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‘Voices from the Margin’ hits close to home

Angela Fisher could barely contain her excitement at last night’s performance of “Voices from the Margin.” The Lee Street Theatre show features stories of shelter guests from Rowan Helping Ministries, and Fisher herself is a shelter guest.
“It’s awesome,” Fisher said after the performance. “It touched my heart.”
Fisher is pursuing an associate’s degree at Rowan-Cabarrus Community College, and wants to move on to a four-year college to study fine arts.
“I want to be on stage and tell people that your brokenness can be healed,” she said.
Fisher was one of 50 shelter guests who attended the premiere of the play, written by Brian Daye, an actor, director and writer from Huntersville, and Justin Dionne, the theater’s managing artistic director.
The show continues tonight and tomorrow night at 7:30 p.m. A concert by “Blazin’ Blues Bob” (Bob Paolino) begins at 7, and Paolino weaves music throughout the performances of six actors. Their words are based on stories told to Daye and Dionne by shelter guests and staff members.
One of those staff members is P.J. Ricks, the character known as “Sister P,” who’s portrayed by Karen Abercrombie. The two shared a warm hug during the after-show reception.
“It’s just funny seeing my own words thrown back at me,” Ricks said, shaking her head. “It moved and touched me.”
Ricks has worked at the shelter for three years and teaches in the New Tomorrows program.
“They did get you down pat,” one shelter guest told her.
“I loved it,” said Keith Bynum, a local artist and shelter guest, who was portrayed by Michael Connor, a theater professor at Livingstone College. “I liked listening to other people’s stories more than my own. It was amazing.”
He added, “We don’t know what someone has been through. Being homeless and in a shelter, we’re quick to judge.”
Roderick Baker portrayed a character known as Up North. He moved to Salisbury after living a life of crime, selling drugs on the street, doing 8˝ years in prison. Following a broken relationship, he moved into the shelter.
“Why was my life the way it was?” he said. “I decided to make a change.”
He walked across the street, to the construction site for the new shelter, and begged for a job.
“I’m tired,” he said. “I want to get my life in order. Can I get a job, please?”
The foreman decided to give him a chance. He went faithfully to the job site every day, he said, “on time, no lip, no bullcrap.”
From that job, he was able to get a maintenance job at Rowan Helping Ministries.
“I love this place right here,” Up North concluded. “There’s a piece of me right here. Now I read my Bible, go to church, and I keep my mind off them streets.
“You ain’t got to do that crime. You can do it. You can come up out of this. I thank God that he saved me. I’d do anything for Rowan Helping Ministries.”
At the end of the performance, all six actors said in unison: “Voices from the Margin exist — and they’re closer than you think.”
Other actors in the production are Ericka Ross as Lady Kee, Preston Mitchell as Sal, and Verity Pryor-Harden as Estelle.
“It’s one thing to get up on stage and memorize lines and do that whole acting thing,” said Mitchell, who works for the City of Salisbury. “It’s another thing to know these lines are being lived by people in the audience.”
Pryor-Harden is a senior theater major at Catawba College. She was an intern at Lee Street Theatre this summer.
“It’s definitely the fastest we’ve ever put something together,” she said. “We had three rehearsals. Now I know I can do it.”
Of the production, she said, “I would feel like it would be my own diary read out loud.”
The show is not only to entertain, Mitchell added, but to educate, to inform and to move people to awareness and hopefully action.
Daye said it was wonderful to have the staff and shelter guests at the performance, and to see them represented on stage.
“We wanted to do Rowan Helping Ministries justice,” he said. “I’m very gratified. I’m very happy.”
Admission for the two public performances is a suggested donation of $15. But Dionne said he doesn’t want that to deter anyone who wants to attend.
“The main point is to get these stories heard,” he said. “Just come see the show.”
Freelance writer Susan Shinn lives in Salisbury.

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