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Journaling turns into performance

I've long been an advocate for better communication between cultures, generations and folks at different stages in life.

No harm can come from that. In fact, our empathy is often enhanced when we listen to a different perspective.

We are reminded we don't know everything.

That's why I believe a pilot project conducted by two Lexington women with performances by eight young girls living at the Florence Crittenton Home is a must-see by the closed and nearly closed minds among us.

Fourth Street Sisters: We've Come a Long Way, Baby, a staged reading by the young mothers, will be presented at Actors Guild of Lexington at 2 p.m. Sept. 27.

Funded by Morgan Worldwide through the education department at Actors Guild, the performance consists of the joys and disappointments the young mothers experienced and penned in their journals over the past 12 weeks.

Julieann Pogue, director of education at Actors Guild of Lexington, and Minna Dubin, who has taught journaling, have been working on the project for more than a year, and with the girls for three months. Dubin was a graduate student teaching autobiographical writing and working as a bartender when she met Pogue.

A California licensed psychotherapist and marriage counselor, Pogue had worked with gang populations there to refocus their energies. With that background, she volunteered last year with a grass-roots effort to do something similar here. She was asked if she had a program that could be geared to the young girls at Florence Crittenton.

By then she had been talking with Dubin about working with Actors Guild interns, so she said she could, and they then worked out the details.

The young mothers' journals have helped them target feelings that might have been unexplored.

"It's a way for the girls to get their feelings out, and some of their stories," Pogue said.

"They discuss body image, and what it is like to conceive a child at their age, what childbirth is and what it isn't, and how all of that changed them," Pogue said.

What is it like to have one impulsive decision change your entire life from that of a little girl to that of a mother? In their monologues, the girls tell us.

They have also written open letters to their unborn children, Pogue said, and they discuss one another's character.

Through it all, the girls have "learned as a community," she said. "They were thrown together with little in common except pregnancy."

Dubin took the time to talk with the girls and then to get them to focus.

"It is a mix of writing and interactive activities," Dubin said. "We talk about what is going on and try to bring out a consciousness of who they are and where they are coming from. It's team-building."

Pogue said they met twice a week for 2½ hours each time.

"Took a month for it to start to flow," she said. "We had to convince them that we are OK, and to get them to feel comfortable."

One of the girls' first assignments after receiving pretty journals and pens was to write about their hopes and fears, she said.

"They are amazing girls and amazing stories," Dubin said.

Pogue and Dubin then worked the journals, for which the girls earn credits in language arts, into theatrical monologues, and Fourth Street Sisters was born.

The name is derived from the home's address at 519 West Fourth Street.

"A lot are writing really intense stuff," Dubin said. "Through the writing process, they sometimes don't realize the extremity of what has been written.

"With this kind of thing, the end is the reward," she said, "just seeing them on stage."

The performance is free, but you can leave a donation for the home at the door.

Dubin and Pogue hope to continue the project in the spring, probably with different girls.

For those of us who won't get to attend this month's performance, we can try again next year to open our minds.

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