This is Reading was a multimedia performance installation that was housed in the Franklin Street Railroad Station in Reading, Pennsylvania. Franklin Street Station had been the center of the Reading Railroad, which we all know from the Monopoly board game but had been abandoned since 1981, and we decided that we were going to reanimate this space, which was the nexus point between neighborhoods in downtown Reading.
It came out of wanting to bring something back to the people in Reading, Pennsylvania. I spent two years there. I had produced Sweat and I was beginning to feel very much like a carpetbagger, in that I had poached their stories and left, and I didn’t like that feeling. I didn’t like the feeling that what I had created wasn’t benefiting the people in Reading, Pennsylvania. So I thought, “What can I do to bring this fractured city into one space and bring them into conversation?”
So we came up with this notion of This is Reading, which was to fill the Reading Railroad Station with the stories of the people in Reading. And the goal was to bring the homeless guy who was on Penn Street and the mayor into the same space, and we succeeded where they would sit side by side and both recognize that they share the same narrative.