bible, Barcelona) designs set and costumes. Resident artist Dennis Parichy designs lights (The Matchmaker, Auctioning the Ainsleys). Returning guest Karin Graybash creates sound (Auctioning the Ainsleys, Ghosts), and Melanie Julian serves as Dialect Coach. Company member Audrey M. Brown stage manages. Project Dawn is produced at People's Light as a part of a National New Play Network Rolling World Premiere. Other partnering theaters are Horizon Theatre Company (Atlanta, Georgia) and Unicorn Theatre (Kansas City, Missouri). For more information please visit

In March 2017, People's Light launched a month-long crowdfunding and community campaign around Project Dawn, raising over $15,000 to underwrite theatre tickets for targeted communities who might benefit from seeing the play, but would not otherwise attend, including social workers, teachers, first responders, parole officers, law enforcement, and students training in these fields. Partial and complete ticket subsidies for these key groups will expand the production's reach, as well as foster connections, both emotional and practical, among those who serve our most vulnerable populations.

Carol Metzger, local anti-trafficking advocate and author of the book Facing the Monster, says about the play, "Project Dawn shows that victims of commercial sexual exploitation and sex trafficking are real women worthy of care, love, dignity, and respect. The play shows that there are a lot of myths held by society that must be broken."

"For teachers, law enforcement officers, or health workers who may be dealing with victims on the front lines and may not recognize the signs, the play paints a very clear picture of who is being harmed and how that happens. It elicits great empathy. We may be seeing [these people] for the very first time."

Shea Rhodes, Esq., Director of the Villanova Law Institute to Address Commercial Sexual Exploitation, met with Karen Hartman throughout the play's development. "Project Dawn shows that [commercial sexual exploitation] could happen to anyone, from any socioeconomic or racial background. It happens in Chester County," Rhodes explains. "You don't need a street corner anymore; the internet is the street corner."

"This play really brings home [the notion that] it could be me; I could be the lawyer, or I could be the prostituted person. I think it's important to show that."

The New Play Frontiers Residency & Commission program at People's Light conceives, develops, and produces new work through stories of deep meaning to specific populations in the five-county region around People's Light. NPF invests in playwrights who interact with local communities, receive inspiration from the experiences, history, and heritage of those communities, and then infuse their writing with a national perspective and voice. Visit to read more details about this exciting program. New Play Frontiers is supported by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and was launched with grants from the Pew Center for Arts & Heritage, the Barra Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Project Dawn includes adult situations, references to commercial sexual exploitation and prostitution, violence, and overt drug use. We recommend that audience members be at least 16 years old.


Karen Hartman Playwright

Karen Hartman has four productions of three world premiere plays in the 2016/17 season: Roz and Ray at Seattle Repertory Theater and Victory Gardens, The Book of Joseph at Chicago Shakespeare Theater, and Project Dawn at People's Light. Roz and Ray and Project Dawn both received Edgerton Foundation New Play Awards, and all three plays have productions planned in the 2017/18 season. In 2014-15, Ms. Hartman held the Playwright Center's McKnight Residency and Commission for a nationally recognized playwright. Her play SuperTrue was on the 2015 Kilroy's List of the top unproduced plays by women. She is one of five writers of The Antigone Project, with productions off-Broadway, at Baltimore's Rep Stage, and upcoming at Portland's Profile Theater. Goldie, Max, and Milk premiered at Florida Stage and was nominated for the Steinberg/American Critics Award (Best New American Regional Play) and the Carbonell Award (Best New Play in Florida). Gum, which premiered at Baltimore's Center Stage, has seen dozens of productions at theaters and universities across the country and in Europe. Her many other works include Goliath (Dorothy Silver New Play Prize); Leah's Train (Weissberger Award Finalist); Going Gone (N.E.A. New Play Grant); Girl Under Grain (Best Drama in NY Fringe); Wild Kate (adapted from Moby Dick) and her Euripides adaptation Troy Women, which has become a staple of college theaters. Ms. Hartman's plays have been performed in New York at the Women's Project, National Asian American Theatre Company, P73, and Summer Play Festival, and at regional theaters including Cincinnati Playhouse, Dallas Theater Center, the Magic, and elsewhere. They are published by Theater Communications Group, Dramatists Play Service, Playscripts, Autumn House Press, Backstage Books, and NoPassport Press.

AbGail Adams Director

Company Member since 1975. People's Light: Artistic Director & CEO. During her 39-year association with the Theatre, Abbey has directed more than sixty plays, including The Matchmaker, Auctioning the Ainsleys, How to Write a New Book for the Bible, The Cherry Orchard, The Rainmaker, The Trip to Bountiful, Dividing the Estate, Nathan the Wise, and In the Blood. Theatre Includes: Directed readings and workshops of new plays for Playwrights Theatre of New Jersey, Circle Rep, New York Stage and Film, and The Public Theatre. Teaching: Swarthmore College, New York University, Bryn Mawr College, Carnegie Mellon University, and The Shakespeare Festival in Stratford, Ontario. Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from Ursinus College.

