Written on: July 10, 2017
A small, community theater in Malvern is doing big things.
In an effort to bring the quiet stories of everyday lives into the light, they have begun a program called New Play Frontiers (NPF) Residency and Commission, to
“bring these stories to life in ways that deepen our connection with one another, foster conversation, and spur greater citizenship..”
The first play to come from this endeavor is Project Dawn. The play, written by Karen Hartman, is based on the monthly sessions of “Project Dawn Court” in Philadelphia. This special court program is a joint effort within the First Judicial District, comprised of a designated Municipal Court judge, an Assistant District Attorney, an Assistant Public Defender, a First Judicial District Court Coordinator and a Probation Officer. Women selected to participate in the program have at least three prior arrests for prostitution.
As participants, the women accept a plea of nolo contendere (no contest) in exchange for a year of intensive supervision, monthly court appearances, treatment for sexual trauma, substance abuse and mental health, and support dealing with issues such as housing, job training, education, child services and medical care. Those who fail at any time during the year of participation can receive the maximum sentence of five years in prison. If they participate fully in this four-phase program, at the end of the year, they are released from Probation and the charges are dismissed. After one year without further arrests, the arrest record can be expunged.
One of the community services that works in conjunction with Project Dawn’s Court is Dawn’s Place. In an undisclosed location, women find safe housing and a strict but loving environment to support their recovery from trauma, abuse and addiction. Sister Eileen White, GNSH ministers to the women of Dawn’s Place.
Sister Eileen’s ministry to these women, many of whom are victims of international trafficking, flows from the compassion of St. Marguerite d’Youville who cared for prostitutes on the streets of Montreal. Like Sr. Eileen, she offered them a safe place to sleep, nourishing food, a connection to stability and a brighter outlook for the future.
We are proud to support Sister Eileen in her ministry and commend Karen Hartman for bringing the story of Project Dawn’s Court to the public consciousness.
The People’s Light Theater production of Project Dawn took place from June 7-July 9. We hope other locations will be willing to stage this socially conscious play.