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NYS Writers Institute, October 13, 2011
7:30 p.m. Performance [Note early start time] | Recital Hall, Performing Arts Center, Uptown Campus


A new stage adaptation of the classic Afro-Latino memoir, Down These Mean Streets (1967),by Piri Thomas, will be performed at 7:30 p.m. [NOTE EARLY START TIME], Thursday, October 13, 2011 in the Recital Hall, Performing Arts Center on the University at Albany’s uptown campus. The performance will be complemented by a discussion with a teaching artist prior to the show at 7 p.m. and again after the show. A production of American Place Theatre, a performance-based literacy program, the event is sponsored by the Performing Arts Center and the New York State Writers Institute. Admission is $15 general public; $12 seniors, faculty/staff and students. Box Office: (518) 442-3997; [email protected].

American Place Theatre will present a one-person theatrical adaptation of the classic Afro-Latino memoir, Down These Mean Streets (1967) by Piri Thomas, an account of his coming of age as a Puerto Rican on the streets of Spanish Harlem, and his descent into a life of crime— a descent that ends when the twenty-two-year-old Piri is sent to prison at Sing Sing for shooting a cop. Over the course of the narrative, Thomas redeems himself from gang life and adversity and finds the talent and soul within to not only survive, but to enrich the lives of others.

The evening will begin at 7 p.m. with a pre-performance discussion led by a member of American Place Theatre and will conclude with a post-performance discussion immediately following the show.

The one-man play is a production of American Place Theatre’s “Literature to Life” series, a literacy program that presents professionally staged adaptations of American literary works. The show was adapted and directed by Wynn Handman, the company’s founder and Artistic Director, recipient of a 1999 Obie for Sustained Achievement and the Lucille Lortel Award for Lifetime Achievement of the League of Off-Broadway Theatres.

The show is performed by Jamil Mena whose recent TV acting credits include the recurring role of Special Agent Cortes on All My Children (2006-8), as well as Primetime: What Would You Do?, One Life to Live, Blue Bloods, Royal Pains, Rescue Me, 30 Rock, Guiding Light, As the World Turns and Law & Order: Criminal Intent.

Previous works staged at UAlbany by American Place Theatre have included Junot Díaz’s The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, Jeannette Walls’ The Glass Castle, Greg Mortenson’s Three Cups of Tea, Frank McCourt’s Teacher Man, Sue Monk Kidd’s The Secret Life of Bees, and Sherman Alexie’s Flight.

The memoir Down These Mean Streets was reissued in a special 30th Anniversary edition by Vintage paperback in 1997. At the time of its publication in 1967, the New York Times said, “It has an undeniable power that… comes from the fact that it is a report from the guts and heart of a submerged population group, itself submerged in the guts and hearts of our cities. It claims our attention and emotional response because of the honesty and pain of a life led in outlaw, fringe status, where the dream is always to escape.”

Born in 1928 and a key figure of the Nuyorican literary movement, Thomas currently resides in El Cerrito, California where he continues to work with young people in inner city communities. He is currently writing a sequel to his memoir, A Matter of Dignity.

The play is presented by the Performing Arts Center in conjunction with the New York State Writers Institute. Admission is $15 general public; $12 seniors & faculty/staff; and $10 students. For additional information, contact the box office at (518) 442-3997 or [email protected] .