Remember the name Grace Alberti; you could be seeing her work on Broadway soon enough. At just 16, Alberti founded her own theater company—Ad Astra Theatre Troupe, Ltd.—and staged her first production, Peter/Wendy, last May. Now, the precocious playwright and Saratoga Springs High School student is working on a play of her own, entitled Uprising, and artists and historians from across Upstate New York are lining up to get involved.
One such collaborator is Lale Davidson, an English professor at SUNY Adirondack. Last summer, Professor Davidson and Alberti began working on Uprising, a play about two orphaned sisters living in occupied Poland during the days leading up to the Warsaw Uprising; the eldest girl, 17-year-old Halina Dobosz, must decide whether or not to join the resistance. Davidson met Alberti through her daughter, a friend and fellow student at Saratoga High, and she says she became interested in working with Alberti after hearing her speak about her theater group, Ad Astra: “I was inspired by Grace’s drive and intelligence,” says Davidson. When Grace mentioned that she was interested in writing a play about the Warsaw Uprising, Davidson was intrigued. “I said to her, ‘You know, you could write it, and I could help you. I’m serious about this,'” she says. “I’ve always loved collaborating, and believe two or three heads are better than one.”
The two set about their research, finding inspiration in Wearing the Letter P: Polish Women As Forced Laborers in Nazi Germany by Sophie Knab and Warsaw 1944: An Insurgent’s Journal of the Uprising by Zbigniew Czajkowski. Both are firsthand accounts of the occupation in Poland during World War II. They also worked with the handful of local historians who help put on Polish Fest in Latham. The idea to center the story around two sisters came from a news article about two daughters who joined the resistance against their father’s wishes.
“We quickly evolved from there,” Davidson says. And with that evolution came still more interested parties; Grace brought in a third writer, her friend, Catie LeCours. They wrote and revised Uprising, orchestrating readings with Ad Astra actors and integrating their feedback into new revisions. “Catie and Grace heavily revised the dialogue,” says Davidson. “Because of their acting background, they both have an excellent ear.” Six drafts later, Alberti, Davidson and LeCours are applying final touches to the script before a final read-through at the end of the month.
On March 24, the trio of playwrights will hold their first rehearsal. “We are all very happy with the play so far, and the teen actors are excited to be in an original production,” Davidson says. “I guess it’s fairly rare to have play that is written by and for teens with so many good parts. It’s a group effort, and it has been gratifying to be a part of it.”
Uprising is set to be staged on June 8. For tickets, dates and more information, check out the Ad Astra Theatre Troupe’s Facebook page.