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The Paladin

Furman University's Student Newspaper

The Paladin

Furman University's Student Newspaper

The Paladin

A Look at Furman Theatre’s Upcoming Production: Project Dawn

A photo from rehearsals. From left to right: Lucy Gamblin ’26, Ja’mese Corbitt ’26, Dayanari Umaña ‘18, Andra Enache ’24, Zoee Lawrence ’25, Casey Norei Funderburk ’24, and Ciara Cox ’25

Furman Theatre has kicked off rehearsals for the second half of its 2022-23 season with “Project Dawn,” a 2017 play written by Karen Hartman. For this show, Furman Theatre’s Department Chair, Professor Maegan Azar, invited Ahsha M. Daniels to direct. 

When asked about the decision to have Daniels direct “Project Dawn,” Azar told me that “Each season, we have a fourth main stage slot that we hire a guest artist to lead. This year, we wanted to give the students an opportunity to work with a local professional guest director.” She added that she has known Daniels for quite a while and admired her detailed and collaborative work, and since Daniels has a teaching artist’s background, Azar knew she would “understand the importance of teaching new skills while directing a show with emerging artist college students.” 

Daniels told me she accepted Azar’s offer to work on a show at Furman because she has never seen anything Furman has produced, and she loves to “help mold the youth.” When asked why she decided on “Project Dawn,” Daniels told me she saw it produced in Atlanta years ago and was intrigued by the story which opened her eyes to a new look on sex work and how women get to that point in their lives.

“Project Dawn” takes place in Philadelphia and follows seven women who were sex workers and are now attempting to reform their lives through the Project Dawn court system. Each woman has a complicated backstory, including struggles with raising children, addiction, mental health, and experiencing homelessness and molestation. Furthermore, each former sex worker is paired with another character to help expand the story. These characters include a psychiatrist, a prosecutor, a nun, and more. Having each character paired with another allows the audience to see the contrasts and similarities between these characters in the court system and allows the play to explore the power dynamics that are present. In a review for Broadway World, Alan Porter states that the play “is powerful, heart-rending, often slyly funny, and serendipitously timely during a national conversation over drug abuse and sex trafficking.”

Daniels hopes the audience will gain a new perspective and will be encouraged to look at people as individuals and consider what they have experienced in their lives instead of immediately judging them; after all, “Sometimes we are separated by one decision—one scene in our life can define the rest of our life.” 

In addition to guest director Ahsha M. Daniels, “Project Dawn” also has a guest performer and Furman alumna, Dayanari Umaña ‘18, playing the role of Nia/Lola. Azar told me Umaña was cast because the role specifies a Latina actor, which “could not be cast from within the pool of student actors who auditioned for this show.” She added that the decision to cast Umaña came from the desire to “remain truthful to the story, the character, and the casting requirements,” and it also gives the cast an opportunity to work and learn from a professional actor. 

In my conversation with Umaña, she told me she is happy to be back in the “welcoming, cozy, home away from home that is the Playhouse Theatre.” Umaña hopes students come to the show not only for the Cultural Life Program credit, but also to “watch how [the cast] bravely embraces the broken characters and bring them to life.” 

“Project Dawn” opens on Feb. 14 at 7:30 p.m. and runs until Feb. 18, with a matinee on the 19 at 2 p.m. The show will include a brief intermission. The show is a Cultural Life Program credit for Furman students. It is important to note that “Project Dawn” is for mature audiences only due to language, situations, and content. 

Tickets are on sale online now, and they can also be purchased through the Box Office starting Monday, Feb. 6. Tickets cost $5 for Furman students, $10 for Furman Associated, and $15 for General Admission. Additionally, an “All Access Flex Pass,” which provides you with four tickets to the season, can be purchased online for $25.

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About the Contributor
Savannah Jones
Savannah Jones, Arts, Campus, and Culture Editor
Savannah Jones is a junior Sociology and English Writing major. She has worked with The Paladin since the fall semester of her sophomore year. She loves being able to report on the latest riveting Arts, Campus, and Culture happenings and guiding the next generation of talented Paladin writers. When not buried in books or hunched over her email inbox, she enjoys forcing her loved ones to watch cat videos and movies she enjoys. 
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