Sarah Morton puts it kindly when she says her challenge in writing Dream/Home was to "find a way to get into the nuts and bolts" of the foreclosure crisis without "becoming a lecture on the economy or the lending industry." In other words, she wanted to turn socio-economic calamity into a play. So she decided to write scenes and characters that deal with the ripple effect on a single, unspecified Cleveland neighborhood. Dobama Theatre commissioned the story as part of its series of plays about Cleveland. The curtain goes up this week.
"We see moments with nine characters as they struggle with what's happening in their neighborhood as people try to hang on to houses" despite job loss and the rise of crime that follows, says Morton.
The one character present throughout is a banker who grew up in the neighborhood and whose mother still lives there. Played by George Roth, he's trying to come to terms with what happened and his share of responsibility — and the mistaken belief that driving the economy with risky loans was a sound strategy.
Morton wrote the story over the course of a year, the literal and financial landscape changing week by week. The play ends in September 2008 with a character about to lose her house — a teacher who was persuaded to take out a loan she couldn't afford and who's been facing foreclosure throughout the play. Her loss comes to a head with poetic injustice in the final scenes, as she and her beleaguered neighbors see the banks get bailed out by the federal government, not the homeowners.
Morton's first drafts were "more dark and angry," but after writing for a year, she started look beyond the doom and gloom. "It became a play about resiliency," she says.
Dobama will offer free tickets to homeowners and renters facing foreclosure. There's also a series of facilitated, post-show conversations.