And Still We Rise (ASWR) is a theatrical performance by a cast of empowered, formerly incarcerated individuals and their loved ones. On March 20, the JP Forum hosted the group of actors at First Church UU for an afternoon of penetrating and passionate storytelling.
Each year ASWR goes through a recruitment process to look for people willing to share stories of their time in prison and their efforts to integrate back into society. “It is difficult for most people to participate because trust and betrayal are a big part of the experience,” said Dev Luthra, the artistic director. Because the cast and stories change periodically, a new piece is performed each year.
The performance lasted about forty minutes and was followed by a Q&A in which the audience got a chance to give their feedback and ask questions of the cast and artistic director. Audience members were quick to give positive feedback, saying it was “a gorgeous, beautiful work” and reflected “what theater is for.”
The Q&A allows the audience to feel impacted by the person telling each story. Many were moved with compassion that led them to ask, “What do we do now? How can we help?” It is this reaction that Luthra hopes to witness from the audience. “We have a choice to be changed by these stories,” said Luthra.
“I am thankful for ‘And Still We Rise’ because I don’t know where I would be, what I would be doing otherwise,” said performer Natalie Logan. “Being here has allowed me to know that forgiveness is so important. Ask me how I did it and I will walk you through it,” she said.