New Hazlett Theater
Making its premiere at the North Side-based venue, Day Room Window tackles the tough subject of girls who are incarcerated as adults in US prisons. Validating rarely heard voices and giving untold stories a place to be shared, heard and discussed, the compelling new play was written by Bonnie Cohen, who also directs the production.
Based on Cohen’s real life experiences, the provocative play depicts the realities faced by nine young female who are incarcerated as adults in adult prison out of the shadows and into a public forum. Theater-goers will discover who these nine girls are as individuals, will encounter the world they live in everyday and will engage with their personal and powerful journeys toward self-discovery and potential redemption—while also exploring themes of courage, compassion, injustice and hope.
The premiere production features several prolific veterans of Pittsburgh’s theater scene, such as Debra Gordon, John Gresh, David Santiago and Jennifer Tober. Joining them in the multi-racial, multi-ethnic cast
are nine emerging young female actors, including recent graduates of the University of Pittsburgh and Point State Park University, as well as current CAPA students. The production’s design team, overseeing set, costume, lighting, sound and stage manager duties, also consists of young women who are early on in their careers.
For Cohen, who began her theatre career at the Pittsburgh Playhouse as a teenager, the play also represents her personal and professional dedication to fostering the artistic growth of emerging local talent, and her strong desire to give back to the young people of our region.
Cohen was moved to write the play after working as a drama therapist in both juvenile detention as well as in a women’s prison with girls under the age of 18 who were sentenced to adult time. After successfully employing drama therapy techniques with youth in juvento tile detention in Seattle, Cohen was asked by the State of Washington to work with girls who were sentenced to the adult women’s prison. The content and characters of Day Room Window are drawn from those experiences, and Cohen hopes to “shed light on and give life and voice not only these girls in particular but to the thousands of youth in adult prison.” Using live theatre to illuminate these issues and engage diverse audiences, Cohen also hopes that the play can address injustice and help to enact change.
Day Room Window marks the first play for Cohen, whose professional theatre career spans 40 years as an actor, director, playwright and educator. Cohen has acted at the Soho, Oregon and Missouri Repertory Theatres, Oregon Shakespeare Festival and the Hangar Theatre, and from 1981 until 2011, she was a theatre professor at Seattle’s Cornish College of the Arts. In 1989, Cohen was certified as a chemical dependency counselor by Seattle University.
Serving as technical advisor to the project is Jeffrey Shook, associate professor of social work at the University of Pittsburgh, who is a nationally known authority on juvenile justice and an advocate for reforming the sentencing of youth to adult prison. The play’s producers are also partnering locally with The Girls Coalition of Southwestern Pennsylvania and The Pittsburgh Project.
Explore the play’s themes and issues surrounding prison reform during post-show discussions with Cohen and Shook following the performances on October 22nd, 23rd and 24th.