PreEnactIndy: Reimagining a neighborhood the way it ought to be

Choir members from the Asante Children’s Theatre perform during last year’s PreEnactIndy.

With one successful installment of PreEnactIndy under their belt, the Harrison Center-led coalition is approaching the event’s second act with even more enthusiasm.

“It is most fulfilling to experience the concept of pre-enactment really working in the Monon16 neighborhood,” said event director Bonnie Mill of The Sapphire Theatre Co. “It’s an honor to know the people, hear their stories and support this vital Indianapolis community.”

So what is PreEnactIndy? Mill describes the exercise as “live community envisioning for inclusive community development.” Joanna Taft, executive director of the producing organization, the Harrison Center, said it this way:

“PreEnactIndy helps us envision what a revitalized neighborhood looks like that is also inclusive. It allows us to try it on for a day and gives us a picture of what to work toward.”

The event will return to a three-block stretch of East 16th Street immediately east of the Monon Trail on Saturday, Oct. 6. From 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., rain or shine, the event will blur the lines between a community festival and theater production.

The goal: To envision what a long-neglected neighborhood ought to be – just, equitable and economically vibrant.

PreEnactIndy is the result of a partnership between local professional theater groups, numerous neighborhood partners and several performing arts educators. The result, organizers hope, is a fully immersive experience  of the active, healthy and well-designed neighborhood the area deserves.

Freetown Village performers created a barber shop.

“We held our first PreEnactIndy last year and it was a great success with roughly 10,000 people taking part,” Taft said. “The response to this first-of-its-kind theater and arts collaboration was amazing and we knew not only were we doing something important for our city and our neighborhood, but for communities across the country to see what’s possible when you seek to realize your hopes and dreams, together.”

Taft added that she was surprised last year about how excited people were to be involved. “We were overwhelmed with requests to partner,” she said. “The 2017 event introduced new relationships that are now partnering in 2018. I also made a few new ‘porching’ friends from Monon16.”

Taft said the event’s first year was well received, but one of her main hopes for 2018 is better signage to help visitors. “We also learned that people love to sit in the Middle of the Road Cafe. How often do you get to eat in the middle of the street.”

The Sapphire Theatre Co. team of Bonnie Mill and her partner, chief designer David Orr, have once again engaged the performing arts community to produce a grass-roots, community-connected experience of revitalization in live time.

“By engaging the performing arts, we are able to bring the rich history of this area to life and give the community a platform to share their stories and voice their dreams,” Mill said.

Temporary facades built by set designers will rise again on vacant lots, abandoned buildings will be spruced up and throughout the day, live performances will illustrate to attendees scenarios of a thriving, inclusive and diverse community.

The PreEnact process has brought other elements to the Monon16 neighborhood, including the recently installed Greatriarchs of Monon16 project. “I am so proud of that project and the resulting 4×6-foot portraits hanging on the side of the Gleaner’s building to honor the long-term residents of the neighborhood,” Taft said. “I am also excited about the pop-up roller skating rink. The Gospel Fest is pretty great, too, because it allows the neighborhood churches to share their gifts with the community.”

 

AMONG THE ACTIVITIES:

Beckwith Commons – A community park honoring neighborhood resident Frank Beckwith, the first African American to run in an American presidential primary in 1960. The Beckwith Stage will host a big Porch Party (#porchpartyindy), where community   members, political leaders and spoken word artists will gather to share stories and lead the community in conversations about equity.

Brother Nature Market – Locally focused, farmers-style market featuring fresh produce, artisan goods and services such as landscape and garden design, sewing services and grocery delivery

Gospel Fest – Choirs, bands and praise dancers from various churches will share their talents in an all-day celebration of the local churches and the vital role they play in the community they serve

A photo scan-a-thon – At the Oaks Academy, a project dedicated to collecting photos and printed historic materials, particularly from the African American community, as part of the Indianapolis Public Library’s digitization initiative. Also available will be tours of the Dunbar Library, the first African American branch of The Indianapolis Public Library.

The DREAM Cultural Community Center – Programs and performances that promote and preserve this part of Indy’s culture and community.

Eastside Variety & Barbershop – Friendly neighborhood penny candy and barbershop for “stories, stylin’ and socializing.”

Middle of the Road Café – Seating and socializing in the streets, creating “a slower and kinder community.”

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