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Premiere of Where Hope Is

Where Hope Is Stories of Benedictine Influence

Where Hope Is: Stories of Benedictine Influence, a new interview-based theater production by playwright Jenn Bokoch Gillett, debuted on Sunday at the Hirt Auditorium, Blasco Memorial Library in Erie. The play reflects a snapshot-in-time—1960s to the 1980s—of the influence of the Benedictine Sisters of Erie. Jenn created the work from a dozen conversations selected from more than 60 interviews she conducted with Saint Benedict Academy (SBA) alumnae, Benedictine sisters, and a handful of others whose lives were shaped and are still being shaped by the sisters.

View a news clip and interview with Jenn. 

The story is one of spirituality, community, and steadfastness in facing questions of meaning, faith, and gospel accountability that challenged thinking and instilled young women with a sense of their own worth and power. It’s a story of prophetic voices and passionate commitment to those denied a place at any table. It’s a women’s story of ongoing potential for new generations seeking connection and meaning today.

"I call myself the playwright because I created this piece, but none of these words are my own," explained Jenn to the audience. "Everything you will hear is taken verbatim from interviews with the Benedictine Sisters of Erie, Saint Benedict Academy alumnae, and others who volunteer, pray, and work within the Benedictine circle. It has been a huge privilege to be on the receiving end of these stories."

Jenn is a documentary theater-maker residing in New York whose mother and aunt were SBA graduates—which is the connection, the motivation, and the inspiration that drew her to create this new work. Director Ashley Renee Thaxton-Stevenson and five actors have accompanied Jenn from New York to present Where Hope Is.

It all began on March 21, 2022—the feast of St. Benedict—when Jenn first reached out to the Benedictines and proposed an oral stories project. Jenn wrote, “I have heard my mom speak very fondly about her time at St. Ben’s and the Benedictines over the years. I wonder if the Benedictines might be interested in being the focus of an oral story interview project. The Benedictines seem to be such a unique facet of the Erie community…”
The stories that the actors told on stage will be combined with short, projected, video clips of actual interviews in the creative telling of this women’s story. The actors, along with Jenn, were Taylor Beckman, Qianna Brooks, Lucy Medeiros, Katy Shafer, and Amanda Vincenti.

While only a limited number of voices can be realistically shared in a time-bound presentation, an interview archive will be available online at