Janis Dardaris Bonnie/Judge Kaplan
Theatre Includes: Little Foxes and Playhouse Creations (People's Light). Mother Courage, Mourning Becomes Electra, The Seagull, The Importance of Being Earnest (Quintessence Theatre). Regional credits include Philadelphia Theatre Company, Walnut Street Theatre, InterAct, PlayPenn, The Wilma Theatre, Arden Theatre, McCarter Theatre, Pittsburgh Public, Long Wharf, Cleveland Playhouse, Woolly Mammoth, Kennedy Center, Arizona Theatre Company, Three Rivers Shakespeare, Actors' Theatre Louisville's Humana Festival (originated the role of Susan Slater in Becky Shaw). New York credits include Playwrights Horizons, New York Classical Theatre, Westbeth, Summer Play Festival on Theatre Row, Breaking Legs with Philip Bosco (also national tour with Danny Aiello). Nominated for 10 Barrymore Awards; 1998 winner of Charlotte Cushman Barrymore for her performance as Josie Hogan in A Moon for the Misbegotten; 2009 winner of Best Supporting Actress in Scorched. Film/Television Includes: The Sixth Sense, Party Monster, Third Watch, Trial By Jury, Law and Order, The Sopranos, Bliss, 1967, and the lead in Sounding, directed by Joel Coen. Featured role as Grace in Cruzando, recurring role as Judge Marcia Cross on Power, the recently released Crown Heights and Tonight and Every Night, which has been accepted in the prestigious film festival "Dances with F????????????????????????ilms" in Los Angeles.

Melanye Finister Krystal/Ruth

Company Member since 1991. People's Light: The Matchmaker, All My Sons, Fences, The Winter's Tale, Seven Guitars, The Return of Don Quixote, Six Characters in Search of an Author, Something You Did, Fabulation, and The Member of the Wedding. Theatre Includes: Wilma Theater, Arden Theatre Company, Flashpoint Theatre Company, InterAct Theatre Company, Philadelphia Theatre Company, Venture Theatre, Temple Theaters and Walnut Street Theatre. Training: BFA, Carnegie Mellon University. Melanye is an artist and resident company member at People's Light, a member of Wilma Hothouse, and a board member at PlayPenn.

Yvette Ganier Shondell/Kyla
People's Light debut. Theatre Includes: Obie Award winning actress for Breath Boom (Off-Broadway, Playwrights Horizons). Most recently appeared as Church Lady in Between Riverside and Crazy (Cleveland Playhouse). Last seen in the Philadelphia area in the premiere of Paula Vogel's Don Juan Comes Home From Iraq (Wilma Theater). Other credits include The Miracle Worker, King Hedley ll (Broadway); Jitney (National Theatre in London - 2002 Olivier Award); The Block, Pitbulls, Jitney (Off Broadway - Second Stage and Union Square Theaters); For Colored Girls Who Considered Suicide/When The Rainbow Is Enuf (Tribeca Performing Arts Center). Regional: Steppenwolf, Actors' Theatre of Louisville, The Arden, InterAct Theatre Company, Freedom Theatre, The Goodman (originated Black Mary in Gem of the Ocean by August Wilson), Mark Taper, The Intiman, Seattle Rep, Pittsburgh Public (originated Rena in Jitney by August Wilson), Baltimore Centerstage (US premiere of Elmina's Kitchen by Kwame Kwei-Armah.) Film/Television Includes Poughkeepsie, Evolution of a Criminal, Must Be The Music, Lifetime's For One Night, and ABC's All My Children. Awards: OBIE, LA Ovations Award, Audelco, NAACP Image Award, The Bowden Award.

Susanna Guzman Lola/Nia

Peoples Light debut. Theatre Includes: Award winning Luz de un cigarillo (Teatro Tea), Brooklyn Bridge (Minneapolis Children's Theatre), Comida de Puta (Ensemble Studio Theatre), Foggy Bottom (Abingdon Theatre Company), FUR (Edinburgh Fringe Festival). Fim/Television Includes: Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Power, Louis C.K, The Leftovers, Orange is the New Black, Law & Order, Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby, Shelter, Taipei, If You Could Say It in Words. Awards: Emmy nomination for cast of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt; HOLA Award Best Performance 2011; Dallas Observer Best Actress 1998. Training: Lee Strasberg Theatre Institute, La Jolla Playhouse Conservatory. Website:

Claire Inie-Richards Ashlee/Noelle
Company Member since 2015. People's Light: I and You, Sense and Sensibility, The Cherry Orchard, The Emperor's New Clothes, King Lear, End Days, Eggs, Persians, Getting Near to Baby, Twelfth Night, The Crucible. Theatre Includes: A Christmas Carol (Delaware Theatre Company), Mrs. Warren's Profession (Lanter

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