Complete the Dream Team

By Unique Saunders, MENTOR Independence Region

Every child on this earth is born on purpose and with purpose. Sometimes the murkiness of life’s obstacles can leave them questioning their value and doubting their greatness. And other times, they don’t quite know who they are and how much power is within them because it hasn’t been brought to the surface just yet.

For young people on their journey, no matter how far along they are, having a solid support system can be what propels them into their reason for being. The guidance of loving, caring adults is critical as they grow and develop. And not just one adult. Youth need a team of special people in their lives to walk alongside them, encouraging them and modeling healthy behaviors.

Mentors offer so much. The simple act of listening to a young person gives them a sense of power! In a world where so many of our children are silenced and unseen, being heard can be transformational. Mentors have the honor of hearing the dreams of their mentee and helping them achieve their goals. 

A mentor isn’t a superhero and doesn’t need to be perfect with all of the right answers, but just being available as a trusted friend has tremendous impact. There are thousands of children right here in our own neighborhoods who could use one more adult to encourage them along their journey. You could be the missing link to complete the dream team in a young person’s life.

There are many mentoring programs in search of positive role models. Contact your local Big Brothers Big Sisters or check out the Mentoring Connector, for other programs that suit your interests and availability.

Lauren LeonardComment
Natural Shocks: Theatre Activism to End Gun Violence
Natural Shocks


EBP will participate later this month in a national campaign of theatre activism to end gun violence by presenting a staged reading of Lauren Gunderson’s new play, Natural Shocks.

Based on Hamlet’s “to be or not to be” soliloquy, the play features a woman waiting out a tornado in her basement. As the storm rages on, the audience bears witness to her stories and secrets, and learns the intimate details of her relationship with guns.

To raise awareness about gun violence on the 19th anniversary of the Columbine school shooting and the National School Walkout, Gunderson is waiving the royalties for readings the weekend of April 20, 2018. Readings are planned in 27 states with proceeds set to benefit organizations like Everytown For Gun Safety and Moms Demand Action.

EBP will stage a reading on Friday, April 20, 7pm, at Philly PACK (233 Federal Street). Tickets are on sale now and will be available at the door. Proceeds will benefit…

A panel discussion on gun violence in Philadelphia will follow the reading.

Gunderson is no stranger to theatre activism having previously waived royalties for performances of her play The Taming on Inauguration Day 2017. Named America’s Most Produced Playwright by American Theatre magazine in 2018, Gunderson has had more than 20 play produced.

Lauren LeonardComment
Continuing the Conversation

Since the show wrapped, the women of V2 have been seeking ways to stay in touch on a regular basis. But life is busy. So very busy. So, what are the women to do? Book club!

This April, the women of V2 are reading Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s “Americanah.”

Adichie grew up in Nigeria and divides her time between there and the United States. Her work has appeared in The New Yorker, Granta, The O. Henry Prize Stories, the Financial Times, among others. She is a recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship.

Americanah, which won a National Book Critics Circle Award, tells the story of Ifemelu and Obinze, young lovers who depart Nigeria for the west. Ifemelu finds herself in America where she grapples for the first time with what it is the be black. Obinze winds up in London, struggling and undocumented.

Because we’ve learned there’s nothing like the comfortable, safe space of a living room, we’re eschewing apps and electronic organizational tools that would allow us to talk as we read and saving our thoughts for a post-reading gathering at the end of the month.

We hope you'll read along. Check our social media for ways to be part of the discussion on Amercianah and to see what we're reading next. 



Lauren Leonard
Fate and The Vagina Monologues
v mono script front.jpg

I remember hearing about the Vagina Monologues back in my hometown of Islamabad, Pakistan. I remember it particularly because I wasn’t sure the title was something I could say out loud in public without being embarrassed. I was of course, much younger. A teenager unsure of what my own vagina was. Or it was one of those things, you know, like Death. We all know we’re going to die but we don’t need to talk about it right? Except that this was somehow worse. Mentioning one’s vagina always had an effect. You know, almost as if one could smell it in the air at the mention of the word. Much like one’s period - we just don’t need to acknowledge certain facts of our lives, correct? Maybe that’s why this caught my attention more. I was the quintessential teenager - I thrived on rebellion. 

Upon further inspection of the work and allowing myself to delve further into the performing arts, Fate would have it that I’d later perform more of Eve Ensler’s work. In Pakistan. We read and told the stories of women across the globe shining a light on their shared experiences of the perception of their bodies. And I was moved. How universal were their stories that we could all connect and relate? How alive and proud did I feel to be a female having read and voiced the struggles of these women? How much more did I want to explore my own female identity? There are so many reasons to come back to this work. 

A recent immigrant to America, I’ll be honest, this is a most enlightening time to explore myself. Everyday I am reminded of the new found freedom I have as a woman to express myself and exist in ways I was unable to back home. This isn’t to say that back home is what the media portrays. It’s a sliding scale and I was fortunate to have lived a privileged life in Pakistan with choices many women do not typically have. But having said that, there are unexplored facets I did not know I had that I am now experiencing here and I think it is almost serendipitous that my arrival in America is timed with what is a deep and powerful movement for women to claim their identities for themselves and restructure the status quo. For me, this feels like warp speed but the exhilaration to be alive in a time like this - a time to be inspired, to learn that empowerment begins within and that I am not alone in each step I take in my metamorphosis - is a blessing. The world is awake, I am awake and I am excited to see where this important time takes us as a whole. 

There are so many reasons to come back to this work. To share these stories, to live in the words of someone else, to see that our story is one. I am thrilled to be a voice to add to the conversation. I am honored to be a voice that echoes in the battle cry. I am grateful to be a voice that is welcomed into what is now home. 

-Submitted by Shahana Jan, Woman 3, V2: Creation Myth


Lauren Leonard
Our Creation Story

Since we've made it our mission to encourage storytelling, we'll dedicate this first blog entry to telling ours. And by "our" I mean "mine."

I’m Lauren, a theatre grad who got a day job some years ago. I still have said day job, but I also had this idea. Like all good ideas, it came to me in the aftermath of a traumatic event while organizing a bookshelf. 

The traumatic event was the 2016 presidential election. In its wake, I experienced shock, mourning, and genuine fear. I considered for the first time what it was to be American. I Googled things like “what’s the meaning of life?” and “should I run for political office?” I thought about the people I know and love who voted for Her and the people I know and love that voted for Not Her. I thought a lot about the people I know and love who didn't vote. I wondered how many other people were going through their days as if out-of-body.

I wondered and then I organized, not the knocking-on-doors kind of organizing (too soon), but the kind of organizing Type A personalities do when experiencing a loss of control. During this organizing, I came across my collegiate copy of Eve Ensler’s The Vagina Monologues. Revisiting the pieces a decade after performing them, I was struck (horrified, saddened, enraged) by their relevancy.

What I loved about the Monologues, about plays and stories in general, are the characters and the stories they give voice to.  It was impossible after revisiting the Monologues to ignore the fact (facts are important) that a war was being waged to silence certain voices. I brushed off the script, recruited some friends who recruited some of their friends, and directed the play in the Queen Village neighborhood of Philadelphia. We raised nearly $2,000 for Planned Parenthood. Though the show wrapped, the conversation continued.

We (women and a few men) had so much to say, that after just a few conversations, there existed enough material to create a new play: V2: Creation Myth. As you can read hereV2 is inspired by The Vagina Monologues. It’s honest, timely, and important. It’s about women, but also an example of what happens when we hold space for others to share their stories. 

I see V2  as just the beginning. There’s still much to say, so many stories to tell.  I look forward to telling them through EBP and to hearing yours. 

Lauren Leonard