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When You Shake the Tree

Broadway Star Norm Lewis calls new play by teens “a vibrant shake up of family life: the secrets, the hurts and the healing.”


Immediate release: May 17, 2010: What it means to be a teenager forced to grow up fast in a city where drugs, drink, and sex are all in the family. Teens in treatment for drug abuse at Odyssey House write, act, and stage a play that takes a fresh perspective on trouble at home.

“When You Shake the Tree,” premieres Monday, June 7th, 4:00 p.m. & 7:00 p.m., Theatre Row Studio, 410, W42nd, NYC. VIP reception at 8:00 p.m.

In a three-month acting and playwriting immersion project, street-smart teens find their voices, flex their bodies and open their minds through improvisation, playwriting, music and art. Exposed to an intensive program similar to the training process of a professional ensemble, teen members of the new Odyssey House Theatre Project embark on a journey of self discovery and creative discipline.

Odyssey House President Peter Provet, Ph.D., explains the motivation behind the project funded by a grant from the Elizabeth & Barets O. Benjamin Charitable Foundation: “Being in long-term residential treatment program is especially hard for teens. They get homesick and long to be with their families, even if home is troubled or unsafe. Writing and acting helps them deal with drug abuse and family problems in a creative way and opens them up to a deeper treatment experience.”

Returning to direct the artistic and instructional elements is Tom Demenkoff, Artistic Director of PossibleArts. A working actor with Broadway, film and television credits, Tom uses his decades’ long experience to create theatre projects for young people in therapeutic communities, schools and correctional facilities.

Joining Tom is Broadway Star Norm Lewis, currently starring in “Sondheim on Sondheim” on Broadway, who returns to the Odyssey House Theatre Project as spokesperson, mentor and acting coach. Norm is also shepherding this important project into the mainstream of the vibrant New York Community including the nation’s leading industry based HIV/AIDS fundraising and grant-making organization Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS.

Odyssey House, founded in 1967, provides comprehensive and innovative services to those who abuse drugs, alcohol and struggle with mental illness, is in their second year producing an innovative performing arts immersion experience: Odyssey House Theatre Project.

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