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Mr. Joy: Why We Tour In Boston and Beyond

For the second year in a row, ArtsEmerson has brought back the Mr. Joy Neighborhood Tour, this time traveling to locations in Charlestown, Scituate, Roxbury, and Allston. This one-woman show made its debut performance during our 2015-2016 season and received so much critical acclaim and audience praise that ArtsEmerson was eager to reintroduce the show in the form of a neighborhood tour. We looked at different responses to the Mr. Joy Tour to explore why this performance is so important to the city of Boston.

In the spring of 2016, a year before the first tour began, the city of Boston released a plan to bolster the city’s art scene. This plan was designed to not only introduce more funding for the arts but to also engage different communities in Boston, who felt as though there are economic and racial barriers that exclude them from participating in all the cultural events the city has to offer. As the head of Boston’s Office of Resilience & Racial Equity has said, there’s “not always the feeling among these citizens that the whole city is theirs,” especially since much of Boston’s art and cultural events happen in the Downtown area. The concentration of art in one area of the city has reaffirmed the sense of barriers between residents. However, through Mr. Joy: The Neighborhood Tour, ArtsEmerson has addressed and attempted to break down these barriers by bringing the performance to areas outside of Downtown Crossing and offering residents free admission to the show. Although Mr. Joy takes place in Harlem, many audience members felt as though it was “a message about Boston” and a “message about how we are all connected.” The tour has helped create a city-wide conversation about race and human connection and has encouraged residents to think about their own positions in their community.

Mr. Joy was the obvious choice for a neighborhood tour because the play, by Daniel Beaty, explores issues of race and class in America to help us find our common humanity. The play incorporates themes of transforming pain into power and helped ignite discussions about race, class, and community within Boston after its original run in October of 2015. Beaty furthered the idea about the power of performance and community by remarking that the arts “have the ability to frame difficult conversations in a way that delves into our deeper humanity and looks at what we really feel.”

The 2018 tour of Mr. Joy has added three new locations: Bunker Hill Community College in Charlestown, Roxbury Community College’s Media Arts Center, and the Scituate Center for the Performing Arts at Scituate High School (ArtsEmerson brought the show to the BCYF Jackson/Mann Community Center in Allston last year as well again this year). Each performance is put on in partnership with important organizations around the city that focus on community equality. The choice to bring Mr. Joy to Scituate is particularly notable as this is the first time the tour has expanded into a Boston suburb and it is the first time ArtsEmerson has been partnered with METCO (The Metropolitan Council for Educational Opportunity), the voluntary, inter-district school assignment program dedicated to increasing diversity and reducing racial isolation. Mr. Joy: The Neighborhood Tour is also in partnership with the City of Boston’s Office of Arts and Culture, who plans to use the message of the show in order to foster progressive discussions about race and class in communities.

Mr. Joy: The Neighborhood Tour is an extremely influential and powerful production that engages communities throughout the Greater Boston Area and provides them with the opportunity to think about their own relationships with their neighborhoods, especially in regards to racial inequality. RSVP at https://bit.ly/2rmACrY for a free ticket to see this incredible performance in your neighborhood! The show has already visited Charlestown and Scituate, but there’s still two more locales left on the tour! 

Roxbury Community College: May 15 @ 7pm

Media Arts Center

1234 Columbus Ave

Roxbury Crossing, MA 02120

BCYF Jackson/Mann Community Center: May 19 @ 6pm

500 Cambridge St

Allston, MA 02134

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