The Filmore Hotel

Dignity Village at the Pine Street Theater, 215 SE 9th, Saturday May 29, 7 pm, $10-100 donation

In the far back corner of Dignity Village, The Village Players are getting ready for the afternoon rehearsal of their first original play, The Filmore Hotel. Cast member Abram rolls a cigarette, while fellow cast member Dawn plays with somebody's new puppy. Another actor, Ross, jokes around with actress, Cheere, as she plays with his ponytail. The Royal Shakespeare Company this ain't, but there is a gentle unity here; the kind that comes from collaborating on a project because it's fun, and not because you want to impress someone.

Each Thursday for the last three months playwright/director Helen Hill has come to Dignity to rehearse with this group of fledgling actors. Her project was commissioned to coincide with the Village Building Convergence, a 10-day (through May 30) citywide exercise in community building with workshops on sustainable living, and much more ( for details). Hill based the play on an actual hotel she grew up near called the Gilmore Hotel, which at one time served as a temporary resting site for many homeless, but which since has been torn down.

"I remember the heartbreak of breaking that community up," says Hill. "It was a real community. They stood up for each other, they fought with each other; I never forgot that."

Hill's play has a colorful cast of nomadic residents ranging from a reformed prostitute with a baby, to the "old bitch that shuts the place down and runs everyone out." The "old bitch's" plans are slightly foiled when a crew of famous writers' ghosts come to teach her the values of community living.

"I play Tennessee Williams," says Abram proudly. When I was a kid I'd do Southern accents, so this is a good role for me."

"I don't remember any of Mrs. Guest's lines," chimes in Kat, a young lady with multiple roles. I don't even know her husband's name."

Ross gestures high above one of the shanties to demonstrate how tall the awesome puppets are that were constructed to represent the famous spirits. He cracks a joke about "Burnside Cadillacs" (the overstuffed shopping carts many homeless push around), and everyone laughs.

The Village Players are ready. JUSTIN WESCOAT SANDERS