For Immediate Release
September 11, 2023
Three shows to be performed at Berkshire Community College
PITTSFIELD, MA — Second Street, Second Chances (“2nd Street”) presents three performances of RELEASE, original theater inspired by the stories of formerly incarcerated women from Berkshire County, on Wednesday, September 20 at 7 pm, Saturday, September 23 at 7 pm and Tuesday, September 26 at 2 pm. All performances will be held at the Robert Boland Theatre, located on BCC’s campus at 1350 West Street in Pittsfield. Admission is free, and no reservations are required.
RELEASE works towards humanizing the overwhelming racial and gender inequity present “behind the wall” (and beyond it) while highlighting the many nonlinear journeys of healing, recovery and resilience. The piece is woven together from the words, dreams and stories of formerly incarcerated women, shared through several months of interviews and listening sessions, and will be performed by an ensemble of local professional actors.
“RELEASE provides a platform for formerly incarcerated women in the Berkshires to freely express themselves through theater,” said Mark Gold, president, 2nd Street Board of Directors. “It is important for the community to hear their voices and listen to their stories and experiences, hopefully resulting in the erosion of stigma and stereotyping. We are honored to be able to provide this opportunity for both the storytellers and for our communities.”
The production is directed and facilitated by Amy Brentano, producing artistic director for The Foundry, a performing arts venue in West Stockbridge, and Sara Katzoff, a Pittsfield-based theater maker, director and educator.
In a statement prepared by Brentano and Katzoff, the co-directors said, “We have been continually humbled by the tenacity and resilience of the women in the aftercare group who stepped forward to share their stories with humor, courage and generosity. It has been a privilege to be invited in to listen, to learn and to be part of the process of activating the transformative power of theater to tell these stories. We often left the sessions elated, with a renewed faith in humankind and awe of the 2nd Street community’s ability to trust two complete strangers who have never lived in their world.”
Brentano and Katzoff continued, “The women whose stories are shared here are on remarkable journeys of self-exploration. They are singers, writers, dancers, chefs, employees, all reentering a world most of them were never felt part of to begin with. The claim, ‘I feel like I’ve just started to live’ was said over and over in our conversations.”
The stories told by participants were documented on film by three Williams College students, providing hours of footage. One such story was told by Gabby Leon.
“In the Pittsfield area, women often lack equal access to treatment opportunities. When the opportunity to create this production arose, we all sensed a chance to finally have our voices heard,” Leon said. “My hope is that in the spotlight of recovery, this production will amplify the voices of resilient women, rewriting the script of a community that has historically prioritized male recovery narratives. These are the stories of women who courageously ventured beyond their familiar community to fight for their own recovery.”
Leon continued, “2nd Street has become a haven for women who have endured similar struggles, fostering a supportive community that uplifts and empowers each other, especially during challenging times.”
RELEASE is made possible through financial and in-kind support from Berkshire Community College; The Foundry, West Stockbridge, MA; Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation’s Arts Build Community Initiative with funding from the Barr Foundation; First Avenue Fund, a fund of Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation; St. John’s Episcopal Church of Williamstown; Williams College; and Berkshire County Sheriff’s Office.
About 2nd Street
Second Street Second Chances, Inc., better known as 2nd Street, supports formerly incarcerated persons in Berkshire County and connects them with the tools, programs and support they need to successfully reenter their community. 2nd Street is committed to treating formerly incarcerated individuals with respect and encouragement; providing them with job readiness skills and access to employment opportunities; preparing them to become productive and contributing citizens; and educating and advocating for communities to embrace them as such. Services and referrals include medical and mental health resources, substance use disorder services, financial resources and literacy, transportation, family reunification, housing, job training and employment, and legal services. Visit 2nd Street at www.2nd-street.org.