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Elise Thoron
 
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While working at American Place Theater over eighteen years ago, I co-founded a theater based literacy program with the artistic director, Wynn Handman, called Literature to Life.  Literature to Life performances began as verbatim adaptations of novels on the New York City public high school reading list, performed by a single actor who engages the students directly with the words and emotions of the novel.  Today Literature to Life has a roster of over thirty books and performs all across the country in theaters, art centers, libraries, and classrooms, with pre and post show discussions facilitated by a master teaching artist.  The response of students, teachers, and parents is amazing.

lit2lifekids

If there is ever a day I get discouraged about theater’s importance or ability to reach a broad audience, I attend a Literature to Life performance.  It’s that inspiring.  We also do longer residencies in schools and professional development; our company of actors and teaching artists is astounding and as dedicated as our staff.  The following titles are titles I’ve adapted, it’s probably the most gratifying work I do. Literature to Life now has a new home at Young Audiences New York.

ToasT

 If Beale Street Could Talk novel by James Baldwin (2015) new Living Library created for Harlem Stage’s yearlong James Baldwin Festival. A powerful novel about a young woman’s struggle with the criminal justice system to free the innocent father of her child from prison and his journey of survival behind bars. Click here for a slideshow of photos from the performance.

   
ToasT

Zora Folk Tales by Zora Neale Hurston (2013-)

     
Hatuey  

Southern Voices: To Kill a Mocking Bird; Their Eyes Were Watching God; As I lay Dying (2012)

     
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The Giver by Lois Lowry (2011-)

     
Hatuey  

Tell Tale Heart and other POEtry by Edgar Allan Poe (2011-)

     
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The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz (2010-)

     
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County of Kings by Lemon Andersen (2009-)

     
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The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros in repertory for eighteen years. (1995-)

     
Hatuey  

Sassafras, Cypress, and Indigo by Ntozake Shange, adapted from the novel for Literature to Life with Lenore Pemberton. (1994)

     
American Place Theatre  

This Shit is Real & Untitled Hamlet - two plays created and performed at American Place Theater with high school students over two semesters, while developing a new program, Urban Writes, subsequently a recipient of a large NEA Arts Plus grant. (Video components: Dean Mitchell).